The United Nations’ highest court is set to rule on whether to order Myanmar to halt what has been described as a genocidal campaign against the country’s Rohingya Muslims.
The International Court of Justice heard a case brought by Gambia on behalf of Muslim nations who accuse Myanmar of genocide.
At public hearings last month, lawyers for Myanmar’s accusers used maps, satellite images and graphic photos to detail what they call a campaign of murder, rape and destruction amounting to genocide perpetrated by Myanmar’s military.
The hearings drew intense scrutiny as Myanmar’s former pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi defended the campaign by military forces that once held her under house arrest for 15 years.
Suu Kyi, who as Myanmar’s state counselor heads the government, was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for championing democracy and human rights under Myanmar’s then-ruling junta.
Buddhist-majority Myanmar has long considered the Rohingya to be “Bengalis” from Bangladesh even though their families have lived in the country for generations. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless. They are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.
In August 2017, Myanmar’s military launched what it called a clearance campaign in northern Rakhine state in response to an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group. The campaign forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh and led to accusations that security forces committed mass rapes, killings and burned thousands of homes.
Suu Kyi told world court judges in December that the exodus was a tragic consequence of the military’s response to “coordinated and comprehensive armed attacks” by Rohingya insurgents.
She urged judges to drop the genocide case and allow Myanmar’s military justice system to deal with any abuses.