For decades, the Rohingyas, one of the most persecuted people on earth, have also been one of the most forgotten. The ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people, with its roots in the Second World War, coincided with the rise of Burmese nationalism that regarded this unfortunate minority community as their enemy number one. The advent of military rule in the 1960s resulted in mass killings of this Muslim community. Like many other mass killings in the history of mankind, this one faded into oblivion. So when last year, the Burmese military executed one of the worst instances of genocide in the 21st century, they could be forgiven for thinking the world would look the other way. The military operation that resulted in the killings of more than 25,000 people in a span of weeks, resulted in gruesome atrocities such as snatching children from their mother’s wombs and throwing them into fire or drowning them, launching volleys of rockets into civilian areas, the abduction and rape of women, kidnapping and beating prisoners to deaths, and many more.

Many were convinced that Myanmar has gotten away with this genocide. So the ruling of the International Criminal Court (ICC) that it could exercise jurisdiction over the generals’ crimes against humanity comes as a surprise, albeit a welcome one. While Myanmar is not a member of the ICC, Bangladesh is. And it is to Bangladesh that the Rohingyas fled, leaving empty the villages of Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung, the part of the world they had called their homeland for generations.

Earlier, many had expressed skepticism regarding ICC role in Myanmar saying the state was not a member of the Hague based court. Yet the decision came, thanks to the conviction of those who seek justice when there seemed little hope left. Thanks must also go to Bangladesh and the government of that country. The ICC ruling has only been possible because Bangladesh, the country most adversely affected by this crisis is a party to this statute. Without the active lobbying of the Bangladesh government, the ruling would probably not been possible.

The ICC now has the opportunity to initiate a full investigation and bring into book the military leaders responsible for this genocide

Although the ruling is just on the jurisdiction to investigate around the crime of deportation to Bangladesh, but the causes for this deportation might bring into light the underlying reasons that forced the Rohingyas to flee i.e. the methodical utilisation of a state military machine planned by the generals (probably with Aung San Suu Kyi as Counselor) against a defenceless civilian population.

By all means this is a landmark ruling.