ICC gives Myanmar deadline to respond to Rohingya jurisdiction request

ICC judges in March 2018. Photo: ICC
ICC judges in March 2018. Photo: ICC

Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have given Myanmar just over a month to respond to the prosecutor’s request for jurisdiction over the country’s alleged deportation of Rohingya to Bangladesh. The request was originally issued in April, but the judges decided yesterday to give Myanmar authorities until July 27 to reply.

“Considering that the crime of deportation is alleged to have commenced on the territory of Myanmar, the chamber deems it appropriate to seek observations from the competent authorities of Myanmar on the prosecutor’s request,” the court said.

The ICC does not have automatic jurisdiction over crimes allegedly committed by Myanmar because it is not a member of the court. However, prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has argued that the court should have jurisdiction on the grounds that Myanmar’s mass expulsion of Rohingya also affected Bangladesh, which is a member.

Earlier this month, Bangladeshi authorities provided an opinion on the court’s jurisdiction over Myanmar, though the opinion was not disclosed. Bangladesh says it is still committed to resolving the Rohingya refugee crisis bilaterally.

The office of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi slammed the prosecutor’s request for jurisdiction in April, claiming it sought “to override the principle of national sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, in contrary to the principle enshrined in the UN Charter and recalled in the ICC Charter’s Preamble.”

Myanmar denies deporting Rohingya and has claimed that Rohingya have burned their own homes in an effort to defame the country – a claim that has repeatedly been debunked.

Evidence of Myanmar’s crimes has been unearthed in the form of at least one mass grave of Rohingya men and boys, prompting the military to announce that it had sentenced seven soldiers to 10 years in prison for murder.

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum and rights group Fortify Rights have said last November that there was “mounting evidence” that Myanmar had committed genocide against the Rohingya.

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