Myanmar: ICC Seeks Power to Investigate, Prosecute Crimes Against Humanity


Rohingya refugees walk through water after crossing the border by boat through the Naf River in Teknaf, Bangladesh. — File photo

Emma Richards 

A PROSECUTOR from the international criminal court (ICC) is seeking jurisdiction over the “deportation” of Rohingya people from Myanmar (Burma) to Bangladesh, with the aim of investigating and prosecuting those responsible.

In a filing published on Monday, the court prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said: “This is not an abstract question but a concrete one, affecting whether the court may exercise jurisdiction … to investigate and, if necessary, prosecute.”

While Bangladesh is a member of the ICC, Myanmar is not, raising questions over whether the court is able to investigate possible crimes against humanity taking place in Rakhine State.
The prosecutor is seeking a ruling to “verify that the Court has territorial jurisdiction when persons are deported from the territory of a State which is not a party to the Statute directly into the territory of a State which is a party to the Statute.” 

Bensouda argued that, given the cross-border nature of the crime of deportation, a ruling in favour of ICC jurisdiction would be in line with established legal principles.

But she acknowledged uncertainty around the definition of the crime of deportation and limits of the court’s jurisdiction.

As non-member of International Criminal Court, Burma probably thought it could rely on China veto to avoid jurisdiction for Rohingya atrocities, but the prosecutor cleverly now seeks jurisdiction through Bangladesh (an ICC member) for crime of deportation.

This is the first request of its kind filed at the court. Bensouda has asked for a hearing for her arguments to be heard, along with other interested parties.

Congolese judge Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua is assigned to consider the request.

The United Nations estimates close to 700,000 Rohingya Muslim have fled across the border to neighbouring Bangladesh since August after militant attacks triggered a military crackdown that the United Nations has said is a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

While a repatriation deal between the Burmese (Myanmarese) and Bangladeshi government has been agreed, the UN believes Myanmar (Burma) is not ready to accept them due to sub-standard facilities and an inability to ensure their safety.

Burma (Myanmar) has repeatedly denied the accusations of ethnic cleansing, maintaining that it is carrying out a legitimate campaign against armed terrorists who attacked government forces. If an investigation were to go ahead, Burma is unlikely to cooperate.

Clarion India - News, Views and Insights about Indian Muslims, Dalits, Minorities, Women and Other Marginalised and Dispossessed Communities.


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