The International Criminal Court said Thursday it had jurisdiction to probe the forced exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar as a possible crime against humanity.
The ICC’s “pre-trial chamber… decided by majority the court may exercise jurisdiction over the alleged deportations of the Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh,” the Hague-based tribunal said in a statement.
The Myanmar government on Thursday declined to comment on the announcement when contacted by AFP.
Some 700,000 people from the stateless Muslim minority have fled Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state into neighbouring Bangladesh since August last year to escape a bloody military crackdown.
The violence has left a trail of torched villages in its wake, amid allegations of murder and rape at the hands of troops and vigilantes.
In an unprecedented move in April, the ICC’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda asked judges at the world’s only permanent war crimes court to rule whether she can investigate the deportations as a crime against humanity.
It is a legally complicated request, as Myanmar is not a signatory and member of the Rome Statute which underpins the ICC.
Bangladesh,however, is a signatory and Bensouda argued that should give her office jurisdiction to investigate the plight of the Rohingya.
She likened deportation to “a cross-border shooting”, arguing the crime “is not completed until the bullet (fired in one state) strikes and kills the victim (standing in another state)”.