Mukima Begum, a Rohingya mother of three who fled to Bangladesh in 2017 following a military crackdown in Rakhine State of Myanmar, seen at Kutupalong refugee camp of Cox’s Bazar. A team of investigators from the International Criminal Court has met with Bangladeshi officials and refugees amid atrocity allegations. (Photo by Piyas Biswas/ucanews.com)
A team of investigators from the International Criminal Court (ICC) has met with Bangladeshi officials and Rohingya refugees amid allegations of war crimes perpetrated against the Muslim minority including killings and rapes.
A seven-member ICC team arrived March 6 in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, local media reported.
On March 8, the team travelled to Cox’s Bazar, which houses more than one million Rohingya refugees, and subsequently talked to dozens of representatives of the minority group.
"The ICC team has visited various camps and met with refugees," senior police officer Iqbal Hossain told ucanews.com. "We have been asked to provide security and ensure protocol, but we have no idea about what they are doing or how long they will stay here."
The ICC said in a media statement, reported by the AFP news agency, that it was conducting an ongoing preliminary examination of the situations pertaining to Rohingya in both Bangladesh and Myanmar.
"Such visits in the context of preliminary examinations are standard practice, and the delegation will not engage in any evidence collection in relation to any alleged crimes," it said March 7.
Rohingya refugees say they hope the ICC's preliminary examinations will lead to a formal investigation and prosecutions of Myanmar security personnel and others over war crimes.
Abdur Rahim, 52, a peace advocate based in Kutupalong refugee camp, told ucanews.com that the ICC team had met with about 45 male and female refugees there.
"We have provided them with information they asked for and they have recorded our statements," he said
That included requesting "punitive action" against Myanmar over the persecution of Rohingya.
"Investigators told us that the process would be lengthy, but we said that we are ready to wait as long as needed to see justice meted out for atrocities against us," Rahim said.
Holy Cross Father Liton H. Gomes, secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Justice and Peace Commission, said the ICC was heading in the right direction.
"The primary investigation is important, because it will determine what the ICC can do about atrocities committed against Rohingya," Father Gomes said.
"For years, the international community has turned a blind eye on persecution of Rohingya, but there is no turning back now," he said.
"Myanmar needs to face prosecution for what it has done to these people and the ICC should set an example for the whole of humanity."
There are more than one million Rohingya Muslims who are now refugees in Muslim-majority Bangladesh fled various bouts of persecution at the hands of Myanmar's security forces and Buddhist nationalist militants.
Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for centuries, but many Buddhists consider them recent illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. Since the 1980s, Rohingya have been denied citizenship and basic rights.