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ICC's decision to authorize probe into crimes against Rohingyas to take months

  • Published at 10:32 pm July 18th, 2019
ICC Deputy Prosecutor James Stewart-Mahumud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune
ICC Deputy Prosecutor James Stewart speaks to the reporters in Dhaka on Thursday, July 18, 2019 Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Dhaka, ICC, discussing confidential MoU defining court’s work in Bangladesh

It is going to take at least three months for a chamber judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to decide on authorizing an investigation into the alleged atrocities against Rohingyas, ICC Deputy Prosecutor James Stewart said on Thursday.

If authorized, he pledged to "work independently, impartially, and objectively" in accordance with the Rome Statute, keeping away from any political influence.

On July 4, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda made a plea to begin an investigation into the crimes against humanity reported to have been committed against the Rohingya population in Myanmar. 

A three-member chamber judge is now examining the merit of her application before authorizing the investigation.

Replying to a question at a pre-departure press conference at a Dhaka hotel, Stewart said: “In three months, following the prosecutor’s request, the judges will receive the information they asked for. How soon after that [the decision to authorize will be made] I cannot say. It is up to the judges. We have asked for a quick decision.”

When asked if he hoped to be successful in the investigation, he said: "As lawyers when we put forward an argument we believe we will be successful. That’s all I can say,” he added.

'Delay might be frustrating, but will be worth it'

To another question, the ICC deputy prosecutor responded: “There is a judicial process we will have to follow. We understand the outrage... we understand the pain and anguish of the victims of these alleged crimes. We are required to go through a set of procedures in accordance with the Rome Statute.”

Stating that the delay might be frustrating to some, he said: "But, we hope that the wait will be worth it.”

Stewart reminded that the ICC prosecutor has initiated the process of her own accord, based on information from a number of different sources.

Explaining the ICC’s jurisdiction, the deputy prosecutor said: “Violence has allegedly taken place in Myanmar. But the Rohingyas were deported in Bangladesh."  Bangladesh is a signatory to the Rome Statute, which allows the ICC to look into the case.”

About ICC's future course of action, he said: “Down the line, we have to wait for the authorization of the judges. If we investigate and are able to establish what we believe to be the truth, and we identify those people who are most responsible for the crimes, then we would be looking for state support to affect arrests.”

When asked if the ICC can be trusted in the world of political influence, Stewart said that the court has no political connections in terms of enforcement and that it cannot take into account any political calculation.

“We have to stick with the law... we have to stick with the facts," he stated, adding: "However, we know that we are operating within a political context. Every decision the ICC takes has political consequences, whether we like it or not. We try to steer clear of politics.”

Responding to a question, Stewart said Bangladesh is a party to the Rome Statute, and so, they expect basic cooperation from the country.

Dhaka, ICC discussing confidential MoU defining court’s modality of work in Bangladesh

The ICC deputy prosecutor also said that discussions are in the works regarding Bangladesh signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with ICC that will define how the court works in the country.

About the MoU, the deputy prosecutor said: “The MoU is a normal practice wherever we work. It defines the way we are going to work in the country. I cannot give you any details as each MoU is confidential for obvious reasons."

When asked if Bangladesh had agreed to the MoU, he said this was currently under discussion and he did not anticipate any problem.

He said he could not detect any negative response and that Bangladesh is a responsible state party respecting its obligation under the Rome Statute.