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Myanmar to contest ICJ Rohingya case, without Suu Kyi

AFP – Myanmar’s junta was set to replace Aung San Suu Kyi at the United Nations (UN) top court as it seeks to dismiss a case over the alleged genocide of Rohingya.

Suu Kyi personally presented Myanmar’s arguments at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) when the case was first heard in December 2019, but was ousted as civilian leader in

The Nobel peace laureate, who faced criticism from rights groups for her involvement in the case, is now under house arrest and trial by the same generals she defended in The Hague.

In its “preliminary objections” yesterday, Myanmar will argue that the court has no jurisdiction over the case, and must throw it out before it moves on to substantive hearings.

Local Myanmar media said the junta has a new delegation led by International Cooperation Minister Ko Ko Hlaing and Attorney General Thida Oo, who will attend virtually.

File photo shows Aung San Suu Kyi addressing judges of the International Court of Justice
in The Hague. PHOTO: AP

Both have been hit with United States (US) sanctions over the coup. The case brought by the mainly Muslim African nation of The Gambia accuses predominantly Buddhist Myanmar of genocide against the Rohingya minority over a bloody 2017 military crackdown.

The ICJ made a provisional order in January 2020 that Myanmar must take “all measures” to prevent the alleged genocide of the Rohingya while the years-long proceedings are underway.

Gambia will make its counter-arguments tomorrow.

Around 850,000 Rohingya are languishing in camps in neighbouring Bangladesh while another 600,000 Rohingya remain in Myanmar’s southwestern Rakhine state.

The ICJ was set up after World War II to rule on disputes between UN member states. Its judgements are binding but it has no real means to enforce them.

The Rohingya case at the ICJ has been complicated by the coup that ousted Suu Kyi and her civilian government, and triggered mass protests and a bloody military crackdown.

More than 1,500 civilians have been killed, according to a local monitoring group.

Suu Kyi now faces trial herself in Myanmar on a raft of charges that could see her jailed for more than 150 years.

Ahead of the hearing, the shadow National Unity Government (NUG) dominated by lawmakers from Suu Kyi’s ousted party said it, not the junta, “is the proper representative of Myanmar at the ICJ in the case”.

It also rejects Myanmar’s preliminary objections, saying the hearings for these should be cancelled and the court should quickly get down to the hearing of the substantive case.

The Gambia accuses Myanmar of breaching the 1948 UN genocide convention.

Its case is backed by the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Canada and the Netherlands.