Myanmar protests in Malaysia 521.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Stringer Malaysia)
The High Court of Justice issued a gag order Tuesday on its own decision expected on Wednesday regarding the Myanmar arms-sales controversy.
Tuesday’s decision means the court’s resolution on whether the state must halt arms sales to Myanmar in light of incontrovertible evidence of the regime’s war crimes against its own Muslim minority population will be concealed from the public.
Though the court sometimes places parts of its decision under gag order, the idea of placing a gag order on everything – even the bottom-line outcome of a major issue of public interest which the Israeli and global media are regularly covering – is considered anathema to the way the court usually conducts itself.
Petitioners’ lawyer Eitay Mack said that while the court had done so in a similar issue with arms sales to South Sudan, the evidence of war crimes in Myanmar was far clearer and more public.
He also pointed out that the media, including The Jerusalem Post
, had already reported on the court’s discussions of the highly sensitive issues, even at the end of Monday’s hearing about the impact the issue could have on Israel’s foreign relations, which was a closed-door session.
Mack further slammed the state for requesting a gag order only after Monday’s hearing when it believed it might lose, and criticized the court for issuing the gag order without letting him argue against it.
According to human rights groups, more than 400,000 people from the Rohingya Muslim minority have fled Rakhine State for Bangladesh since late August due to a campaign of mass arson, rape, massacres and other atrocities carried out by Myanmar security forces.
The country has also been accused of war crimes in its states of Kachin and Shan and reports of war crimes have continued to flood the media.
“I cannot imagine... when it comes to crimes against humanity, that the court will not intervene,” Mack said to the High Court in Monday’s public session.
The debate at Tuesday’s hearing centered on whether the court had the authority to intervene in the area of arms sales – usually regarded as a national security and foreign affairs issue, where the government is given heavy deference.
Mack said the state had no alternative defense to maintaining the arms sales besides the court lacking jurisdiction because, unlike some other cases, the factual evidence proving the war crimes have taken place has become so public and compelling.
Regarding jurisdiction, Mack argued that since the court intervenes with lower- grade disputes that affect foreign affairs, such as construction in the West Bank, it cannot turn a blind eye to Israel aiding and abetting the most heinous war crimes with its weapons sales.
The state said it must present the unique foreign affairs implications of halting arms sales to the court in a closed session, as its decision regarding Myanmar could also have far-reaching consequences for arms sales elsewhere.