Although almost 20 days have passed, the government remains undecided on its reply to the Hague-based court on whether it could exercise jurisdiction to investigate the deportation of Rohingyas from Myanmar to Bangladesh.
The silence and indecision of the government have created confusion among experts and rights activists. They have also prompted eminent citizens of the country to urge the government to act.
The pre-trial Chamber sent a letter on May 7 and sought Bangladesh's submission of observations, either publicly or confidentially, by June 11.
Earlier on April 9, the prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to rule on whether it had jurisdiction over the deportation of Myanmar nationals, a possible crime against humanity.
Highly placed sources said Dhaka was in a dilemma. The policymakers of the government were apparently divided over the issue of whether to respond to and support the ICC pre-trial chamber's decision of inviting observations from the Bangladesh government.
“We have not yet taken any decision regarding the response of the ICC letter. We do not have any reply right [at] this moment and we are looking into it,” Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali told journalists on May 23.
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, a senior official at the foreign ministry confirmed that no decision had been taken till yesterday.
“The decision obviously comes from the top level of the government but so far [as] my knowledge goes the process has yet not [been] initiated. I think there might be a reply from the Bangladesh government before the June 11 deadline,” he said.
Meanwhile, forty-one eminent citizens in a statement yesterday called for the Bangladesh government to respond in support of the ICC prosecutor's submission on Rohingya deportation.
Experts said there was global demand for a “proper investigation” into the military crackdown in Rakhine State last August, which displaced almost 700,000 Rohingyas to Bangladesh.
Highly placed political and diplomatic sources said the government initially agreed to respond to the ICC, but was now thinking whether it should continue its efforts to resolve the Rohingya crisis bilaterally or look for international support to mount pressure on Myanmar.
A number of countries, who are close to both Bangladesh and Myanmar, prefer to end the crisis bilaterally, arguing that international involvement might create complexities and delay a resolution.
Government policymakers said countries like Russia, China and Japan were strongly in favour of a solution to the crisis through bilateral mechanism and announced they would cooperate with both Bangladesh and Myanmar to repatriate and rehabilitate the Rohingyas in light of the agreement signed between the two countries.
India has already started building prefabricated houses in Rakhine State for rehabilitation of the Rohingya population after their repatriation from Bangladesh.
China and Japan also came forward to help build houses, roads and other infrastructure in Myanmar so that the refugees could be accommodated after their return from Bangladesh.
There are also strong views within political and diplomatic circles in Dhaka that it will not be wise to fully trust Myanmar considering its track record. They said international pressure was essential for Myanmar to start the repatriation immediately and implement the Kofi Annan Commission report for a sustainable solution to the crisis.