ICC – Situation of Bangladesh/Myanmar

On 14 November 2019,  the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) was authorised to investigate alleged crimes related to the forced deportation of an estimated 600,000 to one million Rohingya from Rakhine State in Myanmar across the border into Bangladesh.

In June 2020, the Human Rights Council called for close and timely cooperation between the Mechanism and the ICC (resolution 43/26). The Mechanism has been engaging regularly with the Office of the Prosecutor and sharing information and evidence.

What is the ICC?

The ICC is a permanent criminal court which investigates and tries individuals charged with serious international crimes including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

How does the ICC decide what to investigate?

In general terms, any State Party to the Rome Statute (the agreement establishing the ICC) can request the Prosecutor to carry out an investigation. A State which is not party to the Rome Statute can also accept the jurisdiction of the ICC with respect to crimes committed in its territory or by one of its nationals and request the Prosecutor to carry out an investigation. The United Nations Security Council may also refer a situation to the ICC for further investigation.

The Prosecutor can also open an investigation on his/her own initiative when crimes may have been committed by nationals of a State Party or of a State which has accepted the jurisdiction of the ICC, or when the crimes were committed in the territory of such a State. In this case, the Prosecutor must obtain permission from the Pre-Trial Chamber.

Who authorised the ICC Prosecutor to investigate the Bangladesh/Myanmar situation?

In November 2019, Pre-Trial Chamber III authorized the Prosecutor to open an investigation into Bangladesh/Myanmar following the Prosecutor’s request. While Myanmar is not a State Party, Bangladesh ratified the Rome Statute in 2010. The judges determined that the ICC has jurisdiction over the situation because part of the alleged criminal conduct took place on the territory of Bangladesh.

The judges accepted that a reasonable basis exists to believe that crimes against humanity of deportation across the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, and of persecution, on grounds of ethnicity and/or religion against the Rohingya population, may have been committed. They authorised the Prosecutor to investigate these crimes, and to investigate any other crimes if they are within the ICC’s jurisdiction and are sufficiently linked to the situation described in the Prosecutor’s request.