Ethnic groups show support for Gambia at ICJ

A coalition of ethnic organizations and human rights activists sent a letter to the UN’s Yangon office in support of Gambia’s genocide charges against Myanmar’s government and military. 

Gambia has accused Myanmar’s leaders of committing genocide against the country’s Rohingya minority. The first hearings in the case were heard this week at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. 

“We welcome the lawsuit filed by Gambia against the Burmese military leaders who are violating the Genocide Convention and those protecting the crimes of the military,” the leader read.

It was signed by the Democracy and Peace Women’s Network, the Karen Women’s Union (KWU), the Ethnic Farmers Federation and Youth for a New Society. 

The group also mentioned in their letter similar human rights violations committed by the military against ethnic Kachin, Karen, Shan, Karenni, Rakhine and Mon civilians. 

“We don’t have the authority to punish them, so we welcome those that do have that authority to press charges against and punish the Tatmadaw,” Youth for a New Society’s chairwomen Ei Thinzar Maung told Myanmar Now. 

The Tatmadaw is still committing human rights violations in ethnic areas across the country, she added. 

KWU president Naw Ohn Hla said the letter was also a reaction to the numerous rallies throughout Myanmar in support of state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, who is currently defending Myanmar’s military and government against the charges at the ICJ. 

These rallies might give the international community the impression that the people of Myanmar support genocide, which is not the case, she said.

“I think (Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD) are using a public that doesn’t understand the case, and are offering misinformation to confuse them,” she said. 

“Today, the ruling political party and powerful organizations are organizing public gatherings against the lawsuit. This is a manipulation of the public to protect the human rights violations of the Tatmadaw,” the letter said. 

On Monday, 17 ethnic Shan groups also released a statement in support of the Gambia’s case. 

“Shan communities strongly support the international legal cases being brought against Myanmar’s military leaders who have authorized atrocities against the country’s ethnic peoples for decades with impunity,” it read. “Until military impunity ends, systematic atrocities against ethnic peoples will continue.” 

Last week, 48 ethnic Karen organizations released a similar statement in support of the charges. 

The ICJ began hearing the case on Tuesday, when the Gambia presented opening remarks. On Wednesday, Aung San Suu Kyi and her legal team offered a defence. The case continues this afternoon and evening, with arguments from both parties. 

Rallies in support of the state counsellor are still being held in Myanmar’s larger cities.  

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