Bangladesh sits on fence over ICC Rohingya probe

China, Japan lobbying for bilateral settlement

Shahidul Islam Chowdhury | Published: 00:05, May 24,2018 | Updated: 15:08, May 24,2018


A New Age file photo shows Rohingya children at a camp in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh.

The Bangladesh government is in two minds over responding to a request of International Criminal Court to provide it with observations and evidences for determine if the court has jurisdiction over Myanmar to open an investigation into the expulsion of minority Rohingyas from the country.
A section of the government believes that Bangladesh should opt for resolving the Rohingya crisis through bilateral negotiations with Myanmar, a next door neighbour, instead of mounting pressure involving international quarters.
Another section of the government is of the opinion that Bangladesh must cooperate with international efforts on repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar, as well as support the moves involving the ICC for launching an investigation into atrocities of security forces of the country.
When asked if the government would respond to the ICC requests, foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali said the government had nothing to say about the matter.
‘We have no reply so far,’ he said at a press conference at the foreign ministry on Wednesday. ‘We are assessing what we can do.’
Bangladesh officials, at home and abroad, said the government had hardly any alternative but to cooperate with the ICC on launching an investigation into atrocities in Rakhine State.
Civil and military authorities of Myanmar were buying time on different pleas to quell international pressure for making accountable the persons involved in atrocities in Rakhine State, as well to prevent the ICC move for launching an investigation into the atrocities by security forces.
A pre-trial chamber of the Hague-based ICC asked the registrar of the court to notify Bangladesh seeking observation and evidence on the matter.
The court passed the order as Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor of the Hague-based ICC, on April 9, sought a ruling from the ICC on the question ‘whether the court may exercise’ ‘territorial jurisdiction’ to open a probe over the alleged acts of expulsion of Rohingyas who have been ‘intentionally deported across the international border into Bangladesh’ from Myanmar.
China has been constantly asking the Bangladesh authorities for resolving troubles on repatriation of forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals through bilateral negotiations with the country.
Chinese special envoy on Asian affairs Sun Guoxiang would be in Dhaka today, on his third visit in a year, mainly for shepherding engagements between Bangladesh and Myanmar on Rohingya matters, diplomatic sources said. Guoxiang would meet senior Bangladesh official to discuss the matter, they said.
Guoxiang held a meeting with Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday at her office in Nay Pyi Taw.
Japan too requested Bangladesh, during foreign minister Ali’s official visit to Tokyo last week, for settling matters involving Rohingya repatriation through bilateral negotiations with Myanmar, according to diplomats with knowledge of the matter.
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda sought a decision of the court as a specific legal matter as Myanmar, as a state, is not a party to the Rome Statute while Bangladesh is.
Bangladesh, the ICC chamber said, ‘has been particularly affected by the events concerning the alleged deportation of Rohingya people from Myanmar. Accordingly, the Chamber considers it appropriate to seek observations from the competent authorities of Bangladesh on the Prosecutor’s Request.’
The ICC chamber requested the Bangladesh authorities to submit written observations, either publicly or confidentially, on the circumstances surrounding the presence of members of the Rohingya people from Myanmar on the territory of Bangladesh, and on the possibility of the ICC’s exercise of territorial jurisdiction over the matter. Bangladesh authorities were requested to submit input by June 11.
Myanmar de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s office claimed in a statement in April that the ICC had no jurisdiction over ‘states which have not accepted that jurisdiction.’
Fatou Bensouda, however, claimed in her filing that her office could exercise authorities to investigate the matter as Bangladesh was a member of the Rome Statue.
She contended that the crime of deportation ‘is like a cross-border shooting’ and ‘not completed until the bullet (fired in one state) strikes and kills the victims (standing in another state)’.
About 7,00,000 Rohingyas, mostly women, children and aged people, entered Bangladesh fleeing unbridled murder, arson and rape during ‘security operations’ by Myanmar military in Rakhine, what the United Nations denounced as ethnic cleansing and genocide, beginning from August 25, 2017.
The ongoing Rohingya influx took the number of undocumented Myanmar nationals and registered refugees in Bangladesh to about 11,16,000, according to estimates by UN agencies and Bangladesh foreign ministry.
The two governments signed three instruments since November 23, 2017, for return of forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals sheltered in Bangladesh after October 2016, as the Rohingya exodus from Rakhine State continued.
The ICC, founded in 2002, is the only permanent court that could prosecute abuses including genocide in countries where national courts are unwilling or unable to act. 

Want stories like this in your inbox?

Sign up to exclusive daily email