The International Criminal Court on Thursday approved a full investigation into Myanmar's alleged crimes against the Rohingya, as the southeast Asian nation faced mounting legal pressure worldwide over their fate.
Judges backed a prosecution request to probe allegations of crimes against humanity and persecution over Myanmar's 2017 bloody military crackdown against the minority Muslim group.
The ICC decision comes after a week in which former democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi was named in an Argentine lawsuit over crimes against the Rohingya, and Myanmar faced a separate genocide lawsuit at the UN's top court.
More than 740,000 Rohingya people were forced to flee over the border into sprawling camps in Bangladesh, in violence that United Nations investigators say amounts to genocide.
The Hague-based ICC, set up in 2002 to try the world's worst crimes, said it had "authorised the prosecutor to proceed with an investigation for the alleged crimes within the ICC's jurisdiction" relating to Myanmar.
These include allegations of "systematic acts of violence", deportation as a crime against humanity, and persecution on the grounds of ethnicity or religion against the Rohingya, it said.
Myanmar has long denied accusations it committed ethnic cleansing or genocide.
Myanmar is not signed up to the ICC but the court ruled last year that it has jurisdiction over crimes against the Rohingya minority because Bangladesh, where they are now refugees, is a member.
Chief ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda was allowed to open a preliminary investigation on Myanmar in September 2018, and formally applied to begin a full-scale formal probe in July this year.
Bensouda on Thursday welcomed the decision, calling it "a significant development, sending a positive signal to the victims of atrocity crimes in Myanmar and elsewhere."
"My investigation will seek to uncover the truth. My office will now focus on ensuring the success of its independent and impartial investigation," she said in a statement.
- International justice -