ICC approves investigation into crimes against Rohingyas

Shahidul Islam Chowdhury | Published: 00:15, Nov 15,2019 | Updated: 19:11, Nov 15,2019


A pre-trial chamber of the International Criminal Court, The Hague, Netherlands on Thursday authorised its prosecutor to proceed with an investigation into the alleged crimes committed against the Rohingya people of Myanmar.

‘Upon review of the available information, the Chamber accepted that there exists a reasonable basis to believe widespread and/or systematic acts of violence may have been committed that could qualify as the crimes against humanity of deportation across the Myanmar-Bangladesh border and persecution on grounds of ethnicity and/or religion against the Rohingya population,’ according to an ICC announcement.

The authorisation follows the request submitted on July 4 by the prosecutor to open an investigation within the ICC’s jurisdiction into alleged crimes committed against the Rohingya people of Myanmar.

The ICC pre-trial chamber composed of presiding  Judge Olga Herrera Carbuccia, Judge Robert Fremr, and Judge Geoffrey Henderson also received the views on this request by or on behalf of hundreds of thousands of alleged victims.

According to the ICC Registry, victims unanimously insist that they want an investigation by the Court and many of the consulted  alleged victims ‘believe that only justice and accountability can ensure that the perceived circle of violence and abuse comes to an end’.

The chamber concluded that the court may exercise its jurisdiction over crimes when part of the criminal conduct takes place on the territory of a State Party, Bangladesh in this case. Myanmar is not a State Party but Bangladesh ratified the ICC Rome Statute in 2010.

The chamber found no need to assess whether other crimes within the court’s jurisdiction might have been committed, even though such alleged crimes could be part of the prosecutor’s future investigation.

Noting the scale of the alleged crimes and the number of victims allegedly involved, the chamber considered that the situation clearly reaches the gravity threshold.

According to the supporting material, an estimated 600,000 to one million Rohingya people were forcibly displaced from Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh as a result of the alleged coercive acts. 

Noting the victims’ views, the chamber agreed with the prosecutor that there are no substantial reasons to believe that an investigation into the situation would not be in the interest of justice.

Consequently, the chamber also authorised the commencement of the investigation in relation to any crime, including any future crime, as long as ‘it is within the jurisdiction of the court,’ ‘it is allegedly committed at least in part on the territory of Bangladesh, or on the territory of any other State Party or State accepting the ICC jurisdiction’.

The chamber okayed the start of the probe also with regard to any offence  if it ‘it is sufficiently linked to the situation as described in the present decision,’ and  ‘it was allegedly committed on or after  the date of entry into force of the Rome Statute for Bangladesh or other relevant State Party’.

In its next steps, the Office of the Prosecutor would start collecting the necessary evidence from a variety of reliable sources, independently, impartially, and objectively. The investigation can take as long as needed to gather the required evidence.

If sufficient evidence would be collected to establish that specific individuals bear criminal responsibility, the Prosecutor would then request the judges of the relevant pre-trial chamber to issue either summonses to appear or warrants of arrest, the ICC said. 

The responsibility to enforce warrants of arrest issued by an ICC chamber ‘remains with States’, the ICC said, adding that, ‘States Parties to the Rome Statute have a legal obligation to cooperate fully with the ICC.’

Other States may be invited to cooperate with the ICC and may decide to do so on a voluntary basis.  

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