Judges rule ICC has jurisdiction over Rohingya deportations

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In this file photo, a Rohingya refugee carries an old man in an area near no man’s land on the Bangladesh side of the border with Myanmar after crossing the Naf River. (AFP)
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In this file photo, a Bangladeshi man helps Rohingya Muslim refugees to disembark from a boat on the Bangladeshi shoreline of the Naf river after crossing the border from Myanmar in Teknaf. (AFP)
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In this file photo, a Rohingya refugee woman walks with a child in her lap in Balukhali refugee camp in the Bangladeshi district of Ukhia. (AFP)
Updated 06 September 2018
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Judges rule ICC has jurisdiction over Rohingya deportations

THE HAGUE: The International Criminal Court said Thursday it had jurisdiction to probe the forced deportation of Rohingya Muslims by Myanmar’s military as a possible crime against humanity.
Some 700,000 people from the stateless Muslim minority have fled Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state into neighboring Bangladesh since August last year to escape a bloody military crackdown.
The ICC’s “pre-trial chamber... decided by majority the court may exercise jurisdiction over the alleged deportations of the Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh,” the Hague-based tribunal said in a statement.
The Myanmar government on Thursday declined to comment on the announcement when contacted by AFP.
The move comes days after UN investigators called for an international investigation and prosecution of Myanmar’s army chief and five other top military commanders for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Rohingya.
The violence has left a trail of torched villages in its wake, amid allegations of murder and rape at the hands of troops and vigilantes.
In an unprecedented move in April, the ICC’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda asked judges to rule whether she can investigate the deportations as a crime against humanity.
It is a legally complicated request, as Myanmar is not a signatory and member of the Rome Statute which underpins the ICC.
The Southeast Asian nation voiced “serious concern” over the prosecutor’s move, saying that the ICC’s charter in fact did not state that it had jurisdiction to investigate a country that had not signed up to the Rome Statute that governs the court.
Bangladesh, however, is a signatory and the judges said that because the deportations involve a cross-border crime, that gives the court jurisdiction to investigate the plight of the Rohingya.
Bensouda had 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).”


UN gives Myanmar aid cut warning over Rohingya camp closures

Updated 1 min 48 sec ago
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UN gives Myanmar aid cut warning over Rohingya camp closures

  • Myanmar has closed several camps holding around 9,000 Rohingya
  • They have not been allowed to return to their former homes and remain dependent on handouts

YANGON: The UN has warned it will pare back aid to thousands of Rohingya Muslims left destitute as Myanmar’s government closes camps in Rakhine state, over fears its continued support “risks entrenching segregation.”
Aid agencies are facing an increasingly sharp dilemma in the region as they balance relief for desperate communities with leverage over the government.
The majority of Myanmar’s Rohingya were driven into Bangladesh by a 2017 army crackdown, but around 400,000 remain inside conflict-battered Rakhine.
Those include nearly 130,000 held since 2012 in squalid camps, currently supported by UN agencies and humanitarian groups.
As part of its strategy to address the crisis, Myanmar has closed several camps holding around 9,000 Rohingya.
But they have not been allowed to return to their former homes and remain dependent on handouts. Instead, they are being settled in new accommodation close to the former camps.
That has sparked fears aid agencies are effectively being used to prop-up a policy that fails to address the fundamental needs of the Rohingya, including housing, work, food and security.
The camp closure plan “risks entrenching segregation,” UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar Knut Ostby wrote to the government in a leaked letter, dated 6 June and seen by AFP.
The letter, also written on behalf of aid groups, warned support “beyond life-saving assistance” at the closed sites would in future be linked to “tangible” progress made on “the fundamental issue of freedom of movement.”
“Life-saving” support includes food, health and water, but site planning, shelter construction and education facilities could be phased out, aid agency sources told AFP.
The UN has faced criticism for a slow response to violence against the Rohingya, which escalated after 2012 riots between Muslim Rohingyas and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.
A UN report released Monday admitted “systemic failures” in its handling of the build-up to the Rohingya crisis.
Limited access to Rakhine’s camps makes independent reporting on conditions difficult.
But AFP has reviewed recent interviews conducted in five camps by an NGO requesting anonymity to protect its work.
“If I build a house, it can be seized arbitrarily,” one Rohingya man said.
“I have no right to the land and I can also be arrested at any time.”
An aid worker called the remaining 23 sites in Rakhine little more than “concentration camps.”
On condition of anonymity, she spoke of the “complicity” humanitarian staff feel for perpetuating the segregation.
Amnesty International has described Rakhine as an “apartheid state.”
All aid must be “heavily conditioned,” researcher Laura Haigh said, warning donors that building infrastructure could make them complicit in crimes against humanity.
The government defended the camp closures, telling AFP it would continue working with the UN and NGOs on the issue.
Any former camp resident holding a National Verification Card (NVC) will be able to “move freely within their township” and access “education, health facilities and livelihood activities,” the social welfare ministry said.
Most Rohingya refuse to apply for the card believing they should already be treated as full citizens.
Those interviewed said the few to have caved had no more rights than anyone else.
They were also forced to designate themselves as “Bengali,” a term implying they are from Bangladesh.
“They are just trying to dominate us and make us illegal through different ways,” one Rohingya man said.