Judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) fear that Myanmar may have a “state policy” to attack the Rohingya population in Rakhine state, said ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Friday.
“The judges accepted that there is a reasonable basis to believe that there may have been a state policy [in Myanmar] to attack the Rohingya population,” she said.
The made the statement following ICC’s approval to commence an investigation into crimes committed against Rohingyas.
As per the judges’ observation, the prosecutor said there were many sources indicating heavy involvement of several Myanmar government forces and other state agents along with members of Myanmar armed forces [Tatmadaw] in the crimes committed against humanity on the land.
“These coercive acts could qualify as the crimes against humanity of deportation and persecution on grounds of ethnicity and/or religion against the Rohingya population,” the prosecutor said.
Saying that the judges authorised the investigation with broad parameters, Bensouda termed it as a “significant development against atrocity in Myanmar”.
On November 14, the ICC judges of Pre-Trial Chamber III authorised the prosecutor office to commence an investigation into the “situation in Bangladesh/Myanmar”.
Mentioning that Myanmar is not a State Party to the ICC, but Bangladesh is, the prosecutor welcomed the chamber’s conclusion that the alleged deportation of civilians across the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, which involved victims crossing that border, clearly establishes a territorial link on the basis of the “actus reus of this crime”- that is, “the crossing into Bangladesh by the victims.”
“The Court may exercise jurisdiction over crimes when part of the criminal conduct takes place on the territory of a State Party,” she said.
The prosecutor said her investigation would seek to uncover the truth and focus its efforts on ensuring the pursuit and success of its independent and impartial investigation.
She also noted that the Chamber saw no reason to disagree with “my assessment that there are no substantial reasons to believe that an investigation into the situation would not be in the interests of justice.”
In doing so, she said, “We aim to bring justice to victims and affected communities, and count on the full support and cooperation of States Parties, civil society, and other partners.”
On July 4, the prosecutor sought authorisation to investigate the situation in Bangladesh/Myanmar in the period since October 9, 2016.
The office of the prosecutor of the ICC conducts independent and impartial preliminary examinations, investigations and prosecutions of the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.
Since 2003, the Office has been conducting investigations in multiple situations within the ICC’s jurisdiction in Uganda, Congo, Sudan; Central African Republic (two distinct situations); Kenya, Libya, C’te d’Ivoire, Mali, Georgia and Burundi.
The Office is also currently conducting preliminary examinations relating to the situations in Colombia, Guinea, Iraq, Palestine, the Philippines, Nigeria, Ukraine, and Venezuela.
Bangladesh is hosting over 1.1 million forcefully displaced Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar district and most of them arrived there since August 25, 2017 after a military crackdown by Myanmar, which the UN called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” by other rights groups.