Tricky fingers and a spicy mouth. There is Mahathir’s sleight of hand on the Rohingya and there is also his atrocity of the tongue, spouting “GENOCIDE! GENOCIDE” like an old geyser.
Conscientious people will use a word such as ‘genocide’ most scrupulously. Mahathir, however, will not. Because he a galaxy away from scrupulous.
But his lack of scruples notwithstanding, Mahathir once played judge and jury by convening a mock tribunal to put on trial a number of international war criminals (Messrs. George Bush & Tony Blair). Today he has personally convicted Myanmar of genocide.
BELOW: Mahathir gave the order to ‘shoot on sight’ Vietnamese refugees trying to land their boats … he lost the moral high ground long ago
In a recent tweet, Mahathir embedded a video of himself speaking on the sidelines of the UN general assembly last September. In his speech (clip below), Mahathir said: “Let’s start by calling a spade, a spade. What happened in Rakhine state is genocide”.
Only it wasn’t genocide. Mahathir is being typically slippery, and calling a shovel, a bulldozer.
We Malaysians too must learn to call a spade, a spade and to call out Mahathir’s eternal hypocrisy as well as the virtue signaling DAP’s even greater hypocrisy for supporting him.
ABOVE: “What happened in Rakhine state is genocide” — Mahathir
Going by precedents, it is unlikely the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will agree with Mahathir‘s insistence that Myanmar committed genocide on the Rohingya.
A small African country The Gambia, however, concurs with Mahathir. Late last year and backed by fellow OIC countries, The Gambia took Myanmar to court in The Hague for an alleged crime of genocide. It brought the Rohingya case to be adjudicated by the UN’s world court, the ICJ.
The Gambia will probably lose its case. Previously Bosnia and Croatia had brought separate charges of genocide in the ICJ against Serbia, and both countries failed in their claims.
BELOW: ICJ dismissed genocide claim by Croatia
Bosnia and Croatia lose their cases in ICJ
There is a legal standard to meet in order to prove genocide, which Bosnia and Croatia fell short of.
On 26 Feb 2007, the ICJ in The Hague ruled “there is not enough evidence to prove Serbia bears state responsibility for genocide during the Bosnian war” — see Global Policy Forum report ‘ICJ Bosnia Ruling Sets Important Precedents’.
Commenting on the ruling, Prof. Marc Cogen said it “clarifies international law in the sense that genocide should not be taken lightly and [applied] only in serious cases, where there is a planned approach of extermination”.
Cogen, a professor of international law at Belgium’s Ghent University, told Radio Free Europe that the media should only use the word ‘genocide’ if they could maintain the important distinction between this ultimate crime and other grave crimes like ethnic cleansing.
“The word [genocide] has probably been overused to qualify multiple situations, said Philip Grant, the head of a Swiss-based human rights organization. Mahathir, for one, certainly takes the ‘genocide’ label too lightly.
ABOVE: A Reuters story headlined ‘Malaysia to Put 70,000 Refugees Back Out to Sea’ on 16 June 1979 in The New York Times when Mahathir was deputy prime minister … hypocrite now preaching about human rights for Rohingya
The term ‘genocide’ was coined by Polish-Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin in the 1940s and adopted by the UN in 1948. The Greek root word ‘genos’ means ‘race’ while ‘cide’ is an English suffix meaning ‘to kill’:
- genocide — kill a race
- homicide — kill a human being
- suicide — kill one’s self
- fratricide — kill a sibling
- infanticide — kill an infant
- insecticide — (chemical with which to) kill an insect
- regicide — kill a king
- tyrannicide — kill a tyrant (note the name T-Rex, short for Tyrannosaurus Rex the ‘King of Tyrant Dinosaurs’)
In 1993, the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina instituted proceedings in the ICJ against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia for the crime of genocide.
In 1999, Croatia instituted proceedings in the ICJ against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia for the crime of genocide.
(Note: The Yugoslav federation would eventually break up, splitting into Serbia and other different independent entities.)
The court delivered its judgment in 2015; ICJ judges found Serbia not guilty by a 15-2 verdict. A BBC analysis said Croatia’s genocide lawsuit being dismissed in its entirety was a wholly expected result. “The only mystery is why the cases ever progressed this far.”
As mentioned before, the judgment on Bosnia-Herzegovina’s case was earlier given in 2007. The Bosnia case took 14 years while the Croatia case took 15 ½ years.
