Trapped and Persecuted: The Rohingya Crisis Worsens Despite ICJ Order Features
Md. Jamal / VOA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Trapped and Persecuted: The Rohingya Crisis Worsens Despite ICJ Order

Nearly five years after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered provisional measures to protect the Rohingya, the humanitarian crisis facing this predominantly Muslim ethnic group from Myanmar’s Rakhine region remains dire. For decades, the Rohingya have endured violence, displacement, and human rights abuses. Despite the ICJ’s intervention, Rohingya communities continue to face atrocities in Rakhine State.

Speaking to The New Humanitarian, Rohingya sources describe their community as trapped in an escalating civil war. They are coerced into conscription by Myanmar’s military junta and abused by the ethnic rebel Arakan Army. At the same time, neighboring states are closing their borders and offering few rights to asylum seekers, exacerbating the plight of the Rohingya, who have been denied citizenship rights since 1982.

The Reality on the Ground 

For years, the Myanmar military has waged a brutal campaign of violence against the Rohingya people in Rakhine State. Over a million Rohingya remain displaced by the Myanmar military’s brutal “clearance operations,” which began in the 1970s. Operations that have taken place since 2016 have been labeled a genocide by the UN.  Through mass killings, rape, and arson, the military has systematically driven over 700,000 Rohingya from their homes and into refugee camps across the border in Bangladesh.

However, they have not acted alone. Evidence is mounting that the Arakan Army, an ethnic Rakhine Buddhist insurgent group, has directly aided and enabled the military’s genocide of the Rohingya. Through interviews with Rohingya survivors and analysis of satellite imagery, a disturbing pattern has emerged of the Arakan Army, which refers to Rohingya as “Bengali terrorists,” coordinating with the military to forcibly displace Rohingya communities.

The Role of the Arakan Army 

As the conflict between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army intensifies, the Rohingya are caught in the middle—facing violence, forced conscription, and manipulation from all sides. Recent reports indicate over 200,000 Rohingya have been newly displaced from their homes due to a military offensive accompanied by arson attacks on Rohingya villages. Those fleeing now live in desperate conditions with inadequate shelter, food, water and healthcare. Myanmar’s military has also been accused of blocking humanitarian aid access, worsening the humanitarian crisis unfolding among vulnerable women, children and elderly displaced by the violence. At the same time, the military stands accused of using a “divide and conquer” strategy targeting the Rohingya. Reports detail how the Rohingya are being forcibly recruited for military battles and controlled protests, placing them at risk of further atrocities. This tactic appears aimed at fomenting tensions and portraying the Rohingya as supporting armed groups—contradicting their ongoing struggle for basic human rights and protection from genocide.

In May 2024, the military withdrew troops from several Rohingya villages, including Buthidaung, only for the Arakan Army to move in and begin burning homes and fields. Villagers reported the Arakan Army warning Rohingya to flee or be killed. With the border to Bangladesh closed, the Rohingya had nowhere to run and thousands became displaced internally. Similar scorched earth tactics were observed by the Arakan Army in other villages over the past year. Homes, mosques, and schools were deliberately set ablaze, destroying entire Rohingya communities and any possibility of return. The goal appears to be the ethnic cleansing of Muslims from northern Rakhine, with the Arakan Army directly participating in forced displacement and indirect ethnic cleansing through arson and violence. The Arakan Army’s claims that they are fighting to protect ethnic Rakhine lands ring hollow given their targeting of Rohingya civilians. Through complicity with the military’s genocide, the Arakan Army has shown they are willing killers of Muslims, not defenders of Rakhine. As Myanmar faces justice, all perpetrator groups must be held fully accountable for their crimes. The Arakan Army can no longer hide behind rhetoric of independence; the world sees their role in Rohingya suffering clearly, hate speech is rampant as is clearly visible through Arakan Army’s Leader Twan Mrat Naing’s social media account, with rhetoric indicative of politically-motivated borderline hate speech.

