Bangladesh will have to issue a reply by 11 June regarding investigations and trial by the International Criminal Court (ICC) regarding the Myanmar’s crimes against humanity. But media reports indicate that Bangladesh may not respond to ICC, instead putting its hope on a bilateral solution to the matter. In fact, Myanmar has reportedly cautioned Bangladesh that if it proceeds in that direction, the present process of repatriation initiated ‘bilaterally’ will be stalled. Bangladesh now must take a decision in its national interests.
Bangladesh must certainly take the sensitivities of its close neighbour into consideration. But from the outset we have said, whether the repatriation is delayed or accelerated, the issues of repatriation and crime must be seen separately. No state question of nationality of its people to forcefully drive them out and resort to brutal violence. So Bangladesh should on principle support ICC or any institution that wants to conduct an independent investigation into these atrocities. Experts have pointed out that this does not depend on Bangladesh’s approval. ICC prosecutors are not holding up everything for Bangladesh’s nod and will certain proceed ahead.
We believe that China, Russia and India, as Bangladesh’s allies, can suggest a bilateral solution to the matter, but they cannot say that they do not support an independent investigation into the crimes. Bangladesh and its allies must also keep in mind, if the Security Council is not eager, ICC’s way forward will not be easy. Again, even if not decision is reached concerning ICC’s jurisdiction in this regard, the important of investigations and trial will not be diminished. The international community cannot shirk its responsibility.
There is no evidence that Myanmar has moved away from its policy of hatred towards Rohingyas. Myanmar has threatened to hold up repatriation if Bangladesh agrees to ICC investigations, but this is a meaningless threat. They are prevaricating over taking back even 1000 of the Rohingyas on the initial list of 8000.And then again there is the question of voluntary repatriation. Also, if the ICC investigations begin, it won’t be surprising if Myanmar also takes up a strategy to hurriedly beginning the repatriation.
Bangladesh must realise that its support for the ICC trial of crimes against humanity is a part of its foreign policy. There are issues where negotiations and diplomacy should not be given priority.
If Bangladesh remains silent on this issue, it may have to pay in terms of global diplomacy in the future. Then even if Myanmar refuses to take back its people, Bangladesh will not be able to call for any sanctions against the country. The government’s policymakers and foreign ministry must take all these factors into consideration.