To Keep the Rohingya Alive

The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.
— Article 1. The Genocide Convention

On November 11, 2019 The Gambia filed at the International Court of Justice an Application of proceedings against Myanmar, which alleged violations of the Genocide Convention committed by Myanmar against the Rohingya people.1 January 23, 2020, the International Court of Justice in a unanimous ruling rejected Myanmar’s attempts to dismiss the case and granted The Gambia’s request for provisional measures to protect the Rohingya people, demanding the Government of Myanmar cease its acts of atrocity against the Rohingya.2

The Court, whose rulings are irrevocable, found that the Rohingya qualified as a protected group under the Genocide Convention. The ruling supports the finding of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission which in September 2019 realized that the Rohingya people were “at a serious risk of genocide.”3 The Fact Finding Mission also found the “inference of genocidal intent.”4 The Court’s Judges unanimously ordered Myanmar to comply with the Convention on Genocide and in four months to report to the Court on the government’s compliance.5

The Court and media’s reluctance to simply call Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingya “genocide” is possibly muted in order to move ahead immediately with protecting the Rohingya from further genocidal acts. It’s officially recognized that the entire group is at risk of genocide and the few means of protecting vulnerable groups from genocide are now to be tested.6 Canada has a particular interest in this since Parliament has declared Myanmar’s actions toward the Rohingya, genocide, and has supported The Gambia’s case at the International Court of Justice.

The corporate global media reporting of Aung San Suu Kyi’s defense of Myanmar is, like Myanmar’s military reports of its own innocence, surreal when challenged with evidence of what has happened in the Rakhine since 2012.7

My Night’s Lantern genocide warning8 of August 27, 2012:

Myanmar (Burma): Buddhist persecution of Muslim groups which have lived in Burma for generations broke into rioting and killing in June; reports continue of ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslim peoples; 20 mosques are burnt; tens of thousands have fled; Bangladesh has at points closed its borders to more Muslim refugees. In response to protest by Saudi Arabia, the U.S. State Department denies that Myanmar’s armed forces, primarily Buddhist, are trying to ethnically cleanse Muslims. The Rohingya minority is at risk. Myanmar does not permit the Rohingya, citizenship. Rohingya women require government permits to wed (a marriage license is also required in North America but without a bribe). Genocide warning. This year’s flooding in the South, extreme with a hundred thousand recent refugees, may increase the demand for food and shelter nationally. Military commands and private companies have confiscated tens of thousands of acres of farmland belonging to traditional farmers. Natural disasters of global warming may be a factor of ethnic cleansing and genocides. Historically the correlation between failure of a country’s agricultural base and subsequent genocide was evidenced in the Cambodian genocide under Pol Pot. Partial sources online:9

Individual news accounts as well as organizational reports through the years since give evidence of an ongoing intention to wipe out the Rohingya by genocide. While it’s stated that genocide can only be declared by the courts, common sense and understanding precede this; the case at international court was a result of unavoidable evidence. When referring to Myanmar’s genocide of the Rohingya many legal authorities use the words “alleged genocide.” The phrase is an insult to the victims. Knowing of the atrocities is it humane to still use the word “alleged”? The need for legal accuracy is complicated by the large amounts of money involved which have impeded recognizing this crime of genocide.

For example: from my Night’s Lantern entry of November 2, 2012:

An article by Tony Cartalucci (October 29, 2012 Alternative Thai News Network) explains the strategic importance of Kyaukpyu where the violence has occurred, as the starting point of an oil pipeline to China; de-stabilization of the local population impedes the progress of China / Myanmar economic cooperation. His article notes longstanding links between the ‘Pro-Democracy’ Movement supporting Aung San Suu Kyi, and anti-Muslim sentiment in Burma. To further democracy and ‘human rights’ in Burma the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy in 2011 gave grants of over $275,000 apiece to the following organizations: American Center for International Labor Solidarity, International Republican Institute, and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, a half million to unnamed organizations supporting “ethnic language short wave radio and satellite television broadcasts…” and somewhat smaller grants to about fifty other causes building contemporary Burma.

