Female Rohingya refugees have created a support group called Shanti Mohila (peace women) in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district.
None of these women knew each other before fleeing Myanmar more than a year ago but grief and trauma brought them together leading them to meet frequently in refugee camps.
“Our fathers and brothers shot, our sisters and mothers raped. Little children were cut into pieces and thrown into the fire. They grabbed our children out of our arms,” said a refugee woman who did not wish to be named while speaking to Al-Jazeera.
But they do not wish to be seen as victims. Through telling their stories, they want to raise awareness and hope to achieve justice
“They killed my husband and my son and raped my daughter in front of me. Why did they humiliate us? Why did they cut my husband and son into pieces?” asks another woman.
The group submitted a formal request to the International Criminal Court (ICC) last May urging an investigation against genocide and persecution of the Rohingyas in Myanmar.
The Myanmar military has created a three-member investigative panel to probe the conduct of the armed forces during a 2017 crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine state that left thousands dead and forced more than 740,000 to flee to Bangladesh, the country’s commander-in-chief’s office announced Monday.
The campaign of violence by security forces included extrajudicial killings of Rohingya, torture, sexual assaults, and the torching of Rohingya communities, which the government and the army has denied, while defending the campaign as necessary measure to stop a group of military Muslims that conducted deadly attacks on police outposts in the region.
From de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi on down, Myanmar has shrugged off credible testimony of the brutality, satellite images of burned villages, and other evidence of atrocities that have sparked calls by rights groups and United Nations officials to bring the perpetrators to justice before the International Criminal Court (ICC) or another tribunal.
Against that background, human rights groups were dismissive of the proposed investigation by a Myanmar military that they see as the chief culprit in the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya and other atrocities in the country. Earlier investigations by the military were seen by outside experts as a whitewash.
Yanghee Lee, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, made the revelation on Monday, calling on the UN Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC) over its atrocities against Rohingya Muslims and other ethnic minority groups in the conflict-ridden state, presstv reported.
“The situation in Myanmar must be referred to the ICC by the Security Council or a state party or group of state parties,” Lee said, adding that, “Victims must not be forced to wait in purgatory of international inaction. If it is not possible to refer the situation to the ICC, the international community should consider establishing an independent tribunal.”
Thousands of Rohingya Muslims were killed, injured, arbitrarily arrested, or raped by Myanmar’s soldiers and Buddhist mobs mainly between November 2016 and August 2017, when the surviving members of the community started fleeing to Bangladesh en masse.
The Rohingya Muslims, who have lived in Myanmar for generations, are denied citizenship and are branded illegal emigrants from Bangladesh, which likewise denies them citizenship.
The United Nations has described the Rohingya as the most persecuted community in the world.
Partly because of the poor conditions in the camps, and partly because of the prospect of repatriation to Myanmar, the Rohingya Muslims have occasionally attempted to flee Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is currently hosting more than one million Rohingya Muslim refugees who have fled Myanmar’s deadly army crackdown and persecution since 2017.
The government in Bangladesh has for long been pushing a controversial plan to relocate thousands of Rohingya refugees to an isolated and flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal, where they may be stranded forever.
Lee also expressed deep concern about Bangladesh’s plan to move 23,000 Rohingya refugees from camps in Cox’s Bazaar to Bhashan Char Island in April, saying the island may not be “habitable” and that the relocation plan would create a potential “new crisis.”
Today, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (“ICC” or the “Court”) concluded its first visit to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh in the context of the on -going preliminary examination concerning the alleged deportation of the Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh. The purpose of this visit was to engage with relevant stakeholders, explain the preliminary examination process, and travel to the refugee camps with a view to informing the Office’s ongoing assessment.
On behalf of the Prosecutor, Mrs Fatou Bensouda, the delegation would like to express its gratitude to the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh for providing its support to this visit and facilitating meetings with the relevant national authorities. During this past week, the delegation had constructive exchanges with senior officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs; Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs; and Home Affairs; as well as various law enforcement agencies.
