Argentinian court to hear Myanmar Rohingya genocide case

Argentinian justice has agreed to open a genocide case brought by Rohingya victims of atrocities committed by the Burmese army, a decision hailed by the victims and their defenders as a historic step towards bringing the generals in power in the country to justice.

The case was brought to Buenos Aires by a UK-based Rohingya group and six survivors of the 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where security forces killed thousands of people, committed crimes. rapes and drove around 750,000 members of the long-persecuted minority in Bangladesh.

“We will seek concrete results in terms of responsibility and punishment for those who participated directly and indirectly in the genocide,” Tomás Ojea Quintana, lawyer for the plaintiffs, told the Financial Times. “We want to identify the names of the perpetrators and try to bring these people to justice in Argentina. ”

Quintana said the victims “really want physical testimony” from senior military leaders, including Min Aung Hlaing, the military leader who oversaw the 2017 crackdown in Rakhine and toppled the government of Aung San Suu Kyi during a coup in February.

The case, although to be heard worldwide from Myanmar, has come under universal jurisdiction, the principle that exceptionally serious crimes can be tried anywhere.

“We applaud the Argentinian justice system for showing courage and moral leadership in dealing with this case,” Tun Khin, president of the Burmese Rohingya Organization UK, the group that carried the case, said in a statement. sent by email. “Justice for decades of dehumanization and murder of Rohingya in Myanmar is now at hand. ”

The case, for which preliminary hearings began in 2019, is part of an international initiative by human rights groups and the UN to gather evidence and start seeking justice for the crimes of the army, including the 2017 crackdown in Rakhine and its killings, imprisonments and torture of thousands since the February coup. The court heard pre-trial video testimony from female victims in Bangladesh, but Tun Khin said a key part of the process would be to ensure victims can testify in Argentina.

He said his group would also ask the court to seek information from social media companies, in particular Facebook, regarding “hate speech on their platforms that may have contributed to a hostile environment against the Rohingya.”

The International Court of Justice in The Hague is already hearing a genocide case brought by The Gambia against Myanmar in 2019, in which Aung San Suu Kyi testified.

“This development brings the prospect of justice even closer to the Rohingya, which seemed almost impossible just a few years ago,” said Kingsley Abbott of the International Commission of Jurists. “This is exactly how universal jurisdiction is supposed to work when crimes affecting all of humanity are committed around the world, which is why Argentina is to be congratulated for taking this important step.”

However, he said Argentina would need “huge support” to pursue the case with civil society groups and the UN. investigation mechanism for Myanmar, and that one of the biggest challenges would arise if an arrest warrant were issued.

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