February 5, 2020

ICC officially opens investigation into atrocities against Rohingya

Prothum Alo------ 

A delegation of ICC prosecutor`s office holds a media conference in Dhaka on 4 February 2020. Photo: Prothom Alo

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has officially lanunched an investigation into atrocities committed against the Rohingya in the Rakhine state of Myanmar.

Phakiso Mochochoko, director of the Department of Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division of the ICC prosecutor's office, on Monday told newsmen that the justice would be delivered for Rohingya victims though the Hague-based court process would take years to conclude their investigation.

Though the process the ICC is going to be a rigorous and lengthy process of proving the issue of crime against humanity, the senior official of the court hoped justice will be delivered for the minority Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar.

“It may take a year, it may take two years or it may take another three years but ultimately justice will be done. If these crimes are investigated and prosecuted, hopefully anybody will think twice before committing this type of crime in future,” Phakiso Mochochoko said.

Responding to the issue of Myanmar's non-cooperation with the process of ICC since the country is not a party to the Rome Statute, he said, "This is one of the challenges but this can be surmounted."

He told newsmen that Myanmar’s role of non-cooperation was “unfortunate”.

BSS adds: Phakiso Mochochoko said their investigation findings were expected to expose to justice the individual perpetrator of violence, ranging from an ordinary soldier to general or anybody else, for their crimes committed in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, the Rohingyas’ homeland.

The ICC prosecutor’s office, known as OPT as well, announcement came two weeks after the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the UN backed world’s top court, delivered its verdict after a detailed hearing ordering Myanmar to take “all measurers within its power” to prevent genocide.

All the judges of the 17-member ICJ panel unanimously observed that the Rohingyas still remained exposed to “serious risk” of genocide.

ICJ is mandated to settle issues among states while the ICC is empowered to try individuals for international crimes and hand them down as high as life term imprisonment.

Ten Rohingya Muslim men with their hands bound kneel as members of the Myanmar security forces stand guard in Inn Din village. Reuters file photo
 Mochochoko said that the investigators were receiving all out cooperation from the Bangladesh government.

“We have engaged with the government of Bangladesh and we have received undertaking that we will get cooperation throughout the process (investigation) from Bangladesh,” he said.

But, Mochochoko virtually accused Myanmar of non-cooperation saying “unfortunately” the ICC investigators were not getting any cooperation or assistance from Naypyidaw despite their continued and intense efforts.

“We appeal to the government of Myanmar to engage with us, to work with us, if we all want justice for the victims of the crimes,” he added.

Mochochoko is currently leading an OTP delegation to Bangladesh in line with the mandate it obtained under the Rome Statute, concerning the Rohingya situation in Bangladesh and Myanmar.

In November 2019, ICC judges authorised the request by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to investigate alleged crimes against humanity committed against the Rohingya people in Myanmar.

“This is the first such visit (in Bangladesh) by prosecutor office since the opening of a formal investigation,” Mochochoko said.

But he said the OPT’s “absolute fundamental element for the investigations is confidentiality” as it was “crucial not just for the integrity of the investigation, but also for the security of all involved including the victims and witnesses.”

Earlier in a statement on 22 November, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the ICC judges feared that Myanmar may have “state policy” to attack its minority Rohingya population in Rakhine.

“The judges accepted that there is a reasonable basis to believe that - there may have been a state (Myanmar) policy to attack the Rohingya population,” she said in the statement.

Bensouda at that time also said the ICC judges in their initial observation said many sources indicated “heavy involvement of several Myanmar government forces and other state agents” in crimes committed against Rohingyas.

Bangladesh currently extends makeshift refuge to over 1.1 million forcefully displaced Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar. Most of them arrived since Myanmar launched a military crackdown on 25 August in 2017, which the UN called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” and dubbed as “genocide” by other rights groups.

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