ICC Launches Preliminary Investigation on Deportation of Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh

By: Charlotte Volpe
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

THE HAUGE, Netherlands – The International Criminal Court stated that they will begin a preliminary investigation on the forced displacement of more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Bangladesh. Led by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, the preliminary inquiry will examine evidence of the atrocities that the Myanmar military has committed against Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state of Myanmar since 2017. The military’s alleged atrocities include mass rape, murder, destruction of Rohingya villages, and deportation. These crimes have gone unacknowledged and unpunished by Myanmar’s national government.

Rohingya refugees in borderland between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Photo courtesy of Adam Dean.

Though Myanmar is not a member state of the ICC, Bensouda argues that the Court holds jurisdiction over the conflict because the Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh, which is a member of the Court. Thus, the crime of forced displacement has continued into Bangladesh, providing a means for the ICC to exert its authority over this aspect of the conflict in a member state. This move is an attempt to insert international oversight over a genocide that has been occurring with impunity in Myanmar. The international community continues to have limited ability to investigate Myanmar army’s crimes against the Rohingya in Rakhine because Myanmar has refused international humanitarian organizations entry to that particular region.

A preliminary investigation is not a formal investigation, however. It is the ICC’s means to determine whether there is sufficient reason implicating an aggressor party for crimes against humanity, thus validating a full investigation to proceed. If the Court finds enough evidence demonstrating the Myanmar military’s violation of human rights against the Rohingya, it can launch a full-fledged investigation. However, to do so it will require that the UN Security Council refer the case in Myanmar to the ICC’s jurisdiction. The divisive nature of the Council, as well as Russia and China’s economic and geopolitical interests in Myanmar, make a Security Council referral an unlikely feat.

Nonetheless, the ICC’s preliminary investigation is a first step towards circumventing Myanmar’s refusal to hold their own army accountable for ethnic genocide. This preliminary examination has the potential to demonstrate that the international community will exert the authority it can in seeking justice for the atrocities experienced by the Rohingya, the “world’s most persecuted minority.” The extent to which the ICC can exact justice, however, is yet to be determined.

For further information, please see: 

The Straits Times – International Criminal Court opens preliminary probe into Myanmar crimes against Rohingya – 19 September 2018

International Criminal Court – Statement of ICC Prosecutor, Mrs Fatou Bensouda, on opening a Preliminary Examination concerning the alleged deportation of the Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh – 18 September 2018

DW – Rohingya genocide: Will Myanmar generals face ICC justice? – 11 September 2018

The New York Times – International Criminal Court Opens Door to a Rohingya Inquiry – 6 September 2018

Suicide Bombing Kills Several in Afghanistan

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

KABUL, Afghanistan – As part preparing for upcoming elections in Afghanistan this October, the government has set up voter registration centers across the country.  On 22 April as people lined up outside a center in Dasht-i-Barchineighborhood of Kabul, a pedestrian walked into the crowd and detonated a bomb.

Shattered window of voter registration center in Kabul. Photo courtesy of Rahmat Gul.

The Islamic state claimed responsibility for this attack.  Their website said that the attack was aimed toward ‘apostate’ Shiites.  This neighborhood is mainly Shiite Hazara, a minority that has been frequently targeted by the Islamic State.

Local buildings and cars were also destroyed.  Voter registration cards and personal identification documents scattered the street. At least 57 people were killed in the attack.  Another 119 are wounded.  Women, children, and young students are part of those killed.  This is considered to be one of the deadliest attack this year, and the deadliest attack on election preparations so far.

Residents of the area said that they were still determined to register to vote.  President Ashraf Ghani said of the attacks that they will “never weaken the resolve and will of our people for wider participation in the democratic process.”

The government closed two other registration centers in Kabul as well as stationed police patrols in Dasht-i-Barchi and the surrounding areas.

For more information please visit:

Washington Post – At least 57 Afghans killed in Kabul suicide bombing, health officials say– 22 April 2018

Reuters – Blast at election center in Afghan capital kills more than 50 – 22 April 2018

NPR – Suicide Bomber Kills Dozens At Voting Center In Afghanistan – 22 April 2018


Armenian Government Arrests Protesters

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

YEREVAN, Armenia –  Protests erupted in Armenia after 2 government appointments were announced.

Protesters gather in the main square of Yerevan. Photo Courtesy of Artyom Geodakyan.

The previous president, Serzh Sarkisian, second term ended on 9 April 2018.  Yet, the Parliament elected him Prime Minister just 8 days later, elongating his time in power.  The vote was 76 to 17 with no abstentions.  Parliament also elected Armen Sarkisian, who Serzh Sarkisian endorsed, as the new President.

People have been gathering in the capital city of Yerevan over the past few days to protest this change in power.  Crowds have been so large that traffic has been blocked and the Those there were waving Armenian flags and shouting “Armenia without Serzh.”  The protest leader Nikol Pashinian, an opponent Parliament member, said, “Sarkisian lacks legitimacy and has earned the hatred of Armenians.”

The protests have been mainly peaceful; however, olice warned that the protests were illegal and that they would be “discontinued.”  On 16 April, the demonstrators clashed with the police.  Forty-six people were injured, including 6 policemen.

On 18 April police detained 87 demonstrators.  Only 30 were held on administrative charges such as “holding rallies in violation of the established procedures,” or “participation in mass riots.”  The rest were detained as witness in ongoing investigations about the protests.

