• Wednesday, Feb 26, 2020
  • Last Update : 04:29 pm

Atrocities against Rohingyas: ICC starts investigation

  • Published at 12:40 am January 17th, 2020
File photo: Rohingya refugees stretch their hands to receive aid distributed by local organisations at Balukhali makeshift refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, September 14, 2017 Reuters

'As far as I am aware an ICC team is currently visiting Bangladesh'

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has begun its investigation into the alleged crimes against humanity and other atrocity crimes committed by Myanmar against hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people sheltered in Bangladesh, said sources in Dhaka and The Hague, the Dutch capital, the house of the court.

“Yes, the investigation has already begun. Multiple visits by experts from the office of the ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to Bangladesh have already taken place,” a source in The Hague familiar with the investigation told Dhaka Tribune.

“As far as I am aware an ICC team is currently visiting Bangladesh,” he said.

The purpose of the visits of the ICC teams is to gather necessary evidence from different sources, he added.

“They (ICC teams) are coming and going. They work independently without any alignment with the government. We will only provide any support if we are asked,” a source at the Foreign Ministry told this correspondent, adding, “I don’t know if any team from the ICC is currently visiting Bangladesh.”

The activities of the ICC will mostly be focused on Cox’s Bazar for obvious reason, said the sources.

The Prosecutor’s office did not respond to the emails from Dhaka Tribune seeking its comments in this regard.

The ICC is an intergovernmental organisation and international tribunal with jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.

The ongoing ICC investigation is being carried out when separate proceedings are taking place at the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. On January 23, ICJ is set to rule on provisional measures on the Rohingya genocide case against Myanmar filed by The Gambia. There is no connection between the two cases at two different courts.

Chronology of activities

Based on a request submitted by the ICC Prosecutor Bensouda, a pre-trial chamber ruled on September 6, 2018 that the Court may exercise jurisdiction over the alleged deportation of the Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh.

The chamber accepted the argument that although the coercive acts underlying the alleged deportation of members of the Rohingya people occurred on the territory of Myanmar (which is a State not party to the Statute), the ICC may nonetheless exercise its jurisdiction, since an element of this crime (the crossing of a border) occurred on the territory of Bangladesh (which is a State party to the Statute).

On September 18, 2018 the ICC Prosecutor announced to open a preliminary examination into the alleged crimes committed by Myanmar.

Preliminary inquiry is not an investigation but a process of examining the information available in order to reach a fully informed determination on whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation pursuant to the criteria established by the Rome Statute, she said

A team from the office of the Prosecutor visited Bangladesh from March 6 to 11, 2019 in the context of the preliminary examination. The purpose of this visit was to engage with relevant stakeholders, explain the preliminary examination process, and travel to the refugee camps with a view to informing the ongoing assessment.

The ICC Presidency has constituted a pre-trial chamber on June 26, 2019 and assigned to it the situation concerning Rohingya. This decision was based on a notice by the ICC Prosecutor informing the Presidency of her intention to submit a request for an authorisation to open an investigation into this situation.

On July 4, 2019, the Prosecutor requested the Court's Judges to authorise an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity, namely deportation, other inhumane acts and persecution committed against the Rohingya people from Myanmar.

On November 14, Prosecutor Bensouda was authorised by a pre-trial chamber to go ahead with a full-fledged investigation.