The International Criminal Court ruled on Thursday that it can exercise jurisdiction over allegations of deportations of Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh as a possible crime against humanity. In a statement, the court said that the preliminary probe, which will establish if there is enough evidence to launch a full investigation, “must be concluded within a reasonable time”.

Although Myanmar is not a part of the court, Bangladesh is, and this gives the court the right to adjudicate since the crimes were committed in Bangladeshi territory.

The court said that prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, in charge of the investigation, must take into account the jurisdiction ruling “as she continues with her preliminary examination concerning the crimes allegedly committed against the Rohingya people”.

Last August, the Myanmar army started a brutal crackdown in Rakhine state, allegedly in response to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on police posts and a military base. This led to more than seven lakh Rohingya fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh.

A United Nations report published last month said top military leaders of Myanmar should be prosecuted for genocide against the Rohingya population in Rakhine. The document was written by an independent three-member fact-finding mission of the UN Human Rights Council. But Myanmar refuted those claims, saying that the international community was making false allegations.

The report named Myanmar Army chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing and said he, along with five other generals, should be prosecuted for human rights abuses and genocide. It said the nature, scale, and organisation of the operations against the Rohingya Muslims “suggests a level of pre-planning and design” on the part of leadership consistent with the vision of Aung Hlaing.

In its final 20-page report, the mission said there was “genocidal intent” behind the actions of the Myanmar government.

After the report was published, Facebook decided to ban 20 people, including military officials, and organisations from Myanmar from using the social media network. Facebook said these entities have been banned to prevent the spread of “hate and misinformation” given the ethnic violence in the country.