NAYPYITAW — The government will not respond to a request that the International Criminal Court (ICC) consider opening a case over the alleged deportation of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh, government spokesman U Zaw Htay said.
“The ICC has nothing to do with Myanmar. Whatever [steps toward] prosecution the ICC has made, Myanmar has no reason to respond,” U Zaw Htay told The Irrawaddy on Friday.
The President’s Office called the ICC’s demand a deliberate attempt to increase international attention and pressure on the Myanmar government. It said the ICC’s demand is not in line with international law, rules, regulations or procedures.
In a decision published on Thursday, the ICC asked Myanmar to respond by July 27 to a request made in April that the ICC exercise jurisdiction over the alleged crimes. The ICC asked Myanmar to submit its views on the court’s jurisdiction and the circumstances surrounding the movement of Rohingya across the border into Bangladesh.
“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 ICC said.
Around 700,000 people, mostly Rohingya, have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh since a military counterinsurgency operation in August 2017 that the United Nations has called ethnic cleansing.
The 1998 Rome Statute establishing the ICC was signed and ratified by 123 member states. The statute establishes the court’s functions, jurisdictions and structure.
The ICC does not have automatic jurisdiction in Myanmar because it is not a member state. However, prosecution could be possible through Bangladesh, which is a member.
Myanmar signed a bilateral agreement in November providing for the repatriation of Rohingya from Bangladesh. The process has stalled, however, with officials on both sides citing a lack of preparations.
On June 6, the UNHRC and UNDP signed a memorandum of understanding with Myanmar to establish a framework for cooperation to create conducive conditions for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation of refugees from Bangladesh and for helping to create improved and resilient livelihoods for all communities living in Rakhine State.
The government also announced plans to form a three-member investigation commission, including an international member. The Lower House of the Union Parliament approved establishing the commission over opposition from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and the Arakan National Party (ANP).
U Pe Than, a central executive member of the ANP and a lawmaker representing Myebon Township in the Lower House, said the ICC’s intervention will only worsen the problem.
“It is the Bengali organizations that triggered the problem. The accusations that security personnel created the problem are unreasonable,” he said.
Some lawmakers from the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) told The Irrawaddy that the Myanmar government has no reason to respond to any demands from international agencies including the ICC.
“The United States has resigned from the UNHRC because of its accusations. Even a country like the US, which has championed human rights, has resigned from it because of its prejudice. This explains everything,” U Zaw Htay said.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.