The International Criminal Court has constituted a pre-trial chamber demonstrating further progress over ongoing process to look into the atrocities committed against Rohingyas in Rakhine state of Myanmar.
The Presidency of the International Criminal Court assigned the Situation in Bangladesh and Myanmar to the Pre-Trial Chamber III on Tuesday, said a release posted on the website of the court on Wednesday.
The pre-trial chamber, composed of Judge Robert Fremr, Judge Olga Herrera Carbuccia and Judge Geoffrey Henderson, was formed following a notice filed by the ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on June 12 informing the presidency of her intention to submit a request for an authorisation to open an investigation into this Situation.
The prosecutor notified judges that she would seek an authorisation ‘to investigate alleged crimes within the court’s jurisdiction in which at least one element occurred on the territory of Bangladesh – a State Party to the Rome Statute since 1 June 2010 – and within the context of two waves of violence in Rakhine State on the territory of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, as well as any other crimes which are sufficiently linked to these events.’
Once the prosecutor submits her request, it will then be for the judges of Pre-Trial Chamber III to decide whether or not to authorise the prosecutor to open an investigation into the situation. The Judges will have to consider whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation, upon examination of the prosecutor’s request and the supporting material, said the release.
Reuters added that prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement that her investigation would cover crimes that also took place ‘within the context of two waves of violence in Rakhine State on the territory of’ Myanmar.
If granted, the ICC would become the first international court to look into alleged atrocities against the Rohingya Muslim minority of Myanmar.
Although Myanmar was not a member of the court, the ICC in September 2018 determined it had jurisdiction over some crimes in the region when they had a cross-border nature, given that Bangladesh was a member.
‘The Court has jurisdiction over the crime against humanity of deportation allegedly committed against members of the Rohingya people,’ it said in a September 2018 ruling. ‘The reason is that an element of this crime — the crossing of a border — took place on the territory of a State party (Bangladesh).’
The following day, Myanmar’s government said it rejected the court’s jurisdiction.
An independent UN fact-finding mission in August 2018 concluded that Myanmar’s military carried out mass killings and gang rapes of Muslim Rohingya. Bensouda’s office began a pre-investigation examination in the Bangladesh-Myanmar case last year, and a delegation from the court visited Bangladesh in March 2019.
With 122 members, the United Nations-backed ICC is a court of last resort, only stepping in when member countries are found to be unwilling or unable to prosecute war crimes on their territory or when a case is referred to it by the UN Security Council.
That occurs only rarely as the United States, Russia and China are not ICC members, and can use their veto powers to prevent a referral, as Russia has done with Syria, reported Reuters.
More than 7,40,000 Rohingyas, mostly women, children and aged people, entered Bangladesh after 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 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to about 11,16,000, according to estimates by UN agencies and Bangladesh foreign ministry.