International Criminal Court opens preliminary probe into deportation of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Bangladesh

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Tuesday said her office had begun a preliminary examination into whether alleged forced deportations of Rohingya from Myanmar into Bangladesh could constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Reuters September 19, 2018 01:06:15 IST
International Criminal Court opens preliminary probe into deportation of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Bangladesh

Amsterdam: The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Tuesday said her office had begun a preliminary examination into whether alleged forced deportations of Rohingya from Myanmar into Bangladesh could constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.

International Criminal Court opens preliminary probe into deportation of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Bangladesh

File photo of the Rohingya refugees. AP

The decision by Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda follows a ruling at the court earlier this month that it has jurisdiction over alleged forced deportations and related crimes because, while Myanmar is not a member of the court, Bangladesh is.

The chief prosecutor announced that she is launching a preliminary investigation into deportations of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar into Bangladesh. Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a written statement and video message that she has begun a probe formally known as a preliminary examination to establish if there is enough evidence to merit a full-blown investigation.

Bensouda said she will look at reports of "a number of alleged coercive acts having resulted in the forced displacement of the Rohingya people, including deprivation of fundamental rights, killing, sexual violence, enforced disappearance, destruction and looting." Myanmar's military has been accused of widespread rights violations, including rape, murder, torture and the burning of Rohingya villages — leading about 7, 00,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh since August last year.

Bensouda's announcement came less than two weeks after judges at the court gave her authorization to investigate the deportations despite Myanmar not being a member state of the court.
Judges said in their landmark ruling that because part of the alleged crime of deportation happened on the territory of Bangladesh — which is a member of the court — Bensouda has jurisdiction. Judges urged her to conclude her preliminary examination "within a reasonable time." The ICC is a court of last resort, which steps in only when national authorities are unable or unwilling to prosecute alleged crimes. Bensouda said prosecutors "will be engaging with the national authorities concerned with a view to discussing and assessing any relevant investigation and prosecution at the national level."

Bensouda's announcement came on the day that UN-backed investigators presented a report that painted a grim picture of crimes against Rohingya. Such reports will likely be closely studied in Bensouda's probe. The fact-finding team presented the report to the UN-supported Human Rights Council in Geneva. It reiterated earlier findings that some top Myanmar military leaders should be prosecuted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide against the Rohingya during a deadly crackdown that erupted in August 2017 following militant attacks on security posts in Rakhine state. Myanmar's new ambassador in Geneva has lashed out at what he called a "one-sided" report.

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