ICC JURISDICTION OVER CRIMES AGAINST ROHINGYA MUSLIMS:
WHAT ROLE FOR THE UK GOVERNMENT AND THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY?
On 10 December 2018, Catherine West MP and Justice for Rohingya Minority (JFRM) hosted a cross-party meeting in Parliament, titled: ‘ICC Jurisdiction Over Crimes Against Rohingya Muslims”, to discuss ways in which the UK government and international community could come together to prosecute the perpetrators of genocide in Myanmar. Co-chaired by Catherine West MP and JFRM CEO Dr Abdullah Faliq, notable speakers including Ben Emmerson QC, Rushanara Ali MP, Baroness Sheehan and Sirazul Islam addressed the topic from different angles followed by an engaging discussion. MP and Shadow Foreign Minister Helen Goodman and Paul Scully, MP for Sutton and Cheam and Co-Chair of the APPG on Democracy in Burma, were not able to join the meeting but conveyed their support for this campaign.
The meeting concluded that the only way to effectively free the Rohingya from oppression and persecution in the long-term would be to deal the sources of genocide which is to legally prosecute the Myanmar authorities and military chiefs accountable for orchestrating such human rights abuses, opening a full blown investigation at the International Criminal Courts.
Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow and Co-Chair of the APPG on Democracy in Burma, stated that “short term handouts of aid are effective only for a short while and what is needed is a collective movement to secure the legal status of the Rohingya”, restoring their citizenship rights in Myanmar, ensuring those who are responsible, are individually brought to justice.
Having previously visited Myanmar, Ali stated that she saw “people living in apartheid conditions” and stated that “the UK’s previous parliamentary debate has made the Myanmar military take note of what is happening. Britain must lead the way; we cannot leave it to Bangladesh to deal with the justice dimension. Our government is working together with the French to build support in the UN… it is much stronger when we have coalitions working together.”
The legal case for prosecuting the Myanmar authorities is currently at a critical juncture, with the ICC accepting evidence in order to assess whether a formal investigation into the Myanmar authorities can be opened. The meeting agreed that the work carried out by bodies such as JFRM in pursuing an organised legal campaign is instrumental to the long-term success of securing justice for the Rohingya. Ben Emmerson QC, representing JFRM through McCue & Partners, a founder member of Matrix Chambers and the Appeal Chambers judge at the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia, said an “organised legal campaign is crucial in ensuring that those who suffered abuses are represented, making it easier for the courts to pinpoint which of the allegations have a basis for prosecution.” He also stated that immediate support for the JFRM campaign is critical as the ICC is currently “accepting evidence from groups to understand whether there are grounds to open an investigation and fully prosecute the Myanmar authorities in the international courts.” He highlighted how “there are certain corporates who profit from the depopulation of the Rohingya from Myanmar and further investigation into this needs to take place”. JFRM is actively investigating all factors and causes of human rights abuses in Myanmar, including corporate entities.
Emmerson further stated that “we need to maintain pressure to make sure there is a full-blown investigation; it would be a tragedy for the ICC if a formal investigation was not open. Many underestimate the power behind these ICC prosecutions, and right now we are at a critical crossroads. Organisations like JFRM are vital… JFRM is serious about pursuing accountability.”
Baroness Sheehan, Liberal Democrat International Development Spokesperson, stated that “NGOs can play a great role in securing justice for the Rohingya… JFRM is doing something great; it is seeking to gather evidence to hold people to account.” She added that “the crisis in Myanmar is a man-made crisis that is preventable; we have a moral duty act.”
Catherine West, MP for Hornsey & Wood Green and JFRM Patron, spoke out about how the media is a double-edged sword, “on the one hand journalists are able to report to Parliament the true conditions the Rohingya face in Myanmar, but on the other hand the Myanmar authorities are using social media to spread disinformation. The UK has a responsibility in ensuring that the truth is heard.”
Sirazul Islam, a Rohingya refugee who had spent his formative years in a refugee camp spoke of the terror he faced whilst growing up; “for 8 years I lived in an open prison. I didn’t have a normal childhood…” He pleaded that “We must work together; the Burmese authorities must be brought to Justice. Justice is being able to go back to my country and socialise in society and integrate with other Myanmar citizens.”
JFRM CEO Dr Abdullah Faliq concluded the meeting, saying: “we thank you all for attending this special meeting and especially our distinguished speakers, MPs from across the political spectrum, despite the rapidly changing situation in the House over the Brexit debate. As echoed by the speakers, the tragedy of the Rohingya is deeply disturbing and even enraging. JFRM is committed to the long-haul, to help the Rohingya to find lasting solutions to their plight by pursuing the peddlers of hate and genocide through the ICC route.”
JFRM appeals to all to support this strategically important campaign through your generous donations as we are at a critical stage now. Funds are needed to ensure that work leading up to this point is not wasted and an investigation into the human rights abuses committed by the Myanmar authorities is opened at the ICC. Please donate whatever you can by following this link:
Notes to editors:
- Established in late 2017, JFRM is an independent organisation, which comprises a diverse group of lawyers, jurists, academics, campaigners, professionals, and community leaders joining forces in a legal campaign for the prosecution of those responsible for crimes against humanity in Myanmar. JFRM is the trading name for Justice for the Rohingya, company registration no. 11168200
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