Statement of the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court as delivered at the press conference in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We welcome you to today's press conference and thank you for your interest in the activities of the International Criminal Court (the "ICC" or the "Court").
My name is Phakiso Mochochoko, and I am the Director of Jurisdiction, Complementary and Cooperation Division of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor. This is not the first delegation that ICC Prosecutor, Mrs Fatou Bensouda, has sent to Bangladesh to explain the Court's judicial process to the wider public. You will recall that my colleague, Deputy Prosecutor, Mr James Stewart, was here in July last year, but this is the first such visit by her Office since the opening of a formal investigation.
In November 2019, ICC Judges granted Prosecutor Bensouda's request to open a full investigation into alleged atrocity crimes committed against the Rohingya within the jurisdiction of the Court (see also the Prosecutor's statement following the Judges' authorisation).
This authorisation to open an investigation is a significant development for the pursuit of justice and the establishment of the truth, in particular for the victims of alleged crimes of this situation. Since the Court announced this news, we recognise that you and the general public may have new or further questions. We are here to explain and answer your questions and to provide key information about what to expect.
So, what will happen next? Investigators from the Office of the Prosecutor will now carefully and thoroughly seek to uncover the truth about what happened to the Rohingya people in Myanmar which brought them here to Bangladesh.
What exactly will the investigation look at?
This investigation is quite particular, because of the specific situation where Myanmar is not a party to the Court, but Bangladesh is. Nevertheless, the Court's Judges have authorised the investigation with broad parameters as specified in their decision. The Prosecutor may investigate any crimes which fall within ICC jurisdiction and committed, at least in part, on the territory of Bangladesh (or any other State Party or State formally accepting the jurisdiction of the ICC), insofar as the crimes are sufficiently linked to the situation, and irrespective of the nationality of the perpetrators.
In this context, the investigation may cover alleged crimes committed since June 2010, when Bangladesh joined the ICC, and includes any future crimes, as long as they are sufficiently linked to the situation.
For the exclusive purpose of assessing whether to authorise an investigation, the Court's Pre-Trial Judges accepted that there is a reasonable basis to believe that:
- since at least October 2016, widespread and/or systematic acts of violence may have been committed against the Rohingya people;
- that these coercive acts could qualify as the crimes against humanity of deportation and persecution of grounds of ethnicity and/or religion;
- that there may have been a state policy to attack the Rohingya population; and
- that members of the Myanmar armed forces, jointly with other Myanmar security forces and with some participation of local civilians, may have committed these crimes.
The Prosecutor will also keep under review allegations that acts of violence have also been committed in Myanmar by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army armed group, as well as the question of whether they may amount to crimes under the Rome Statute – the Court's founding treaty – and meet ICC's territorial jurisdictional requirements.
One absolutely fundamental element for the investigations is confidentiality. Without it, the Office of the Prosecutor will not be able to do its job properly. Therefore, I would like to stress that, even though our presence in Bangladesh follows the green light given by the Judges to proceed with the investigation, this delegation is not yet here to investigate, but to provide information to the Rohingya people, the host community and the wider public.
This is what we do with all major developments in the situations we deal with. However, the details, methods and progress of the investigation will not be made public during the entire investigation phase which is now underway. Developments in the situation will be made public by my Office and the Court at the appropriate time.
Additionally, we will not be commenting on rumours concerning specific aspects of the investigation. Indeed, we would ask you not to fuel speculation and rumours in your reporting. Confidentiality is crucial not just for the integrity of the investigation, but also for the security of all involved, including the victims and witnesses.
All our investigations are independent, impartial, and objective, and that we conduct them in strict conformity with the applicable law and evidentiary standards.
The investigation will take the time needed to uncover the truth of what happened. Justice is an important expectation, but it cannot do everything for the Rohingya people. It cannot bring back loved ones lost to the violence. It will not directly affect how they live in the camps. It will not have an impact on their current situation. But what the Prosecutor of the ICC can do through this investigation is to collect the evidence and present what happened to the Court's judges in The Hague, The Netherlands. Together, our aim is to make sure that these stories are known, and not forgotten, and that after our careful investigation, those whom our evidence shows bear the greatest responsibility for the crimes, face justice. This is our mandate and objective.
To conclude, on behalf of Prosecutor Bensouda and her entire Office, I would like to express our sincere gratitude to the Bangladesh authorities for the crucial support provided during the delegation's visit, in particular, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. During the course of this past week, we have met and engaged with key stakeholders, both in the capital as well as in the Cox's Bazar, from different government ministries and institutions. We have also had positive interactions with civil society organisations, international organisations, as well as the diplomatic community in Bangladesh. These engagements have been productive, and we are grateful for the opportunity.
As we undertake our independent investigations, we look forward to continued support and collaboration.
The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC conducts independent and impartial preliminary examinations, investigations and prosecutions of the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. Since 2003, the Office has been conducting investigations in multiple situations within the ICC's jurisdiction, namely in Uganda; the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Darfur, Sudan; the Central African Republic (two distinct situations); Kenya; Libya; Côte d'Ivoire; Mali; Georgia and Burundi. The Office is also currently conducting preliminary examinations relating to the situations in Colombia; Guinea; Iraq/UK; the Philippines; Nigeria; Ukraine; and Venezuela. For further details on "preliminary examinations" and "situations and cases" before the Court, click here, and here.
Contact: [email protected]