On 4 July 2019, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court ("ICC" or “Court” and “OTP”) requested authorisation from Pre-Trial Chamber III to initiate an investigation into crimes within the Court’s jurisdiction in which at least one element occurred on the territory of the People's Republic of Bangladesh – a State Party to the Rome Statute – and within the context of the 2016 and 2017 waves of violence in Rakhine State on the territory of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, as well as any other crimes which are sufficiently linked to these events" in the period since 9 October 2016 and continuing ("Situation in Bangladesh/Myanmar").
On 14 November 2019, the ICC Judges granted the OTP request to start the investigation in the Situation in Bangladesh/Myanmar. In reaching this Decision, the Judges also took into account the victims’ representations introduced on behalf of more than half a million Rohingya, who all supported the opening of the investigation.
Scope of the investigation
According to this Decision authorizing the investigation of 14 November 2019, the OTP can conduct investigations in relation to any crime, including any future crime, as long as: 1) the ICC has the powers to deal with such a crime; 2) the crime is allegedly committed at least in part on the territory of Bangladesh, or on the territory of any other States Parties, or States which would accept the jurisdiction of the Court under article 12(3) of the Statute; 3) the crime is sufficiently linked to the situation; and 4) the crime was allegedly committed on or after 1 June 2010, the date of entry into force of the Rome Statute for Bangladesh, or, if the crime was committed at least in part on the territory of other States Parties, after the date of entry into force of the Statute for those States Parties.
Victims’ participatory rights and communication with the Court
The ICC is the first permanent international criminal court which envisages an active role for victims in judicial proceedings. Victims can address the Court already during an investigation by the Prosecutor, in terms of their rights to participate in potential future judicial proceedings, and to receive reparations in case of a conviction.
At the current investigation stage, victims can communicate with the Court in a number of ways:
- Any individual, group or State can send information to the Office of the Prosecutor regarding any alleged crimes in the Bangladesh/Myanmar Situation falling under the jurisdiction of the Court. Persons with such information, including affected communities of the situation, can communicate to the Office of the Prosecutor any relevant information for the purposes of the investigation on the following dedicated portal.
- Rohingya victims of deportation or other crimes allegedly committed at least in part on the territory of Bangladesh, or on the territory of any other country which is member of the ICC sufficiently linked to the Bangladesh/Myanmar situation may also reach out to the Court with a view to being recognized as victims for the purposes of participation in potential future criminal proceedings against one or more suspects.
For more information relating to these rights before the ICC, victims can contact the Victims Participation and Reparations Section ("VPRS") - the section within the ICC Registry responsible for assisting victims in the process of applying for participation in judicial proceedings, and reparations in case of a conviction, at [email protected].
Relevant application forms for victims to participate in potential future proceedings as above can be found on the ICC’s general victim page under the heading ‘Participation’ (underneath the case-specific blue boxes), alongside relevant guidelines. Relevant links are provided hereunder for ease of reference. Currently, all relevant documentation is accessible in English; versions in the relevant situation-related languages will follow soon.
Please note that before filling in a victim application form, it is advised that you contact the VPRS so that you can be provided with information and advice as to what participation in ICC proceedings generally entails, and what this means at the current stage of the process as well as potential future stages. In addition, the VPRS provides training and advice as to how to fill in the form correctly (see also the written Guidelines above), which is very important in order for victims' expectations to be met with adequate Registry advice. Please note that any forms received at the investigation stage are generally not yet transmitted to the Pre-Trial Chamber absent any judicial proceedings relating to one or more cases.
Victims’ safety and security
Please note that the security of victims is crucial. It is important to take preventive measures such as avoiding mentioning their involvement with the ICC to others/publicly. It is also important to avoid anything that could expose victims and put them or other people at risk, e.g. talking to the media, posting on social media, etc. about their contacts with the ICC.
GENERAL INFORMATION ON THE ICC
The Court’s Structure
The Court is composed of four organs: (i) the Presidency; (ii) Chambers (Appeals Division, Trial Division, Pre-Trial Division); (iii) the Office of the Prosecutor; and (iv) the Registry. The Office of the Prosecutor acts independently as a separate organ. The Registry is composed of many sections, including the Victims Participation and Reparation Section, the Office of Public Counsel for victims and the Victims and Witnesses Unit.
The Court’s Jurisdiction
The general mission of the ICC is to investigate and, where warranted, prosecute individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression. The Court is participating in a global fight to end impunity, and through international criminal justice, the ICC aims to hold those responsible accountable for their crimes and to help prevent these crimes from happening again.
The ICC does not prosecute States, Governments or political parties. It can only investigate and prosecute natural persons of 18 years of age or above. Its mandate is to investigate and, where warranted, prosecute individuals for their alleged individual criminal responsibility for mass crimes which fall under the ICC jurisdiction.
The Principle of Complementarity
The principle of complementarity is one of the main pillars for the Court’s operation. If a State which has jurisdiction over the situation/case investigates, prosecutes and tries the same person for substantially the same conduct, then the ICC shall defer to the domestic judicial authorities, provided that the State is not unwilling and/or unable to genuinely carry out the proceedings.
The Court does not have police or executive forces who implement the Court’s decisions and orders (such as a warrant of arrest). The ICC is dependent on the States Parties to cooperate fully with the Court. The Court may also invite any State not party to the Rome Statute to provide assistance to the Court.
For further general information on the structure and functioning of the Court, as well as on the crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC please click here.