Myanmar Junta Reorganizes Legal Team for ICJ Rohingya Genocide Case

By The Irrawaddy 24 June 2021

The Myanmar military regime has organized a new legal team led by its foreign minister, U Wunna Maung Lwin, to present the defense in the Rohingya genocide case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague.

The regime’s order restructuring the committee, which was previously led by detained State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, was announced in a bulletin published by the Myanmar Gazette on Thursday.

The panel has eight members. Among them are two former military officers—U Wunna Maung Lwin, who will serve as chairman; and the regime’s planning, finance and industry minister, U Win Shein—and two serving lieutenant generals: Yar Pyae and Adjutant General Myo Zaw Thein.

The other members of the panel are the junta’s minister for international cooperation, U Ko Ko Hlaing, as vice chairman; its new union attorney general, Daw Thida Oo; its deputy foreign minister, U Kyaw Myo Htut; and Daw Khin Oo Hlaing, who is said to be an international criminal law expert and also a member of a seven-member advisory board to the regime.

After a brutal military crackdown in the western state of Rakhine in 2017 that forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee across the border to neighboring Bangladesh, the African nation of Gambia in November 2019 brought a case at the ICJ—which is an organ of the UN and is also known as the World Court—accusing Myanmar of committing genocide against the Rohingya. State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi defended the country against the charge in December 2019.

Gambia’s legal team submitted a list of the Myanmar military’s atrocities against the minority Muslim group in northern Rakhine state. These included mass rapes, the burning of families in their homes and the killing of dozens of Rohingya children. As the case could take years, Gambia asked the ICJ to order Myanmar to take “provisional measures” to prevent more violations.

Going further than the measures requested by Gambia, the ICJ ordered Myanmar on Jan. 23 to report on its compliance with the provisional measures in four months and then every six months thereafter. The Daw Aung San Suu Kyi-led civilian government submitted two reports prior to its ouster by the military in a coup on Feb. 1.

The deputy foreign minister for Myanmar’s parallel National Unity Government (NUG), U Moe Zaw Oo, said during an online press conference on June 4 that the civilian government would no longer offer a defense in the case. It vowed to work with the ICJ and said it would accept the court’s decision in the case.

The NUG also said it is considering accepting the exercise of jurisdiction by a separate international court, the International Criminal Court, over the killings, torture and other crimes against civilians committed by the Myanmar junta since the coup on Feb. 1. The Myanmar military seized power from the democratically elected National League for Democracy government, detained civilian leaders and abolished the new Parliament on the day it was scheduled to convene.

Since the coup, the Myanmar regime has killed at least 877 people and arrested more than 6,200, of whom 5,088 remain in detention, according to advocacy group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

At least 25 civilians have been tortured to death after being arrested by regime forces since the military takeover.

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