Myanmar does not have to comply with ICC decisions on grounds it is not party to Rome Statute, says government
Myanmar has rejected an International Criminal Court (ICC) decision to launch an investigation into crimes against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
Government spokesman Zaw Htay said Friday the ICC has no jurisdiction over Myanmar because it is not a party to the Rome Statute.
The Rome Statute is the founding treaty of the ICC that seeks to protect communities from genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.
“[The] ICC’s decision is not in accordance with international law,” Htay said.
Recalling that the government and the army set up two independent investigative commissions, Htay said, ”if human rights violations are found, we will act according to the law.”
On Thursday, judges at the ICC approved a prosecution request to investigate crimes against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority.
Bangladesh is a member state of the ICC, while Myanmar, which is not a party to the Rome Statute, has been accused of committing widespread abuses against Rohingya.
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.
Myanmar’s government rejected the International Criminal Court’s decision to allow prosecutors to open an investigation into crimes committed against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
Government spokesman Zaw Htay said at a Friday night press conference that Myanmar stood by its position that the Netherlands-based court has no jurisdiction over its actions. His statement was the first official reaction since the court on Thursday agreed to proceed with the case.
Myanmar has been accused of carrying out human rights abuses on a massive scale in the western state of Rakhine in 2017 during what it described as a counterinsurgency campaign.
Zaw Htay cited a Myanmar Foreign Ministry statement from April 2018 that because Myanmar was not a party to the agreement establishing the court, it did not need to abide by the court’s rulings.
“It has already been expressed in the statement that the investigation over Myanmar by the ICC is not in accordance with international law,” he told reporters in the Myanmar capital Naypyitaw.
The court’s position is that because Myanmar’s alleged atrocities sent more than 700,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh for safety, it does have jurisdiction since Bangladesh is a party to the court and the case may involve forced deportation.
Last year’s statement charged that the court’s prosecutor, by claiming jurisdiction, was attempting “to override the principle of national sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.”
The 2018 statement also said Myanmar’s position was that it “has not deported any individuals in the areas of concern and in fact has worked hard in collaboration with Bangladesh to repatriate those displaced from their homes.”
However, there still has been no official repatriation of the Rohingya, and human rights activists charge that Myanmar has not established safe conditions for their return.
Sitting on the floor of his makeshift school in the sprawling refugee camp of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, 11-year-old Omar spoke softly as he remembered his mother and father.
“My parents loved me so much. They looked after me very well,” he said.
He explained how his parents were murdered by the Myanmar army in August 2017. Three of his brothers and two of his sisters were also killed.
“When I wake up every morning I start crying. Then I wipe my tears away and I get ready to go to school,” he said.
Two years on, it is still hard to process the brutality of what happened to Omar and his fellow Rohingya who had been living in Myanmar – or Burma as it was previously known.
You would be forgiven for assuming such stories would have brought swift and decisive international action. They did not. Visible progress towards any kind of justice for the minority Muslim group has been painfully slow.
But now we’ve seen three legal developments – seemingly unrelated – which some legal experts are calling a big step forward, and which offer a degree of hope to Rohingya campaigners.
Why aren’t Myanmar’s generals already in court?
UN inspectors said in September 2018 that top officers in Myanmar’s army should stand trial accused of genocide for their brutal security crackdown in Rakhine state the previous year, which drove more than 700,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh.
The easiest way for this to happen would be for the UN Security Council to refer the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) which prosecutes alleged war criminals.
Judges at the international criminal court (ICC) have authorised a full-scale investigation into allegations of mass persecution and crimes against humanity that forced at least 600,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee Myanmar into neighbouring Bangladesh.
The ruling, which sets a significant precedent in expanding the jurisdiction of the war crimes court, is the second move against Myanmar this week at international tribunals in The Hague.
On Monday, a submission was made by the Gambia to the international court of justice (ICJ) accusing Myanmar of genocide through the murder, rape and destruction of communities in the country’s western Rakhine state.
The ICC decision, announced on Thursday, follows a request by the court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, earlier this year for a formal investigation into alleged ethnic cleansing since 2016.
Myanmar is not a party to the Rome statute that established the ICC, but its neighbour, Bangladesh, has accepted the court’s jurisdiction.