The delegation also had the opportunity to exchange views with representatives of various agencies of the United Nations and members of the diplomatic community, as well as academics from the University of Dhaka’s Centre for Genocide Studies.
In Cox’s Bazar, the delegation visited the refugee camps and met with government authorities, humanitarian agencies and NGOs, as well as a number of victims’ representatives. The delegation listened carefully to their views and concerns.
The people responsible for the atrocities that forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to flee from Myanmar’s Rakhine state will be held to account, an International Criminal Court official said on Monday.
Following a visit to Bangladesh refugee camps, the ICC’s Phakiso Mochochoko said the fact that Myanmar is not a signatory to the Hague-based international court “will not in any way be a hindrance” to an investigation.
“It may present a little bit of challenge for us in terms of investigation, but we have faced a situation like this in the past and we’ve been able to deal with them,” the court’s director of jurisdiction told reporters in the capital Dhaka.
Mochochoko made the comments after leading a delegation to Bangladesh’s southeastern Cox’s Bazar district, home to around one million Rohingya refugees.
The delegation, however, clarified that its visit to the camps was not a part of any investigation but to collect insights for an ongoing assessment of the office of prosecutor Fatou Bensouda whether to warrant a full investigation.
“A preliminary examination is not an investigation, but an assessment of the Rome Statute criteria to decide whether an investigation into the situation at hand is warranted,” he said.
The plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar, hundreds of thousands of whom have fled to neighboring Bangladesh, has attracted widespread international attention. However, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has failed to take action, hindered by Russia’s and China’s use of their veto powers. The UNSC’s inaction has not stopped other international actors from stepping up. Recently, the International Criminal Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber gave the green light for further examination into the atrocities suffered by the Rohingya, affirming the ICC’s plausible basis for jurisdiction despite Myanmar not being a party to the Rome statute. The ICC Prosecutor has launched a preliminary examination, and actively invited civil society and victims to participate in the process.
The United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) has also taken action, commissioning an independent fact-finding investigation into the Rohingya crisis that recently issued a report describing atrocious crimes against the Rohingya committed by the Myanmar military. Following this, the HRC has authorized the creation of an agency to collect and preserve evidence that could be used in future prosecutions.
The spotlight must remain on the plight of the victims. This article examines these developments and potential recourse for the Rohingya under international law.In response to these atrocities, the UNSC has failed to adopt any resolutions on the Rohingya situation, hindered by China and Russia’s partnership with Myanmar. The UNSC has visited Myanmar and Bangladesh, and issued a non-binding Presidential Statement routinely used in instances where a permanent member has threatened to veto a resolution.
Six Rohingya died in a blaze early Friday caused by embers from a kitchen fire at the Ohn Daw Che camp in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state, highlighting the dangers of overpopulated camps housing the stateless Muslim minority group, a Rakhine fire department officials said.
Among the dead at the internally displaced persons (IDP) camp, which houses about 4,000 Rohingya in sittwe township, were two children, aged 11 and 12, they said. The others who perished are men aged 20, 30, 45, and 60.
Charges have been filed against a Rohingya man who caused the fire that resulted in about 37 million kyats (U.S. $23,150) in damage, fire department officials said.
The blaze burned down 15 buildings that housed more than 800 people from 141 households, forcing them to seek shelter with relatives or in tents, they said.
“Two-thirds of the fire victims are staying in temporary tents because their relatives don’t have any more room in their homes,” a local resident who did not provide his name told RFA’s Myanmar Service. “They urgently need food and waterproof plastic sheets for their temporary tents.”
The Rakhine government has paid 300,000 kyats (U.S. $188) to each family member of those who died in the fire, said state government spokesman Win Myint. It has also provided a weeks’ worth of rice and other goods to the affected families and is building a temporary shelter for those lost their homes.
Myanmar is in the process of closing down IDP camps in Rakhine’s Sittwe district and in Kyauktaw and Myebon townships, where mostly Rohingya were housed following waves of clashes in the ethnically and religiously divided state in 2012 that left more than 200 people dead and displaced about 140,000 Muslims.
More than 94,000 Rohingya live in the a dozen IDP camps that remain in Sittwe township.
