A group of Rohingya women and girls is expected to travel to Argentina within two months to testify against the Myanmar military in a genocide trial being heard by a court in Buenos Aires.
The survivors have each given remote testimony of sexual assault to the court. The Argentine court has a history of taking up cases based on the premise of "universal justice." This legal concept holds that some horrific acts, including genocide, can be tried anywhere.
The case originates with the 2017 army crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, a Buddhist majority nation. More than 370 Rohingya villages were set on fire, killing hundreds of civilians during a military security clearance operation in northern Rakhine state to retaliate against the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, or ARSA, an armed Rohingya group. The United Nations has said the Myanmar army's actions amount to genocide. More than 740,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh after the crackdown.
Tun Khin, president of the Burmese Rohingya Organization U.K., or BROUK, told VOA Burmese that "testimony is most likely to occur within a maximum of two months. That testimony is very important. Women will be taken to court in Buenos Aires for a hearing."
BROUK filed the lawsuit against the Myanmar military on Nov. 13, 2021, and the Argentine federal court accepted the case the following month. Proceedings against Myanmar and its leaders are already under way at the International Criminal Court and the United Nation's International Court of Justice.
Tun Khin said the appearance of the women and girls will be the first time that Rohingya will speak in an international court over allegations that the Myanmar military violated international law in northern Rakhine state in 2017. As part of the prosecution, Tun Khin appeared in an Argentine court last December.
VOA Burmese asked Major General Zaw Min Tun, a military spokesperson, about the junta's stance on the charges against the military being heard in Argentina.
"We have been to testify at the ICJ, which is an official U.N. body, and explained that there has been stability in Rakhine state in the past," he said of appearances before the International Court of Justice in The Hague. "The conflicts have been going on only after the emergence of the ARSA terrorist group. Accusers ought to analyze the history of different ethnicities living peacefully in Rakhine state harmoniously."
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has called on other countries to join forces with Argentina and Turkey, which are investigating Myanmar's military leaders in violation of international law, in line with universal jurisdiction.