• Wednesday, Nov 30, 2022
  • Last Update : 10:24 am

Justice for Rohingyas: International courts remain only hope

  • Published at 06:18 pm August 27th, 2021
rohingya-boat
File photo: An exhausted Rohingya refugee woman touches the shore after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border by boat through the Bay of Bengal in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh, September 11, 2017 Reuters

Legal proceedings ongoing at ICJ, ICC and an Argentine court over atrocity crimes committed against Rohingyas by Myanmar forces and others

Along with the desire to go back to their homes in Rakhine state, most of the Rohingyas want justice for the atrocity crimes committed against them by the Myanmar security forces and others.

As it is not possible for them to get justice in Myanmar, the ongoing international legal proceedings at different courts are the only hope for the Rohingyas, who have been facing brutalities for decades.

Though torture, institutional discrimination and oppression are nothing new for the Rohingyas, the magnitude of their suffering created a worldwide uproar after August 25, 2017. On this day, the Myanmar military, aided by local Buddhist mobs and goons from other ethnic groups, began a genocidal crackdown on Rohingyas in Rakhine state, killing thousands and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.

The then United Nations high commissioner for human rights described the Myanmar military campaign as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing. Later, many individuals and reports confirmed that the Myanmar military committed crimes against humanity, including genocide.

At present, legal proceedings are underway at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the highest in the world, International Criminal Court (ICC) and a federal court in Argentina.

On November 11, 2019, the Gambia, a West African nation, filed a case with the ICJ against Myanmar, alleging violations of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in connection with the Rohingyas, often described as one of the worst persecuted communities in the world.

The Gambia argued that there was compelling evidence that genocide in Rakhine had occurred, was occurring, and was likely to take place in the future, while Myanmar denied such accusations although it acknowledged use of disproportionate force in some instances during the military operations.

Following three-day hearings, the ICJ issued provisional measures on January 23, 2020, directing Myanmar to prevent all genocidal acts against Rohingya Muslims and to take steps to preserve evidence.

 The ICJ orders are binding on the states.

On November 14, 2019, an ICC pre-trial chamber authorised the prosecutor to proceed with an investigation for the alleged crimes against the Rohingyas within the ICC's jurisdiction. The authorisation was given at the request submitted on July 4, 2019 by the ICC prosecutor to open an investigation into alleged crimes.

The chamber concluded that the court might exercise jurisdiction over crimes when part of the criminal conduct takes place on the territory of a State Party. While Myanmar is not a State Party, Bangladesh ratified the ICC Rome statute in 2010. Upon review of the available information, the chamber accepted that there existed a reasonable basis to believe widespread and/or systematic acts of violence may have been committed that could qualify as the crimes against humanity of deportation across the Myanmar-Bangladesh border and persecution on grounds of ethnicity and/or religion against the Rohingya population.

In early June, 2020, a federal court in the South American country of Argentina decided to pursue a case against Myanmar in connection with the genocide and persecution against Rohingya community.

Following a petition from Burmese Rohingya Organization UK, the court undertook the case under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

Rohingya women living in camps in Cox’s Bazar virtually took part in a hearing of the case to describe the brutalities committed by the Myanmar military.

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