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Myanmar: ICC has no jurisdiction to probe Rohingya crisis

Aung San Suu Kyi

Naypyidaw, April 14 (UITV/IANS) - Myanmar has said that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has no jurisdiction over the country and hence cannot try it over allegations that hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas were deported to neighbouring Bangladesh.

In a statement, the Ministry of the Office of the State Counsellor -- headed by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi -- argued that Myanmar was not a signatory to the Rome Statute and hence it does not come under ICC jurisdiction, Efe news reported on Friday.

On Monday, ICC's chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had filed a petition where she contended that the Rohingyas were "intentionally deported across the international border into Bangladesh".

The Rohingya exodus began on August 25 when the Myanmar Army launched an offensive in the country's Rakhine region following a series of attacks on government posts by Rohingya rebels.

The offensive, which reportedly included loot, rapes and razing down of Rohingya villages, led the exodus of some 690,000 members of the predominantly Muslim ethnic group to neighbouring Bangladesh, where they are still living in overcrowded refugee camps.

The statement also refuted Bensouda's claim that Myanmar had deported the Rohingyas and added that it has been collaborating with Bangladeshi authorities to repatriate them.

On Tuesday, Bensouda had cited UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein who had described the Rohingya crisis as "ethnic cleansing".

The prosecutor's office had collected information from various UN agencies, media and non-profits like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, among others, to document the alleged abuses suffered by the minority, whom Myanmar considers Bangladeshi migrants and denies citizenship rights.

The Rohingyas "have suffered years of persecution within Myanmar", Bensouda said in the statement, stressing that the situation deteriorated significantly since last August.

The Myanmar government and the Army had rejected all claims of human rights abuses in the offensive, although on Wednesday a Myanmar court had sentenced seven soldiers to 10 years in prison for their role in the extrajudicial killings of 10 Rohingyas in September.