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Why didn't Bangladesh lodge the case with ICJ?

  • Published at 10:24 pm December 13th, 2019
ICJ-hearing
File photo: Gambia's Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou and Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi attend a hearing in a case filed by Gambia against Myanmar alleging genocide against the minority Rohingya population, at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague on December 10, 2019 Reuters

Bangladesh wanted to avoid direct confrontation that could have undermined the bilateral engagements with Myanmar in relation to Rohingya repatriation

The Gambia, the tiniest country in Africa, filed a case with the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, against Myanmar on November 11, alleging violations of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide through “acts adopted, taken and condoned by the government in Naypyitaw”.

Filing the case, the attorney general and justice minister of The Gambia, Abubacarr Marie Tambadou, also asked the ICJ to impose provisional measures, as a matter of extreme urgency, to protect the Rohingya against further harm by ordering Myanmar to stop all of its genocidal conduct immediately.

The hearings on the provisional measures took place from December 10 to 12 at the ICJ based in The Hague, the capital of The Netherlands.

Both The Gambia and Myanmar placed their arguments before the top court of the world and now the judges are considering the deliberations placed before them by both parties.

Tambadou led The Gambia in the hearings while the Myanmar side was headed by state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto head of the government, in the capacity of the foreign minister. 

A Bangladesh delegation attended the hearings, as it did not have any scope to directly be involved in the case. However, Bangladesh provided data and information in aid of The Gambia.

Now, a question is popping up in the minds of many people: Why did The Gambia file the case, not Bangladesh, as it is directly most affected by the atrocities against the Rohingya?

There are, apparently, two main reasons.

Bangladesh wanted to avoid a direct confrontation with Myanmar by filing the case, as it is bilaterally engaged with Myanmar in relation to the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya sheltered in Cox’s Bazar. 

Dhaka and Naypyitaw also signed some bilateral instruments to repatriate the displaced people. Myanmar is reluctant to begin the repatriation anyway. The filing of the case by Bangladesh would have allowed Myanmar the opportunity to further dilly dally the repatriation process.

Bangladeshi and foreign diplomats have observed that Dhaka has done the right thing by not filing the case.

The Gambia was chosen to file the case as it is the chair of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) ad hoc ministerial committee on accountability for human rights violations against the Rohingya that was established at the 45th OIC council of foreign ministers meeting in Dhaka over May 5-6, 2018.

As the case was filed on behalf of the OIC, it will have the backing of the 57-member organization of the Muslim majority countries to make the case stronger. Furthermore, the OIC is funding the case.