Myanmar faces genocide hearings at Hague

Aung San Suu Kyi will deny that Myanmar carried out a genocide of Rohingya muslims.
Aung San Suu Kyi will deny that Myanmar carried out a genocide of Rohingya muslims.

Lawyers accusing Myanmar of alleged genocide against its Muslim Rohingya minority will next week ask judges to order immediate action to protect Rohingas from further violence.

Gambia, a tiny, mainly Muslim West African country, filed a lawsuit in November accusing Myanmar of genocide, the most serious international crime.

Gambia's request for a provisional injunction is the legal equivalent of seeking a restraining order against a country.

During three days of hearings starting December 10, it will ask the 16-member panel of UN judges at the International Court of Justice to impose "provisional measures" to protect the Rohingya before the case can be heard in full.

More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh since a 2017 military crackdown, which UN investigators found in August was carried out with "genocidal intent".

Myanmar vehemently denies allegations of genocide.

The office of Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace prize laureate, has said she will lead her country's defence personally.

Myanmar's legal team is expected to argue that genocide did not occur, that the top UN court lacks jurisdiction and that the case fails to meet a requirement that a dispute exists between Myanmar and Gambia.

A decision on provisional measures is expected within weeks. Hearings dealing with the core allegation of genocide could begin in 2020.

The legal threshold for a finding of genocide is high. Just three cases have been recognised under international law since World War Two: Cambodia in the late 1970s; Rwanda in 1994; and Srebrenica, Bosnia, in 1995.

"Proving genocide has been difficult because of the high bar set by its 'intent requirement' - that is showing the genocidal acts, say killings, were carried out with the specific intent to eliminate a people on the basis of their ethnicity," said Richard Dicker, head of the international justice program at New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Australian Associated Press