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Rohingya crisis: 41 citizens urge government to support ICC prosecutor’s call

  • Published at 11:05 pm May 27th, 2018
  • Last updated at 04:08 am May 28th, 2018
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File photo: A Rohingya family crossing into Bangladesh after violence flared up in Rakhine state of Myanmar in August last year Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Forty-one eminent citizens of Bangladesh have called upon the government to respond positively to a plea filed with International Criminal Court (ICC) by one of its prosecutors seeking a ruling on whether the court has any authority to hold hearings on the offences committed against the Rohingyas.

A statement signed by the citizens was handed over to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday, confirmed Shireen P Huq, a founding member of women’s rights organization Naripokkho and one of the signatories.

After Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda filed the petition on April 9, the ICC had formed a pre-trial chamber that on May 7 urged Bangladesh to explain whether the crimes committed by the Myanmar authorities against Rohingya Muslims since August last year fell within its jurisdiction.

“A number of us have urged the Bangladesh government to respond to the request from the ICC inviting Bangladesh’s observations with regard to jurisdiction for investigation into the mass ‘deportation’ of Rohingyas from Myanmar,” Shireen said.

“Bangladesh’s positive response is a critical step towards ensuring accountability for the perpetration of atrocities against the Rohingyas in Myanmar and to ultimately seek justice.”

Commending Bensouda’s petition, the statement also read: “We call on the government to respond [positively] to the invitation from ICC Pre-Trial Chamber to Bangladesh to submit by June 11 its observations on the question and to support the prosecutor’s request.

“We also urge the government to support the views of the ICC prosecutor that the court may assert jurisdiction over crimes committed by the Myanmar authorities… This will be an important…step in ensuring justice for victims of the crimes against humanity…in Myanmar.”

It further said: “We believe the government of Bangladesh should provide the court with all information in its possession about the circumstances surrounding the presence of the Rohingyas on its territory, as invited by the Pre-Trial Chamber.”

Bensouda in her petition argued that the ICC may exercise jurisdiction over the affair because an essential legal element of the crime of deportation, namely “crossing an international border,” occurred on the territory of Bangladesh. 

Dhaka is yet to respond to the ICC chamber’s request for its opinions.

Meanwhile, U Zaw Htay, director general of Myanmar’s Ministry of the State Counsellor’s Office, said they would reject any efforts to refer Myanmar to the ICC, of which it is not a member, over the conflicts in Rakhine state, according to a statement punished on the website of the country’s President’s Office.

“The United Nations has set a policy regarding the ICC, which says the court has jurisdiction only in its member countries. The Vienna Convention on International Treaties states that for a country to follow the 12 international agreements, it needs to first be registered and verified before it can become a member state,” he reasoned.

“Bangladesh is a member state of the ICC. The court asked for Bangladesh’s observations that will be reviewed by three ICC judges. This is their process… The ICC cannot take actions against non-member states. If they try to proceed with something that cannot be done, we will not accept it.”

The 41 citizens

Apart from Shireen, the 40 signatories include Transparency International Bangladesh Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman, Supreme Court lawyers Dr Shahdeen Malik, Sara Hossain, JyotirmoyBarua and Cynthia Farid, USA Illinois State University’s political science Prof Dr Ali Riaz, SHUJON – Citizens for Good Governance Secretary Dr Badiul Alam Majumdar, Brac University’s Centre for Peace and Justice Executive Director Manzoor Hasan, UBINIG (Policy Research for Development Alternative) Executive Director Farida Akhter, ActionAid Bangladesh Country Director Farah Kabir, DRIK Founder Dr Shahidul Alam, social activist Khushi Kabir, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad President Ayesha Khanum, Shadhona Artistic Director Lubna Marium, women’s rights activist and columnist Dr Maleka Begum, rights defenders Dr Hameeda Hossain, Muktasree Chakma Sathi, Reza Lenin, Maheen Sultan and Md Nur Khan Liton, economist Dr Shapan Adnan, Nagorik Uddyog’s Chief Executive Zakir Hossain, Visual Advocacy through Photography Campaigner Mahmud Rahman, Gonoshasthaya Kendra CEO Dr Manzur Kadir Ahmed, COAST Executive Director Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, rights and cultural activist Asif Munier, Dhaka University’s (DU) sociology Prof Dr Samina Lutfa, physician and health rights activist Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, Central Women’s University Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Perween Hasan, the University of Oregon’s anthropology Prof Dr Lamia Karim, paediatrician Dr Naila Z Khan, Institute of Informatics and Development’s CEO Syeed Ahamed, University Press Limited’s Operations and Business Development Director Mahrukh Mohiuddin, filmmaker Razia Quadir, London Middlesex University’s PhD student Manjida Ahamed and Geneva’s Graduate Institute PhD student Quazi Omar Foysal, and DU law professors Dr Shahnaz Huda, Dr Ridwanul Hoque, Dr Asif Nazrul, and Dr Sumaiya Khair.