The British government has publicly welcomed the Rohingya genocide case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), having previously avoided expressing support for the case. The Gambia brought forward charges of genocide of the Rohingya to the court and the first hearings were held in December 2019.
In answers to Parliamentary Questions on 9th of January, British Foreign Office Minister Heather Wheeler MP stated:
“We are following proceedings in The Hague closely and welcome the International Court of Justice’s consideration of whether genocide has occurred. The UK is not currently involved in the case. UK Ministers have consistently expressed their profound concern at the horrific events of August 2017 in Rakhine state. The perpetrators of these atrocities should be held to account.”
On the 13th of January she stated:
“UK Ministers have repeatedly expressed their profound concern at the horrific events of August 2017 in Rakhine state. The perpetrators of these atrocities should be held to account. We are following proceedings in The Hague closely and welcome the International Court of Justice’s consideration of whether genocide has occurred.”
The questions were asked by Lyn Brown MP and Fiona Bruce MP, two MPs with a long track record of supporting human rights in Burma.
In answer to questions about the ICJ case last year, Heather Wheeler only said that she was “aware” of the case. Instead of expressing support, the British government has been calling for improvements to yet another sham domestic investigation set up by the government of Burma, despite knowing full well it is not a genuine process.
The British government has so far failed to support international initiatives for justice for the Rohingya. It does not publicly support, even in principle given expected Russian and Chinese opposition, referring Burma to the International Criminal Court. The British government is also refusing to support other recommendations made by the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, such as sanctions on military companies, and a global arms embargo.
Burma Campaign UK has been campaigning for the British government to support the ICJ case. https://burmacampaign.org.uk/uk-must-support-genocide-case-at-icj/
The British government should now provide practical support to The Gambia for the case, such as legal or financial assistance.
“The British government publicly welcoming the genocide case at the ICJ is a significant and welcome step forward,” said Karin Valtersson, Campaigns Officer at Burma Campaign UK. “Now the British government needs to go further, stand up for justice, and join the case at the ICJ.”
Heather Wheeler Parliamentary Answer 9th January 2020
Heather Wheeler Parliamentary Answer 13th January 2020
Heather Wheeler Parliamentary Answer on 28th October 2019 stating “aware” of the case: https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2019-10-23/4410/