Canada’s House of Commons has declared, by a unanimous vote on Thursday, that the ethnic cleansing campaign against Rohingya Muslims by Myanmar’s military is a genocide.
The members of parliament endorsed the findings of a 400-page United Nations report, released Tuesday, which said that crimes against humanity have been committed against Rohingya Muslims.
The motion, introduced by parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs Andrew Leslie, also called on senior military officials in Myanmar to be investigated and prosecuted for genocide by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Over 900,000 Rohingya, members of an ethnic minority in Myanmar who have never received citizenship, have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh over the past year.
On Wednesday, on the heels of the UN’s fact-finding mission report, the ICC launched a preliminary probe into the crisis.
“I have decided to proceed to the next phase of the process and to carry out a full-fledged preliminary examination of the situation at hand,” ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement. “This is the least that we owe to the victims.”
Myanmar has previously claimed that the ICC has no jurisdiction in the country, but the ICC, located in the Hague, Netherlands, ruled earlier this month that it does because even though Myanmar isn’t a signatory to the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, Bangladesh is.
According to a group called the Burma Task Force, Canada is the first country to make such a declaration.
“This is a significant milestone for the cause of the Rohingya,” said Ahmed Ramadan, Executive Director of Burma Task Force Canada in a statement. “This official declaration of genocide reflects the Canadian Government's forward-thinking leadership on this issue when so many others have dragged their feet.”
Cover image of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar preparing to leave a transit shelter in Shahparirdwip, Bangladesh on Oct. 2, 2017. Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP