Gambia filed a case at the United Nations’ top court accusing Myanmar of genocide against its Rohingya Muslim minority, Gambian Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou said.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ), also known as the World Court, is the United Nations’ top legal institution and rules on disputes between states.
Gambia and Myanmar are both signatories to the 1948 Genocide Convention, which prohibits states from committing genocide and compels all signatory states to prevent and punish genocide.
“We submitted our application to the ICJ under the Genocide Convention,” Tambadou told a news conference in The Hague, where the court is based.
“The aim is to get Myanmar to account for its action against its own people: the Rohingya. It is a shame for our generation we do nothing while genocide is unfolding right under our own eyes.”
The tiny West African nation, which is predominantly Muslim, filed its case with support of the Organisation for Islamic Co-operation (OIC).
More than 730 000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh following a 2017 crackdown by Myanmar’s military, which UN investigators said was executed with “genocidal intent”.
Myanmar, which has a Buddhist majority, denies accusations of genocide and says its crackdown targeted militant separatists in Rakhine state.
In its filing, Gambia asked the court to grant provisional measures to ensure Myanmar immediately “stops atrocities and genocide against its own Rohingya people”.
The law firm helping Gambia, Foley Hoag, expects the first hearings next month.
Human rights groups pushing the international community to act in the Rohingya crisis hailed Gambia’s move.
“Gambia found a way to turn the international community’s handwringing over the Rohingya into action,” Param-Preet Singh of Human Rights Watch told Reuters.
While the ICJ has no means to enforce its rulings, going against the decisions of the court could further harm Myanmar’s international reputation.