Justice for Rohingya is Justice for All People of Myanmar

July 11th, 2024  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  8 minute read
Featured image

“Today we are one more step closer to finally seeing the first ever arrests warrants for Min Aung Hlaing and senior members of the Burmese military.”

Tun Khin, President of Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK

The processes around international accountability for the crimes committed by the Myanmar military inched forward in the past week, as Argentina’s judiciary moves closer to issuing arrest warrants under universal jurisdiction for those responsible for the Rohingya genocide in 2017. Additionally, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) approved seven countries to join the genocide case against Myanmar. And while such processes have the unique potential to give a form of justice to victims and survivors, not just of the Rohingya genocide but of the plethora of crimes committed by the military against the people of Myanmar, more political will and resources are needed for such mechanisms to really work for those who need it most and end impunity for good.

Following the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK) petitioning Argentine courts in 2019 to open an investigation into genocide and crimes against humanity against the Rohingya, and the Argentine judiciary opening a case in 2021, the Argentine Prosecutor has petitioned the Argentine Court to issue arrest warrants for numerous Myanmar military and government figures. Welcoming the latest development, BROUK President Tun Khin stated, “Today we are one more step closer to finally seeing the first ever arrests warrants for Min Aung Hlaing and senior members of the Burmese military.” However, the Prosecutor’s petition for arrest warrants has a broader scope than BROUK’s recent request of predominantly Myanmar military personnel, to include civilian leaders Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and then-President U Htin Kyaw. BROUK has therefore called on the Argentine Court to consider “whether issuing arrest warrants for Aung San Suu Kyi and Htin Kyaw serves the best interests of justice at this time.” The Argentine Court will now decide whether and how many of these arrest warrants will be issued.

Adding to the developments in Argentina is the ICJ’s decision on 3 July 2024 to allow the Maldives, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK to join the case against the State of Myanmar for genocide, originally brought by The Gambia in 2019. This ruling allows these countries to submit observations and interventions in the ongoing ICJ case. Such incremental developments may not bring immediate justice to the Rohingya, but they are a step forward in establishing publicly and symbolically the culpability of the military in some of the most horrific crimes committed in Myanmar.

Yet it is important to note that such mechanisms are not just for the Rohingya. Indeed, the UN-mandated Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar’s 2018 report—a foundational document for many of these accountability processes—recommended that the generals of the Myanmar military be investigated not just for genocide committed against the Rohingya. It also recommended investigations into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the military against other ethnic communities in Rakhine State, including the ethnic Rakhine, as well as in Kachin and northern Shan States. Myanmar’s rights-based civil society groups, including Progressive Voice and partners, were at the forefront advocating to the United Nations for the establishment of these mechanisms, and also engaged and collaborated with the mechanism thereafter.

Advocacy and campaigns to hold the Myanmar military to account under international law are therefore not new. Prior to the military-led pseudo-democratic transition that began in 2011, border-based democracy and human rights groups campaigned for the establishment of a commission of inquiry for the systematic human rights violations and international crimes by the Myanmar military throughout the country. The campaign was supported by international allies, such as then-Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Tomás Quintana and two of his predecessors. In 1997 and again in 2022, the International Labour Organization (ILO) established Commissions of Inquiry (COIs) that found the military had engaged in “widespread and systematic use of forced labour” and heavily imposed “far-reaching restrictions…of basic civil liberties and trade union rights.” Such international moves towards accountability show that there is a will to address the systematic human rights violations and violence that affect the whole population of Myanmar. Ensuring justice for the Rohingya who have been victims to one of the most serious of international crimes—genocide—will also mean securing justice for all peoples of Myanmar who have suffered from heinous international crimes by the same perpetrators, the Myanmar military.

There is no denying that international accountability mechanisms are slow, riven by politics, and face legitimate criticisms of hypocrisy given that powerful nations and their allies that commit war crimes are rarely brought to account in such courts. Yet their power in establishing truth when domestic accountability is completely impossible, and in pressuring the international community to take more effective and rightful action, such as coordinated targeted sanctions or diplomatic isolation, has value. They also add momentum to people’s legitimate movements to end dictatorship and seek justice and accountability such as Myanmar’s Spring Revolution. The prospect of arrest warrants being issued against Min Aung Hlaing or INTERPOL issuing a Red Notice for him brings a sense of justice for people. Moreover, it becomes that much harder for international entities to partner with a military that has been convicted of genocide under international law, as their involvement with this military would mean being complicit in or aiding and abetting its crimes.

Ultimately, the Myanmar people’s revolution will be won on the ground, by the hundreds of thousands of men and women, young and old, who have made huge and sometimes the ultimate sacrifice for their country. It will not be won by a remote court in the Netherlands or Argentina. Yet these processes to achieve justice can give an extra dimension of pressure on the military junta, as well as the sense that its violently constructed world is caving in, all the while catalyzing discourse and policy on ending impunity. It is important therefore that the international community provides political, technical, and financial support to the universal jurisdiction case in Argentina; States Parties to the Rome Statute refer the crisis in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court under Article 14; and more countries join the ICJ case. These processes are a significant component of the multi-faceted movement for federal democracy in Myanmar and one path to finally end the impunity that military has enjoyed for so long and prevent recurrence of mass atrocities.

[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

Resources from the past week


Statements and Press Releases

India must end racial discrimination against Rohingya, cease forced deportation and arbitrary detention, urges UN Committee

By Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Situation of Rohingya who fled Myanmar to India

By Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Myanmar journalist Htet Aung sentenced to 5 years in prison under counterterrorism law

By Committee to Protect Journalists

Interactive dialogue on the oral progress report by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar


Admissibility of the Declarations of Intervention Filed by Seven States in the Case

By International Court of Justice

(၆၂) နှစ်မြောက် ဆဲဗင်းဂျူလိုင် ကျောင်းသားအရေးတော်ပုံနေ့ အခမ်းအနားသို့ အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရက ပေးပို့သည့် သဝဏ်လွှာ

By National Unity Government 

UN women’s rights committee urges action to end gender-based violence against women and girls in Myanmar

By Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Situation of Rohingya who fled Myanmar to India

By UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Myanmar: New report urges robust support for women, girls and LGBT people in post-coup Myanmar

By UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar 

မိဘပြည်သူများသို့ အသိပေးထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

By United League of Arakan



သံတိုင်နောက်မှ ပြန်လမ်းမဲ့သူများ

By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

No return home: Those who had no chance to go back home from behind bars

By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

Unseen and Unheard: Violations of the Human Rights of Women Deprived of Liberty in Myanmar

By International Commission of Jurists

Myanmar humanitarian update No. 39 | 1 July 2024

By UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

A/HRC/56/CRP.8: Courage amid Crisis: Gendered impacts of the coup and the pursuit of gender equality in Myanmar

By UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar

Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”