Urgency is Key for Rohingya Repatriation

Rohingya refugee women hold placards as they take part in a protest at the Kutupalong refugee camp to mark the one-year anniversary of their exodus in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh
Maggie Moore/USAID

By Nishan Kafle

Although the Rohingya of Burma have been subject to unrelenting government persecution for decades, it took an unprecedented form in 2017 when an estimated 530,000 Rohingya were violently driven from their home in Rakhine State in a military campaign that UN experts have called a genocide.

South Asia is no stranger to forced migration. Between 1991 and 1993, more than 100,000 Nepali speaking Bhutanese—commonly known as Lhotshampas—were forced out of Bhutan into Eastern Nepal. This was the result of the “One Nation, One People” policy, adopted in the 1980s, which aimed to shield the majority “Druk” Bhutanese identity from any Nepali influences. As a result, a mass exodus ensued with thousands of Bhutanese forced out of their homes into Eastern Nepal. Nepal, already a poor country under a strict monarchy, was ill-equipped to deal with such a great influx of refugees. And so, the Bhutanese were forced to live in squalid conditions under constant discrimination from people with whom they ostensibly shared a language and tradition.

The Gambia Files Lawsuit Against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice

NEW YORK — Today the government of the Republic of Gambia filed a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against the Republic of the Union of Myanmar for violating its obligations under the Genocide Convention. This historic lawsuit seeks to ensure Myanmar’s responsibility as a state for the genocide committed against the Rohingya.

Starting in October 2016 and then again in August 2017, Myanmar’s security forces engaged in so-called “clearance operations” against the Rohingya, a distinct Muslim ethnic minority, in Rakhine State. The operations were characterized by brutal violence and serious human rights violations that, according to UN investigations, amount to genocide and crimes against humanity. Survivors reported indiscriminate killings, rape and sexual violence, arbitrary detention, and torture. Since August 2017 more than 745,000 ethnic Rohingya civilians have been forcibly displaced from Myanmar, with nearly 400 Rohingya villages attacked and burned.

The clearance operations followed decades of systematic persecution of the Rohingya by the government. Over the course of decades, Myanmar has rendered most its Rohingya population stateless through discriminatory laws, and placed severe restrictions on their freedom of movement, fundamental religious freedom as well as reproductive and marital rights.

In September, the UN Human Rights Council-mandated Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (FFM) concluded in its final report that “the State of Myanmar breached its obligation not to commit genocide” and welcomed efforts to ensure accountability, including at the ICJ.

The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations and rules on disputes between states and other questions of international law. Article IX of the Genocide Convention provides that any disputes relating to the “interpretation, application or fulfillment” of the Convention, including “the responsibility of a State for genocide,” can be brought to the ICJ. For more information on the ICJ process, see “Q&A: The Gambia v. Myanmar, Rohingya Genocide at The International Court of Justice.”

As a party to the Genocide Convention, The Gambia refused to stay silent in the face of genocide and today took an important step in filing a case against Myanmar at the ICJ. As part of its filing, The Gambia requested the ICJ to issue provisional measures which, if granted, could impose immediately binding obligations on Myanmar.

“We commend The Gambia for upholding its international responsibility to punish genocide,” said Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. “The international community failed to prevent a genocide in Myanmar, but it is not too late to hold the State of Myanmar accountable for its crimes.”

"The Gambia’s lawsuit is a landmark moment for the global rule of law and for the victims of some of the most severe human rights abuses in recent memory,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, President of the Global Justice Center. “We must also remember that gender played a central role in this genocide and we hope this perspective will be at the heart of this critical effort to hold the state of Myanmar accountable for its atrocities.”

MEDIA CONTACT:
Thomas Dresslar, Global Justice Center, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +1 212-725-6530 x217
Sarah Hunter, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +1 917-242-8099

UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar Documents Genocide and Calls for International Justice in Final Report

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NEW YORK — Today the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar released its final report, summarizing its investigation into what it called “the gravest crimes under international law” committed against vulnerable populations in the country, including the Rohingya. The report explicitly calls for international legal accountability for violations of the Genocide Convention.

Established in 2017, the mission has thoroughly documented genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes carried out by the military and security forces in Myanmar and has consistently called on the international community to act. To that end, the final report applauded efforts by UN Member States such as The Gambia, who are potentially pursuing a case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in line with their obligations under the Genocide Convention.

