Judges listened attentively as Maun Tung Khin argued, in English, before an Argentine appeals court via videolink. He reminded the judges of attacks on his community half a world away in Myanmar, carried out by military and paramilitary forces. Villages attacked, women raped, families forced to flee as their homes were burned; it is impossible to attain justice at home, he added. The judges thanked him, as they considered whether Argentina should accept jurisdiction over the crimes committed against Khin’s ethnic community, the Rohingya.
On November 13, 2019, the Burmese Rohingya Organization (UK) brought a case to the Argentine courts alleging that military forces committed genocide and crimes against humanity between 2012 and 2018 against Rohingya communities. The complaint recounted a history of discrimination, denial of citizenship and oppression, escalating after 2012 to include massive attacks on communities, killings, torture, mass rape and finally displacement of Rohingya communities. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled Myanmar into neighboring Bangladesh to escape the army. The complainants asked Argentina to hear the case against the leadership of the Tatmadaw (military) under the principle of universal jurisdiction.
In the mid-17th century, the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes used the image of a biblical monster, the Leviathan, to illustrate the power of the State and its function of maintaining social order. It has since remained a symbol of fear-invoking power and unmatched sovereign strength.
The foundation for the potentially monstrous power of the Leviathan is one of the main obligations of the State, perhaps the most primary one of them all: to maintain security within its territory. If a State does not fulfill that function, all other possible aspirations, from the offer of high-quality public services, to economic development and the respect and promotion of fundamental rights, are deeply compromised and, in extreme circumstances, can become even impossible.
The problem is that, to fulfill the responsibility of providing security, the State needs to have a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence.
According to the Haitian Constitution, the legislative, executive, and judicial powers constitute the essential foundation on which the State’s organization is based. Within the exercise of their respective powers, duties, and functions, they are entirely independent. However, since January 2020, the failure to hold legislative elections has resulted in a gradual deterioration of this branch of power, the mandate of all deputies and two thirds of the senate having ended. The assassination of President Jovenel Moïse on the night of July 6th to 7th, as well as the death of the President of the Court of Cassation have worsened the situation from an institutional standpoint. This situation has exacerbated the dysfunction of the three branches: the National Assembly and the Superior Council of the Judiciary (Conseil Supérieur du Pouvoir Judiciaire – CSPJ) are now null, while the executive struggles to lead the nation effectively. An institutional vacuum is being created on top of the political and health crisis. Moreover, the recent earthquake of August 14, 2021 generated additional urgent needs, further exacerbating the aforementioned shortcomings and suggesting an upcoming deterioration of the human rights situation in Haiti.
A few days ago, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (la Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz, JEP), the transitional tribunal established in Colombia by the peace agreements signed in 2016, issued a very important decision providing clarification for cases of civilians murdered during the conflict who were presented to the government as enemy casualties in combat (a macabre practice that in Colombia was known by the euphemism “false positives”).
The JEP’s decision included, among other significant things, this court’s first indictment of a “civilian third party”. The peace agreement uses the term “civilian third party” to refer to those persons who, without being part of an armed group, participated in the commission of grave human rights violations. Many of these third parties had eminently economic motivations and, to satisfy them, sponsored the armed actors in various ways, including providing economic, logistical, and political support.
The relationship between economic actors and armed groups in times of repression and war is not unique to the Colombian conflict. Victims of human rights violations have recounted how economic elites, companies (transnational and national) and other business agents (formal and informal) have been complicit in human rights violations in every corner of the globe.
Victims of human rights violations, activists, government officials and the media were eagerly awaiting this day. The reason? It was expected that the outgoing prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, would announce whether she would continue investigating the crimes against humanity that occurred in Venezuela. However, the maneuvers of the Venezuelan Attorney General, Tarek William Saab, which included a request for judicial control, seem to have achieved their objective and delayed the pronouncement.
However, many people are not aware of the importance of the matter; therefore, Acceso a la Justicia (Access to Justice) believes this is an important opportunity to clarify some doubts.