An Argentine court has moved one step closer to opening a historic investigation against Myanmar's military and civilian leadership over genocide against the Rohingya people, the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK) said today.
The court in Buenos Aires on Friday overturned a previous decision not to pursue a case against State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and senior officers in the Myanmar military. Instead, it has requested more information from the International Criminal Court (ICC) to ensure that a case in Argentina would not duplicate other justice efforts, BROUK said in a statement.
The Argentine court's progress comes in addition to the ICC investigation and the Gambia's case filed in November, 2019 against Myanmar for violating the Genocide Convention with the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
On November 13, last year, BROUK filed a petition with the Argentinian court to open an investigation into the role of Myanmar's civilian and military leaders in committing genocide and crimes against humanity against the Rohingyas. Under the principle of universal jurisdiction, such crimes can be investigated anywhere in the world regardless of where they were committed.
"For decades, Myanmar authorities have tried to wipe the Rohingya out as a people. Today, the Argentinean judiciary has sent a clear signal that it is taking seriously the pursuit of justice for some of the worst crimes of our time, and we are grateful for this display of leadership and respect for international law," said Tun Khin, President of BROUK.
"Today's ruling brings us closer to what victims most want to see -- that the architects of the genocide against the Rohingya face a court of law. We are convinced that a universal jurisdiction case in Argentina will only complement and strengthen other international justice efforts, not undermine them," he said.
The case relates to crimes perpetrated against the Rohingya by Myanmar authorities in Rakhine State for decades. In 2017, the Myanmar military and its proxies launched a vicious campaign in the region, killing thousands of people and driving some 750,000 Rohingya to flee across the border into Bangladesh.
Those named in the case include Aung San Suu Kyi, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief, and other high-ranking military officials, as well as former presidents Htin Kyaw and Thein Sein.
The Federal Appeals Court in Buenos Aires ruled that it is necessary to approach the ICC for more information about its case against Myanmar through a formal diplomatic note, before making a final decision on whether to open an investigation in Argentina.
The ICC investigation into Myanmar's crimes against the Rohingyas is relatively limited in scope. Since Myanmar is not a state party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, the investigation only covers crimes against Rohingya that took place on Bangladeshi territory, including the crime against humanity of mass deportation, the statement said.
A case in Argentina would, however, cover the full range of atrocities against the Rohingya inside Myanmar. In its 2018 report, the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar furthermore explicitly called on countries around the world to pursue universal jurisdiction cases against the Tatmadaw to ensure justice for atrocity against the Rohingyas.
"The Argentine courts have today showed that there is hope not just for the Rohingya, but for the many other ethnic groups in Myanmar who have been brutalised by the Tatmadaw. The victims of such unspeakable violence deserve justice," said Tun Khin.
"We urge the ICC to respond promptly to the request from Argentina to ensure that the investigation can begin as soon as possible," he added.