Asia - Pacific

Rohingya genocide survivors to testify in Argentina court hearing

Argentine court to hear ordeal of Rohingya as it decides whether to take up genocide case against Myanmar army

Md. Kamruzzaman  | 16.08.2021 - Update : 16.08.2021
Rohingya genocide survivors to testify in Argentina court hearing

DHAKA, Bangladesh

Rohingya who have survived horrific brutality and sexual violence by Myanmar’s military will narrate their ordeal for the first time in a court of law on Tuesday, according to a Rohingya rights organization.

The Rohingya genocide survivors, including five survivors of sexual violence, will testify in a hearing at the Federal Criminal Appeal Court in Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires, the Burmese Rohingya Organization UK (BROUK) said in a statement.

The hearing is part of the process for Argentina’s judiciary to decide whether it will take up “a genocide case against the Myanmar military leadership under the international legal principle of universal jurisdiction.”

Citing the principle of universal jurisdiction, BROUK petitioned Argentinean courts in November 2019 to open an investigation into the role of Myanmar’s civilian and military leaders in committing genocide and crimes against humanity against the Rohingya.

“Universal jurisdiction is based on the principle that some crimes are so horrific that they concern humanity as a whole, and can be tried anywhere regardless of where they have been committed,” the statement explained.

“All states are permitted to exercise universal jurisdiction over certain crimes under international law, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide.”

BROUK is legally represented in the case by Tomas Ojea Quintana, an Argentine lawyer who served as the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar from 2008 to 2014.

If accepted by the Argentinian judiciary, this will be the “first universal jurisdiction case related to the situation of the Rohingya anywhere in the world.”

It will “cover the full range of crimes committed entirely in Myanmar against the Rohingya, including mass murder, enforced disappearances, widespread torture, sexual violence, and mass imprisonment,” the statement added.

People named in the case include Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, head of the Myanmar army, who led the Feb. 1 coup this year in which the military seized power by deposing the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

“This week’s hearing marks a historic moment for the Rohingya people. After decades of fighting for justice for atrocity crimes, survivors will finally get a chance to tell a court what they have been through,” said Tun Khin, president of BROUK.

“This gives us hope that one day there will be accountability for the Tatmadaw’s [Myanmar military] genocide against our people.”

He said the same military that tried to wipe out the Rohingya is “now in control of the country,” making it all the more necessary for the international community to ensure that it faces “the consequences of their murderous actions.”

Since August 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed, more than 34,000 thrown into fires, over 114,000 beaten, and at least 18,000 Rohingya women and girls raped, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

The Myanmar army’s brutal crackdown in Rakhine State forced more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women, and children, to flee to Bangladesh, pushing the persecuted community’s number in Bangladesh above 1.1 million, according to Amnesty International.

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