Myanmar rejects ICC decision over Rohingya crisis

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FILE PHOTO: Ten Rohingya Muslim men with their hands bound kneel in Inn Din village September 1, 2017. (REUTERS)
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Smoke is seen on the Myanmar border as Rohingya refugees walk on the shore after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border by boat through the Bay of Bengal, in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh September 11, 2017. (REUTERS)
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In this file photo taken on September 30, 2017 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 taken on October 16, 2017 Rohingya refugees walk through a shallow canal after crossing the Naf River as they flee violence in Myanmar to reach Bangladesh in Palongkhali near Ukhia on October 16, 2017. (AFP)
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Reuters journalists pose in the newsroom in Brasilia, Brazil, to show solidarity for Reuters journalists Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, who are imprisoned in Myanmar, September 6, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 September 2018
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Myanmar rejects ICC decision over Rohingya crisis

  • The decision opens up the possibility of crimes against Rohingya people being prosecuted at the Hague-based court, even though Myanmar is not a member of the court
  • Investigators working for the UN's top human rights body said that Myanmar military leaders should be prosecuted for genocide against Rohingya Muslims

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar: Myanmar on Friday “resolutely” rejected a ruling by the International Criminal Court empowering the tribunal to probe alleged crimes against the Rohingya even though the Southeast Asian nation is not a member of it.
In an unprecedented ruling on Thursday the ICC said it had jurisdiction over the crisis because of the cross-border nature of the alleged “deportations” of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh.
But in a stinging response Myanmar’s government said the decision was “of dubious legal merit,” according to a statement released by the president’s office late Friday, adding the country was “under no obligation” to respect the court ruling.
“The decision was the result of manifest bad faith, procedural irregularities and general lack of transparency,” the statement said, adding the country “resolutely rejects” the court ruling.
Myanmar has come under intense global pressure in recent weeks over its crackdown on the Rohingya, a group it denies citizenship to.
The ICC upped the ante on Thursday ruling that it had the power to investigate the forced deportations, even though Myanmar has not signed the statute underpinning the tribunal.
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.
Its ruling means that the ICC’s chief prosecutor can now open a preliminary investigation that could lead to a wider probe and eventually a trial.
Last week a damning UN report called for military chief Min Aung Hlaing and other top generals to be prosecuted for “genocide,” which was swiftly followed by Facebook pulling down the profile pages of several military top brass.
Besieged by criticism from the outside, Myanmar has denied abuses but has barred journalists and diplomats from independently visiting Rakhine state — the epicenter of the crackdown — except on short, military-chaperoned trips.
The ICC ruling followed international outrage triggered by the sentencing of two Reuters journalists — both Myanmar nationals — on Monday to seven years in jail under a draconian state secrets act.
Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, had been investigating the extrajudicial killing of Rohingya villagers when they were arrested in December last year.
Rights groups decried the case as a sham trial in a country where press freedom is shrinking.


Priyanka standoff ends with visit to victims’ families

In this handout photo taken and released by the All India Congress Committee (AICC) Communication Department on July 19, 2019, Indian politician Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (2L) meets Sonbhadra massacre victims at the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) Trauma Centre in Varanasi. (AFP)
Updated 48 min 43 sec ago
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Priyanka standoff ends with visit to victims’ families

  • Priyanka Gandhi’s protest continued throughout Friday night while she demanded the right to visit the victims’ families

NEW DELHI: A political standoff over detained Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi ended on Saturday after she was allowed to meet relatives of 10 people killed in a caste clash in the eastern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
The Congress general secretary and sister of outgoing party president Rahul Gandhi was detained in Mirzapur on Friday while traveling to Sonbhadra to visit family members of 10 people shot and killed in a land dispute a day earlier.
The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Uttar Pradesh, led by Yogi Adityanath, detained Gandhi for violating the peace and stopped her from traveling further. The Congress leader then began a sit-in protest with her supporters at the Mirzapur guest house where she was held.
Her protest continued throughout Friday night while she demanded the right to visit the victims’ families. Television images showed Gandhi sitting in the dark after power and water supplies in the guest house were allegedly cut off by the local administration.
Her presence in the area, which also falls in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency in Varanasi, galvanized Congress workers who staged protests across the state.
Early on Saturday, relatives of some of the victims visited the guest house to meet the 47-year-old leader of the Gandhi-Nehru family, India’s pre-eminent political dynasty.
“My objective has been served as I have met the victims of the shooting,” said Gandhi before calling off her protest.
“The responsibility for the Sonbhadra massacre lies with the Yogi government,” she said.
Gandhi told her supporters, “I will be back,” before flying to New Delhi.
The BJP has accused the Congress leader of playing politics over the shootings.
“Congress has a history of playing politics over dead bodies,” said Swatantra Dev Singh, BJP president in Uttar Pradesh.
“The drama should stop. That is what I will say to Priyanka. All the accused have been arrested, and the officials responsible have been suspended,” he said.
The fatal shootings in Sonbhadra, 800 km southeast of New Delhi, drew mainstream media attention only when the Congress leader arrived in the state.
Observers say that the killing of 10 socially marginalized and landless tribes people by members of the dominant caste has highlighted the fragile caste situation in India’s most populous state.
The people of Gond tribe have been working the disputed land for generations. According to reports, the village head wanted tribes people to vacate the farm land. This led to conflict, and on Friday more than 200 armed men attacked the helpless villagers, killing 10 and injuring several others.
Gandhi, who entered politics only a few months before the general elections in May this year, seized the opportunity to connect with the people.
For the BJP, Uttar Pradesh is the jewel in the crown. The state gave the party 62 of its 303 parliamentary seats, and it is determined to maintain its political grip.
Political analysts say that Gandhi is determined to revive the Congress party in Uttar Pradesh by 2022 when the state goes to the polls.
“Priyanka Gandhi handled the Sonbhadra incident in a mature way, exposing the ham-fisted attitude of the Yogi government,” said Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi-based analyst and author.
“She also managed to expose the BJP’s class bias  and how the ruling party is protecting the interests of  dominant caste in the state,” said Mukhopadhyay.
“This incident gives the party a chance to go back to the people immediately after the huge loss in the elections,” Mukhopadhyay told Arab News.
Lucknow-based political analyst Ram Dutt Tripathi said that Gandhi has “shown her courage as a political leader willing to fight administrative injustice.”
“Her detention was illegal and the Congress has high hopes that she can lead the revival of the party,” said Tripathi.
“It is unfortunate that the state Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has not visited relatives of the victims so far and is putting restrictions on political opponents who want to stand with them,” he said.