The International Criminal Court says it has authority to investigate Rohingya persecution claims.Judges at the International Criminal Court have ruled that the court has jurisdiction to investigate widespread allegations that Myanmar forces drove hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims from their homes.
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.
The court said that prosecutor Fatou Bensouda must take the jurisdiction ruling into account “as she continues with her preliminary examination concerning the crimes allegedly committed against the Rohingya people”.
It added that the probe, which aims to establish whether there is sufficient evidence to launch a full-blown investigation, “must be concluded within a reasonable time”.
Richard Dicker, international justice director for Human Rights Watch, said it is “a crucial step for accountability for crimes against the Rohingya and will rock a lot of boats.”
There have been widespread reports of atrocities committed against the Rohingya minority in Myanmar.
Last week, investigators working for the UN’s top human rights body said Myanmar military leaders should be prosecuted for genocide against Rohingya Muslims, taking the unusual step of identifying by name six of those it claims were behind systematic crimes targeting the ethnic minority.
Thursday’s ruling also said that the court can exercise jurisdiction over other crimes, “such as the crimes against humanity of persecution and/or other inhumane acts”.
Myanmar has declined to file a formal response to the court as it considers the jurisdiction issue.