Argentine case into crimes against Rohingya begins

1 min 24Approximate reading time

A representative for Myanmar's Rohingya minority community testified in an Argentine court Thursday as a part of an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity by the Asian country's military rulers.

The court agreed to investigate the allegations based on the principles of universal jurisdiction, which holds that some acts -- including war crimes and crimes against humanity -- are so horrific they are not specific to one nation and can be tried anywhere.

A 2017 army crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, which the UN says could amount to genocide, has triggered an exodus of more than 740,000 members of the community, mainly to Bangladesh.

"Recently they announced new orders of restrictions for the Rohingya people," Tun Khin, president of the British-based Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, told reporters outside the court in Buenos Aires ahead of the hearing.

"We worry that the situation may get worse so that is very important that we push the international community seeking justice, not only this court, but other cases for the international community to support."

Other proceedings against Myanmar and its leaders are already under way at the International Criminal Court and the UN's International Court of Justice.

It is not the first time Argentine courts have taken up cases of universal jurisdiction, having done so in relation to ex-dictator Francisco Franco's rule in Spain and the Falun Gong movement in China.

In August, six women testified remotely to the court from refugee camps in Bangladesh, claiming to have been the victims of sexual violence and to have lost family members during the crackdown.

In a statement, the UK Rohingya organization said, "Tun Khin's testimony will focus on his personal history, which in many ways reflects the tragic modern history of the Rohingya people."

His parents were forced into exile in Bangladesh in 1978, and Khin himself left Myanmar in the 1990s after he was unable to attend university "simply because he was a Rohingya," the statement said.

On Thursday, Khin said he appreciated the humanitarian aid the Rohingya have received, but that he wanted more support for court cases and much "stronger action... to restore the rights of the Rohingyas and to stop this genocide."

Myanmar denies committing genocide, justifying the 2017 operations as a means of rooting out Rohingya militants.