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ICC team visits Bangladesh over Rohingya atrocities

Second team is probing the murder and displacement of Muslims in neighboring Myanmar

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ICC team visits Bangladesh over Rohingya atrocities

Rohingya refugees get soaked after failing to find accommodation at Kutupalong refugee camp of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh in September 2017. The International Criminal Court is deliberating whether to charge Myanmar for atrocities against the Rohingya. (Photo by Stephan Uttom/ucanews.com)    

A second team from the International Criminal Court (ICC) is visiting Bangladesh to further investigate the killing and forced displacement of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar in 2016 and 2017.

The ICC delegation, led by deputy prosecutor James Kirkpatrick Stewart, arrived in capital Dhaka on July 16 for a week of fact-finding.

The team on July 17 met with Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan and Law Minister Anisul Huq.

Members are due to leave for Cox's Bazar district, which accommodates up to one million Rohingya refugees forced out of Myanmar by military crackdowns, on July 19.

The following day, the team will talk to government officials, aid workers and refugees before leaving the country on July 22, according to the UNB news agency of Bangladesh.

Bangladeshi officials declined to release details of the visit.

"All I can say is that the ICC team had successful meetings with our foreign secretary, home minister and myself over the Rohingya issue," Law Minister Anisul Huq told the BBC Bengali Service on July 17.

Abul Kalam Azad, head of the state-run Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission, was also unable to elaborate.

"We know the team will visit Cox's Bazar but we are not aware what they will do and whom they will talk to," Azad told ucanews.com. "We will facilitate them as necessary."

The ICC sent a similar delegation in March.

The latest visit coincides with the U.S. government imposing sanctions on Myanmar's top military leaders over the treatment of Rohingya.

The Hague-based ICC on June 26 formed a pre-trial chamber with three judges to hear a request to open a full investigation into atrocities. The judges will decide whether there is "a reasonable basis" to proceed with such an inquiry.

Although Myanmar is not a member of the ICC, in September 2018 the court ruled that it has jurisdiction over some crimes because they were allegedly of cross-border nature and Bangladesh is a member.

"The court has jurisdiction over the crime against humanity of deportation allegedly committed against members of the Rohingya people," the ICC said at the time.

Nur Khan, a Dhaka-based rights activist, believes the latest visit signifies the ICC's laudable interest in delivering justice.

"We see a chain of moves from the ICC to hold Myanmar responsible for abuses against Rohingya, which surely gives hope to this long-persecuted minority for overdue justice," Khan told ucanews.com.

"Until now, Bangladesh wanted to solve the Rohingya crisis through diplomatic niceties with Myanmar, which failed. Now it needs to cooperate with the ICC so that justice can be done and Myanmar is pressured to act."

Rohingya refugee leaders say they will cooperate with the ICC delegation.

"Last time the ICC investigators talked to us we openly told them about the genocidal crackdown against us by the Myanmar military," Hashem Ali, 36, a Rohingya father of three from Kutupalong refugee camp, told ucanews.com.

"All we want is justice against violence, a safe return home and a peaceful life there."

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