THE HAGUE, Dec 12 (Reuters) – Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi returned to the International Court of Justice on Thursday to defend Myanmar against accusations it has committed genocide against its Rohingya Muslim minority population.
Gambia, which brought the suit at the U.N.’s top court under the 1948 Genocide Convention, has asked judges to order “provisional measures” that would act as a kind of restraining order for the Myanmar military until the case is heard in full.
At Thursday’s hearing each side will have a chance to counter arguments put forward by the other over the past two days, starting with Gambia, a small west African country that is supported by the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation.
On Tuesday, Gambia’s legal team outlined graphic testimony of bloody excesses alleged committed by Myanmar’s military since 2016 in a campaign that has seen more than 730,000 Rohingya driven across the border from Rakhine state to neighbouring Bangladesh. U.N. investigators estimated 10,000 people may have been killed.
Suu Kyi on Wednesday argued the tribunal, also known as the World Court, should not have jurisdiction. She said even if there had been violations of humanitarian law during what she described as an “internal conflict”, they did not rise to the level of genocide and are not covered by the Convention.
Gambia, led by Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou, was expected to argue on Thursday that Myanmar’s actions do meet the definition of genocide, as attacks on the Rohingya were part of a coordinated plan of ethnic cleansing.
Suu Kyi and her team will have several hours to formulate a rebuttal and final statement by the end of on Thursday. The court has not set a date for a decision on provisional measures, but one could come in January.
Its decisions are binding and not subject to appeal, though it has no means of enforcement and countries have occasionally ignored them in the past or failed to fully adhere.
After the decision on provisional measures, the process may continue to a full case that could last years.
Suu Kyi supporters from Myanmar’s Buddhist majority were expected to rally at a park in Yangon, where the hearings are being projected on a large screen.
Suu Kyi had present Myanmar’s case “very detailed and precisely about the complicated Rakhine issue”, Myo Nyunt, spokesman for her National League for Democracy party, told Reuters by telephone.
Rohingya Muslims in camps in Cox’s Bazar were praying that the suit succeeds.
“Aung San Suu Kyi is a big liar…We hate her,” said Hasmat Ali, 41, who fled to Bangladesh after the August 2017 crackdown. She “..and the army commanders must be held accountable for the heinous crimes they committed on Rohingya”. (Reporting by Bart Meijer and Shoon Naing; Additional reporting by Anthony Deutsch, Stephanie van den Berg in The Hague, Ruma Paul in Cox’s Bazar and Thu Thu Aung in Yangon; Writing by Toby Sterling; Editing by Alex Richardson)