The process of bringing the Myanmar military to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to answer charges of genocide has started. From March 8 to 12, ICC prosecutors will visit refugee camps in Bangladesh, where hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya from Myanmar have been staying since 2017, the Bangladesh Chronicle reported on Wednesday.
However, this first visit by ICC prosecutors should be seen as “a preliminary examination” and not an investigation, the court’s Office of the Prosecutor in The Hague said in a statement.
The ICC determined last year that it could prosecute alleged crimes against the Rohingya, who fled to the Cox’s Bazar area of Bangladesh amid a Myanmar military crackdown that followed insurgent attacks on police and army outposts in Muslim-dominated townships in northern Rakhine state.
On September 6 last year, the ICC issued a statement saying that the “court may exercise jurisdiction over the alleged deportation of the Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh, as well as potentially other crimes.”
In its annual report, which was released in December, the ICC addressed the jurisdiction issue, which had been the main issue because Myanmar is not a signatory to the Rome Statute under which the court was established in 2002. However, “the chamber held that the court has jurisdiction over alleged crimes occurring in part of Bangladesh, provided such allegations are established to the required threshold.”
At the same time, Bangladesh’s government stated it would no longer be in a position to accommodate more people from Myanmar. In recent months, people from the ethnic Rakhine community and other mainly Buddhist communities have also fled to Bangladesh after fighting between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army.