The Argentine judiciary has taken “a historic step” to open a court case against the Myanmar military over then persecution of the Rohingya, said a UK-based Rohingya advocacy group on Sunday.
The Second Chamber of the Federal Criminal Court in Buenos Aires on Friday confirmed that it would launch a case against senior Myanmar officials under the principle of universal jurisdiction, according to a statement by the Burmese Rohingya Organization UK (BROUK).
“This is a day of hope not just for us Rohingya but for oppressed people everywhere. The decision in Argentina shows that there is nowhere to hide for those who commit genocide – the world stands firmly united against these abhorrent crimes,” said Tun Khin, the president of BROUK that filed the petition to the Argentinian judiciary to open the case in November 2019.
The case in Argentina will cover the full range of crimes committed against the minority Rohingya Muslims in the Buddhist majority Southeast Asian state of Myanmar, said the statement.
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“The case relates to crimes perpetrated against the Rohingya by Myanmar authorities in Rakhine State for decades,” it added.
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.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed while more than 34,000 were thrown into fires, over 114,000 beaten, as many as 18,000 Rohingya women and girls raped, over 115,000 Rohingya homes burned down and 113,000 others vandalized by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).
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.
“The case in Argentina is the first universal jurisdiction case concerning the Rohingya genocide anywhere in the world, but not the only international legal process against the Myanmar authorities,” according to the statement.
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“It includes the particular situation of six women who were raped, tortured, and in many cases, their husbands and children killed during that genocidal campaign in Rakhine State,” it added.
One of the six women, now living in the crammed makeshift tents in Bangladesh’s southern district of Cox’s Bazar, for the first time, described her ordeal before the Argentinian court in August this year.
She narrated how brutally Myanmar soldiers killed their husbands and raped and killed women in Chuk Pyin, Rakhine.
In November 2019, the Gambia filed a case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Myanmar for violating the Genocide Convention. In January 2020, the ICJ imposed “provisional measures”, ordering the end to genocidal practices against the Rohingya.
“We urge the international community to redouble efforts to bring about justice and ensure that this momentum is not lost,” said Tun Khin, adding that other countries should “immediately explore opening similar cases to show those responsible for the genocide that there are no safe havens anywhere.
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