By declaring that the ICC exercises jurisdiction over crimes where part of the alleged criminal conduct – in this case mass deportation – takes place on the territory of a state party, the ICC has extended its international law-enforcement role.
A similar argument has been presented at the ICC on behalf of Syrian refugees who have been forced to flee to neighbouring Jordan, which, like Bangladesh, is a signatory to the Rome statute.
In its decision on Thursday, the ICC authorised the prosecutor to “proceed with an investigation for the alleged crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction in the situation in the People’s Republic of Bangladesh/Republic of the Union of Myanmar”.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has approved a full investigation into Myanmar’s alleged crimes against the Rohingya, as the Southeast Asian nation faces mounting legal pressure worldwide over the treatment of the minority ethnic group.
ICC judges on Thursday backed a prosecution request to investigate allegations of crimes against humanity and persecution over Myanmar’s bloody 2017 military crackdown against the majority-Muslim group.
The ICC’s decision came after Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de-facto civilian leader, was named in an Argentine lawsuit over crimes against the Rohingya and Myanmar faced a separate genocide lawsuit at the United Nations’s top court.
More than 740,000 Rohingya were forced to flee over the border into sprawling camps in Bangladesh, in violence that the UN investigators said amounted to genocide.
The Hague-based ICC, set up in 2002 to try the world’s worst crimes, said it had “authorised the prosecutor to proceed with an investigation for the alleged crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction” relating to Myanmar.
These include allegations of “systematic acts of violence”, deportation as a crime against humanity and persecution on the grounds of ethnicity or religion against the Rohingya, it said.
Welcoming the moves towards international justice, George Graham, Director of Children and Armed Conflict at Save the Children said there was an “overwhelming need” to investigate and prosecute the crimes that had been documented.
“The scale and intensity of violence committed against the Rohingya by Myanmar security forces demands an independent and impartial hearing in a court of law,” Graham said in a statement.
Before becoming Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi spent 15 years under house arrest for defying the country’s feared generals. Now, the Nobel peace laureate faces an attempt to have her imprisoned for supporting them.
A lawsuit filed in Argentina on Wednesday alleges the former human rights icon contributed to a genocidal campaign against the Rohingya minority that included military-led mass killings in August 2017.
Among other things, she oversaw government policies “tending towards the annihilation of the Rohingya”, such as confining them to “ghettos” with severely limited access to healthcare and education, the lawsuit said.
“For the cycle of violence to end, it is crucial that all those responsible for the genocide – whether they wear a uniform or not – are brought to justice,” said Tun Khin, president of the London-based Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK), which filed the case at a federal court in Buenos Aires.
Efforts at securing justice for the Rohingya have so far largely focussed on top generals who orchestrated the 2017 killings in coastal Rakhine state, including the military’s commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing.
Some, such as former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, have defended Aung San Suu Kyi by arguing she has little control over the military, which maintains ultimate power in Myanmar despite allowing a largely free-and-fair election in 2015.
But the criminal complaint against her said she used what power she did have to help, rather than hinder, efforts to destroy the Rohingya.
“The entire genocidal plan … could not have been deployed without the complementation, the coordination, the support or the acquiescence of the different civilian authorities,” the complaint said.
Fifty-seven nations are suing Myanmar at the International Court of Justice, alleging in a historic lawsuit that the government has conducted genocide against its Rohingya minority.
The suit comes just weeks after the United Nations warned that the violent campaign against the Rohingya is continuing in northwest Myanmar, and its special envoy called for the U.N. Security Council to refer Myanmar’s senior officials to the International Criminal Court, a separate international body.
Over 700,000 Rohingya, a Muslim-majority ethnic minority, have fled Myanmar since a campaign by the country’s military to push them out and raze their villages began in August 2017. Myanmar, previously called Burma, has denied any wrongdoing, saying that the campaign was against an Islamist extremist group.
The Gambia, a small West African country, filed the lawsuit Monday on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a coalition of countries with significant Muslim populations. It asks the ICJ to investigate whether Myanmar’s government has violated the Geneva Convention, which prohibits genocide.
