ICC team yet to get nod to visit Rakhine 

Diplomatic Correspondent | Published: 00:47, Jul 19,2019


The prosecution of the International Criminal Court has sought permission of the Myanmar government to visit Rakhine state but it is yet to get any response from the country, ICC deputy prosecutor James Stewart said in Dhaka on Thursday.

‘We have approached,’ he   said at a press conference in reply to a question whether the prosecution would visit Rakhine of Myanmar, where the Rohingya people have been under persecution.

The prosecution did not get any response from the Myanmar authorities [till Thursday], he said.

Stewart was leading an ICC prosecution delegation for preparatory works on launching an investigation into the crimes committed against the Rohingya people who were forced to flee Myanmar to Bangladesh.  

‘We aim to bring justice to the victims where our jurisdiction is met, by establishing the truth about what happened and holding accountable those individuals most responsible for the crimes,’ he said, adding that this time the team was neither conducting investigation nor collecting evidence.

The team had meetings with the foreign, law and home ministries on signing a memorandum of understanding on basic cooperation from operational and security points of views from the Bangladesh authorities, he said.

‘We do this in every country we operate,’ he added.

Pointing out that Myanmar is not a state party to the ICC, he said that but ‘Bangladesh is a state party,’ so any potential investigation could only focus on crimes allegedly committed ‘in part of the territory of Bangladesh’.

A trans-boundary definition on the jurisdiction of the ICC would be crucial in dealing with the Rohingya issues, Stewart noted. 

When asked about a potential time-frame for the prosecution for reaching a conclusion on the matter, he said that it would be an ‘open-ended process after getting approval for launching an investigation from the Pre-Trial Chamber [of the ICC].’

ICC chief prosecutor Fetou Bensouda has determined that ‘there is a reasonable basis to believe’ that at least 700,000 Rohingya people were deported from Myanmar to Bangladesh through a range of coercive acts and that great suffering or serious injury has been inflicted on the Rohingyas by violating their right to return to their state of origin, he said.

Investigating deportation and the other alleged crimes would mean taking a close look at the alleged violence which left the Rohingyas no option but to flee Myanmar, said Stewart.

He stressed that effective, timely and tangible cooperation from all stakeholders ‘is a key to an efficient judicial process at all stages’. 

The ICC prosecution would play its role independently, impartially and objectively, he added.

More than 7,00,000 Rohingyas, mostly women, children and aged people, entered Bangladesh fleeing unbridled murder, arson and rape during ‘security operations’ by the 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.

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