The international criminal court has approved a request from prosecutors to investigate crimes against humanity towards Myanmar’s Rohingya minority who were systematically driven across the border to Bangladesh.
More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since a 2017 crackdown by Myanmar’s military, which UN investigators say was carried out with “genocidal intent”. Buddhist-majority Myanmar has denied accusations of genocide.
In a statement, the ICC said prosecutors were granted permission to examine acts that could qualify as widespread or systematic crimes against the Rohingya, including deportation, a crime against humanity, and persecution on grounds of ethnicity and/or religion.
ICC judges also gave the chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, wider authority to look into crimes beyond the scope of her request and any future crimes within the court’s jurisdiction.
Although Myanmar is not a member of the ICC, the world’s permanent war crimes court has jurisdiction to examine alleged crimes that partially took place across the border in Bangladesh, which ratified the court’s statute in 2010.
In July, Bensouda requested court permission to examine crimes in Bangladesh and two waves of violence in Rakhine state on the territory of Myanmar.
Citing estimates that between 600,000 and 1 million Rohingyas were forcibly displaced, “the chamber hereby authorises the commencement of an investigation into the situation in Bangladesh/Myanmar”, the ICC statement said.
“There exists a reasonable basis to believe widespread and/or systematic acts of violence may have been committed that could qualify as the crimes against humanity of deportation across the Myanmar-Bangladesh border,” it said.