Arsalan Suleman speaks while Philippe Sands and Yee Htun listen.
From left to right: M. Arsalan Suleman, Philippe Sands, and Yee Htun.

On February 25, 2020, the Human Rights Program (HRP) at Harvard Law School hosted an expert panel to discuss the International Court of Justice (ICJ) case on genocide in Myanmar. In November 2019, The Gambia filed a case with the ICJ alleging that Myanmar military had violated the Genocide Convention for failing to prevent and protect the Rohingya from genocide. In January of this year, the ICJ granted provisional measures in the case against Myanmar. 

To discuss the case, HRP gathered three experts: Philippe Sands QC, the Samuel LL.M. ’55 S.J.D. ’59 and Judith Pisar Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School for the Spring 2020 term; M. Arsalan Suleman ’07, counsel in Foley Hoag’s International Litigation and Arbitration Practice; and Yee Htun, lecturer on law and clinical instructor in the International Human Rights Clinic. 

The panel was moderated by HRP’s co-director and clinical professor Tyler Giannini. Sands and Suleman are part of the legal team representing The Gambia in the ICJ case; Htun has years of experience working on gender justice and law reform in Myanmar. 

Suleman opened the discussion outlining the origins of case, including the critical role that the Minister of Justice of The Gambia played in initiating the application to the ICJ. Sands discussed the current status of the case as well as the implications of the ICJ’s ruling on provisional measures, commenting for example about the importance of the unanimous ruling and placing the case in the historical context of international jurisprudence. Htun provided insights about the reaction – both positive and negative – within communities from Myanmar. She discussed how the case has been of great importance to the Rohingya community as well as other ethnic nationalities in the country. Htun also highlighted how the ICJ case has brought unprecedented attention to the military in Myanmar. 

Watch the full discussion below:  

The event was co-sponsored by the Program on Law and Society in the Muslim World, the Harvard Human Rights Journal, the Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative, the Program on International Law and Armed Conflict, HLS Advocates for Human Rights, the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at HKS, and the Asia Center at Harvard University. 

To learn more about the significance of this case, read Yee Htun’s piece, “International Court of Justice Orders Myanmar to Prevent Further Acts of Genocide” on the HRP blog.