Sep 06, 2018 19:04 UTC
  • ICC says it has jurisdiction over Myanmar crimes against Rohingya

The International Criminal Court says it has jurisdiction to probe the forced deportations of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh as a possible crime against humanity.

The Hague-based tribunal said in a statement on Thursday that the ICC's "pre-trial chamber... decided by majority the court may exercise jurisdiction over the alleged deportations of the Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh."

A three-judge panel said in a written summary of its decision that “the Court has jurisdiction over the crime against humanity of deportation allegedly committed against members of the Rohingya people."

"The court may also exercise its jurisdiction with regard to any other crime set out in article 5 of the statute, such as the crimes against humanity of persecution and/or other inhumane acts."

Although Myanmar is not a member of the court, Bangladesh is and the cross-border nature of deportation is enough basis for jurisdiction, the court said.

"The reason is that an element of this crime - the crossing of a border - took place on the territory of a State party (Bangladesh)."

Prosecutors had asked judges for an advisory opinion on whether such actions could fall under the tribunal's jurisdiction. They have not launched any formal case related to alleged deportations from Myanmar.

The ICC's chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in April asked judges at the world's only permanent war crimes court to rule whether she can investigate the deportations as a crime against humanity.

She likened the deportations to "a cross-border shooting", arguing that the crime "is not completed until the bullet (fired in one state) strikes and kills the victim (standing in another state)".

The latest decision at the ICC court paves the way for  Bensouda to further examine whether there is sufficient evidence to file charges in the case.

The Thursday decision comes just days after UN-mandated investigators said Myanmar’s military had carried out mass killings and gang rapes of Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine state with “genocidal intent”.

The UN investigation team reported that Myanmar's top generals should face prosecution for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Rakhine.