The Gambia filed the case last fall on behalf of the 57 Muslim countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation under the 1948 Genocide Convention.
More than 850,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Rakhine State after being targeted by Burmese security forces, who killed thousands by burning villages and engaging in ethnic cleansing and gang rape.
Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne and his Dutch counterpart Stef Blok said their countries were joining the case to help The Gambia resolve “complex legal issues” in the affair.
But Bruno Gelinas-Faucher, an international law expert from the University of Montreal who worked at the ICJ, said Canada’s presence could cause delays and complications for the Gambian case due to an international legal axiom. known as the “clean hand” principle.
“There is a risk for Canada to be perceived as taking a contradictory position of pursuing a very active foreign policy based on the prevention of genocide abroad and at home, not fully responding to calls for justice launched by (the investigation), ”said Gelinas-Faucher.
“I think there is one very important element in ensuring that Canada is not seen to be pushing this contradictory position to the world, and to be consistent – having a consistent foreign policy that is also consistent with its domestic policy. ”
Gelinas-Faucher said it is likely Myanmar will raise the conclusion of the Canadian genocide in legal arguments that seek to prevent Canada from winning its place in the case. He said this could further dampen the already slow cogs of the International Court and delay the case for a year.
In June 2019, the landmark Canadian Report on the Victimization of Indigenous Women made over 200 recommendations and declared violence against First Nations, Métis and Inuit women and girls a form of genocide because the crisis was ” in gestation for centuries ”.
Champagne said in an interview that he was not concerned about Canada’s position on indigenous issues at home and was content to let “legal experts debate legal matters.”
“It’s not about Canada. This is a genocide committed in Myanmar, and therefore I believe that Canada has every right to be alongside a country like The Gambia, which is taking the leadership position and is supported by countries like the Netherlands. and Canada, ”said Champagne.
Another leading international legal expert said Canada need not worry and should join the case against Myanmar.
Errol Mendes, an international law scholar at the University of Ottawa who served as an adviser to the United Nations, said there was a lot to distinguish Canada from Myanmar on the issue of genocide.
“I hope that our many attempts at reconciliation with our indigenous peoples will distinguish us from the type of actions in Myanmar that we have not seen since the Nazi regime, the genocide in Rwanda and the Bosnian genocide,” Mendes said.
“We are far from the angels, but I hope we are not in the same league as those who were involved in these genocides. ”
Canada also brings great international expertise to this case, as it helped create the Rome Statute which established the International Criminal Court, Mendes said.
“We have been instrumental in the development of the Court’s Statute which includes express provisions on gender-based violence and rape as indicia of genocide,” said Mendes, who he said is relevant to the Myanmar case before the International Court of Justice separate because of allegations of violence against its military personnel.
Gelinas-Faucher said Canada’s feminist foreign policy makes it well suited for adding value to the case against Myanmar. But the government will need to take concrete steps to address the allegations of internal genocide contained in last year’s investigative report.
“He needs to clearly show his commitment to fully implement the recommendations and one of the elements is that they said they would create a working group to implement these recommendations, which we haven’t seen yet. “, did he declare.
Champagne said Canada was consulting The Gambia and believed its feminist foreign policy had a role to play in this matter.
“We have witnessed acts of genocide, systemic killings, sexual violence, torture,” the minister said. “The international community is more seized than ever by the fate of the Rohingya. ”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on September 6, 2020.