International Genocide Day: Listen to the Victims

9 Dec, 2021 | Press Releases


Today, on 9 December, the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and the Prevention of this Crime marks the adoption of the Genocide Convention. Seventy-two years ago, the General Assembly of the United Nations declared that genocide is a crime under international law. Through the Genocide Convention, member States have pledged to prevent, punish and – by extension – not commit genocide.

One year ago, The Gambia commenced historic legal proceedings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) alleging Myanmar’s violation of the Convention for genocide committed against the Rohingya. The Court heard oral arguments from both parties in December 2019, subsequently deciding the case could proceed and imposing provisional measures that included a direction to Myanmar not to commit genocide, to ensure the preservation of evidence and to report back regularly to the ICJ. Since then, The Gambia has been supported and joined in the case by Bangladesh, Canada and the Netherlands, alongside members of the Organisation of Islamic Coooperation on whose behalf The Gambia is also acting.

“While not represented directly in Court, as might happen at the International Criminal Court, the Rohingya have raised their voices loud and clear when it comes to this case”, said Alison Smith, NPWJ’s International Criminal Justice Director. “We have heard them speak about the importance of being recognised by the world’s highest judicial body as a group to be protected, but first and foremost as human beings, something the genocide has sought to deny”.

The ICJ, which deals with inter-State disputes, or acts on a request for an advisory opinion from a body authorised to do so, like the UN General Assembly, is not the only pathway through which justice is being sought. There are also cases before the International Criminal Court, for allegations of forced displacement of Rohingya from Myanmar into Bangladesh, an ICC State Party, and before the national courts of Argentina.

“Our Rohingya brothers and sisters are working hard to achieve justice. We pledge our support to them in this difficult journey,” said Ms Smith. “We look forward to the day on which they are successful in their endeavours and can use their hard-earned experience to find pathways to access justice and obtain redress for other victims and other communities who are still engaged in that struggle.”

“To that end, we encourage the institutions charged with delivering justice to engage with victims of genocide, to explain how they carry out their work and, above all, to listen to the needs and expectations of victims and their communities as partners in achieving a more just world. On this day,” Ms Smith concluded, “we stand beside victims, we pledge to play our part in preventing and punishing this crime and we both pledge and encourage others to continue listening to the people who are most affected by this crime and have the highest stake in ending impunity for it.”

For further information, contact Alison Smith, International Justice Director, on or Nicola Giovannini, Press & Public Affairs Coordinator, on org.