The International Criminal Court must decide on whether it has jurisdiction over the deportation of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, the court’s chief prosecutor said on Monday. There is lack of clarity over the matter as Bangladesh, where lakhs of Rohingya refugees have been forced to migrate, is a member of the war crimes court, but Myanmar is not.
Citing “exceptional circumstances”, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that exercising jurisdiction would be in line with the court’s legal framework and also recognise consequences of forced migration. “Such questions are of acute international concern at the present time,” she said, giving a list of arguments why the court has power to hold a trial.
Bensouda said the court should exercise jurisdiction because “an essential legal element of the crime – crossing an international border – occurred on the territory of a [member] state”. If the court rules so, Bensouda will be able to start an investigation into the alleged deportation of Rohingya Muslims.
Deportation, Bensouda wrote in a filing, is a crime that is completed only when the victim has been forced across an international border, which in this case happened on the territory of a member state.
Lakhs of Rohingya Muslims have fled from Rakhine state of Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh since August 2017, after security forces began a violent crackdown against the community. The United Nations and the United States have called it “ethnic cleansing”, and Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi has faced widespread criticism for not doing enough to stop the persecution.