660 letters from Burma Campaign UK supporters were sent to Liz Truss MP today, calling on the British Foreign Secretary to announce that the British government will join the Rohingya genocide case at the International Court of Justice.
The Gambia has brought a case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that Burma is in violation of its obligations under the Genocide Convention. Liz Truss’s predecessor as Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, steadfastly refused to join the genocide case, despite cross-party political support for doing so and a recommendation from the Foreign Affairs Committee of the British Parliament.
The Burmese military faced no significant consequences for their genocidal military offensives against the Rohingya in 2016 and 2017. Having literally been allowed to get away with genocide increased the sense of impunity enjoyed by the military and encouraged them to believe they would also face no significant consequences for holding the military coup.
“Action to hold the military to account for their violations of international law is essential, not just to ensure justice, but also to help prevent further human rights violations,” said Anna Roberts, Executive Director of Burma Campaign UK. “If Liz Truss is genuine about holding the military to account for their crimes, joining the genocide case at the ICJ is the most obvious and effective step she can take.”
Burma Campaign UK is calling on the British government to take four steps to help ensure justice and accountability in Burma:
The British government has provided significant funding to the IIMM and to Myanmar Witness for the documentation of evidence which can be used in future prosecutions. However, there is still very little funding going to civil society organisations from Burma on the ground which are documenting human rights violations, and which provide the IIMM and Myanmar Witness with information.
The British government also refuses to support referring Burma to the International Criminal Court. While we accept that Russia and China would likely veto a UN Security Council resolution referring Burma to the International Criminal Court, there is political value in announcing support in principle for a referral, as it will help erode the sense of impunity enjoyed by the military.
Britain’s universal jurisdiction laws are a complex mish-mash of various treaties and laws which are outdated and limited in scope. For example, even the crime of genocide does not come under Britain’s universal jurisdiction legislation. In light of the UN Security Council being unable to perform its duties properly because of obstruction by Russia and China, reforming Britain’s universal jurisdiction laws is a logical step to ensure the application of international law.
The cross-party Foreign Affairs Committee of the British Parliament published a report in July 2021 calling on the British government to join the case: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/78/foreign-affairs-committee/news/156645/report-the-uk-governments-response-to-the-myanmar-crisis/
104 MPs backed a Parliamentary Motion calling on the British government to join the ICJ case and support ICC referral: https://edm.parliament.uk/early-day-motion/58164/political-and-security-situation-in-myanmar
104 MPs and Lords, including former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, wrote to Dominic Raab calling on him to join the case at the ICJ: https://www.rushanaraali.org/over_100_parliamentarians_urge_the_uk_government_to_take_action_to_protect_the_rohingya_against_genocide
The Labour Party supports joining the case at the ICJ: https://labour.org.uk/press/stephen-kinnock-responds-to-govt-sanctions-targeting-the-myanmar-military/
As does the Liberal Democrat party: https://www.parallelparliament.co.uk/lord/baroness-northover
Rohingya community organisations and international human rights and humanitarian organisations have also called on the British government to join the case at the ICJ: https://progressivevoicemyanmar.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/BROUK-PR-UK-to-join-ICJ-Case-18th-DEc-2020.pdf
Burma Campaign UK has published a briefing paper detailing the hypocrisy and inconsistencies of Dominic Raab’s stated support for accountability whilst at the same time steadfastly refusing to take action to support accountability: https://burmacampaign.org.uk/burma_briefing/why-is-dominic-raab-refusing-to-act-on-accountability-for-burmese-military-crimes/