Saturday, June 22, 2024

UK-based group urges ICC to probe forcible removal of Rohingya refugees from India to Bangladesh

Rohingya children in India’s Haryana refugee camp. Photo: Irfan Hadi K

Guernica 37 Chambers, an international not-for-profit organization, has filed a submission to the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) at the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the forcible removal of Rohingya refugees from India to Bangladesh.

Guernica 37 Chambers, in its submission to the OTP on Wednesday, argued that Indian officials are deporting Rohingyas to Bangladesh which would fall under the ICC’s mandate to investigate. The ICC is currently investigating potential crimes against humanity committed against Rohingyas from October 2016 onwards when around 750,000 victims were driven out of Myanmar’s Rakhine state by the Burmese military in a clearance operation that the United States considers genocide.

Myanmar is not a State Party to the ICC but because Bangladesh ratified the Rome Statute, the ICC has the power to investigate cross-border crimes, such as deportation.

“Rohingyas who fled mass atrocities in Myanmar in 2016/2017 are being coerced to leave India as part of the government’s anti-Muslim campaign,” Guernica 37 Chambers said in a statement.

From 2012 to 2017, Rohingyas who arrived in India from Myanmar were granted permission to remain in India with refugee status determined by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and thereby had access to basic services and could work, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs in August 2017 – at the height of the atrocities in Myanmar – labelled Rohingyas as illegal immigrants, stripped them of their refugee status and ordered their deportation.

As a result, authorities began detaining thousands of Rohingyas to await deportation. While the government deported some, many more decided to flee once again, leaving India for Bangladesh.

Maktoob has previously reported about Rohingyas returning to Bangladesh from India through human traffickers after facing hostilities in India. Maktoob’s recent report about Rohingya garnered hate from right-wing social media users on X.

Dozens of Rohingya refugees are currently under indefinite detention in India after authorities rounded them up from camps in different parts of North India.

“The authorities are making life for Rohingyas unlivable in India. Not only are they facing indefinite immigration detention but by losing their protection as refugees they also no longer have access to health services, education, and work. Such coercive circumstances leave them no choice but to depart,” said Omar Soliman, Barrister at Guernica 37 Chambers.

“The shift in government policies towards Rohingyas exemplifies the anti-Muslim agenda of the government led by the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Since coming into power in 2014, the BJP has embarked on a multi-pronged campaign against Muslims, evident through its public rhetoric, policies, legislative agenda, and the absence of accountability for religiously motivated persecution and violence,” the group added.

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