U.N. Court Orders Myanmar to Protect Rohingya Muslims

The injunction was issued by the International Court of Justice at The Hague, where accusations of genocide have been brought against the Southeast Asian country.

BANGKOK — Rejecting arguments made by Myanmar’s civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the International Court of Justice at The Hague ruled on Thursday that Myanmar must take action to protect Rohingya Muslims, who have been killed and driven from their homes in what the country’s accusers call a campaign of genocide.

The decision is the first international court ruling against Myanmar over its military’s brutal treatment of the Rohingya. While the court has no enforcement power, any member of the United Nations can request action from the Security Council based on its rulings.

The nation of Gambia brought the case to the tribunal, the United Nations’ highest court, on behalf of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, hoping to hold Myanmar accountable for what United Nations officials have called a genocide carried out against the Rohingya.

Gambia’s legal team asked the court to condemn Myanmar for violating the Genocide Convention with its campaign against the Rohingya. A ruling on that question could be years away.

But Gambia also asked the court for more immediate action: a temporary injunction ordering Myanmar to halt all actions that could make the Rohingya’s situation worse, including further extrajudicial killings, rape, hate speech or the leveling of homes where Rohingya once lived. The tribunal held three days of hearings on that issue last month.

In 2017, Myanmar’s military, known as the Tatmadaw, waged a brutal assault against the Rohingya in the western state of Rakhine, prompting more than 700,000 to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, where they now live in squalid conditions in the world’s largest refugee camp.

Investigators say thousands of people were killed. Surviving Rohingya have described such atrocities as the murder of children and the gang rape of women and girls by soldiers.

About half a million Rohingya are still in Myanmar, also known as Burma, including about 100,000 people who were forced from their homes — some of them in waves of violence that preceded the 2017 campaign — and now live in camps. The Gambia legal team argued that they are in “grave danger” of further genocidal acts.

A spokesman for the military, Gen. Myat Kyaw, said before the ruling that the military was not concerned about what the tribunal might decide. If presented with evidence of war crimes, he said, commanders will pursue them.

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