Rohingya abuse: Int'l court opens probe into Myanmar

By Md. Kamruzzaman

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) – The International Criminal Court (ICC) has launched an investigation into alleged crimes committed by Myanmar against the persecuted Rohingya community, a representative said Tuesday.

"The investigators are already in the camps. […] so the investigation has already started," Phakiso Mochochoko, head of a visiting ICC delegation, told reporters in Bangladesh's capital Dhaka.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees are living in squalid camps in Bangladesh's southern Cox's Bazaar district after escaping persecution by Myanmar's authorities.

Mochochoko said the investigators of ICC have spoken to various groups regarding a full-fledged and comprehensive investigation.

"In ideal situation we should go to Myanmar to visit the site and talk to the victims and eyewitnesses still in Rakhine state and also talk to Myanmar authorities. But unfortunately Myanmar is not cooperating with us and is not allowing our entry," he added.

"This is a big challenge for us, but it is not a challenge that is unattainable.

"We have past experience where some countries refused to co-operate with us and did not allow us to visit those countries. But our team was able to produce necessary evidences for judges to come to a conclusion in the judicial process and we were able to ensure justice," he said.

In November 2019, ICC judges green-light a petition to investigate alleged crimes against humanity committed against the Rohingya by Myanmar in accordance with its mandate under the Rome Statute. The statute allows the court to intervene in cases related to four core international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.

But since the very beginning Myanmar has been showing reluctance to cooperate with the ICC team as the country is not a signatory of the Rome Statute.

Mochochoko said that if the Rohingya people were migrating within Myanmar, the ICC would not have its jurisdiction.

"If people of a country are deported to another country as a result of persecution, killings and other forms of atrocities and the migrated country is a state party to the Rome Statute, the ICC has the jurisdiction to do judicial process on it," he added.

UN's top court, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has already asked Myanmar to prevent further genocide of the Rohingya in a ruling last month.

– Persecuted people

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience".

Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down while 113,000 others vandalized, it added.