“The Fact-Finding Mission has been a tremendous advocate for international accountability in Myanmar, which remains the only true path to justice for victims of gross human rights violations, including genocide,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center. “As its mandate ends, it is essential that the international community take the mission’s recommendations seriously and take urgent action to break the culture of impunity in Myanmar.”

The Global Justice Center and the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect met with Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubaccar M. Tambadou, and other senior officials in The Gambia earlier this month to discuss efforts to hold Myanmar accountable under the Genocide Convention. For more information on how an ICJ case might proceed, see this Q&A.

“We thank the Fact-Finding Mission for its crucial work and commend The Gambia for seeking to uphold its international responsibility to punish genocide,” said Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. “In 2017 the international community failed to prevent a genocide in Myanmar. But it is not too late to protect the Rohingya from further persecution and ensure that the perpetrators of these atrocities face international justice.”

“This week, world leaders will come together in New York for the start of the United Nations General Assembly. Action on Myanmar — whether sanctions, a referral to the International Criminal Court by the Security Council, or the creation of an ad-hoc tribunal — must be a priority," said Radhakrishnan.

The International Criminal Court Can Help End Impunity for Gender-Based Violence in its Investigation of the Rohingya

Rohingya refugee women hold placards as they take part in a protest at the Kutupalong refugee camp to mark the one-year anniversary of their exodus in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh
REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

Also published by Ms. Magazine

By Katherine Comly

Ask any feminist how they think their government is doing at holding perpetrators of sexual violence accountable and most would respond with an emphatic “poorly”— at best. Internationally, there are moves being made to tackle sexual violence, like awarding the Nobel Prize to Nadia Murad and passing the first Security Council Resolution on the issue. Still, they go nowhere near solving systemic problems.

There currently exists, however, a major opportunity to reform how the international justice system addresses sexual violence: the investigations into genocidal violence against the Rohingya in Burma. A gendered understanding of these crimes is essential and will fulfill the international community’s responsibility to recognize and punish all forms of genocidal violence.

Five Years After Genocide, Yazidis are Still Waiting for Justice

By Maryna Tkachenko

“Today, the Yazidis have largely been abandoned” — Nadia Murad, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and Yazidi survivor

August 3, 2014 changed the Yazidi community of Sinjar forever. The terrorist group Daesh killed and enslaved thousands of Yazidis, members of a small religious minority in northern Iraq that have been historically persecuted for being “devil worshippers.” In addition to carrying out coordinated attacks of violence against the group as a whole, Daesh explicitly targeted women and girls by inflicting widespread sexual violence in the form of rape, torture, and forced marriage. These gendered acts of the Yazidi genocide served as tools for recruitment, conversion, and forced indoctrination.

Five years later, despite a growing body of evidence, no Daesh fighter has been prosecuted for genocide of the Yazidi. In 2016, the United Nations recognized the attacks as a genocidal campaign, but Yazidis are still waiting for justice, hoping to return one day to their homes on the Sinjar Mountain.

Bringing a Gendered Lens to Genocide Prevention and Accountability

By Maryna Tkachenko

More than 70 years after the adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, mass atrocity crimes are still carried out in systematic and, equally important, gendered ways. The lack of emphasis on the gendered nature of coordinated crimes not only jeopardizes international security but also ignores the multi-layered reality of genocidal violence. The most recent genocides against the Yazidi and the Rohingya populations are clear instances of the international community neglecting to prioritize a gendered lens in preventing and punishing genocide.

On 22 May, the Global Justice Center and the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP) held a panel on “Gender and Genocide: Engendering analysis for better prevention, accountability, and protection” to examine critical gaps within the framework of analysis for atrocity crimes. (Read GJC’s white paper Beyond Killing: Gender, Genocide, & Obligations Under International Law to learn more about the ways in which female experiences of genocide are too often removed from the analysis of genocidal violence.) 

Letter to The Honourable Fatou Bensouda, Chief Prosecutor, "Re: Preliminary Examination into the Situation of the Rohingya in Myanmar"

Dear Prosecutor Bensouda,

The Global Justice Center writes to congratulate the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) on the decision to open a preliminary examination into the deportation of the Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh. Since impunity has long been the rule and not the exception in Myanmar, this examination offers a glimmer of hope that those who have long been oppressed by Myanmar’s military will see some measure of justice. We write to the OTP today with respect to three key issues related to this preliminary examination: (1) to emphasize the need to place the gendered experiences of these crimes at the center of the examination; (2) to urge the OTP to take a broad view to the crimes over which the International Criminal Court (ICC) has jurisdiction; and (3) to provide information with respect to any analysis of positive complementarity.

