On 26 May 2016, the International Criminal Court (ICC) communicated that it had declined, at this stage, to open a preliminary inquiry into the current situation in Bangladesh and specifically those allegations that the Government of Bangladesh and its actors had engaged in conduct that amounted to Crimes Against Humanity.
It is notable however that the basis for the ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) declining to open such an inquiry appears to have been misreported by the Government of Bangladesh and the domestic media.
On 11 December 2014, a detailed communication was filed with the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) at the ICC, alleging that the Government of Bangladesh and its actors, namely the State Security Services, including the Bangladesh Police Service, and the much criticised Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) had engaged in conduct and committed crimes against civilians that amounted to Crimes Against Humanity.
The ICC OTP has declined to open such a full inquiry on the basis that in its assessment, the conduct complained of does not meet the strict legal definition of Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, or War Crimes under the Rome Statute.
The ICC OTP does not comment on whether the conduct complained of actually occurred, nor does it comment on whether the conduct complained of is criminal in nature, as this is beyond its remit.
To suggest therefore, as some quarters of the Bangladeshi media has, that “their investigation found no legal basis of the accusations”, is wrong, and is misleading.
Further, to suggest, as per the Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali has, that the above, are the words of the Fatou Bensouda, is palpably wrong.
Importantly, the OTP has stated that the information submitted will be retained, and that it will be reconsidered, should any further evidence be submitted.
In this regard it is to be noted that discussions with the ICC OTP remain ongoing and additional detailed evidence will be provided.
The examination has not been closed by the ICC OTP and the Government of Bangladesh has not been vindicated or absolved of responsibility. This process will continue.
The stark reality is that the Government of Bangladesh, and the security services under its control, is acting with complete impunity, suppressing democratic rights, and committing violent crimes against citizens.
A further submission with additional evidence will be submitted to the ICC Prosecutor in the next 14 days which will clearly demonstrate that the conduct falls squarely within the Rome Statute.
A process of accountability must be, and will be, implemented, whether this is through the ICC, or an alternative mechanism.