By Md. Kamruzzaman
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) - A judges’ panel of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is expected to issue an order after October on whether to initiate an investigation into crimes against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar's Rakhine State.
“In three months, the judges will receive information from the prosecution while [Rohingya] victims will also be allowed to speak about their sufferings [through prosecution team] and other ways,” ICC’s Deputy Prosecutor James Kirkpatrick Stewart said in a press conference in Bangladesh's capital Dhaka on Thursday.
On July 4, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda made a plea to begin an investigation into the crimes reported to have been committed by the army against the Muslim minority.
A three-member chamber judges’ panel is examining the merit of Bensouda’s application before authorizing the investigation, according to the ICC.
Responding to a query on why the ICC has yet to start investigation though almost two years have already passed since the violation began in Rakhine State, Stewart said: “Delay is frustrating, but will be worth it,” adding that they are required to go through a set of procedures in accordance with the Rome Statute.
He said: “Violence has allegedly taken place in Myanmar. But the Rohingya [people] were deported to Bangladesh, a state which is a signatory to the Rome Statute. This allows the ICC to look into the case.”
Myanmar is not a state party to the ICC.
On whether the ICC prosecution team has any plan to visit Rakhine for a more authentic investigation, Stewart said: "We have already approached the government of Myanmar to allow us access to Rakhine. But they have not engaged with us."
He added that ICC prosecution team is always ready to visit Rakhine and trying to take permission from Myanmar.
About Bensouda's assessment on crimes against Rohingya, Stewart said: "Following her analysis, she determined that there is a reasonable basis to believe that at least 700,000 Rohingya people were deported from Myanmar to Bangladesh through a range of coercive acts and that great suffering or serious injury has been inflicted on the Rohingya through violating their right of return to their state of origin."
“There is also a reasonable basis to believe that Rohingya people have suffered persecution as a result of these alleged crimes [...] which left the Rohingya no option but to flee Myanmar,” he added.
- Persecuted people
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, extending the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).
More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience."
Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.