THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Hundreds of Rohingya victims have appealed to judges at the International Criminal Court to grant prosecutors jurisdiction to investigate deportations from Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh, an ICC official said on Thursday.
The world’s first permanent war crimes court does not have automatic jurisdiction in Myanmar because it is not a member state, but the prosecutor in April asked the court to look into the Rohingya crisis and a possible prosecution through Bangladesh, which is a member.
Since August, nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled a military crackdown in mainly Buddhist Myanmar, the United Nations and aid agencies have said.
Refugees have reported killings, rape and arson on a large scale; some countries compared the situation to the widespread ethnic cleansing seen during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
“We are of Rohingya identity and we want justice,” the group said in a letter, demanding that the court take action. “We have been raped, tortured and killed.”
It was signed with fingerprints of the victims, mostly illiterate women from rural communities.
A submission on behalf of 400 victims was handed to the court on Wednesday, backing the earlier request from the ICC prosecutor for jurisdiction, spokesman Fadi El Abdallah said.
The families asked the court to examine allegations not only of deportation but persecution and what they called genocide by the Myanmar military against the Muslim Rohingya minority.
Myanmar has rejected the efforts to establish international jurisdiction over the matter.
Lawyers representing a group called Shanti Molhila, or Peace Women, said the court should hear the case because some of the crimes were committed across the border in Bangladesh.
In her request to judges, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda argued that the ICC had jurisdiction over the deportations because of the cross-border nature of the offence.
Editing by Anthony Deutsch and Mark Heinrich