Should Argentina Exercise Universal Jurisdiction over the Rohingya case?

Naomi Roht-Arriaza*

Versión en español aquí.

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.

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