On May 7, the Pre-Trial Chamber at the International Criminal Court (ICC) invited Bangladesh authorities to submit observations on whether the court should exercise jurisdiction on “circumstances surrounding the presence of members of the Rohingya people from Myanmar on the territory of Bangladesh” and on the possibility of the Court to exercise territorial jurisdiction for the crime of deportation. Bangladesh has until June 11 to respond.
On May 8th, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to immediately refer the situation in Myanmar to the ICC for investigation into the widespread and systematic abuses against ethnic Rohingya. Senior diplomats from the UNSC visited refugee camps in Bangladesh in the first week of May to assess and gain first hand accounts of the situation. The diplomats pledged to take action on their return to New York. Bangladesh now has more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar military abuses since August 2017.
UK Ambassador Karen Pierce said all council members considered the Rohingya issue to be “one of the most significant human rights cases that we have ever faced in the last decade and that something needs to be done.”
“Now that the Security Council has heard directly from Rohingya refugees about the horrors inflicted by Myanmar’s army, the need to hold those responsible to account should be clear,” said Param-Preet Singh, associate international justice director at HRW. “Myanmar’s repeated and implausible denials of responsibility for atrocities and its longstanding culture of impunity mean that the International Criminal Court is the only real hope for victims to see justice.”
Matthew Smith, head of the Asia-based group Fortify Rights, called on the ICC to investigate “mounting evidence” of genocide against Rohingya. Fortify Rights and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum published a joint report in November of 2017 finding “mounting evidence” of the crime of genocide against Rohingya in Myanmar. The report was based on a yearlong investigation, including hundreds of interviews with Rohingya eyewitnesses and survivors of Myanmar Army-led massacres, mass gang-rapes, and arson attacks against Rohingya. “We strongly support this and other proactive steps to hold the Myanmar military accountable for international crimes against Rohingya,” said Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Fortify Rights. “The Bangladesh government should do everything in its power to cooperate and seek justice for the human rights violations against Rohingya.”
In April the ICC Prosecutor submitted a request for a ruling on whether it has jurisdiction over the deportations of Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh, a possible crime against humanity. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) issued the Dhaka Declaration on the 6th of May expressing concern over alleged human rights violations by security forces in Myanmar. Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement of rebuttal on May 9, stating that the Declaration “lacks balance and fairness”. In the Statement, the Foreign Affairs Ministry has reiterated its denial of any Human Rights violations, stating that “Myanmar categorically rejects the irresponsible labelling of ‘ethnic cleansing’ or ‘State backed violence’ to describe events in Rakhine State.”