Not to ignore the obvious, the Myanmar military required arms for its expanded operations. To quote at length from the July 1, 2019 Night’s Lantern record of the genocide’s development:

The following may help to understand the world community’s inability to demand accountability from Myanmar: the World Bank is proceeding with a large investment in businesses in the Rakhine as the area cleared of its Rohingya inhabitants opens to new settlers. This may explain ongoing acts of violence against Rohingya which discourage their return. Aung San Suu Kyi is reported attempting to raise European investment in the country by strumming the commonality of ‘problems with Muslims’ to Czech and Hungarian State leaders as Europe slides to the right. With Myanmar’s human rights violations the West has slowed investment as Asian investment increases. The ratio of investment from the West and from the Asian countries is about 1 to 5. Of the world’s silence and inaction the problem is nakedly money and particularly Asian investment. With Myanmar under arms embargoes by the EU and US, Israel is said to be the only power supplying arms to Myanmar with sales of 11 million dollars of weapons in 2017, despite efforts against the arms trade within Israel (Buzz), but the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute extends the list of those recently supplying Myanmar with arms – to China, Russia, the Ukraine, and India (Asia Times). AOAV (Action on Armed Violence of the UK) finds that in 2016-2017 Great Britain sold 537 thousand pounds sterling of weapons to Myanmar; a large portion of this was security-related equipment. Arms sales by nations on the UN Security Council and Beijing (where Muslims and Christians are under pressure) which provides substantial support for Myanmar’s government makes it unlikely that the Security Council will take any action to counter the genocide in Myanmar (these countries could become vulnerable to charges of complicity). Myanmar’s tactics in avoiding accountability for its alleged genocide against the Rohingya and other minority groups provide a warning to the UN Convention on Genocide itself, as international organizations become corrupted to the service of economic interests. Partial sources online:10

To return to the global media’s role in downplaying the suffering and attempted destruction of an entire people it helps to simply understand that the media are protecting the sitting governments of their respective countries. The governments are protecting the corporate interests and industries. These corporate interests are requiring genocide for increased profits; links between investments and genocide are deeply suppressed by the media. Nor are these a focus of U.N. attention. By its nature any corporately based reporting of genocide is bound to be corrupt; U.N. reports at this point in history have a greater chance for credibility; a U.N. report has to be transparent as well as stand up to serious vetting by opposing groups. Material presented in court cases is also more likely to be verifiably true.

The situation of the Rohingya is currently under court review in at least three venues. The Gambia’s case at the International Court of Justice is discussed here. Concurrently Myanmar’s acts against the Rohingya are also under investigation at the International Criminal Court which has power to bring individuals to trial and punish violations of the Genocide Convention. The ICC has given its Chief Prosecutor the go-ahead for a thorough investigation of Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingya. Charges can be made without approval of the Security Council. A difficulty arises in a separate issue; the ICC Chief Prosecutor has decided there is grounds to pursue war crimes committed in Israel and awaits the Court’s sureness that it has the jurisdiction to do so. Israel objects. The Palestine Authority has subscribed to the Court. Israel has not. Israel’s Netanyahu has urged the world’s Christian Evangelicals to stand against the World Court11, (i.e., against international law). While this might protect Israel from charges of genocidal acts against Palestinians, it would also deprive the world’s peoples an ability to counter and correct Myanmar for its crimes against the Rohingya.

As noted on Night’s Lantern, November 22nd:

On November 20th the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK) filed a case in Buenos Aires Argentina against Aung San Suu Kyi, the former president of Myanmar Thein Sein, the former president Htin Kyaw, and several military authorities, for their efforts to exterminate the Rohingya. The prosecution would rely on the principle of universal jurisdiction.

The leading prosecutor was UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar 2008 to 2014, Tomás Ojea, who has told Agence France Presse:

This complaint seeks the criminal sanction of the perpetrators, accomplices and cover-ups of the genocide. We are doing it through Argentina because they have no other possibility of filing the criminal complaint anywhere else.”12

Filing of complaints against state genocide or official protagonists is rendered next to impossible within the legal systems of the United States and Canada, in the U.S. by tacit agreement of the judicial system and the American Bar, as well as legislation which buffers those in office from attack, and in Canada by the same but also the requirement that a case would require permission of Canada’s Minister of Justice. These are gray areas which could be readjusted under political pressure from the people and this may be why the issue of genocide is kept subject to government controls.

