Deputy ICC Prosecutor James Stewart made the following statement on behalf of Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda during a visit to Bangladesh. Excerpts:
‘We are here to engage with the Government and other relevant stakeholders including in affected areas, to explain and answer questions on the ICC process, and where we are currently in the judicial proceedings.
My presence here follows the Prosecutor’s recent request, on July 4, 2019, to the Judges of the ICC to authorise the opening of an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity committed against the Rohingya people from Myanmar. In accordance with the rules laid out in the treaty of the ICC, the Judges will consider Prosecutor Bensouda’s request and will decide whether to grant the authorisation. Their decision has not yet been made, and so I have to stress that our purpose here in Bangladesh today is not to investigate or collect evidence.
The ICC was established to deal with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide committed after July 1, 2002, and the crime of aggression, after 17 July 2018, on the territory of a member state of the treaty of the ICC – what we call a State Party – or by nationals of a State Party. We are a court of last resort, however, and can only act, where these crimes are not being investigated and prosecuted by the national authorities.
It is important to note that Myanmar is not a State Party to the ICC, but Bangladesh is a State Party, so any potential investigation could only focus on crimes allegedly committed in part on the territory of Bangladesh.
Prosecutor Bensouda’s request to the ICC Judges came at the conclusion of her “preliminary examination” of allegations about crimes that were reported to us from a number of sources.
Following her analysis, she determined that there is a reasonable basis to believe that at least 700,000 Rohingya people were deported from Myanmar to Bangladesh through a range of coercive acts and that great suffering or serious injury has been inflicted on the Rohingya through violating their right of return to their state of origin. In addition, there is a reasonable basis to believe that the Rohingya people have suffered persecution as a result of these alleged crimes. Investigating deportation and the other alleged crimes would mean, of course, taking a close look at the alleged violence which left the Rohingya no option but to flee Myanmar.
Our mandate is purely legal. The ICC, and the Office of the Prosecutor have no political role to play. The ICC is a permanent, independent judicial institution. If we are authorised to do an investigation, we will work in strict conformity with the law, which in our case is the legal framework of the treaty of the ICC. We will do so independently, impartially and objectively; these are principles which guide all of our decisions and actions.
We do not – and cannot – participate in national political debates or considerations of relations between states. Our mandate is completely separate.
As a prosecuting office, we aim to bring justice to victims wherever our jurisdiction is met, by establishing the truth of what happened and holding accountable those individuals most responsible for the crimes. In this sense, effective, timely and tangible cooperation from all stakeholders is key to an efficient judicial process at all stages and to our ability to succeed.
Allow me to also stress that while trials are accessible to the public at the ICC, investigations are not. As a matter of strict policy, the Office does not share details of ongoing investigations, or comment on possible arrest warrants. Such speculation is unhelpful. Confidentiality during any investigation is essential to protect its integrity, and to protect the security of all involved, and we trust you understand.
One final point: once the Judges of the Court make a determination on the request of the Prosecutor, the Court, according to its normal practice, will inform the public of that outcome through a press release.