Press Releases

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.

Statement on United Nations Fact-Finding Mission Report on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NEW YORK — The United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar today released a report documenting and analyzing sexual and gender-based violence committed by the country’s military, the Tatmadaw. The report represents the mission’s first thorough examination of gender-based crimes in Burma.

The mission’s report describes in detail the widespread and systemic use of sexual violence by the Tatmadaw. It also analyzes the gendered impacts of Burma’s ethnic conflicts. The Global Justice Center has advocated since 2005 for the need to ensure justice and accountability for sexual and gender-based violence in Burma and last year released “Discrimination to Destruction,” the first comprehensive legal analysis of gender-based crimes against ethnic Rohingya in the country.

“The Tatmadaw has for decades utilized sexual violence to subjugate and terrorize ethnic groups with impunity and we commend the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission for recognizing this critical fact,” said Akila Radhakrishnan. “To date, no military perpetrator of sexual violence has been held accountable in Burma for their crimes. As accountability proceedings begin, including at the International Criminal Court, it is essential that a robust gender lens and perspective informs the proceedings.”

The report includes the well-documented human rights abuses that occurred in Rakhine State against the Rohingya, but it also details gendered and sexual violence against ethnic communities in Kachin and Shan states. In addition, it contains a groundbreaking investigation of gender-based violence against transgender Rohingya, as well as men and boys. Importantly, the report also recognizes the links between gender inequality in Burma and the commission of sexual and gender-based crimes.

“Sexual and gender-based violence is, at its core, an expression of discrimination, patriarchy, and inequality,” said Radhakrishnan. “As a result, accountability for these crimes must be holistic and seek to address and transform the root causes of violence.”

The Global Justice Center has long worked to ensure that gender is analyzed in mass atrocity crimes, including in the crimes against Iraq’s Yazidi minority. It has also researched, written, and spoken out against the abuses of Burma’s military regime and gender inequality in the country for over a decade.

For more background on the gender-based crimes against the Rohingya as well as potential gender-inclusive solutions, a brief factsheet can be found here.

Statement on the Formation of the “Commission on Unalienable Rights"

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - July 9, 2019

[NEW YORK, NY] — Yesterday morning, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the formation of a new “Commission on Unalienable Rights” at the State Department, which Secretary Pompeo described as an attempt to “ground our discussion of human rights in America’s founding principles.” 

The establishment of this panel is yet another assault on the international system in the service of the Trump administration’s regressive agenda. This action follows a clear pattern of ideological attacks on US engagement with the human rights system and the norms they uphold, such as withdrawing from the Human Rights Council, erasing reproductive rights from human rights reports, and cutting funding to the Organization of American States in an attempt to censor abortion-related speech. 

Statement from Global Justice Center President, Akila Radhakrishnan:

“It is not up to any one country to determine what is or is not a human right. That remains the ambit of human rights treaties, bodies, experts, and courts whose sole purpose is to define and monitor compliance with international human rights standards. Universal human rights norms exist to hold states accountable: they cannot be defined, redefined, or limited based on the demands or viewpoints of a single government. 

While Secretary Pompeo claims that he wants to depoliticize human rights, this commission does the exact opposite. What’s more, the commission is overwhelmingly staffed by individuals who are openly hostile to abortion rights and to the rights of LGBTQ persons—conservative ideologues who have built careers at the expense of human rights, free thinking, and democratic values.” 

For more information contact:
Liz Olson, Communications Manager at Global Justice Center, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (212) 725-6530 ext. 217

Joint Statement on the Assignment of the Situation in Myanmar and Bangladesh to the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber III

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – June 28, 2019

[NEW YORK, NY] – The Global Justice Center, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, Naripokkho, and Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice welcome recent developments at the International Criminal Court (ICC) concerning the Situation in the People's Republic of Bangladesh/Republic of the Union of Myanmar. Both the intention of the Office of the Prosecutor to undertake an investigation, and the assignment of the situation to Pre-Trial Chamber III bring the ICC one step closer to providing accountability for the crimes committed against the Rohingya.

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