Canada sup­ports geno­cide case against Myan­mar at top court

The Peterborough Examiner - - CANADA & WORLD - MIKE BLANCHFIEL­D

OT­TAWA — Canada is sup­port­ing a geno­cide pros­e­cu­tion of the Myan­mar gov­ern­ment for sys­temic vi­o­lence that forced more than 700,000 Ro­hingya Mus­lims to flee their coun­try.

Gam­bia filed the geno­cide case Mon­day with the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court in The Hague on be­half of the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Is­lamic Co-op­er­a­tion, a group of 57 Mus­lim coun­tries.

For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land said in a state­ment the move will ad­vance ac­count­abil­ity for the crime of geno­cide, which in­cludes mass mur­der, sys­temic dis­crim­i­na­tion, hate speech and sex­ual and gen­der-based vi­o­lence.

The Cana­dian gov­ern­ment will look for ways to sup­port Gam­bia’s le­gal ef­forts, she added. To that end, she said the gov­ern­ment will en­list the help of for­mer Lib­eral in­terim leader and long­time politi­cian Bob Rae, who also served as Canada’s spe­cial en­voy to Myan­mar.

“Canada will work with other like-minded coun­tries to end im­punity for those ac­cused of com­mit­ting the gravest crimes un­der in­ter­na­tional law,” Free­land said.

“En­sur­ing that the per­pe­tra­tors of th­ese atroc­i­ties are held to ac­count is im­per­a­tive to pro­vide jus­tice to the vic­tims and sur­vivors while build­ing last­ing peace and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in Myan­mar.”

In his re­port on Myan­mar re­leased last year, Rae, urged Canada to play a lead­ing role in any in­ter­na­tional pros­e­cu­tion of the per­pe­tra­tors of vi­o­lence in the South Asian coun­try.

Rae also pre­dicted le­gal chal­lenges for the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity if it de­cided to pur­sue a pros­e­cu­tion against Myan­mar’s lead­ers for crimes against hu­man­ity.

The main chal­lenge would be to cre­ate a cred­i­ble and in­de­pen­dent tri­bunal that could hear the case, he said, not­ing that spe­cial tri­bunals were set up to pros­e­cute war crimes in Cam­bo­dia, Rwanda and the for­mer Yu­goslavia.

In Septem­ber 2018, the House of Com­mons unan­i­mously sup­ported a mo­tion that said the crimes against the Ro­hingya were a geno­cide. The mo­tion also re­it­er­ated a call for the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil to re­fer Myan­mar to the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court.

The mo­tion co­in­cided with a United Na­tions fact-find­ing mis­sion that re­ported the Myan­mar mil­i­tary sys­tem­at­i­cally killed thou­sands of Ro­hingya civil­ians, burned hun­dreds of their vil­lages and en­gaged in eth­nic cleans­ing and mass gang rape.

It called for top gen­er­als to be in­ves­ti­gated and pros­e­cuted for geno­cide.

A state­ment on Mon­day from Hu­man Rights Watch on be­half of 10 in­ter­na­tional non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions said the move by Gam­bia rep­re­sented “the first ju­di­cial scru­tiny of Myan­mar’s cam­paign of mur­der, rape, ar­son and other atroc­i­ties against Ro­hingya Mus­lims.”

It noted that Canada, Bangladesh, Nige­ria, Turkey, and France “have as­serted that Myan­mar com­mit­ted geno­cide against the Ro­hingya.”

In Oc­to­ber 2018, Canada also stripped Aung San Suu Kyi, Myan­mar’s civil­ian leader, of her honorary Cana­dian cit­i­zen­ship for her com­plic­ity in the atroc­i­ties.

She had been renowned for her decades as a leader peace­fully op­pos­ing her coun­try’s mil­i­tary rulers.

Myan­mar’s mil­i­tary launched at­tacks against the Ro­hingya in Au­gust 2017. Most fled to neigh­bour­ing Bangladesh and have cre­ated one of the world’s largest refugee camps.


Ro­hingya refugees trek across the Chit­tagong hills near Am­toli, Bangladesh in 2017. Gam­bia has filed a law­suit with the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court ac­cus­ing Myan­mar of geno­cide.

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