ICC seeks investigation into atrocities against Rohingya

International Criminal Court one step closer to formally investigating abuses committed by Myanmar military
ICC seeks investigation into atrocities against Rohingya

Rohingya refugees walk near Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district on Sept. 15, 2017. The International Criminal Court is seeking an investigation into atrocities against the Rohingya commited by the Myanmar military. (Photo by Piyas Biswas/ucanews.com) 

The International Criminal Court has established a pre-trial chamber to hear a request to open a full investigation into atrocities against Rohingya Muslims by the Myanmar military.

The pre-trial chamber is composed of judges Robert Fremr, Olga Herrera-Carbuccia and Geoffrey Henderson, the International Criminal Court (ICC) said in a statement on June 26.

The move is seen as being one step closer to the court formally investigating atrocities against the Rohingya committed by the Myanmar military in 2016 and 2017. 

It was in response to a notice by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda informing the presidency of her intention to submit a request for an authorization to open an investigation into the crackdown on the Muslim minority.

The prosecutor seeks an authorization "to investigate alleged crimes within the court's jurisdiction in which at least one element occurred on the territory of Bangladesh” and “within the context of two waves of violence in Rakhine State on the territory of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, as well as any other crimes which are sufficiently linked to these events," the ICC statement said.

Now, the judges of the pre-trial chamber will decide whether to authorize an investigation of the case by considering if there is “a reasonable basis” to proceed with an inquiry after analyzing supporting materials.

Myanmar is not a member of the ICC, but in September 2018 the court determined it has jurisdiction over some crimes in the region because they had a cross-border nature given that Bangladesh is a member state.

“The court has jurisdiction over the crime against humanity of deportation allegedly committed against members of the Rohingya people. The reason is that an element of this crime — the crossing of a border — took place on the territory of a state party (Bangladesh),” the ICC said in a ruling last year on Sept. 6.

Myanmar rejected the court’s jurisdiction the following day.

The ICC must move ahead to ensure justice for the Rohingya, said Muhammad Noor, a Rohingya from Kutupalong refugee camp of Cox’s Bazar in southeast Bangladesh.

“Rohingya have faced various kinds of abuses and brutal crimes including killings, looting, arson and rape, which forced them to leave their homes and flee their homes,” Noor, 36, a father of three, told ucanews.com.

Noor believes international laws can prosecute perpetrators. “The persecution against Rohingya was genocidal, it sought to eliminate all Rohingya. There are thousands of victims ready to give witness once the ICC opens a formal investigation,” he added.

Supreme Court lawyer advocate Rana Dasgupta said that despite Myanmar’s non-cooperation and the opposition of several world powers such as China and Russia, the ICC should set an example in seeking to address crimes against the Rohingya.

“I believe global opinion will favor the investigation and the trial,” Dasgupta said. “It will set an example to prosecute states and perpetrators for similar crimes against being committed in various places in the world including in Middle East countries.” 

Although Rohingya militant attacks triggered the violence, it cannot justify wholesale atrocities committed by Myanmar security forces against Rohingya, he said.

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“Myanmar has constantly denied any wrongdoing, but the world does not believe it. It could have captured and prosecuted insurgents involved, but it targeted the whole community, so it must be held responsible for such crimes,” he added. 

Holy Cross Father Liton H. Gomes, secretary of the Catholic bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission, said that since Bangladesh has provided shelter to a million plus Rohingya refugees, it is the nation’s responsibility to assist further with this issue.

“Diplomatic efforts have failed to solve the Rohingya crisis, so Bangladesh should fully cooperate with the ICC to put Myanmar on trial for crimes against Rohingya to deliver justice,” Father Gomes said. “In the process it should also make efforts to create a favorable global opinion for the case.”

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