North American countries are subject to the lobbying as well as covert actions by forces committing genocide. But also, the application of the Convention has to rely on initiating attorneys. In the U.S. particularly, this area of the law wasn’t featured in law school curriculum of those currently practicing. It’s possibly a condition of practicing law in the U.S. to avoid any attempt by war protesters and anti-nuclear activists to lay charges under domestic law against the country’s leaders for violating the Genocide Convention. Curiously the refrain of “never again” finds justice placed in the hands of lawyers. This is not altogether good. In court the business of lawyers is less to discover truth than to represent the client. But if you consider the Genocide Convention without the lawyers and as a sample of the people’s resistance, and insistence on humanity and decency, it becomes a revolutionary document.

If it’s clear that Myanmar has committed genocide against the Rohingya, it’s up to those party to the Convention to prevent and punish the genocide. The International Court of Justice has taken the first and huge step of ordering prevention. If Myanmar ignores the Order, the world’s nations are bound to enforce the prevention. Countries who don’t would then be violating the Treaty and under legal systems reflecting justice the officials responsible could be charged with complicity in genocide. Governments insisting on genocide have to be replaced.

• First posted: Gerald and Maas Night’s Lantern

  1. “Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (The Gambia v. Myanmar) – Verbatim Record.” December 10, 2019. Public Sitting. The International Court of Justice. []
  2. “Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (The Gambia v. Myanmar),” Press Release, January 23, 2020, The International Court of Justice. []
  3. Ibid. []
  4. p. 18. #55, “Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (The Gambia v. Myanmar) Order,” January 23, 2020, International Court of Justice. []
  5. While The Gambia was able to successfully base its claim of the Court’s jurisdiction on the Genocide Convention‘s Article IX, the Peoples Republic of China has not acceded to Article IX. As a principle economic backer of Myanmar and within its own commitments to the Convention, The People’s Republic of China may under law be reluctant to support the Court’s “Order.” []
  6. Of close to a million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh refusing to return, there are problems with a government of Bangladesh relocation program of 100,000 to ‘Bhasan Char’  (floating island). The island, 34 kilometers offshore, is periodically entirely submerged in water. []
  7. Night’s Lantern Genocide Warnings” []
  8. My original entries noted here appear on the “Suppressed news” pages of Night’s Lantern. “Archives: genocide related materials” []
  9. “US Denies Ethnic Cleansing Campaign against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar,” Gianluca Mezzofiore, August 9, 2012, International Business Times; “Saudi Arabia Accuses Myanmar of ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ of Muslim Rohingya,” Gianluca Mezzofiore, August 7, 2012, International Business Times; “US rewarding Myanmar for massacring Muslims,” Kevin Barrett, August 26, 2012, Press TV; “The Global War on Islam,” August 25, 2012, strategyworld.com; “Letter from America: Myanmar Government is lying,” Dr. Habib Siddiqui, August 28, 2012, Asian Times; “Burma: President must forbid unfair seizing of farmland,” Zin Linn, August 26, 2012, Asian Tribune.” []
  10. “Aung San Suu Kyi meets with Hungary’s Orbán to lament their “growing Muslim populations,” Alex Ward, June 7, 2019, Vox; “The World Bank is rewarding ethnic cleansing in Myanmar,” Azeem Ibrahim, May 30, 2019, The Washington Post; “Czech PM Backs Investment in Myanmar as State Counselor Visits Prague,” Nan Lwin, June 4, 2019, The Irrawaddy; “Asia Investors Split With West Over Myanmar’s Rohingya Crackdown,” Livia Yap and Tom Redmond, March 6, 2019, Bloomberg; “Up in Arms About Israeli Arms Exports,” Adi Pick, Feb. 15, 2019, Buzz; “Burma’s Suu Kyi joins Hungary’s Orbán in promoting anti-Muslim chauvinism,” Peter Symonds, June 12, 2019, World Socialist Web Site; “UK arms exports to Myanmar,” AOAV, November 15, 2018, Action on Armed Violence (UK); “Myanmar arms trade 1990-2016: Who sold what?” Shakeeb Asrar, September 16, 2017, Al Jazeera. []
  11. “Netanyahu Drumming Up Opposition to ICC as World Leaders Descend on Israel,” MEE staff, January 21, 2020, Middle East Eye; “Netanyah equates Iran’s nuclear program to the Nazi genocide,” January 22, 2020, Jewish News Syndicate. []
  12. “Aung San Suu Kyi named in local lawsuit over crimes against Rohingya,  November.13, 2019, Buenos Aires Times. []
John Bart Gerald is a poet/journalist living in Montreal. He writes the website nightslantern.ca concerned with the prevention of genocide. Read other articles by J. B..