‘Only justice and accountability’ can stop the...
Judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) authorized an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity, namely deportation, which have forced between 600,000 and one million Rohingya refugees out of Myanmar, into neighboring Bangladesh since 2016.
The pre-trial judges “accepted that there exists a reasonable basis to believe widespread and/or systematic acts of violence may have been committed that could qualify as crimes against humanity of deportation across the Myanmar-Bangladesh border” the Court said in a press statement, in addition to “persecution on grounds of ethnicity and/or religion against the Rohingya population.”
As a member to the Genocide prevention treaty, Gambia “refused to stay silent”, and as a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the small African nation has taken legal action to assist the persecuted majority-Muslim Rohingya, with support by other Muslim countries. Gambia accused Myanmar of “mass murder, rape, and genocidal acts” which violate its obligations under the Genocide Convention, in addition to destruction of villages, arbitrary detention, and torture. “This decision marks an important step in the fight for justice and accountability in Myanmar. It sends a strong message to the orchestrators of atrocities against Rohingya that their days of impunity are numbered.” Said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southeast Asia.
“This decision comes just days after the Government of Gambia accused Myanmar of genocide in proceedings initiated at the International Court of Justice, and Rohingya activists filed a lawsuit in Argentinean Courts. The wheels of justice are turning – those who continue to shield perpetrators from accountability should think long and hard about which side of history they choose to be on.”
“While we welcome today’s decision, it only allows the ICC to investigate some of the military’s many crimes against ethnic minorities in Myanmar. This is why it remains essential that the UN Security Council refers the situation in the whole of the country to the ICC. Its ongoing failure to do so is a stain on its credibility and an abdication of its responsibilities.”
In July, the ICC’s top Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, requested an investigation be open into the alleged crimes committed since October of 2016, concerning Myanmar and Bangladesh.
At that time, her Office’s preliminary examination found “a reasonable basis” to believe that at least 700,00 Rohingya were deported from Myanmar to Bangladesh “through a range of coercive acts causing suffering and serious injury.”
Under the Rome Statute that created the ICC, which highlights crimes against humanity as one of its four crucial international crimes, the top Prosecutor concluded sufficient legal conditions had been met to open an investigation. While Myanmar is not a State party to the treaty, Bangladesh ratified the Statute in 2010, meaning authorization to investigate does not extend to all crimes potentially committed in Myanmar, but will focus on violations committed in part on Bangladeshi territory, the ICC said in July.
According to the ICC Registry, victims insist they want an investigation by the Court, and many “believe that only justice and accountability can ensure that the perceived circle of violence and abuse comes to an end.” “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,” the Court said.
Judges from the ICC have given the greenlight for prosecutors to commence collection of necessary evidence, which could result in the judge's issuance of summonses to appear in court or warrants of arrest. Parties to the Statute have a legal obligation to cooperate fully with the ICC, nonmembers invited to cooperate may decide to do so voluntarily.