Myanmar wants ICJ strike out genocide case, Gambia urges court to continue case

Mar 1, 2022, 10:50 AM | Article By: Ali Jaw

The International Court of Justice few days ago, particularly 21st February to 28 February, resumed and heard hearings on the already protracted legal battle between Gambia and Myanmar, about the genocide claim by The Gambia against the Southeast Asian state.

However, at this particular time Myanmar came with the legal bid that the top legal body should dismiss the case out of court, citing concerns of legitimacy over the lawsuit.

The representatives of Myanmar urged the top court to strike out the case, citing reasons that the Gambia did not act as a "country in its own right”, but as a proxy for the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which comprises 57 Muslim member states.

In simpler terms, the Myanmar legal team is arguing that the Gambia filed the lawsuit on behalf of the OIC, when ICJ has the jurisdiction of hearing only cases between nations and not between organizations or blocs or otherwise.

The Gambia countered and lashed out through the able Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Dawda A. Jallow, who led the legal team representing the country at the international court.

“We seek to protect not only the rights of the Rohingya but our own rights as a state party to the genocide convention,” The Gambian attorney general Dawda Jallow opined before the court on Wednesday.

He argued that the lawsuit will hold Myanmar to its duty not to commit genocide, not to incite genocide and to prevent unpunished genocide.

“These violations of the genocide convention are a stain on our collective conscience and it would be irresponsible to pretend that it is not our business,” he detailed, debunking Myanmar's stance.

“This is very much a dispute between The Gambia and Myanmar."

“We make it our business when we, as a civilised nation committed ourselves to the pact under the 1948 Genocide Convention."

The Attorney General told the court that therefore: "This court must reject Myanmar’s meritless preliminary objections and proceed to adjudicate the merits of this dispute."

In November 2019, when the suit was filed, then leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi personally represented her country at the court, but she was ousted in a coup last year by the Myanmar military. She has been convicted of a series of alleged crimes and still on trial on more others while being detained on house-arrest.

The military junta has taken up the legal battle to face The Gambia just as the International Counsel and former Gambian Minister of Justice had told Reuters it would happen.

Ko Ko Hlaing, the junta regime’s Minister for International Cooperation led the Myanmar legal team on this high-profile battle.

However, some object to the fact that the ICJ is recognising the military junta as the official representative of Myanmar, but presiding Judge Joan Donoghue told the court that the parties in cases before the court “are states, not particular governments.”

The court is set to decide whether it would continue hearing or cease to do so.