Bangladesh gives opinion to International Criminal Court on Myanmar’s trial over Rohingya

Bangladesh has responded to the queries of the International Criminal Court or ICC over its jurisdiction to run a case against Myanmar in regard to the Rohingya issue.

Published : 7 June 2018, 04:54 PM
Updated : 7 June 2018, 05:14 PM

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam confirmed this to on Thursday.

He said it is in fact mandatory on Bangladesh to respond as it is a member of the Rome Statute.

“We have provided the information only as requested by the court,” he said, adding that Bangladesh is still committed to settle the matter “bilaterally”.

He pointed out that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina floated a five-point plan in New York last year “which is still on the table and we are committed”.

The ICC last month wrote to Bangladesh asking for its opinion on whether The Hague-based court has jurisdiction to run a case against its neighbour.

Myanmar is not a member of the criminal court.

The letter from the pre-trial chamber followed Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s application on Apr 9 when she asked the ICC to rule on whether it has jurisdiction over the deportations of Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh, a possible crime against humanity.

The pre-trial chamber 1 in the letter, a copy of which was with, invited the competent authorities of Bangladesh to submit written observations, either publicly or confidentially, on the three specific matters.

Those are:

(i) The circumstances surrounding the presence of members of the Rohingya people from Myanmar on the territory of Bangladesh;

(ii) The possibility of the Court’s exercise of territorial jurisdiction over the alleged deportation of members of the Rohingya people from Myanmar into Bangladesh; and

(iii) Any other matter in connection with the prosecutor’s request that, in the opinion of the competent authorities of Bangladesh, would assist the Chamber in its determination of this Request.

“We have provided all the information they asked for and everything that we know from our experience,” State Minister Shahriar Alam said when asked, without clarifying whether Bangladesh suggested that the ICC try Myanmar.

He said Bangladesh “is a responsive and responsible state. Our action always guided by universal values and laws”.

Officials, however, earlier indicated that Bangladesh would cite precendences in which ICC tried non-members being recommended by the UN Security Council.

It happened in cases of Darfur in Sudan and Libya, paving the way for the trial Omar Al-Bashir and Muammar Gaddafi.

Earlier, Myanmar government expressed “serious concern” on the news about the application by the ICC prosecutor.

Since August last year, nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar, the United Nations and aid agencies have said.

The refugees have reported killings, rape and arson on a large scale. The United States and the United Nations have described the situation as ethnic cleansing.

Myanmar has denied nearly all allegations, saying it waged a legitimate counter-insurgency operation.

Rohingya houses in Rakhine State set on fire allegedly by the Myanmar Army, Sept 11, 2017. Photo: mostafigur rahman

The government has said the army crackdown was provoked by the attacks of Rohingya militants on more than two dozen police posts and an army base last August.

An ICC ruling affirming jurisdiction could pave the way for Prosecutor Bensouda to investigate the deportation of many thousands of Rohingya.

“This is not an abstract question but a concrete one, affecting whether the Court may exercise jurisdiction ... to investigate and, if necessary, prosecute,” Bensouda said in the filing.

The main reason for doubts about the jurisdiction is that while Bangladesh is a member of the court, but Myanmar is not.

Bensouda argued that given the cross-border nature of the crime of deportation, a ruling in favour of ICC jurisdiction would be in line with established legal principles.

The court said the observations of the Bangladesh authorities would assist the chamber in its determinations of the request sub judice.