World, Americas

Argentinian court decision brings hope for Rohingya

In a significant development, Buenos Aires court admits petition to probe Myanmar leaders’ role in Rohingya genocide

Md. Kamruzzaman   | 02.06.2020
Argentinian court decision brings hope for Rohingya

DHAKA, Bangladesh

A court in South American country of Argentina has decided to pursue a case against Myanmar's leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi and senior officers in the military over the genocide and persecution against Rohingya community.

In a statement issued on Monday, Burmese Rohingya Organization UK (BROUK) said that Argentina’s Federal Criminal Chamber No. 1 has accepted its petition and asked to collect more information on the Rohingya genocide.

The court, in its decision on May 29, overturned a previous order when it had rejected to admit a similar petition seeking to probe the role of Myanmar leadership in the acts of genocide.

“A court in Buenos Aires on Friday overturned a previous order of not to pursue a case against [Myanmar’s] State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and senior officers in the Tatmadaw [the Myanmar military],” the statement said.

“The court has now requested more information from the International Criminal Court (ICC), to ensure that the case in Argentina would not duplicate other efforts of justice,” the statement added.

An Argentinian court on Dec. 9, 2019, had rejected the lawsuit filed by BROUK seeking to open an investigation into the role of Myanmar’s civilian and military leaders in committing genocide and crimes against the Rohingya.

Citing the principle of “universal jurisdiction”, the BROUK pleaded that the cases of genocide and extreme crimes against humanity can be tried in any court across the globe.

Earlier the court had pointed out that admission of the petition would amount duplicating the investigation launched by the ICC.

The ICC on Nov. 14, 2019, approved a full investigation into Myanmar's alleged crimes against the minority Rohingya Muslims.

The country is also facing a separate genocide lawsuit at the UN's top court, International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Court's decision to strengthen other int'l justice efforts

Speaking to Anadolu Agency BROUK President Tun Khin described the Argentinian court’s decision as another great success in their struggle to ensure justice for Rohingya.

“We are convinced that a universal jurisdiction case in Argentina will only complement and strengthen other international justice efforts, not undermine them,” Khin said.

Hailing Argentinian Federal Court’s order, Rohingya rights activists and experts described it as inspirational development not only for the Rohingya but also for other ethnic groups in Myanmar.

“The court showed there is hope for the victims of such unspeakable violence and they deserve justice,” Khin said.

He also urged the ICC to promptly respond to the request from the Argentinian court to ensure that the investigation can begin as soon as possible.

Welcoming the court’s ruling, co-author of Essays on Myanmar Genocide and co-founder of the Free Rohingya Coalition, Maung Zarni said the order indicated the seriousness of the Argentinian appellate court in recognizing the concept of universal jurisdiction.

“There are more than 190 nations that have recognized Geneva Conventions and other major treaties whereby they are obligated to act on this legal concept rooted in the Genocide Conventions on the laws of war of 1949,” he said.

In 1961, Israel used this concept to prosecute a top German Schutzstaffel (SS) -- a major Nazi paramilitary organization -- officer Adolf Eichmann for his role in the Jewish genocide, especially overseeing and ordering the transportation of 600,000 Hungarian Jews to gas chambers at Auschwitz, he said.

“More recently, the Spanish judge in Madrid used this principle to go after the US-backed Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet”, Zarni added.

He said the disgraced Noel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s name has been included in the Myanmar case for her role in the Rohingya genocide.

Zarni accused Kyi of using her enormous societal influence to deny and dismiss the state of Myanmar's heinous crimes against Rohingya. 

Persecuted community 

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women, and children fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report titled Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience.

As many as 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes burned down while 113,000 others vandalized, it added.

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