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

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.


Kabul begins freeing Taliban

Newly freed Taliban prisoners walk at Pul-e-Charkhi prison, in Kabul, Afghanistan August 13, 2020. Picture taken August 13, 2020. (REUTERS)
Updated 15 August 2020

Kabul begins freeing Taliban

  • Release of final 400 inmates was approved by traditional Afghan grand assembly

KABUL: After months of delay, Afghanistan’s government has started releasing the last 400 Taliban inmates in its custody, clearing the way for long-awaited peace talks, officials confirmed on Friday.

Eighty of the 400 were set free on Thursday and, according to the government, more will be freed in the coming days. The release was a condition to begin intra-Afghan negotiations to end 19 years of conflict in the war-torn country. The talks, already delayed twice, are expected to take place in Qatar once the release process is complete.
“The release was to speed up efforts for direct talks and a lasting, nationwide cease-fire,” the Afghan National Security Council said in a statement accompanied by video footage showing former Taliban inmates calling on insurgent leaders and the government to engage in peace talks.
The prisoner release follows an agreement signed by the US and the Taliban in Qatar in February that stipulated the exchange of prisoners between President Ashraf Ghani’s government and the militants, who have gained ground in recent years.
The process, involving 5,000 Taliban detainees held by Kabul and 1,000 security forces imprisoned by the militants, was slated to begin in early March and should have been followed by an intra-Afghan dialogue.
Ghani, initially resistant to the idea of freeing the Taliban inmates, began to release them under US pressure. Some 4,600 Taliban inmates were freed over the few past months, but Ghani refused to free the remaining 400, arguing they were behind major deadly attacks and that setting them free was outside his authority.
Faced by mounting pressure, after Eid Al-Adha holidays two weeks ago, the president vowed to summon a traditional grand assembly, the Loya Jirga, to help him decide if the remaining Taliban inmates should be freed or not.

FASTFACT

Footage showing men in uniforms mutilating the bodies of purported Taliban members went viral on social media this week, raising concerns that violence between security forces and the militants may impede the peace process despite the prisoner release.

Last week, the assembly approved the release, which is now underway and expected to be followed by the peace talks, in accordance with the US-Taliban deal.
The process, however, coincides with a spike in violence in the country and mutual accusations of an increase in assaults by the Taliban and Afghan government forces.
On Thursday, the Defense Ministry said it was probing a video circulating on social media showing men in army uniforms mutilating the bodies of purported Taliban fighters.
The UN requested that the incident be investigated. It remains unclear when and where it took place.
The Taliban, in a statement, said the bodies of their fighters were mutilated in the Arghandab district of the Zabul province.
Concerns are rising that similar acts of violence will further delay the peace process.
“Let us hope that this video does not become part of revenge-taking between the two sides and affect the process of peace. It is really unfortunate,” analyst Shafiq Haqpal told Arab News.
“As the violence continues, we see more brutal and shocking tactics from the sides and examples of revenge-taking, and that is very worrying and impacts any trust in a peace process,” Shaharzad Akbar, the chief of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission, said in a Twitter post on Thursday.
“It is on the leadership of the two sides to have clear messages to their fighters to avoid war crimes and actions that further the instinct for revenge that will make the reconciliation that should come out of a peace process difficult,” she added.

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