The international criminal court’s chief prosecutor announced on Tuesday that she is launching a preliminary investigation into deportations of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar into Bangladesh.
Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that she has begun an inquiry formally known as a preliminary examination to establish if there is enough evidence to merit a full-blown investigation.
Bensouda said she will look at reports of “a number of alleged coercive acts having resulted in the forced displacement of the Rohingya people, including deprivation of fundamental rights, killing, sexual violence, enforced disappearance, destruction and looting.”
Bensouda’s announcement came less than two weeks after judges at the court gave her authorization to investigate the deportations despite Myanmar not being a member state of the court. Judges said in their landmark ruling that because part of the alleged crime of deportation happened on the territory of Bangladesh — which is a member of the court — Bensouda has jurisdiction. Judges urged her to conclude her preliminary examination “within a reasonable time.”
The ICC is a court of last resort, which steps in only when national authorities are unable or unwilling to prosecute alleged crimes. Bensouda said prosecutors “will be engaging with the national authorities concerned with a view to discussing and assessing any relevant investigation and prosecution at the national level.”