Judges at the International Criminal Court have given Myanmar a deadline to respond to a prosecution request that they consider hearing a case on the alleged deportation of Bengalis to Bangladesh.
In a decision published on June 21, the judges asked Myanmar to reply by July 27 to the request made in April that the ICC should exercise jurisdiction over the alleged crimes.
About 700,000 mostly Bengali Muslims have fled largely Buddhist Myanmar to Bangladesh during military clearance operation in August 2017 that the United Nations has called ethnic cleansing.
"Considering that the crime of deportation is alleged to have commenced on the territory of Myanmar, the chamber deems it appropriate to seek observations from the competent authorities of Myanmar on the prosecutor's request," the decision said.
The world's first permanent war crimes court does not have automatic jurisdiction in Myanmar because it is not a member state. However, the prosecutor asked the court to look into the Bengali crisis and a possible prosecution through Bangladesh, which is a member.
Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has argued that, given the cross-border nature of the crime of deportation, a ruling in favor of ICC jurisdiction would be in line with established legal principles. However, she acknowledged uncertainty around the definition of the crime of deportation and limits of the court's jurisdiction.
The judges asked Myanmar to respond to the matter of jurisdiction and circumstances surrounding the crossing of the border by members of Bengalis.
With regard to this issue, Zaw Htay, Director General of the State Counsellor Office, replied to the questions of the journalists while he was explaining ministry’s performance in the second year term of ruling NLD party on May 23.
“The UN designates international contracts. These international contracts have an effect on member countries. If a country follows an international contract, it will go two steps—registration and signing. After this process then it will take effect. Not Myanmar is a member of ICC. Like Myanmar, the similar situation occurred in Syria and Kenya. Were such cases in Syria and Kenya submitted to the ICC? No, they weren’t. Actions weren’t taken against even member countries in this regard. Myanmar doesn’t accept such manner. Moreover, Myanmar is not a member country if the problem is solved in line with international agreements. For that reason, the ICC is unable to have an effect on Myanmar. Bangladesh will submit the case to the ICC as it is a member.
“If the Bangladesh submits the case to the ICC, three judges will sit there. They will decide if the ICC should handle the case or not. If accepted, they will form a committee. If the government accepts the case, the ICC will go on. Myanmar isn’t a member country signed the ICC. Member countries must sign and approve in the International Vienna Convention. If so, the agreement will take effect on member countries. Myanmar is neither a member country nor signs the agreement. Therefore, the ICC does not have the right to taking action against Myanmar. The ICC did not send such cases to other countries facing Refugee Crisis. The ICC has sent similar case to Myanmar as Bangladesh is a member country. We have never seen such case in the ICC’s exercising international rules and regulations. For that reason, Myanmar won’t totally accept,” Zaw Htay said.
Edited by Win Htut