Bangladesh after failing to get any tangible outcome despite its relentless diplomatic effort to resolve the lingering Rohingya crisis is now trying to find new ways to pressure Myanmar.
One of the ways can be the IIIM option in the UN system which is being used for Syria to collect and preserve evidence for future criminal proceedings in any court, a senior government official told bdnews24.com.
On December 21, 2016, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 71/248, establishing the international, impartial and independent mechanism or IIIM to assist in the investigation and prosecution of persons responsible for the most serious crimes under the International Law committed in Syria since March 2011.
It is more commonly referred to as “the Mechanism”, or “IIIM”. The mechanism was established as the Security Council is divided on the Syria issue. The Security Council is also divided over Myanmar.
Some 700,000 members of the Rohingya minority had crossed the border into Bangladesh last August following a military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Saturday marks one year of the Rohingya exodus, one of the biggest humanitarian crises of the 21st century.
The UN has called the operation ‘ethnic cleansing’. Myanmar says it is a response to insurgent attacks launched by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army ‘terrorist group’.
Rohingyas are stateless as Myanmar denied their citizenship. Bangladesh has been giving them shelter for decades. But the exodus since August 2017 was so appalling that it drew massive international attention.
Bangladesh apart from bilateral engagements with Myanmar, results of which come as the signing of a deal to start repatriation, also took the issue to the global stage.
Unlike previous negotiations, Bangladesh this time is focusing on a ‘sustainable return’ so that once they return, they can live a normal life in their homes in Myanmar. So, Bangladesh has been insisting on ensuring Rohingyas ‘citizenship’ before their return and ‘accountability’ so that those responsible for the brutalities in the Rakhine State are brought to book.
The UN Security Council, which is divided on Myanmar, later sent, for the first time, a delegation to Bangladesh to hear their plight.
As a latest measure, Bangladesh responded to the International Criminal Court’s letter saying that the Hague-based court has the jurisdiction to try Myanmar for the atrocities committed to Rohingyas, despite the fact that the Southeast Asian country is not a party to the court.
The IIIM is neither a prosecutor’s office nor a court, but collects and analyses information and evidence of international crimes committed in Syria to assist criminal proceedings in national, regional or international courts or tribunals that have or may in the future have jurisdiction over these crimes.
“During the UN General Assembly in September, all heads of states will be there in New York and we want to establish such a mechanism so that Myanmar feels the pressure,” said the official asking not to be named.
The Mechanism’s mandate, as stated in paragraph 4 of the resolution 71/248, is “to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights violations and abuses and to prepare files in order to facilitate and expedite fair and independent criminal proceedings, in accordance with international law standards, in national, regional or international courts or tribunals that have or may in the future have jurisdiction over these crimes, in accordance with international law.”
By pursuing its mandate, the IIIM seeks to support accountability processes aimed at bringing about justice for the victims of serious international crimes committed in Syria since March 2011.
Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque, however, earlier told reporters on the anniversary that Bangladesh is still hopeful of the repatriation.
“Rohingyas will go back to their own country. The process is lengthy. But there’s no doubt that they will go there.”
Haque said the “positive” thing is that the international pressure on Myanmar has not lessened.
“Harvard University recently released a study report which is striking. The United States has imposed a broader embargo [on Myanmar military]. We hope that more strong reports will come out soon.”
“Overall pressure continues to remain there. Next month, the Unites States will be the chair of the Security Council, so they are taking preparations to revive the issue again. At the UN General Assembly in September, heads of state will discuss the issue in New York. So the pressure has been sustained even after a year,” Haque said earlier.