Rohingya crisis: Myanmar faces global legal pressure

Raheed Ejaz . Dhaka | Update:

 Ten Rohingya Muslim men with their hands bound kneel as members of the Myanmar security forces stand guard in Inn Din village. Reuters file photo

Myanmar for the first time faces global legal pressure as cases are filed in the international court and investigations are underway, officials have said. 

The officials said it is clear that Myanmar cannot avoid accountability for committing genocide as the International Criminal Court (ICC) has decided to open investigations into the allegations against Myanmar.

Gambia recently filed a case at the United Nations' top court accusing Myanmar of committing genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
International rights organisations last week filed a case with a court in Argentina on charges of threatening Rohingya people against Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and several army officers including army commander-in-chief general Min Aung Hlaing.

The political leadership of Myanmar is put into question in the international arena as an initiative has been taken for the first time to bring Suu Kyi to book.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, diplomatic sources in the Netherlands said the International Court of Justice (ICJ) called for a hearing within a month into the case filed against Myanmar.

Gambia and Myanmar will participate in the hearing and counter hearing between 10 and 12 December.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, foreign ministry senior officials said the officials of the court are going to start working in Bangladesh after permission for investigation is given at the pre-tribunal court of ICC.

ICC last week signed a deal with Bangladesh to clear the procedural issues. ICC will establish offices in Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar to independently carry out the investigation.

According to diplomatic and international affairs analysts, a global legal process has begun against Myanmar as Gambia on behalf of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has filed a case against Myanmar on charges of Rohingya genocide. ICC has already given a permission to carry out an investigation and a case has been filed with a court of Argentina against Suu Kyi.

The analysts said an opportunity has emerged ahead of Bangladesh to resolve the Rohingya crisis as Myanmar is set to face new global pressure. Bangladesh has to continue efforts to solve the crisis.

Foreign secretary Shahidul Haque on Tuesday told Prothom Alo that it was essential to ensure accountability of Myanmar for sustainable solution to Rohingya crisis and Bangladesh was pressing the matter from the beginning.

He also said it is now clear that the steps taken by ICJ and ICC prove Myanmar committed crimes against humanity in Rakhine state.
Myanmar faces global legal pressure to resolve the Rohingya crisis, the foreign secretary added.

Shahidul Haque said, “Myanmar was not made accountable when Rohingyas were forced to flee in 1978 and 1992. Rohingyas were forced to enter Bangladesh again although they had gone back to Rakhine state.”

Foreign ministry officials said a UN independent investigation committee formed for investigating crimes committed against Rohingya visited Cox’ Bazar last week. The committee was formed through a special proposal at human rights council of UN in October 2018.

The team met the foreign secretary. The committee started working in August this year.

Former Bangladesh ambassador to US, Humayun Kabir, said it is essential to ensure accountability for committing genocide in Rakhine state. The verdict of the trial will go against Myanmar as the crimes occurred there.

He said Myanmar is tackling the Rohingya crisis politically and diplomatically till now. But the country is to take the liability if crimes against it are proved through legal process. It is a fresh opportunity for Bangladesh.

Humayun Kabir said nobody has any scope against the decision which will come through the legal process. Although China, Russia, India and Japan backed Myanmar, they will not be able to bypass the legal process.

Diplomatic sources in Dhaka and Yangon said Japan and India are going to change their positions over Rohingya crisis.

They pointed out the meeting between Myanmar state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and Japan prime minister Shinzo Abe. 

In the meeting held at Naypyitaw, administrative capital of Myanmar on 21 October, Shinzo Abe said it is essential to create a congenial atmosphere in Rakhine to repatriate Rohingyas from Bangladesh. During the Bangkok summit of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the first week of this month, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi held a meeting with Myanmar state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. Modi stressed quick and safe repatriation of Rohingya from Bangladesh.

Director at the centre for genocide studies of Dhaka University, Imtiaz Ahmed, said it is clear that a legal process against Myanmar has started at the global level after cases are filed at ICJ, ICC and Argentine court.

He said these steps have created a pressure on Myanmar.

Citing the role of Gambia, Bangladesh can tell western countries including European Union, Canada to take steps against Myanmar, he added.
An opportunity emerges for Bangladesh to tell India and Japan to review their positions as these countries did not support the legal process against Myanmar.

Bangladesh also can approach China and Russia who voted in favour of Myanmar, he suggested.

Imtiaz Ahmed, also a professor at International relations Department, Dhaka University, said Bangladesh has to make continuous efforts until Rohingya crisis is solved.

Alleging an attack on a security post on 25 August 2017, Myanmar army unleashed inhuman violence on the Muslim minority in Rakhine state of Myanmar.

At least 700,000 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh within a few months fleeing killing, rape and torture in Myanmar. The United Nations have termed the violence as genocide.

*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam. 

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