Gambia: ICC Prosecutor Authorised to Investigate Genocide in Myanmar/Bangaladesh

The Pretrial Chamber lll of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has authorized the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) pursuant to Article 15 of the Rome Statutes, to open investigations into the situation of Bangladesh and Myanmar. The decision was taken on the 14th of November 2019 following a request from the Office of the Prosecutor, to open an investigation on possible crimes that fall within the jurisdiction of the Court. Although Myanmar is not a state party to the Rome Statutes, Bangladesh has ratified this International Convention since 2010. Commenting on the decision of the Pretrial Chamber lll, Fatou Bensouda said the decision is a significant development in sending positive signals to the victims of atrocity in Myanmar and elsewhere.

"As a prosecuting Office, we hope that through our work we can bring justice to the victims, wherever our jurisdictional conditions are met," she said.

The Office of the Prosecutor is a prosecuting organ of the Court which conducts independent and impartial preliminary examinations and prosecutions of crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression. Since 2003, the Office has conducted series of investigations in countries like Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Darfur amongst others.

Meanwhile, the Government of the Gambia under the leadership of President Adama Barrow, has filed a suit against Myanmar before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) also known as the World Court. The Government of the Gambia believes that the Union Republic of Myanmar and Bangladesh, have violated the Genocide Convention.

According to information from the Global Justice Center (GJC), the Gambia's lawsuit under the Geneva Convention is the first and only State that made an effort in a Court to formally establish Myanmar's responsibility for genocide. However, after Myanmar began its so called horrific cleansing exercise targeting Muslims minority groups, there were States and other institutions that imposed sanctions against the Country but did not take the matter head on as international crimes.

Information from the Global Justice Center revealed that between six hundred thousand to one million Rohingya Muslims were forcibly displaced from Myanmar to Bangladesh. The country is said to have made systematic attack on the same group in 2010 and 2017, which drew worldwide attention and condemnation.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ICJ AND ICC:

ICJ/World Court is the UN's principal organ and performs two functions in settling disputes (contentious jurisdiction) and providing advisory opinions on questions of International Law to the UN's organs and agencies while the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigates and tries individuals for categories of crimes including genocide, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression. The Gambia is qualified under the ICJ rules to hold Myanmar responsible for genocide.

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