Renewed commitment expressed to ensure justice for Rohingyas
The office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is committed to ensuring justice for the Rohingyas by holding the perpetrators to account, the head of the delegation of The Hague-based court said yesterday upon completion of its first ever visit to Bangladesh.
“Once the Prosecutor (Fatou Bensouda) gets the go ahead from the judges to investigate, the Prosecutor, her office and staff, are committed to ensuring that this process leads to its natural end. She is bound to ensure the accountability for those who are responsible. That is the commitment of her, her staff, and that’s what we are going to be striving for,” Phakiso Mochochoko, Director of Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division, of the ICC told a press conference at a local hotel.
However, he stressed that an investigation would only take place if it is approved by the judges based on a legal assessment which is now ongoing.
“We are in a very early stage of the process,” he added, emphasizing that the ICC activities are not about Myanmar, but rather about the criminal responsibilities of the individuals who are responsible for the atrocities against Rohingyas.
The team arrived in Bangladesh on March 5 and will leave Tuesday.
Mochochoko said that the purpose of his team’s visit was to conduct an operational assessment, engage with relevant stakeholders, explain the preliminary examination process, and travel to the refugee camps with a view to informing the Office's ongoing assessment.
The delegation also exchanged views with representatives of various agencies of the United Nations and members of the diplomatic community, as well as academics from the University of Dhaka's Centre for Genocide Studies, he said.
In Cox's Bazar, the ICC official said the team visited the refugee camps and met with government authorities, humanitarian agencies, and NGOs, as well as a number of victim representatives.
“The delegation listened carefully to their views and concerns,” he added.
“The independent and impartial preliminary examination of the situation in Bangladesh/Myanmar is on-going and will follow its course. A preliminary examination is not an investigation, but an assessment of the Rome Statute criteria to decide whether an investigation into the situation at hand is warranted,” said Mochochoko.
“The field visit enabled the Office, however, to hold productive meetings in Bangladesh, and to fully appreciate the sheer magnitude and severity of this human tragedy,” he said.
The head of the delegation said operational assessment is different from legal assessment that deals with jurisdiction, gravity of the situation, as well as all criteria in terms of justice.
Once the legal assessment is done, fulfilling the criteria, the prosecutor will then ask judges to carry on with the investigation, he said.
Asked how long it might take to complete the legal assessment, Mochochoko said: “It will take us as long as necessary, but not necessarily long. I wish I could tell you how long it will take.”
He further said that Myanmar not being party to the ICC would not hinder their activities, although it would offer a ‘bit of challenge’ to the court due to expected non-cooperation from Naypyitaw.
To another question, he said the ICC was engaged in many similar situations like the Rohingya crisis and there were results.
The ICC will hold those accountable who were engaged in committing atrocities, who ordered, even those who knew, that such atrocities were going to take place.
Asked if the Prosecutor would visit Bangladesh, the delegation head said that it is standard practice for the Prosecutor to visit ‘situation countries,’ but would not provide any time frame for such a visit.