No one should get their hopes up that Gambia’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) Rohingya genocide case (on behalf of the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) will improve their conditions in the refugee camps, their rights to asylum elsewhere, or most importantly, their ability to move back home & live as free citizens of Burma. The track record of the ICJ isn’t that impressive.
This is only the fourth time since the ICJ tribunal was formed after WWII that a case has invoked the 1948 UN Genocide Convention. Two of the cases involved the Balkan wars in the 1990s. The ICJ rejected both the claim by Croatia filed in 1999 charging Serbia with genocide & the claim by Serbia filed in 2010 charging Croatia with the same. After 22 years of adjudication, the ICJ ruled that Serbia had violated international law by failing to prevent genocide but absolved it of direct responsibility. It found only one act of genocide during Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war: the massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men & boys by Bosnian Serb forces in the town of Srebrenica in 1995.
The third case invoking the Genocide Convention was brought by the Democratic Republic of Congo against Rwanda in 2002 regarding the 1994 Rwanda genocide when 800,000 ethnic Tutsi were massacred. By 2013, the tribunal had indicted a total of 96 individuals: 32 are currently serving prison time; 22 have completed their sentences, & seven died while in prison. It isn’t reported what happened to the other 35. The ruling by the ICJ in 2006 is almost incomprehensible not just because it is written in legalese but because it did nothing to clarify the political issues of the Rwanda genocide, or for that matter, the Bosnian genocide. That situation would prevail today in the Rohingya case were it not for social media where millions have been informed about the character & crimes of the Burmese government against the Rohingya.
This is not sour grapes about the ICJ. With social media, we can more closely monitor tribunal proceedings & use the testimonies to educate & promote solidarity with the Rohingya. In the end, it isn’t the ICJ that will bring justice for a crime so monstrous that there is no possible justice; it is the Rohingya themselves who will lead the struggle to return to Burma to live as free citizens & are using social media as part of that campaign–which may explain in part why Bangladesh snapped the internet in the refugee camps.
As a footnote, many of those political figures & propagandists who denied the genocide of Bosnian Muslims now support the Assad dictatorship, Putin’s military aggression, & deny the Uyghur & Rohingya genocides. Thus far they have in their majority remained silent on Kashmir.