Human rights groups filed a criminal lawsuit in Argentina on Wednesday, alleging that the government and military of Myanmar, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, have committed crimes against humanity and genocide against the ethnic Rohingya minority.
The Rohingya are a Muslim minority group in the Buddhist majority nation, residing largely in Rakhine state, which shares a border with Bangledesh. The complaint includes numerous accounts of mass killings, rapes and torture committed by government forces against Rohingya communities.
The lawsuit was filed with the Argentine Federal Courts under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which holds that any country can prosecute for certain grave crimes, like genocide, regardless of whether the crimes were committed within that country’s territory. Other such suits invoking universal jurisdiction have been filed in Argentina before, including cases against Israel for crimes against humanity in Gaza and against Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman for crimes against humanity in Yemen.
This lawsuit follows on the heels of a case The Gambia filed on Monday with the International Court of Justice accusing Myanmar’s military of carrying out acts of genocide against the Rohingya, and the International Criminal Court approved a request for a formal investigation into Myanmar’s alleged crimes on Thursday.
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, was ruled by a military dictatorship for decades. Aung San Suu Kyi was a democratic reformer who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her struggles fighting for democracy and human rights. Following free elections in 2015, she was appointed State Counsellor, a position created especially for her because Myanmar’s constitution does not allow anyone who had a foreign spouse or children to hold the office of president, a change the military regime made specifically to bar Suu Kyi. Since taking office she has been subject to extensive criticism for her conspicuous silence over the Rohingya crisis.
The Argentine court is expected to give a response to the complaint within two weeks as to whether the complaint will go forward.