World Court Orders Myanmar to Protect Rohingya Against Genocide

The International Court of Justice and Gambia's legal team, January 23, 2020. Photo from 


In a unanimous ruling, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also commonly called the World Court, today ordered Myanmar to protect Rohingya in its territory against Genocide.  In finding that provisional measures are warranted to restrain Myanmar, it relied on the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission Reports of 2018 and 2019, which found overwhelming evidence that atrocities have been committed against the Rohingya, resulting in massive forced displacement and genocide in 2016 and 2017.  The Fact-Finding Mission's 2019 Report found that atrocities by the Myanmar Army against the Rohingya in Myanmar are continuing.


The Court rejected Myanmar's defenses to Gambia's case, and upheld the jurisdiction of the ICJ, the standing of Gambia to bring its case to the ICJ, and the existence of a dispute as required by Article 9 of the Genocide Convention.  The Court held that the Rohingya are a protected group under the Genocide Convention.


The International Court of Justice ordered Myanmar to abide by its obligations under the Genocide Convention. It enumerated those obligations by reading the acts of genocide specified in Article 2 of the Genocide Convention:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The Court ordered the Myanmar Army to not commit any of the crimes enumerated in Article 3 of the Genocide Convention:

(a) Genocide;
(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
(d ) Attempt to commit genocide;
(e) Complicity in genocide.


The Court ordered Myanmar to preserve all evidence relevant to Gambia's claim that Myanmar has committed Genocide.

The Court ordered Myanmar to report to the Court within four months on Myanmar's efforts to suppress crimes of genocide and to protect Rohingya, followed by reports every six months thereafter.


This judgment was unusually sweeping in its scope, rejecting most of Myanmar's defences against Gambia's suit, though the Court will not render a final decision in Gambia's case against Myanmar until Memorials (legal briefs) are submitted by both parties, and oral arguments are heard by the ICJ.  That process often takes years.


Unfortunately, the ICJ's order of Provisional Measures did not address the immediate needs of the over 750,000 refugees in Bangladesh, 160,000 Rohingya refugees in Malaysia, and hundreds of thousands of other Rohingya refugees in Saudi Arabia and other countries.  The continuing lack of security of Rohingyas in Myanmar has meant that the Rohingya will not go back to Myanmar without international peacekeepers to protect them.  Their economic, educational, and health conditions are desperate.  The Rohingya refugee camp near Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh is the largest refugee camp in the world.   The wealthier nations of the world must donate generously to help Bangladesh and Malaysia and other nations that are bearing the brunt of Myanmar's crimes against the Rohingya.



Text of Order by the International Court of Justice, January 23, 2020


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