Filing, made two weeks before military staged a coup and detained the country’s civilian leaders, is likely to delay proceedings by at least a year.
Myanmar is being accused of attempting to delay court proceedings after it emerged the country last month filed preliminary objections to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over genocide charges for its treatment of the mostly Muslim Rohingya.
The case was brought by The Gambia in 2019 after a brutal military crackdown in the western state of Rakhine in 2017 forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee across the border to neighbouring Bangladesh.
“On 20 January 2021, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar filed preliminary objections to the jurisdiction of the Court and the admissibility of the Application,” the ICJ said in a filing signed by Court President Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf and dated January 28.
The filing did not elaborate on the nature of the objections, but legal experts say they are likely to include whether the court has jurisdiction to hear the case and whether The Gambia has the appropriate standing to bring the suit.
Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s former civilian leader raised similar issues during preliminary hearings in December 2019 when she travelled to The Hague to defend her country’s treatment of a minority group that has been described as among the world’s most persecuted.
The Gambia has until May 20 to respond and the court will then consider the points raised.
“These objections will fail and are nothing more than delaying tactics,” Mark Farmaner, the director of the Burma Campaign UK wrote on Twitter, urging the British government to intervene.