Human Rights Groups Push for Myanmar’s Referral to ICC

Several human rights groups have recommended that the UN Security Council (UNSC) refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC). This comes amid the widespread and systematic abuse against the Rohingya, which has seen Rohingya Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh as a result of military violence.

Under international law, proven widespread and systematic abuse establishes a crime against humanity; this is the basis on which the human rights groups wish Myanmar to be investigated.

Approximately 671,000 ethic Rohingya have fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh; as senior diplomats of the UNSC would have seen first hand when they visited Bangladesh last week to explore the growing crisis and meet with various parliamentarians and government officials.

The United Kingdom’s UNSC ambassador, Karen Pierce, stated that all senior members regard the Rohingya refugee crisis as one of the most crucial human rights cases they have faced in the past decade.

Physicians for Human Rights (a medical and scientific organization committed to calling attention to mass atrocities and human rights violations) has also stated that justice for the Rohingyas is “not negotiable”.

The Court’s Role

Pursuant to the Rome Statue for the ICC, only where a state is either unwilling or unable to prosecute (or investigate) violations of international law will the court be permitted to act. A further issue would be that Myanmar is not a party to the ICC, therefore the UNSC intervention would be necessary to refer them to the court.

Last month Fatou Bensouda (the ICC’s chief prosecutor) requested that the court make a ruling on exercising jurisdiction over the expulsion of Myanmar’s ethnic Rohingya people to Bangladesh. Fortunately, Bangladesh is a party to the ICC.

A pragmatic approach that could be taken by the UNSC would be to refer Myanmar’s situation immediately to the ICC, without wasting time awaiting their court ruling on deportation. This court ruling would mean that other atrocities (such as rape and other crimes against humanity) would go unpunished. It is, ultimately, the responsibility of the wider international community to unite in their efforts to stop the growing crisis.

Asia, International Criminal Law

Phoebe Egoroff

Founder and of Jurist International, a website focusing on the latest developments in international human rights and criminal law.

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