In particular, it charges that Myanmar is responsible for “killing, causing serious bodily and mental harm, inflicting conditions that are calculated to bring about physical destruction, imposing measures to prevent births, and forcible transfers, [which] are genocidal in character because they are intended to destroy the Rohingya group in whole or in part.”
According to a statement from the law firm Foley Hoag, which is assisting with the case, the suit bases that charge on the U.N.’s fact-finding mission released in August 2018 that found Myanmar’s military had genocidal intent in its violent campaign to expel the Rohingya. Myanmar has also been accused of violent oppression against the Shan, Kachin and other ethnic minorities.
In a highly unusual move, the tiny West African nation of The Gambia on Monday filed a lawsuit against Myanmar, accusing it of perpetrating a genocide on ethnic Rohingya Muslims which forced hundreds of thousands to flee the Asian nation.
The Gambia, with the full support of the 57-member Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), filed the case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the United Nations’ leading court in dealing with disputes between nations.
“The Gambia hopes by this case, and the OIC hopes by this case, to obtain a judgment from the International Court of Justice — the highest legal authority in the international community, that Myanmar is guilty of the crime of genocide against the Rohingya people,” said Paul Reichler, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer who is leading the Gambian legal team.
Such a ruling could take years. In the interim, the lawyers are seeking what is known as “provisional measures” — an order demanding Myanmar stop harming the Rohingyas while the court considers the full case. The judges at The Hague-based court could rule on that as early as next month.
“We are hopeful to get that kind of protection for the Rohingya people very early in the case as a provisional measure so that the genocidal activities that we are seeking to end do not continue during the lawsuit,” Reichler told VOA.
Starting in August 2017, more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled a scorched-earth campaign unleashed by the Myanmar military in response to attacks by Rohingya militants in Rakhine state that killed a dozen police officers. Survivors crossed the border into Bangladesh where they gave accounts of massacres, rape, murder and villages burned to the ground.
DHAKA: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday said the over 10 lakh Rohingyas who fled from Myanmar to her country in the wake of “persecution” are a “threat to the security” of the entire region as she urged the global community to resolve the issue.
According to the UN, as of May 24, 2018, more than 9,00,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar’s restive Rakhine State since 2017 after large-scale violence following a military crackdown. The exodus of refugees in large numbers has resulted in a major crisis in neighboring Bangladesh.
Addressing the three-day ‘Dhaka Global Dialogue-2019’ here, Hasina said, “In terms of regional security, I would like to say that more than 1.1 million Rohingya citizens of Myanmar fled to Bangladesh in the face of persecution and they are a threat to the security not only for Bangladesh but also for the region.”
“I urge the world community to take appropriate action realising the gravity of the threat. It will not be possible to ensure development and prosperity of any country without having peace and safety,” she was quoted as saying by the official Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS) news agency.
The dialogue, which commenced on Monday, was jointly organised by the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) and India-based independent think-tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF).
Over 150 delegates from over 50 countries are taking part in the dialogue to discuss, ideate and debate the most pressing global imperatives.
Bangladesh foreign minister AK Abdul Momen, ORF president Samir Saran and BIISS director general Major General AKM Abdur Rahman also spoke at the function.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Gambia filed a case Monday at the United Nations’ highest court accusing Myanmar of genocide in its campaign against its Rohingya Muslim minority and asking the International Court of Justice to urgently order measures “to stop Myanmar’s genocidal conduct immediately.”
Gambia filed the case on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Gambia’s justice minister and attorney general, Abubacarr Marie Tambadou, told The Associated Press he wanted to “send a clear message to Myanmar and to the rest of the international community that the world must not stand by and do nothing in the face of terrible atrocities that are occurring around us. It is a shame for our generation that we do nothing while genocide is unfolding right before our own eyes.”
Myanmar officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Myanmar’s military began a harsh counterinsurgency campaign against the Rohingya in August 2017 in response to an insurgent attack. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape what has been called an ethnic cleansing campaign involving mass rapes, killings and the torching of homes.
The head of a U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar warned last month that “there is a serious risk of genocide recurring.”
The mission also said in its final report in September that Myanmar should be held responsible in international legal forums for alleged genocide against the Rohingya.