ICJ permits seven states to intervene in The Gambia’s alleged genocide case against Myanmar

The ICJ unanimously decided to allow seven states to intervene in the ongoing genocide case brought by The Gambia against Myanmar on Wednesday. The countries granted permission to participate in the proceedings are Maldives, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.

The court found their declarations of intervention admissible under Article 63 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice. The article allows states that are parties to the convention whose construction is in question to intervene in the proceedings. In the case before the ICJ, The Gambia alleged that Myanmar’s actions against the Rohingya ethnic group in Rakhine State violated provisions of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. The Rohingya, a Muslim minority group in Myanmar, have reportedly faced decades of systematic discrimination, statelessness and targeted violence.

The Gambia initially filed in November 2019 on behalf of the 57 members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Myanmar at the time argued that the applicant was actually the OIC, which had no standing before the court pursuant to Article 34. Myanmar also claimed that The Gambia had no standing to lodge a case before the alleged acts of genocide were committed outside its territory against non-Gambians.

Nonetheless, the ICJ issued provisional measures in January 2020, ordering Myanmar to take steps to prevent acts of genocide against the Rohingya. The effectiveness of the provisional measures was also questioned at the time. Human Rights Watch (HRW) similarly claimed that it has continued to document abuses against the Rohingya in Myanmar despite the provisional measures. Recently on June 27, 89 civil rights groups also urged the UN Security Council to coordinate an intervention to halt “surging violence and atrocities” and protect Rohingya and other ethnic minorities in Myanmar. Notably, two of the intervening countries in the ICJ, France and the UK are permanent members of the UN Security Council. The pressure inserted on Myanmar’s military leadership by their involvement remains to be observed.