Thursday, May 19, 2005

How to Sue Burma in the ICJ for Genocide

This IHT report documents horrific human rights abuses in Myanmar/Burma gathered by an Englishman who has been sneaking in Burma over the past five years. Of course, the real story here is that these abuses, if true, are going on. But the practical question: Is there any remedy for foreign governments, consistent with existing international law, to stop the abuses. (Note: The U.S. still has as many sanctions on Burma as I believe is possible. But I don't think China is nearly as scrupulous).

Well, I suppose Kosovo and maybe Iraq provide some precedent for armed intervention (don't hold your breath). And the ICC could in theory get involved, via a Security Council referral (but China stands in the way, as well as the U.S. maybe). The article also suggests at least one remedy: a "civil" suit in the International Court of Justice under the dispute resolution provisions of the Genocide Convention. Article 9 allows for:

Disputes between the Contracting Parties relating to the interpretation, application or fulfilment of the present Convention, including those relating to the responsibility of a State for genocide or for any of the other acts enumerated in article III, shall be submitted to the International Court of Justice at the request of any of the parties to the dispute.

Burma is a signatory to the Genocide Convention so it appears the ICJ would have jurisdiction in such an application, as long as that application was brought by another government. The pending case between Bosnia and Serbia is just such a case. What would be the point of such a lawsuit? Well, it might well force Burma to try to defend itself and put the facts of the Genocide Convention violations in the public record. On the other hand, the factual record is likely to be tricky since even Darfur may or may not violate the Genocide Convention. Still, a judgment by the ICJ that Burma is violating the Genocide Convention, in theory, obligates the Security Council to act (there is that whole China-veto problem again though).

In the end, an ICJ lawsuit is not much of a weapon against Burma. Ask Bosnia-Herzegovina, which will finally get their day in court in February 2006, a mere 13 years after it filed its initial application against Serbia. But since the U.S. and other countries have already tried economic sanctions, and I presume no support for military intervention from either the right or the left, an ICJ lawsuit may be the least worst option and slightly better than doing nothing at all.


Blogger fightingpeacock said...

We, Burmese people will definitely appreciate if someone can initiate to sue Burmese military for Genocide.

8/08/2005 2:37 AM  
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