International Criminal Court opens probe into violence against Rohingya minority in Myanmar

Asia

14 November 2019, 18:55

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The International Criminal Court (ICC) will investigate crimes against the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar, the institution said in a statement on Thursday.

“There exists a reasonable basis to believe widespread and/or systematic acts of violence may have been committed that could qualify as the crimes against humanity of deportation across the Myanmar-Bangladesh border,” a court decision said.

“The chamber hereby authorises the commencement of an investigation into the situation in Bangladesh/Myanmar.”

‘Genocidal intent’

Myanmar security forces are accused of killings, gang rape and arson during a crackdown that drove more than 730,000 people to flee western Rakhine state for neighbouring Bangladesh after attacks on police posts by Rohingya insurgents in August 2017.

Myanmar has rejected most of the accusations and dismissed a UN report last September which said military officers carried out the campaign against the Rohingya with “genocidal intent” and should stand trial.

Ahead of the announcement on Thursday, the ICC said it examined the requests made on behalf of hundreds of thousands of alleged victims.

“Victims unanimously insist that they want an investigation by the Court and many of the consulted alleged victims ‘believe that only justice and accountability can ensure that the perceived circle of violence and abuse comes to an end,'” the statement said.

Next steps

ICC prosecutors will now “start collecting the necessary evidence from a variety of reliable sources, independently, impartially, and objectively,” the court said.

If they manage to gather sufficient evidence, judges can issue either summons to appear or warrants of arrest.

“The responsibility to enforce warrants of arrest issued by an ICC Chamber remains with States,” the court noted.

This might be an obstacle to enforce any court decisions in the future, as Myanmar is not a state party to the ICC.

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