Under Armenian Law, witnesses can be detained for interrogation if they don’t respond to a summons to appear. Additionally, they can only be detained for three hours without be recorded or released.  In the case of the arrests made during the protests, many people were held up to 9 hours.

For more information please visit:

 Human Rights Watch – Police in Armenia Detain Dozens of Demonstrators – 19 April 2018

Voice of America – Tens Of Thousands Protest In Yerevan, Other Armenian Cities Against Sarkisian As New Prime Minister – 17 April 2018

AlJazeera – Why are Armenians protesting against the new prime minister? – 19 April 2018

Lawyers Physically Try to Prevent Rape Case

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Asia 

NEW DELHI, India – A major confrontation occurred outside a state courthouse in India- governed Jammu and Kashmir on 9 April 2018.  The crime branch of the police were on their way to file a chargesheet against 7 men and a boy for the gang rape and murder of an 8 year old Muslim nomad girl on 10 January to 17 January 2018.

The men accused are a retired government official, Sanjhi Ram; his son Vishal, special police officers Deepak Khajuria and Surender Verma; head constable Tilak Raj; sub-inspector Anand Dutta; and a civilian, Parvesh Kumar.   Lawyers representing these men, from the Kathua Bar Association, physically attacked the police in an attempt to stop them from filling the chargesheet.  However, they were unsuccessful in preventing the filing.  The  Inspector-General of Police, Crime Branch, Syed Ahfadul Mujtaba said in a statement, “The chargesheet against the seven accused persons involved in the crime has been produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kathua.”

A separate chargesheet is being created and will be filed for the juvenile boy involved in the case.

The protesting lawyers want an investigation done by the CBI, which would be  a federal investigation.  They believes that the local court does not “understand the sentiments of the people.”

Many, including the family of the 8 year old girl, Asifa Bano, believe that the gang rape and murder was done to drive Muslims out of the community.  Asifa was kidnapped on 10 January, drugged, gang raped, murdered in a temple, and left in the forest.  Over 100 witnesses have testified and corroborated evidence that the police have.

Many of the supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India’s ruling Hindu party, and Hindu Ekta Manch, and affiliated party, have supported the lawyers protests.  Typically, this party has taken a strong stance against rape and sexual violence crimes.   At the same time the BJP has been criticized as not supporting minority groups.

Protests breakout over religious differences in the rape and murder case of 8 year old Asifa Bano. Photo courtesy of Mukesh Gupta.

Religious tensions have been growing in the community as a result.  A Hindu strike, demanding the release of the accused, shut down the town (Kathua) where Asifa was from.  Economic groups in Kathua and Kashmir are threatening economic  agitation if the perpetrators are not brought to justice.  Muslim groups believe that because those investigating are also Hindu, they will be biased and not bring justice to Asifa.

For more information please visit:

Human Rights Watch – Prejudice Flares After Rape, Murder of Muslim Child in India – 10 April 2018 

Free Press Kashmir – Kathua rape and murder case: Valley traders threaten state wide agitation if justice not delivered – 9 April 2018

The Hindu – Chargesheet submitted in Kathua rape and murder case – 9 April 2018 

The New York Times – An 8-Year-Old’s Rape and Killing Fuels Religious Tensions in India – 11 April 2018

Attacks Across Afghanistan Leave Police and Children Dead

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

KABUL, Afghanistan – On April 14 and 15, several attacks occurred across Afghanistan late at night and early in the morning.  It appears that three of the attacks were coordinated, targeting government posts.  Two all-girls schools were also attacked.  No organization has claimed responsibility, but the government suspects the Taliban attacked the government facilities.

Image of burned girls’ school in Logar Province. Photo courtesy of the Afghanistan Ministry of Education.

Two government checkpoints were attacked in the Sancharak District of Sar-i-Pul. This region has a history of bouncing back and forth between Taliban and government control.   Naqibullah Daqiq, the governor, said Taliban forces attacked with night-vision equipment and sniper rifles.  One guard was killed in the initial confrontation.  When local pro-government militiamen arrived, they attempted to engage the attacking forces. Another 10 were killed.

An attack in the Helmand province left 4 young children dead after a rocket hit their home and another child was wounded in a separate attack.

In Faryab province, the district of Dawlat Abad, 2 more government checkpoints were attacked. The police chief, Nematullah Tofan, reported that 4 government defenders were shot in the head by Taliban snipers and consequently died.

An additional two checkpoints in the Jaghatu district of Ghazni Province were attacked early in the morning on April  15.  Eight officers in this encounter died with another 4 wounded.

On Sunday afternoon, a group attacked three university guards in Jalalabad, who were on break for worship. The men rode by on motorcycle and opened fire while the men were praying.  Two died on site.  The third guard ran but was killed shortly as the gunmen followed him.

Earlier in the week on April 11, a group attacked a girls’ high school in Logar Province.  They attacked and locked up the guardsmen and proceeded to burn down the school.

For more information, please see:

The Washington Post – Officials: 4 kids, 2 police killed in Afghan attacks – 14 April 2018

The New York Times – Attacks in Afghanistan Leave Dozens Dead and 2 Schools Burned – 15 April 2018

Voice of America – Insurgents Attack Checkpoint in Afghanistan, Kill 4 Police – 15 April 2018