The Gambia, acting on behalf of the 57 Member States of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, today filed a historic lawsuit in the International Court of Justice, in The Hague, seeking to hold Myanmar accountable under international law for State-sponsored genocide against its minority Muslim population, known as the Rohingya. The suit also asks the Court to order Myanmar to cease and desist from all acts of genocide, to punish those responsible, including senior government officials and military officers, and to make reparations to the victims.
The suit requests, as a matter of extreme urgency, that the Court order “Provisional Measures” to stop Myanmar’s genocidal conduct immediately, in order to prevent further harm to the Rohingya people while the case is pending. The Court is expected to hold oral hearings on this request next month.
The suit alleges that Myanmar’s actions, “which include killing, causing serious bodily and mental harm, inflicting conditions that are calculated to bring about physical destruction, imposing measures to prevent births, and forcible transfers, are genocidal in character because they are intended to destroy the Rohingya group in whole or in part.” These genocidal acts are documented extensively by independent investigative efforts undertaken by United Nations experts and bodies, including the UN Human Rights Council’s Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, and have been corroborated by international human rights organizations and other credible sources.
The suit was brought under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, in the aftermath of the atrocities committed during World War II. The Gambia and Myanmar are both parties to the Convention.
The Gambia’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubacarr Marie Tambadou, has been appointed as The Gambia’s Agent in the case. He stated that “The Gambia is taking this action to seek justice and accountability for the genocide being committed by Myanmar against the Rohingya, and to uphold and strengthen the global norm against genocide that is binding upon all States.” The suit has been fully endorsed by the OIC, an intergovernmental organization composed of States with large or majority Muslim populations. The OIC appointed The Gambia, an OIC member, to bring the case on its behalf.
The Gambia, in turn, chose Foley Hoag LLP to lead its legal team. Foley Hoag specializes in representing States before the International Court of Justice, and other international courts and arbitral tribunals. Paul Reichler, who heads Foley Hoag’s International Litigation and Arbitration practice and will serve as the team’s lead advocate, praised The Gambia for its “humanitarian concern for the survival of the Rohingya people, who face imminent extinction as a group, and its willingness to stand up and be counted in the struggle of all civilized nations to rid the world of genocide, the most heinous of all crimes against humanity.”
Other Foley Hoag attorneys on The Gambia’s team include partners Larry Martin and Andrew Loewenstein, counsel Arsalan Suleman, special counsel Pierre d’Argent, and associates Peter Tzeng, Yasmin Al Ameen, and Darío Maestro. Foley Hoag has also invited two prominent international lawyers and human rights experts, with whom it frequently collaborates, to serve as fellow advocates before the Court: Professor Philippe Sands of University College London, and Matrix Chambers; and Professor Payam Akhavan of McGill University in Montreal.