Rohingya Conflict

ICJ’s latest judgment on Rohingya Genocide


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ICJ, ICC

Mains level : Rohingya Crisis

Judges at the United Nations’ highest court have dismissed preliminary objections by Myanmar to a case alleging for genocide against the Rohingya ethnic minority.

Who are the Rohingyas?

  • Rohingya Muslims comprise one million out of the 53 million people that live in Myanmar, forming the world’s largest stateless population in a single country.
  • Universally reviled by the country’s Buddhist majority, they have been oppressed by the government since the late 1970s when the government launched a campaign to identify ‘illegal immigrants’.
  • Serious abuses were committed, forcing as many as 250,000 Rohingya refugees to flee to Bangladesh.
  • The 1982 Citizenship Law in former Burma made the Rohingyas stateless people.
  • They have often been called the most persecuted minority in the world.
  • The 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims squeezed precariously into the northwest state of Rakhine, in mainly Buddhist Burma, bordering majority Muslim Bangladesh, are stateless and unwanted.

Why are they persecuted by Myanmar?

  • To qualify for citizenship, Rohingya applicants had to renounce their identity And accept being labelled as ‘Bengalis’ on all official documents.
  • They also had to prove that they could trace the presence of their family in Rakhine back three generations, something which is extremely difficult as many Rohingya lack documents or had lost them in 2012.

Why did the Rohingya Crisis happen?

  • Since World War II they have been treated increasingly by Burmese authorities as illegal, interloping Bengalis, facing apartheid-like conditions that deny them free movement or state education.
  • The army “clearing operations” sparked the mass exodus of Rohingyas in both October 2016.
  • In August 2017, were launched after insurgents known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked several paramilitary check posts.
  • Rohingya activists claim the insurgents are mainly young men who have been pushed to breaking point by relentless oppression.

Security Implications

  • The Rohingya issue and its spill over impact on Myanmar`s western peripheral region and security implications figured in the discussions is not clear.
  • In all probability, the import of the ferment caused by the Rohingya migration, efforts of radical Islamists to influence some of the Rohingya youth, and the Pakistan ISI’s attempts to capitalise on the situation.
  • Rising anger in the Muslim world about the plight of the Rohingya has compounded fears of home-grown militancy as well as support from international jihadists.
  • Illegal movement of people, combined with human trafficking and cross-border migration, can weaken Myanmar’s relations with its neighbour Bangladesh and its ASEAN partners.

What is the case against Myanmar?

  • Last year, the Republic of the Gambia moved the ICJ against Myanmar over alleged violations of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
  • The Gambia urged the ICJ to direct Myanmar to stop the genocide, ensure that persons committing genocide are punished, and allow the “safe and dignified return of forcibly displaced Rohingya”.
  • The Gambia and Myanmar are parties to the Genocide Convention that allows a party to move the ICJ for violations.
  • Disputes between the Contracting Parties are settled according to Article 9 of the Genocide Convention.

International support for Gambia’s case

  • The Netherlands and Canada are backing Gambia, saying in 2020 that the country took a laudable step towards ending impunity for those committing atrocities in Myanmar and upholding this pledge.
  • Canada and the Netherlands consider it their obligation to support these efforts which are of concern to all of humanity.

What next?

  • The ICJ’s ruling sets the stage for court hearings, airing evidence of atrocities against the Rohingya that human rights groups and a UN probe say amount to breaches of the 1948 Genocide Convention.
  • The International Court of Justice rules on disputes between states.
  • It is not linked to the International Criminal Court, also based in The Hague, which holds individuals accountable for atrocities.
  • Prosecutors at the ICC are investigating crimes committed against the Rohingya who were forced to flee to Bangladesh.
  • The ruling of the ICJ is binding on Myanmar, and cannot be appealed. However, no means are available to the court to enforce it.


Relationship with the United Nations Independent; UN Security Council may refer matters to it Primary judicial branch of the UN.
Members 105 members 193 members (all members of the United Nations).
Derives authority from The Rome Statute Charter of the United Nations and the Statute of the International Court of Justice.
Scope of work Criminal matters – investigating and prosecuting crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes Civil matters- settling legal disputes between the member-states and giving advisory opinions on international legal issues
Jurisdiction Only the member nations of the ICC, which means around 105 countries. Can try individuals. All the member nations of the UN, which means 193 countries. Cannot try individuals and other private entities.
Composition 1 prosecutor and 18 judges, who are elected for a 9-year term each by the member-states which make up the Assembly of State Parties with all being from different nations 15 judges who are elected for a 9-year term each and are all from different nations.
Funding Funded by state parties to the Rome Statute and voluntary contributions from the United Nations, governments, individual corporations, etc. Funded by the UN.


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