The United Nations has welcomed the decision of a pre-trial chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on the jurisdiction over the crime of deportation of Rohingya population from their homes in Rakhine state of Myanmar to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. The global body also described as frustrating the failure of the Security Council to refer the situation in Myanmar to the ICC despite the presence of credible information to support allegations of some serious crimes and called upon ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to open an investigation without any delay.
“This decision is a light in what has been a very dark episode for the Rohingya people this past year” UN special adviser on the prevention of genocide Adama Dieng said in a statement issued on Friday. “The crimes allegedly committed or initiated in Myanmar against the Rohingya population, particularly since August 2017, which led to the mass displacement of almost a million Rohingya people into Bangladesh, are horrific and must not go unpunished,” he said.
“We have all heard the shocking reports of mass killings, the gang rape of women, of babies being thrown into fires, and the complete destruction of villages,” he added.
“The failure of the Security Council to refer the situation to the ICC for investigation, despite credible information to support these allegations and numerous calls for accountability has been frustrating, to say the least,” said the special adviser, criticising the most powerful body of the world.
He also noted that while the decision issued on Thursday is a breakthrough, alleged crimes perpetrated solely on the territory of Myanmar, including conduct that could possibly amount to the crime of genocide, will be excluded from the jurisdiction of the ICC.
For that reason, he urged the international community to continue its efforts to bring justice to the Rohingya people.
Dieng also called upon ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to consider the recommendation of the chamber to decide on the opening of an investigation into the situation without delay.
“The decision of the Pre-Trial Chamber provides victims an opportunity to access justice for some of the crimes they have endured, which is an important first step,” he said. “Myanmar has refused to cooperate with any impartial investigation into the matter and continues to insist hiding behind its sovereign borders. It is about time that countries understand that borders are not strong enough to protect those involved in the most horrible crimes committed against human beings from prosecution,” said the adviser.
Meanwhile, the United Nations has once again pleaded with the government of Myanmar to grant its relevant organisations access to the affected areas in Rakhine.
“The offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) say they stand ready to commence assessment activities in 23 villages following the signing of a memorandum of understanding by the two agencies and the government of Myanmar three months ago”, Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the secretary-general, told a regular press briefing in New York on Friday.
“These assessments would be a first step only, with the expectations that access will be expanded to allow for the large scale comprehensive assessments that continue to be needed,” he said.
“The assessment in the initial list of villages is part of a broader work plan that has been under discussion with the authorities in Myanmar since July,” he added.
The spokesperson further said that by commencing with needs assessments to identify and implement quick-impact projects, UNHCR and UNDP hope to jump start confidence building measures aimed at rebuilding trust and social cohesions with those communities that remain in Rakhine state.
“Substantial progress however remains urgently needed in three key areas covered by the Memorandum of Understanding: granting effective access to Rakhine state; ensuring freedom of movement for all communities; and addressing the root causes of the crisis, including a clear pathway to citizenship for those who are eligible,” he said.
To a question related to Myanmar’s refusal of rejection of the purview of the International Criminal Court with regard to its jurisdiction to investigate crimes against Rohingyas and UN fact-finding mission’s findings, Dujarric said, “Well, I think it’s what we outlined…first steps are creation of confidence-building measures for the Rohingya populations that remain in Rakhine State, to ensure full access to the relevant UN agencies and at the end of the day, it will be those Rohingya refugees who will have to make the decision to go back being free from pressure, voluntarily and in dignity”.
“We’re working towards a resolution,” he told another questioner.