Gambia has filed a lawsuit at the UN’s top court formally accusing Myanmar of genocide against Rohingya Muslims.
The case, which was filed at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Monday, asked the court to implement an injunction to make sure Myanmar immediately “stops atrocities and genocide against its own Rohingya people.”
The west African nation, which is majority Muslim, also has the support of the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and a team of international lawyers.
Last year, the UN issued a damning report into the violence in Myanmar, saying military leaders should go on trial for genocide.
Thousands of Rohingya were killed and more than 700,000 fled to neighbouring Bangladesh during an army crackdown in the Buddhist-majority country in 2017.
Last year prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened a preliminary inquiry into Myanmar’s alleged crimes against its Rohingya Muslim minority. But the fact that Myanmar has not signed up to the ICC complicates the legal case there and no charges have yet been filed.
Myanmar’s government denies its troops carried out such crimes.
The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic minority in Myanmar who have their own language and culture. They mostly live in Rakhine state, which borders Bangladesh.
Despite living in Myanmar for generations, they are not recognised as citizens or counted in the census. Thy are often painted, including by government officials, as illegal immigrants and interlopers from Bangladesh.
On 25 August 2017, Rohingya militants attacked dozens of police posts, killing several officers. Clearance operations by security forces in response saw entire villages burned, and civilians attacked, raped and killed, UN investigators found.
Hundreds of thousands fled to Bangladesh, joining many Rohingya living in camps who had fled in earlier waves.
Attempts to repatriate Rohingya have so far failed – with refugees citing the lack of accountability for atrocities committed and uncertainty over their fate on their return.
In October the UN warned that there was a “serious risk of genocide recurring” against those still inside the country.