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Maldives file declaration to intervene in Rohingya genocide case at International Court of Justice

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The Republic of Maldives on Wednesday filed a declaration of intervention at the International Court of Justice in an ongoing case against the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

The application to run the case was filed initially by the Gambia on 11 November 2019 alleging that the criminal acts committed by Myanmar’s military and security forces against members of the Rohingya Muslim groups in Rakhine State from 2016 constitute genocide, in violation of the 1948 Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide Convention.

Pursuing the right of intervention conferred by Article 63 of the statute to states as parties in the convention, the Maldives had earlier announced their willingness to intervene in the case on 25 February 2020, soon after proceedings were launched against the State of Myanmar in the case filed by the Gambia. Now, by formally filing the declaration they have become the first and only state from the Global South to do so.

In their official statement, the Maldives expressed their deep concern “over the continued . . . human rights violations and barbarous assaults against the Rohingya Muslims”, and called for “international co-operation in the quest to prevent and punish genocide.”

The Agent of the Republic of Maldives in this case, Attorney General Ibrahim Riffath, states the motive behind the move: “The Maldives’ intervention in this case is a testament to the unwavering solidarity of the Maldivian people with Muslims across the world, and the unified condemnation by the Maldives, of atrocities of genocide worldwide.”

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdulla Shahid said that the decision to intervene was taken in line with the resolution of OIC to ensure the accountability of the perpetrators of the genocide against the Rohingyas. “The Maldives firmly supports The Gambia in this endeavour,” he added.

The reports prepared by various United Nations agencies, International Criminal Court officials, human rights groups, journalists, and governments provide evidence of wide-scale human rights violations in Myanmar, including extrajudicial killings, summary executions, gang rapes, arson of villages, businesses, and schools and infanticides. The Burmese government dismissed these findings by stating they were “exaggerations.” As of September 2018, over 700,000 people were driven out of Rakhine State, and forced to take shelter in refugee camps of Bangladesh. Though Myanmar rejected the allegations stating them as “exaggerations”, after the public hearings, on 22 July 2022 the Court delivered its judgement against their preliminary objections.

The Republic of Maldives is represented by Amal Clooney and Professor Philippa Webb at the International Court of Justice. In Professor Webb’s words, states have been turning to the ICJ for the authoritative interpretation and application of the Genocide Convention for over seven decades, and this case is an opportunity to advance the protection offered by this important treaty.

Rohingya Human Rights Initiative (ROHRIngya) welcomed the declaration of the Maldives and stated: “this significant action marks the first time a country from the global south has taken such a stand. Meanwhile, influential nations silently observe the ongoing atrocities unfolding in Myanmar”

Apart from the Maldivian representation, Canada, France, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have also jointly announced their intention to intervene as parties to the Genocide Convention. 

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