Forced removal of Rohingya refugees

Guernica 37 Chambers has appealed to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the forced removal of Rohingya refugees from India to Bangladesh. On 29 May 2024, Guernica 37 detailed how Rohingyas, escaping atrocities in Myanmar during 2016/2017, are being coerced to leave India as part of an anti-Muslim campaign by the Indian government. Initially, from 2012 to 2017, Rohingyas were granted refugee status in India with support from the UNHCR, allowing them access to basic services and the ability to work. However, in August 2017, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs labeled them as illegal immigrants, stripped them of their refugee status, and ordered their deportation. Consequently, many Rohingyas were detained or fled to Bangladesh to avoid deportation. Article 15 Communication from Guernica 37 emphasises that Indian officials’ actions amount to cross-border crimes, under the jurisdiction of the ICC to investigate, citing the similar plight of Rohingyas from Myanmar to Bangladesh. Guernica 37 Chambers underscores the anti-Muslim agenda of India’s government under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since 2014, marked by hostile policies and persecution of Muslims.

Toby Cadman, Co-Head of Guernica 37 Chambers said:

India’s policy to detain and deport Rohingyas is a cross-border crime because they are forced to leave one country to flee to another country. This situation is comparable to the deportation from Myanmar to Bangladesh, and the victims are the same who fled the attacks in Rakhine state. The ICC should investigate Indian officials in the same manner.

The Rohingya are enduring unimaginable suffering with scarce access to humanitarian aid, inadequate living conditions, and continuous threats to their safety. As the call for justice and accountability intensifies, it is imperative that the international community acts swiftly and effectively to end the cycles of violence and impunity, ensuring a safe and dignified future for the Rohingya people and upholding human rights and international law in Myanmar.

Accountability Efforts 

As conditions deteriorate rapidly, calls are mounting for strengthened international action. Legal experts assess Myanmar is in clear violation of ICJ provisional measures and the risk of renewed genocide is high without intervention. Options under discussion include requesting modified measures focused on halting specific ongoing abuses like forced conscription and improving humanitarian access. Continued documentation of the crisis will also be vital to support ongoing accountability efforts at the ICJ and elsewhere seeking justice and protection of the Rohingya’s fundamental human rights.

Accountability efforts are ramping up. The Gambia v. Myanmar case alleging genocide at the ICJ continues, with the Gambia recently filing a reply brief providing further evidence of genocide. Civil society organizations are calling for strengthened and modified provisional measures from the court to better protect the Rohingya from ongoing abuses. Experts assess that Myanmar is in clear violation of existing orders and that the risk of renewed genocide is high without intervention. As the humanitarian crisis grows more dire, accountability for those responsible remains crucial to ending the cycle of impunity and ensuring a just future for the Rohingya and all people in Myanmar. Continued documentation of abuses on the ground will also be key to supporting legal efforts seeking justice and protection of basic human rights. After years of failure by the international community, meaningful action is urgently needed.

Earlier this month, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Liz Throssell urged Bangladesh and other states on Friday to effectively protect Myanmar’s minority Rohingya community amid the fleeing of the Rohingya community from the ongoing fighting in Myanmar. Throssell urged for an immediate end to the violence and for refugees to be protected regardless of identity. Throssell wrote:

The High Commissioner calls on Bangladesh and other [s]tates to provide effective protection to those seeking it, in line with international law, and to ensure international solidarity with Bangladesh in hosting Rohingya refugees in Myanmar. … Prompt and unhindered humanitarian relief must be allowed to flow, and all parties must comply fully and unconditionally with international law[—]including measures already ordered by the [ICJ], for the protection of Rohingya.

Currently, nearly 12.9 million people, roughly a quarter of the population, are facing food insecurity in Myanmar, and the ability to access essential goods and services and to cope is stretched to its limit due to the depletion of basic medicines and the turmoil in health systems. Education has also been interrupted by the military attacks, leading to around one-third of all school-aged children being out of the classroom.

The ongoing Rohingya genocide in Rakhine State highlights the desperate plight of this persecuted minority caught in the renewed conflict between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army. The sheer scale of atrocities committed—mass killings, sexual violence, forced displacement, and the systematic destruction of Rohingya communities—underscores an urgent need for international intervention. The complicity of the Arakan Army in this violence, joining forces with the military to forcibly displace and terrorize the Rohingya, further complicates the humanitarian crisis. Despite the ICJ’s provisional measures, Myanmar continues to engage in gross violations, necessitating stronger and more decisive actions from the global community to protect Rohingya lives and hold perpetrators accountable.