Judges rule ICC has jurisdiction over alleged Muslim deportations


Myanmar's government said on Friday it "resolutely rejects" a ruling from the International Criminal Court (ICC) that said the body has jurisdiction over alleged deportations of Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh as a possible crime against humanity.

The court said that prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, in charge of the investigation, must take into account the jurisdiction ruling "as she continues with her preliminary examination concerning the crimes allegedly committed against the Rohingya people".

Richard Dicker, worldwide justice director for Human Rights Watch, said it is "a crucial step for accountability for crimes against the Rohingya and will rock a lot of boats".

Zaw Htay declined to comment on the case Friday.

Bangladesh is a signatory, however, and the judges said that the deportation of the Rohingya amounted to a cross-border crime, thereby giving the court the right to pursue the issue further.

A crackdown by Myanmar soldiers and police in response to militant attacks previous year drove about 700,000 Rohingya to flee western Myanmar for Bangladesh, according to United Nations agencies.

"Amnesty International has documented extensively how the military's crackdown also included murder, rape, torture, forced starvation, the targeted burning of Rohingya villages and the use of landmines", he added.

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ICC's chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had asked judges at the global criminal court to rule whether she could investigate the deportations as a "crime against humanity".

But across the border, Myanmar is outside its jurisdiction. Bensouda said it "is not completed until the bullet (fired in one state) strikes and kills the victim (standing in another state)".

The court says the preliminary probe, which aims to establish if there is sufficient evidence to launch a full-blown investigation, "must be concluded within a reasonable time".

But the road to a tribunal will be long and complex, with China likely try to thwart any prosecution of its ally at the world's only permanent war crimes court.

Myanmar has denied committing atrocities against the Rohingya, saying its military carried out justifiable actions against militants.

Journalists in Indonesia protested in front of the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta, demanding the reporters' release and freedom of the press.

Santiago said this ruling, however, is for now just on the jurisdiction to investigate around the alleged crime of deportation and we must be cautious in our optimism.