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ICC to probe Myanmar over Rohingya

September 19, 2018

The International Criminal Court has launched a preliminary investigation into Myanmar's alleged crimes against Rohingya Muslims. A UN team has called for top generals to be prosecuted for genocide.

Rohingya refugees carrying their belongings
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/B. Armangue

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has launched a preliminary probe into the mass deportation of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Bangladesh.

The Hague-based court's preliminary examination will gather more evidence before deciding whether to launch a full investigation.

Read more: Will Myanmar generals face ICC justice?

Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement and video on Tuesday that she would examine reports of "alleged coercive acts having resulted in the forced displacement of the Rohingya people, including deprivation of fundamental rights, killing, sexual violence, enforced disappearance, destruction and looting." 

Myanmar's military has been accused of a brutal crackdown on Rohingya in Rakhine state that has sent more than 700,000 people fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh since August 2017.

The decision to conduct a preliminary examination comes two weeks after judges at the court gave Bensouda permission to investigate Myanmar even though it is not a party to the Rome Statute, which established the ICC. Judges ruled Myanmar could be investigated because the case involves a border crossing from one state not an adherent to the court, Myanmar, to one that is, Bangladesh.

'Total disregard for civilian life': UN

Bensouda's announcement came as UN investigators released a report reiterating earlier accusations that Myanmar's military may be responsible for "genocide" and other crimes against the stateless Rohingya.

"It is hard to fathom the level of brutality of Tatmadaw operations, its total disregard for civilian life," Marzuki Darusman, the head of the UN fact-finding mission, told the UN Human Rights Council, referring to the nation's military.

Read more: Myanmar military top brass involved in Rohingya atrocities: Amnesty International

Darusman provided horrible details of massacres, looting and arson of villages, rape and torture allegedly committed by Myanmar security forces in Rakhine state.

The UN investigators said the military's response to Rohingya insurgents who raided a border post last year has been "consistently and grossly disproportionate to actual security threats."

A single structure is left standing in a torched Rohingya village
An aerial view from September 2017 shows a burned Rohingya village near Maungdaw, in northern Rakhine stateImage: Reuters/S. Z. Tun

Myanmar has called the report "one-sided" and "flawed."

Myanmar recently emerged from nearly a half-century of complete military rule with democratic elections that saw Aung San Suu Kyi become the nominal leader.

The international reputation of the Nobel Peace Prize winner has been tarnished over her failure to condemn the military, which still maintains a tight grip on politics, the economy and security.

The UN team said there could be no real democratic transition in Myanmar unless the military steps away from politics and the economy.

cw/cmk (AFP, AP, dpa)

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