November 16, 2023
Burma Campaign UK today welcomed news that the British government has filed its intervention in the Rohingya genocide case at the International Court of Justice.
The UK government filed a joint declaration of intervention in the case with Canada, Denmark, France, Germany and the Netherlands.
The British government finally announced its intention to intervene in the case in August 2022, after a sustained campaign by Burma Campaign UK, Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, and with the support of more than 100 MPs, led by Rushanara Ali MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Groups on Rohingya and on Democracy in Burma.
“This strong intervention is significant and very welcome,” said Karin Valtersson, Campaigns Officer at Burma Campaign UK. “The British government failed to take action to try to prevent genocide so now has an obligation to hold those responsible to account. We now need to see the British government call a meeting of the UN Security Council to address the fact that the Burmese military are ignoring the court orders to prevent ongoing genocide of the Rohingya.”
Burma Campaign UK is also calling on the British government to reverse aid cuts of over 80% since 2020 to Rohingya refugees, who are genocide survivors, in Bangladesh.
The British government has a poor track record on the Rohingya, supporting permanently lifting economic sanctions in 2013 and offering training to the Burmese military despite escalating violence against the Rohingya at that time. The British government deliberately misrepresented escalating violence and repression of the Rohingya as communal violence, as what was taking place did not fit the reform narrative the British government was promoting, prioritising trade and investment opportunities.
The British government also funded a census which excluded the Rohingya and provided support to the 2015 election, which excluded the Rohingya. These exclusions were stepping-stones towards genocide, funded and supported by the British government and other international donors. The lack of international action on repression of the Rohingya gave a green light for continued repression, leading to the military offensives in 2016 and 2017, which United Nations investigators determined was genocide.
The British government consistently ignored and downplayed warnings about escalating attacks and repression of the Rohingya, including a call from Burma Campaign UK just before the 2017 offensive to call a UN Security Council meeting and try to avert new attacks.
Even after these genocidal attacks in 2016 and 2017, the British government refused to sanction senior leaders of the military and military companies providing revenue to the miliary. It was only after the coup began in 2021 that such sanctions were brought in.
No comprehensive review was ever carried out by the Foreign Office into mistakes that were made in the run up to the genocide of the Rohingya, so no lessons can be learned at an institutional level.
It took three years to persuade the British government to agree to intervene in the Rohingya genocide case at the ICJ, and it was only in September 2022 that the British government finally agreed that it would support the UN Security Council referring Burma to the International Criminal Court.
Despite evidence that the Burmese military is ignoring the provisional measures ordered by the International Court of Justice to prevent ongoing genocide of the Rohingya, the British government has so far failed to act upon requests from Burma Campaign UK and Rohingya civil society organisations to convene a meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss this. The ICJ is a UN court and the UN Security Council has a responsibility to uphold rulings by the court. The British government is penholder on Burma at the UN Security Council so should be taking the lead in convening such a meeting.
The British government has also slashed aid to Rohingya refugees by a staggering 81% since 2020.