The United Nations' top court has ordered Myanmar to prevent acts of genocide from being committed against the Rohingya people, the country’s persecuted Muslim minority.
In the landmark ruling, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) approved emergency provisional measures to compel the nation to cease all genocidal acts against the minority population, which act as a legally binding injunction.
The case, which was first brought to the ICJ in November by the Muslim-majority nation of Gambia, alleges that Myanmar has been systematically destroying the Rohingya population through rape, mass murder, and other acts of genocide.
In its decision on Thursday, the court found that there is a “real and imminent risk of irreparable prejudice” against the Rohingya people in Myanmar, claiming that the nation has completely failed to adhere to the guidelines under the Genocide Convention, of which Myanmar is a signatory.
Over 740,000 Rohingya have fled from their homes in Myanmar to Bangladesh to escape genocide and religious persecution, while at least 10,000 people have died. The violence began in 2017 as part of a military crackdown in response to a 2016 militant attack by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.
The ruling states that Myanmar must do everything in its power to ensure that any genocidal acts, like “killing, causing serious bodily or mental harm, deliberately inflicting conditions calculated to bring about the destruction of the group, and imposing measures intended to prevent births,” are not committed against the Muslim minority again.
Akila Radhakrishnan, the president of the Global Justice Center, called the ruling a powerful affirmation of the Rohingya’s ongoing plight.
“There's power in acknowledgment, there's power in another country standing up for your rights, taking someone to court, putting a lot behind exposing in a very serious manner what happened,” Radhakrishnan said, according to CNN. “I think that that can't be lost in this.”
Just days before the ruling, Myanmar’s Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE) published a report claiming that their military’s countless human rights abuses were not committed with “genocidal intent.”
In 2018, the US State Department released a report relaying the same message, referring to the Myanmar military’s actions as extreme, but refusing to use the word genocide.
The Asia director at Human Rights Watch, Brad Adams, released a statement on Wednesday calling the ICOE report selective and not credible.
“The report refuses to acknowledge the scale of atrocities against the Rohingya, shockingly denies the military's widespread use of sexual violence, and fails to hold senior military officials responsible,” Adams said. “The report isn't a credible basis for justice and accountability for mass crimes.”