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International Court Judges Authorize Rohingya Investigation

Sheikh Mohammed Belal, Bangladesh's ambassador to the Netherlands, gives a statement during a press conference in The Hague, Netherlands, Nov. 11, 2019.

International Criminal Court judges on Thursday approved a request from prosecutors to open an investigation into crimes committed against Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim minority.

The court said that it has jurisdiction over crimes partially committed in Bangladesh, which is a member state of the court. Myanmar, which is not a member of the global court, has been accused of committing widespread abuses in a campaign against the Rohingya.

Myanmar's military began a counterinsurgency campaign in August 2017 in response to an insurgent attack. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh to escape what has been called an ethnic cleansing campaign involving mass rapes, killings and the torching of homes.

The court said in a statement that a panel of judges who studied Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's request to open an investigation concluded that there are grounds to believe widespread acts of violence were committed ``that could qualify as the crimes against humanity of deportation across the Myanmar-Bangladesh border and persecution on grounds of ethnicity and/or religion against the Rohingya population.``

The decision came just days after Gambia, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, filed a case at the International Court of Justice accusing Myanmar of genocide in its treatment of the Rohingya.

Both courts are based in The Hague. The International Criminal Court seeks to convict individuals responsible for crimes, while the International Court of Justice settles disputes between nations.