ICC pre-trial chamber to hear Rohingya issue June 20

International pressure on Myanmar is mounting afresh as it remained 'very slow' in creating conditions for the safe return of Rohingyas from Bangladesh. Though Bangladesh still 'remains committed' to settle the matter bilaterally, it responded to the International Criminal Court (ICC)'s request regarding the Rohingya situation, particularly about the territorial jurisdiction of the ICC.

"Myanmar is under pressure. International pressure is mounting on Myanmar in many ways. And Bangladesh's decision to respond to the ICC's request is a welcome development," Ali Riaz, a distinguished professor of Department of Politics and Government at the Illinois State University, USA, told Dhaka Courier.

Wishing to remain unnamed, a diplomat said the approach of depending only on bilateral mechanism to find Rohingya solution has not brought any visible outcome yet.

Bangladesh's decision to respond to the ICC request coincides with the signing of MoUs between UN agencies and the Myanmar government.

A diplomat in Dhaka said in 1993 when the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was established, few believed that suspects like Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leaders, would ever have to account for themselves.

They ended up being tried in The Hague and this shows that it pays to prepare for the day when criminal proceedings are possible, the diplomat said referring to a recent article on it.

Analysing the current situation another diplomat said time is quite right for history to repeat itself.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Ambassador to the Netherlands Sheikh Mohammed Belal, who came to Dhaka for consultations few days ago, handed over a copy of Bangladesh observations to the court based in The Hague on June 11, a Foreign Ministry official here told Dhaka Courier. The hearing of the issue will be held on June 20 at the pre-trial chamber of the ICC.

On June 6, UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, and UNDP, the UN Development Programme, signed in Nay Pyi Taw a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government of Myanmar.

This MoU is a first and necessary step to establish a framework for cooperation between the UN and the government aimed at creating conducive conditions for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation of refugees from Bangladesh and for helping to create improved and resilient livelihoods for all communities living in Rakhine State, the UNDP says.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, at the G7 outreach session in Canada, proposed a four-point specific action to resolve the ongoing Rohingya crisis, including persuading Myanmar to implement the bilateral agreements with Bangladesh for safe and sustainable return of Rohingyas.

She placed the four-point action seeking more support from the international community, especially from the G-7countries to find a solution to the problem.

One of the actions Bangladesh prefers is working towards adoption of resolution at the UN Security Council imposing appropriate and adequate sanctions against the responsible entities and taking action to ensure accountability and justice for the mass atrocity crimes or human rights violations or human rights violations committed against Rohingya.

The other steps are persuading Myanmar to implement the bilateral agreements with Bangladesh for the safe and sustainable return of the forcibly displaced Rohingyas and pursuing with Myanmar to implement the recommendations of Rakhine Advisory Commission immediately and unconditionally.

Bangladesh does not think the ongoing bilateral negotiations with Myanmar will not be hurt due to Bangladesh's reply to the ICC request.

"Bilateral discussions with Myanmar on safe and sustainable return of Rohingyas will remain unhurt," a senior Foreign Ministry official told Dhaka Courier.

There are more developments, including a statement by the national security adviser U Thaung Tun, that Myanmar is open to accepting all refugees, Myanmar State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi's meetings with military leaders, and high-level meetings between the Indian government and Myanmar in recent days.

"All these may provide an impression of a U-turn of the Myanmar government. It sounds like a new tune. But whether these are paving the road for refugee repatriation is an open question," Prof Ali Riaz said.

Diplomatic sources say there have been increasing efforts to put pressure on Myanmar by the international community although the potential threat of a veto by China or Russia has kept the UN Security Council paralysed, for the past months.

British envoy to the UNSC Karen Pierce recently indicated that if Myanmar fails to investigate the actions of its military, it will face the ICC referral.

Beside the potential investigation by the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the ICC, other avenues of punitive measures against Myanmar are also being explored.

The Human Rights Watch has said the United Nations Security Council should immediately refer to the situation in Myanmar, including the widespread and systematic abuses against ethnic Rohingya, to the ICC.

During the first week of May, senior diplomats from the 15-member Security Council visited refugee camps in Bangladesh to see first-hand the situation of the more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar military abuses since August 2017.

The diplomats pledged to take action on their return to New York. UK Ambassador Karen Pierce said all council members considered the Rohingya issue to be "one of the most significant human rights cases that we have ever faced in the last decade and that something needs to be done."

Earlier, Bangladesh, being one of the States Parties to the Rome Statute, responded to the request of the ICC on Rohingya issue as Bangladesh is seeking a "sustainable solution" to the crisis.

The Chamber invited the competent authorities of Bangladesh to submit written observations, either publicly or confidentially, on the three specific matters.

These are (i) the circumstances surrounding the presence of members of the Rohingya people from Myanmar on the territory of Bangladesh; (ii) the possibility of the Court's exercise of territorial jurisdiction over the alleged deportation of members of the Rohingya people from Myanmar into Bangladesh; and (iii) any other matter in connection with the prosecutor's request that, in the opinion of the competent authorities of Bangladesh, would assist the Chamber in its determination of this request.

"We've provided all the information they asked for and everything that we know from our experience," said State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam.

Terming Bangladesh a "responsive and responsible" State, he said, "Our actions are always guided by universal values and laws."

Dhaka opted for 'confidential' mode of submission to ICC

Bangladesh opted for 'confidential' mode of submission to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Rohingya issue which Bangladesh thinks as a testimony of her 'keenness to seek bilateral solution' to this problem.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, globally known as 'Mother of Humanity' for her courageous move and generous support to the victims of ethnic cleansing from Rakhine state of Myanmar, was left with no option but to act as per tenets of its history and spirit of humanity.

Bangladesh concurred with both the territorial jurisdiction as well as the claim of forcible deportation of Rohingyas as Bangladesh believes in 'establishing accountability for the atrocities' committed against the Rohingya people from Myanmar.

As a State Party to the ICC, Bangladesh is obliged to follow the court's requests and suggestions.

Bangladesh, a country born out of genocide, is bound to comply with a court as per aspiration of the people of Bangladesh, the source said wishing to remain unnamed.

"It's, therefore, anticipated that Bangladesh made this submission concurring with the main arguments put forward by the office of the Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of ICC," reads the content of the submission to the ICC.

Bangladesh conveyed the ICC that the enormity of this human catastrophe is so overwhelming, it's almost a moral and ethical obligation for the government of Bangladesh to oblige with the Court request.

"This is why Bangladesh concurred with the Prosecution's well-crafted arguments that over a million people have been displaced from Myanmar into Bangladesh through expulsion, deportation and through other coercive means," the document reads.

It has been brought to the attention of the Myanmar government that if they wish to see a lasting solution for Rohingya people, they should address the 'root causes' of their nationality problem at the earliest.

Shocking accounts of sexual violence against Rohingya women and children could not be discounted as they rightly constitute crimes against humanity, Bangladesh thinks.

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