Two Rohingya women killed in Myanmar shelling despite UN ruling to protect minority Muslim group

Two Rohingya women killed in Myanmar shelling despite UN ruling to protect minority Muslim group
Just days after the UN's top court ordered the country to protect the beleaguered Muslim minority, two Rohingya women were killed.
3 min read
26 January, 2020
Thousands have been displaced due to ongoing violence [Getty]
Two Rohingya women were killed and seven others injured in shelling the Myanmar military and insurgents blamed on each other, days after the UN's top court ordered the country to protect the beleaguered Muslim minority.

One woman was killed on the spot by "heavy weapons" while another died after arriving at hospital in conflict-torn northern Rakhine state, military spokesperson Zaw Min Tun told AFP.

He blamed the deaths on incursions by the Arakan Army, rebels fighting for more autonomy for ethnic Rakhine Buddhists in the same area where the Rohingya crisis unfolded.

But a spokesperson for the Arakan Army said there had been no fighting with the military in that area and they are "accusing and faking it".

The conflict has seen scores of civilians killed, hundreds wounded and some 100,000 displaced in the past year.

Earlier this month four Rohingya children were killed and five others injured alongside their teacher after an explosion hit while they collected firewood. 

Read more: Rohingya leaders condemn 'liar' Aung San Suu Kyi after she denies Myanmar genocide

Northern Rakhine was the site of a violent military campaign in 2017 that drove some 740,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh and prompted allegations of genocide.

Hundreds of thousands still live in Rakhine in what rights groups have called apartheid-like conditions.

In a rare legal decision for the persecuted minority, the International Court of Justice ruled Thursday that Myanmar had to "take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts" described by the 1948 UN Genocide Convention.

These acts include "killing members of the group" and "deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part."

The mainly Muslim African state of The Gambia had asked the court to impose the emergency measures - pending a full case that could take years.

The court also ordered Myanmar to report back within four months, and then every six months after that. 

In a unanimous decision, the 17-judge panel added that its order for so-called provisional measures intended to protect the Rohingya is binding "and creates international legal obligations" on Myanmar.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomes the court's order and "will promptly transmit the notice of the provisional measures" it ordered to the UN Security Council, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Diplomats said the UN's most powerful body is not expected to take any action until it sees how Myanmar is implementing the court's order.

While the court has no ability to enforce the orders, one international law expert said the ruling will strengthen other nations pressing for change in Myanmar.

"Thus far, it's been states trying to put pressure on Myanmar or using their good offices or ... diplomatic pressure," said Priya Pillai, head of the Asia Justice Coalition Secretariat. "Now, essentially for any state, there is legal leverage.”

Rights activists also welcomed the decision.

"The ICJ order to Myanmar to take concrete steps to prevent the genocide of the Rohingya is a landmark step to stop further atrocities against one of the world´s most persecuted people," said Param-Preet Singh, associate international justice director of New York-based Human Rights Watch.

"Concerned governments and U.N. bodies should now weigh in to ensure that the order is enforced as the genocide case moves forward."

Judges rejected arguments made by Myanmar civilian leader and former human rights icon Aung San Suu Kyi when she travelled to The Hague in December to personally defend the country against the accusations.

Myanmar has said it carried out its own investigation and disputed the claims that genocide took place.

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