Myanmar on Saturday submitted its first report to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), detailing what it has done to prevent further persecution against the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority as well as preserving evidence of the genocidal campaign seen in recent years.
In January, the Hague-based court had issued a provisional order, asking Myanmar to safeguard the mostly Muslim group in western Rakhine state from genocide.
The top UN court agreed last year to consider a case brought by The Gambia, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), alleging that Myanmar committed genocide against the Rohingya, an accusation vigorously denied by the government.
Myanmar’s military in August 2017 launched what it called a “clearance operation” in Rakhine state in response to an attack by a Rohingya armed group. The crackdown forced more than 7,30,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh and led to widespread accusations that security forces committed mass murder, gang rape, torture and arson.
A foreign ministry official said that the report submitted on Saturday was based on three directives issued by President Win Myint’s office in April.
It is unclear if the court will make the report public.
The official said that the president ordered the regional government and military not to remove or destroy evidence of a genocide. He also instructed them to prevent genocidal acts as well as incitement and hate speech against the Rohingya.
“What I know is that the report was based on what we have done and what we are doing regarding these three directives,” said the official.
David Scheffer, US ambassador-at-large for war crimes, said before Myanmar filed the report that it was “an important milestone”.
“The world should learn whether Myanmar not only is complying with an international order, but whether it has done so truthfully and without deception or obfuscation,” he said.
Scheffer made the remarks in a foreword to a report titled No Place for Optimism: Anticipating Myanmar’s First Report to the International Court of Justice.
Rohingya groups, on the other hand, say Myanmar has ignored the ICJ’s orders and the military is still committing atrocities in Rakhine state.
“Myanmar has not taken any serious action to protect the Rohingya,” said Muhammed Nowkhim, a Rohingya activist based in Bangladesh who fled the 2017 violence.
Nowkhim said that refugee groups in Bangladesh have documented dozens of cases of Rohingya being killed or injured in Rakhine since the ICJ order, often by military shelling.
According to news reports, around 600,000 Rohingya remain inside the country, and remain extremely vulnerable to attacks and persecution.
The Rohingya, described by the United Nations as the world’s most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the community in August 2017.
Since then, nearly 24,000 Rohingya have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).