Today, January 31st, is Franz Schubert's birthday and, as I write, the strains of the final movement of his last symphony "The Great" play in the background -- the urgency in the melody, the insistent measured beat, holding one in thrall through to the climax.
From transcendental beauty to horrific ugliness for, sadly, Schubert's countrymen became unwitting accomplices to a Nazi party's hatred and extermination of Jews a century after his death. On a much smaller scale and less systematically organized has been another onslaught on a different religious minority, in a different part of the world.
The killing of the Rohingya by the Burmese military, and by local militants, instigated by a vitriolic Buddhist monk, grabbed headlines a few years ago. Survivors escaped to Bangladesh and wherever else possible.
Fulfilling criteria for genocide, a case was brought by Gambia against Burma (also now known as Myanmar). The latter was defended by Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Laureate and Myanmar's defacto leader, although in the shadow of its powerful military, which she was defending.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is unique in that it hears cases between countries. Ms. Suu Kyi presented the usual defense of renegade, random acts of communal violence. But the evidence against her country was, and is, overwhelming, the barbarity horrifying -- the means including murder, rape, burning of villages, sometimes with occupants of houses trapped within. Victims numbered not in dozens or hundreds but in thousands causing some three-quarters of a million to flee for their lives. Those ending up in India are not eligible for citizenship under Mr. Modi's new law specifically barring Muslim refugees.
The ICJ has now issued its ruling. It rebukes Aung San Suu Kyi, and noting the "extremely vulnerable" and precarious situation for the Rohingya, it calls on the Myanmar government to protect them from the military. Unfortunately, the court does not have an enforcement mechanism. It simply transmits its finding to the UN Security Council, where, in Myanmar's case, its friend and protector China is a permanent member and has a veto.
All the same, the court's decisions are binding, so the UN General Assembly can introduce a resolution, or the Human Rights Council based in Geneva could be interested. The court also set up a reporting requirement for Myanmar's government to account to it for whatever is going on with respect to the Rohingyas -- in the first instance after four months, and then every six months ... much like a delinquent or a parolee reporting at intervals.
Myanmar has also been warned not to destroy evidence. In the past, aerial photos have shown that they have. Much will depend on how much international pressure develops to force it to comply, and any attempts by Myanmar to evade or subvert the ruling will only increase it.