International Criminal Court judges have approved a request from prosecutors to open an investigation into crimes against humanity committed against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority.
More than 730,000 Rohingya have fled across the border into Bangladesh since a crackdown by Myanmar’s military in 2017, which UN investigators have said was carried out with “genocidal intent”.
Judges at the ICC granted prosecutors the permission to examine acts that could qualify as crimes against humanity, such as deportation, and persecution on the grounds of ethnicity and/or religion.
However, the accusation of genocide, while within the jurisdiction of the court, will not be investigated by the ICC, a body that is not supported by Myanmar.
Chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda will now begin the formal investigation and said she will conduct an independent and impartial investigation. She had asked judges for permission to investigate in July.
“This is a significant development, sending a positive signal to the victims of atrocity crimes in Myanmar and elsewhere … My investigation will seek to uncover the truth,” she said.
A spokesperson for the Rohingya community in Britain welcomed the decision while a human rights expert said it was a “significant move”.
“It is the first time that Rohingya victims will actually get to potentially see individuals responsible for those brutal crimes held to account,” Param-Preet Singh, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch, told The Independent.