Friday, September 07, 2018

Justice for the Rohingya?

In 2017, Myanmar stepped up its campaign of persecution against the Rohingya and began a campaign of outright ethnic cleansing. Villages were burned, women raped, and there was widespread murder. An estimated 10,000 were killed and 690,000 forced to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh. A UN report has called the campaign genocide. And now, the International Criminal Court has decided that it can prosecute:

The international criminal court has ruled it can prosecute Myanmar for alleged crimes against humanity against the Rohingya people, an unprecedented decision that could expose the country’s politicians and military leaders to charges.

A pre-trial chamber at the court in The Hague said on Thursday that even though Myanmar was not a signatory to the court, its leaders could still be investigated for the crime of deportation, the forcible transfer of a population.

ICC prosecutors had mounted a novel argument that even though the allegedly coercive acts that forced the Rohingya to flee took place in Myanmar, the crime would not have been completed until the refugees entered Bangladesh, which is a party to the Rome statute that governs the court.

Chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda likened deportation to “a cross-border shooting”, arguing the crime “is not completed until the bullet (fired in one state) strikes and kills the victim (standing in another state)”.

The decision opens the doors for ICC prosecutors to apply for a full-blown investigation into Myanmar for deportation and other crimes against humanity, including genocide.

Hopefully this means that those responsible for this genocide will soon be facing justice in The Hague for at least some of their crimes. But deportation is only part of the crime here. Most of Myanmar's crimes against humanity have occurred on its own territory, and are thus outside the jurisdiction of the ICC. Investigating them would require a formal referral from the UN Security Council. The sooner the UNSC provides that referral, the better.