In a major development, the International Criminal Court yesterday asked Myanmar to submit its written observations by July 27 on the allegations of deporting over 700,000 Rohingyas to Bangladesh.
In a decision published yesterday, ICC judges asked Myanmar to respond before the deadline to a prosecution request that they consider hearing a case on the alleged deportation of Rohingya minority people.
The ICC first made the request on April 11 that the ICC should exercise jurisdiction over the alleged crimes.
The latest decision of the ICC came a day after a closed-door hearing on Bangladesh's submission on the Rohingya issue held on Wednesday when Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda appeared before the Pre-Trial Chamber-I.
According to a signed decision issued yesterday the three judges -- Peter Kovacs, Marc Perrin de Brichambaut and Reine Adélaïde Sophie Alapini-Gansou asked Myanmar to respond to the matter of jurisdiction and circumstances surrounding the crossing of the border by members of the Rohingya minority.
“Considering that the crime of deportation is alleged to have commenced on the territory of Myanmar, the Chamber deems it appropriate to seek observations from the competent authorities of Myanmar on the Prosecutor's request,” the decision reads.
The Chamber invited the competent authorities of Myanmar to submit written observations, either publicly or confidentially on the following: (i) the possibility of the court's exercise of territorial jurisdiction over the alleged deportation of members of the Rohingya people from Myanmar into Bangladesh; (ii) the circumstances surrounding the crossing of the border by members of the Rohingya people from Myanmar into Bangladesh; and (iii) any other matter in connection with the Prosecutor's Request that, in the opinion of the competent authorities of Myanmar, would assist the Chamber in its determination of this request.
The Chamber noted that the Prosecutor would have the opportunity to respond to the observations submitted by Myanmar.
The Chamber gave the Prosecutor 10 days to defend after receiving reply to the observations filed by Myanmar, if any.
Set up in 2002 in The Hague, the ICC acts to prosecute the worst abuses including genocide in places where national tribunals are unwilling or unable to act.
The Prosecutor alleged that since August 2017 more than 670,000 members of the Rohingya people, lawfully present in Myanmar, have been intentionally deported into Bangladesh.
In an unprecedented move on April 11, ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda requested permission of judges at the world's only permanent war crimes court to rule whether she could investigate the deportation as a crime against humanity..
Though it is a legally complicated request as Myanmar is not a signatory and member of the Rome Statute, which underpins the ICC, but Bensouda argued that Bangladesh should give her office jurisdiction to investigate the Rohingay's plight.
The Prosecutor asked the court to look into the Rohingya crisis and a possible prosecution through Bangladesh, which is a member. She has argued that, given the cross-border nature of the crime of deportation, a ruling in favour of ICC jurisdiction would be in line with established legal principles.
Meanwhile, Dhaka is expecting the ICC to probe into the forced exodus of Rohingyas.
The decision in this regard is yet to be made.
“As it [Wednesday's hearing on Bangladesh's submission] was closed-door, we don't know much about the content. As far as our sources are concerned, there is nothing for us to worry,” said a Bangladeshi diplomatic source in The Hague.
The transcript of the closed-door session would be made available in a week, he said, adding that any decision that may be forthcoming would probably be good for Bangladesh.
In response to the ICC request, Dhaka has concurred with both the territorial jurisdiction as well as the claim of forcible deportation of Rohingyas as Bangladesh believes in establishing accountability for the atrocities committed against the Rohingyas in Myanmar.
Bangladesh also opted for “confidential” mode of submission to the ICC on the Rohingya issue, which Bangladesh deems a testimony of her “keenness to seek bilateral solutions” to this problem. Bangladesh submitted its official response in “written and confidentially” to the ICC on June 11.
In the submission, Bangladesh provided the information and observation on three specific matters.
Bangladesh has been affected by the deportation of over 700,000 Rohingyas who have fled Myanmar's Rakhine State and came to Bangladesh since August 25 amid a bloody military crackdown.
The violence left a trail of torched villages in its wake, amid brutal killing of several thousand Rohingya civilians and rape, sexual violence and torture of unspecified number of women and children at the hands of troops and vigilantes.
Bangladesh, a country born out of genocide, is bound to comply with the court as per aspiration of the people of the country.
The ICC on May 7 requested Bangladesh to submit its observations on three specific matters since Bangladesh has been affected by deportation of hundreds of thousands Rohingya population.
These are: (i) the circumstances surrounding the presence of members of the Rohingya people from Myanmar on the territory of Bangladesh; (ii) the possibility of the Court's exercise of territorial jurisdiction over the alleged deportation of members of the Rohingya people from Myanmar into Bangladesh; and (iii) any other matter in connection with the prosecutor's request that, in the opinion of the competent authorities of Bangladesh, would assist the Chamber in its determination of this request.
Bangladesh, being one of the State parties to the Rome Statute, responded to the request of ICC as it is seeking a “sustainable solution” to the crisis.
Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a repatriation deal on November 23 last year, which stated that repatriation of Rohingya refugees would start within two months after the deal was signed. Myanmar is yet to start taking back its nationals.