Colonel Phone Tint, Rakhine state’s security and border affairs minister, told RFA on Friday that the government has built 100 houses for Muslim IDPs Myebon, and plans to build 642 houses more there so that the township’s camps can be shut down.
“We are also working to shut down IDP and refugee camps in Sittwe township,” he said.
In August, authorities closed the Nidin IDP camp in Kyauktaw township and resettled the nearly 600 Rohingya who had been living there in new homes in Nidin village.
ON SEPTEMBER 6, the International Criminal Court (ICC) stated that it had the authority to investigate Myanmar’s alleged deportation of Rohingya as a possible crime against humanity.
But what is the ICC? And how, exactly, does it work?
Simply put, the ICC is an international court established to investigate and prosecute human rights-related crimes. It orders arrests, conducts trials and imposes sentences like an ordinary court, which means, at least theoretically, that Min Aung Hlaing may one day find himself in a cell at the court’s detention centre.
What can the court do?
The 1998 Rome Statute that established the ICC allows it to prosecute four crimes: Genocide, which the Rome Statute describes as acts intended to “destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”; Crimes against humanity, described as “a widespread or systematic attack against any civilian population”;War crimes, which are defined as “grave breaches of the Geneva conventions” in the context of an armed conflict; Crimes of aggression,which the ICC website calls “the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, integrity or independence of another State.”
For these crimes, the ICC prosecutes individuals, not governments, and sentencing ranges from monetary penalties to life terms in prison.
What is the court’s jurisdiction?
The ICC can investigate and prosecute a crime that meets one of two criteria: It was committed within or by a national of one of its State parties, or it was formally referred to the ICC chief prosecutor by the UN Security Council.
Myanmar is not among the 120 countries that have signed the Rome Statute. (Other notable non-signatories include China, Israel and the United States.) However, the ICC recently stated that it can investigate the alleged forced deportation of Rohingya because it involved Bangladesh, which is a member of the ICC.
The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor opened a preliminary probe on Tuesday into Myanmar’s alleged crimes against Rohingya Muslims, including killings, sexual violence and forced deportations.
Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda will look at whether there is enough evidence to warrant a full investigation into Myanmar’s military crackdown, which has seen some 700,000 people flee into neighboring Bangladesh.
The move comes nearly two weeks after judges ruled that even though Myanmar has not signed up to the Hague-based ICC, the court still has jurisdiction over crimes against the Rohingya because Bangladesh is a member.
“I have decided to proceed to the next phase of the process and to carry out a full-fledged preliminary examination of the situation at hand,” Bensouda said in a statement.
A preliminary examination can lead to a formal investigation by the ICC — which was set up in 2002 to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity — and then possible indictments.
The ICC announcement came on the same day as U.N. investigators said that Myanmar’s army had used “hard to fathom” levels of violence against the Rohingya and should be prosecuted for genocide.
The U.N. fact-finding mission also repeated suggestions that crimes against the Rohingya be referred to the ICC.
Rights group Amnesty International said it was “great that the International Criminal Court has opened this important avenue to justice for the Rohingya.
The EU is pushing for a resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council to prosecute those responsible for crimes against humanity against Myanmar’s Rohingya population, according to a draft obtained by POLITICO.
The push from the EU during the course of a two-week session that finishes on September 28 comes after an independent fact-finding mission to Myanmar last month found evidence of “genocidal intent” of the minority Muslim population in Rakhine State and recommended the commander-in-chief and other generals in the Myanmar military should be brought to justice.
The draft resolution proposed by the EU stresses “the urgent need to ensure that all those responsible for crimes related to violations and abuses of international human rights law are held to account through credible and independent national or international criminal justice mechanisms.”
It adds that Myanmar should accept the jurisdiction of International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. Last week the ICC ruled that it has jurisdiction over alleged deportations of Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh as a possible crime against humanity, a claim that was immediately rejected by the government in Myanmar.
Putting Myanmar military officials on trial at the ICC would require a resolution inside the U.N. Security Council, an eventuality that is unlikely due to the veto powers of both China and Russia.