On the first point, we were pleased to attend a recent event with you at the UNGA in New York “Prosecuting Sexual and Gender-based Crimes at the International Criminal Court.” We applaud the OTP’s commitment to applying a gender analysis in all areas of its work, which has been reinforced by its strong policy on sexual and gender-based crimes. We agree that consideration of the complete nature of the crimes is necessary in order to ensure effective investigations and prosecutions. We urge that this be made a priority in the preliminary examination at hand.

The UN General Assembly Ignores Gender in Debates on the Responsibility to Protect

By Hannah Sarokin and Brandon Golfman

The 90s were a time of multiculturalism, grunge music, Friends, and the world-wide web.  It was also a decade marked by devastating humanitarian crises, including widespread sexual and gender-based violence.  From Rwanda to the Balkans, mass conflict and genocide rattled global security and peace processes and shed light on the resounding failure of the international community to act.  The principle of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) was born from such atrocity.  

First addressed by the UN during the World Summit in 2005, R2P is the collective recognition that protecting vulnerable civilians from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity is both a domestic and international obligation.  The three pillars of R2P oblige states to protect their populations from such atrocities, require the international community to assist in that protection, and if a state has failed, other states must take appropriate actions to intervene.  Despite a unanimous commitment to R2P at the World Summit, there remains a severe gap in domestic implementation, especially in regards to gender.

GJC Published in Newsweek on Anniversary of Sinjar Massacre

Grant Shubin, a Staff Attorney at GJC, and Pari Ibrahim, the Founder and Executive Director of the Free Yazidi Foundation published an op-ed in Newsweek about the state of Yazidi women on the second anniversary of the Sinjar Massacre.

Click here to read the full article. 

Gender and Genocide in the ICRtoP Blog

Read Global Justice Center Legal Director Akila Radhakrishnan’s explanation of the gender components of genocide in the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect Blog.

“It’s not enough to just recognize that acts such as sexual violence, abductions, enslavement, forced abortion, and forced impregnation—acts which are disproportionately committed against women—of protected groups can constitute genocide. Rather, the commission of such acts needs to impel action for states and international actors to fulfill their obligations to prevent, suppress and punish genocide. "

Letter to The Honourable Fatou Bensouda, Chief Prosecutor, "Re: The Imperative to Prosecute the Abduction of the Schoolgirls in Nigeria as Genocide"

On April 14th, 2015, a year after the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls, the Global Justice Center (GJC) is urging the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, to investigate whether Boko Haram, who recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), is perpetrating genocide against the Christian community in Nigeria. The abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls, among others, in Nigeria is exactly the act of genocide, as defined in the Genocide Convention, called the “forcible transfer of children.” The essence of genocide is not mass killing but the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. Removing children from a group destroys its future, and has been a tool of genocide for as long as the legal concept has existed.

If Prosecutor Bensouda examines Boko Haram’s gender-based abductions as genocide it would put all countries unequivocally on notice that genocide is occurring in Nigeria, propelling them to action. All states and the international community have the duty to prevent and halt genocide. It would also send a powerful message to other perpetrators, including terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria who are increasingly using the kidnapping of young girls and women as a tool in their campaign of terror, that genocide will not be tolerated.

Download PDF

Global Justice Center calls on International Criminal Court to Investigate Genocide of Chibok Schoolgirls

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – April 14, 2014

[NEW YORK, NY] – On the night of April 14th, 2014, 276 Nigerian schoolgirls were abducted from their boarding school in Chibok, Nigeria by the terrorist group Boko Haram. The abduction ignited worldwide outrage, sparked a vigorous social media campaign to #BringBackOurGirls, and drew condemnation from political leaders around the world.

Letter to Norwegian Foreign Minister

Letter from the Global Justice Center to Norway's Foreign Minister Eide asking for Support for a General Assembly Request to the International Court of Justice for an Advisory Opinion on Burma's Constitution.

Download PDF

Letter to Secretary Hillary Clinton

Letter from the Global Justice Center to Secretary Hillary Clinton, asking for Support for a General Assembly Request to the International Court of Justice for an Advisory Opinion on Burma's Constitution.

Download PDF