The Gambia asked the United Nations' top court Tuesday to order Myanmar to "stop this genocide" of the Rohingya Muslim minority, as a hearing attended by Myanmar's former peace icon Aung San Suu Kyi started.
"All that The Gambia asks is that you tell Myanmar to stop these senseless killings, to stop these acts of barbarity that continue to shock our collective conscience, to stop this genocide of its own people," Gambian Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou told judges.
Gambia started the first round of oral observations at 3pm (Bangladesh time) while the Myanmar side would place its first round of oral observations tomorrow.
Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi is also present at the UN's International Court of Justice to defend her country over charges of genocide against its Rohingya Muslim minority, as back home thousands of people rallied in her support.
Meanwhile, a Bangladesh delegation, led by Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque, including representatives from civil society also reached The Hague as observers to witness the hearing from the sidelines.
Gambia on November 11 filed the case accusing Myanmar of committing genocide against its minority Rohingyas seeking the global court's urgent interventions "to stop Myanmar's genocidal conduct immediately".
The West African state said it was acting on behalf of the 57-nation OIC in bringing the case against Myanmar before the ICJ.
Gambia, a tiny, Muslim West African country, will argue that Myanmar's forces carried out widespread and systematic atrocities during what it called "clearance operations" from August 2017 that constituted genocide.
Its court petition accused Myanmar of genocidal acts "intended to destroy the Rohingya as a group, in whole or in part, by the use of mass murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, as well as the systematic destruction by fire of their villages, often with inhabitants locked inside burning houses".
The tribunal, also known as the World Court, has no enforcement powers, but its rulings are final and have significant legal weight.