4 August 2020, Rohingya victims formally requested Pre-Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to order the Court’s Registry to assess the feasibility of holding court proceedings close to the affected community in Cox’s Bazar District, Bangladesh, rather than in The Hague.
The request was made pursuant to provisions of the ICC’s Rome Statute and Rules of Procedure and Evidence, which allow the ICC to decide to sit in a location outside the The Hague if it considers that it would be “in the interests of justice” to do so.
The victims filing this request join others in voicing concerns over the perceived “distant justice” delivered by the ICC. Though the Rome Statute includes innovative avenues for victim participation, the ICC has faced criticism for doing its work and holding its trials far from victims. Through their lawyers, a group of victims has already approached the ICC Registry to request action on the establishment of a Field Office in Bangladesh in order to increase the accessibility of the Court. Today’s request seeks an assessment of the feasibility of holding any eventual hearings closer to the victims and thus closing the gap between the ICC in The Hague and the victims in Bangladesh.
The victims making this submission are 10 individuals from Tula Toli, represented by Megan Hirst; 68 victims from eight civil society groups from northern Rakhine State, represented by Kate Gibson, being the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH), Rohingya Women Empowerment and Advocacy Network (RWEAN), Rohingya Refugee Committee (RRC), Rohingya Women for Justice and Peace (RWJP), Voice of Rohingya (VOR), Rohingya Youth for Legal Action (RYLA), Bangladesh Rohingya Student Union (BRSU) and Rohingya Peace Innovation Unity (RPIU); and 14 victims constituting a representative sample of a larger group of 570 individuals (including the members of two civil society groups, Shanti Mohila and a group of male survivor advocates) from across northern Rakhine State, represented by Peter Haynes QC.
An ICC Registry report on information and outreach issued on 7 July 2020 reported “massive confusion” within the Rohingya community in Cox’s Bazar District in relation to the different mechanisms and courts currently addressing the atrocities committed against them. The Registry reported that “the overwhelming majority of people have very little information and understanding, if any, of these various justice initiatives and, importantly, their different mandates and functions.”1 Closing the gap between The Hague and Cox’s Bazar would be an important step toward addressing this confusion among the very people for whom the accountability mechanisms seek justice.
The victims’ request can be found at https://www.icc-cpi.int/Pages/record.aspx?docNo=ICC-01/19-34
For further information, please contact Megan Hirst (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Kate Gibson
(Victims Advocates International, email@example.com).
1 Registry’s First Report on Information and Outreach Activities, ICC-01/19-33-Red, 7 July 2020, para. 14.