Ultimately both the accusers failed to persuade the court that Serbia had any intention of “destroying a [Bosnian/Croatian] population in whole or in part”.
BELOW: Aung San Suu Kyi is the human shield for her country’s army generals
The Gambia now wants to hold the nation state of Myanmar responsible for genocide.
Will The Gambia be able to persuade the ICJ judges that Myanmar’s civilian government – represented by de facto president Aung San Suu Kyi – was complicit with the Burmese military junta and together harboured an intention of destroying the Rohingya population?
It is unlikely The Gambia will reach the evidential threshold required to obtain a positive judgment if the ICJ’s 2007 and 2015 rulings are any precedence.
Genocide counts millions of deaths
The article ‘Why Serbia is not guilty of genocide’ in The Guardian (12 Apr 1999) by Prof. Giles Foden is a good starting point for us to understand the reasons Bosnia and Croatia failed in court, and why The Gambia is destined to fail too.
“Let’s be clear. What is happening in Kosovo is brutal ethnic cleansing and should be stopped – but it is not genocide. The Serb authorities are not trying to extinguish their entire Albanian population,” wrote Foden.
Let’s be clear. What happened in Rakhine did not amount to genocide. The Myanmar authorities were not trying to extinguish their entire Rohingya population. In fact, they transferred half their Rohingya population to Bangladesh — see Al Jazeera chart below.
Expulsion is akin to Mahathir’s order to “shoo” away the Vietnamese boat people.
Foden reminds readers that “the use of the word [genocide] brings with it a burden of responsibility”. There is a thing called ‘ethnic cleansing’ and there is also a thing called ‘war crimes’. Both things are not genocide.
“The situation [in Rakhine] seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” the United Nations high commissioner on human rights Zeid Ra‘ad al-Hussein told a UN council in Geneva on 11 Sept 2017.
In January this year, the Myanmar government admitted that “war crimes” took place in northern Rakhine state. The Burmese army has begun a rare court martial of its soldiers and officers. A civilian commission of enquiry tasked to probe the allegations, however, said they had found no evidence of genocide against the Rohingya.
For the UN definition of the two constitutive elements of genocide, actus reus and mens rea, refer its genocide convention.
BELOW: MSF estimated that in addition to the 6,700 killed by Burmese, another 2,300 Rohingya perished from other causes … which could be drowning while crossing the Naf river, or hunger, exhaustion and exposure, etc
Rohingya killings nowhere near the genocidal scale
According to Prof. Foden, there are two elements central to genocide:
(a) Deliberate intention to destroy an entire race
(b) The question of scale
Millions are intentionally killed in a genocide — see list below. The scale of deaths is huge.
The number of Rohingya killed during the month-long Tatmadaw (Burmese army) “clearance operation” in 2017 was estimated at 6,700 by Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the Doctors Without Borders relief organization.
What happened in Rakhine does not compare at all in scale to Nazi concentration camps as the “Rohingya are human too” virtue signalers would have it. The Myanmar government did not craft a ‘Final Solution’ masterplan to liquidate an entire ethnic group.
Prof. Foden lists four instances of real genocide:
(1) 1915-16 — Turkish attempt to extinguish the Armenians (1 ½ million deaths)
(2) WWII — Holocaust: Nazi attempt to extinguish the Jews (6 million deaths)
(3) 1975-79 — Killing Fields: Pol Pot’s attempt to extinguish Cambodian capitalists (1–2 million deaths)
(4) 1994 (April 7–July 15) — Rwanda: Hutu tribe’s attempt to extinguish Tutsi tribe (800,000 deaths)
“In the Armenian genocide, one and a half million people were killed, out of a total of two and a half million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire – an event that Turkey still refuses to call genocide,” wrote Foden.
Last August, Mahathir was visiting Ankara the capital of Turkey (his Turkish interview in video above) where he said “Malaysia is against genocide and against the unfair treatment of the citizens of Myanmar of a different race”.
Mahathir is ostensibly against genocide but he and his brethren in the OIC are conspicuously silent on the Armenian genocide that took one and a half million Christian lives.
On the number killed in the Holocaust, Mahathir – who is viewed by Jews as a Holocaust denier (see tweet below) – is skeptical of the six million deaths figure.
By comparison, the number of Rohingya killed was 6,700 and Mahathir is prepared to call that one a ‘genocide’ loud and clear.