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Rights group files suit in Germany against Myanmar military

  • Diplomatic Correspondent
  • 25 January, 2023 12:00 AM
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Rights group files suit in Germany against Myanmar military

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Fortify Rights and 16 individual complainants from Myanmar filed a criminal complaint with the Federal Public Prosecutor General of Germany under the principle of universal jurisdiction against senior Myanmar military generals and others for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, Fortify Rights announced Tuesday.

 The 215-page complaint and more than 1,000 pages of annexes provide evidence to assist the Office of the Federal Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the Rohingya genocide as well as atrocity crimes related to the military junta’s coup d’état launched on February 1, 2021.

 February 1, 2023 marks the second anniversary of the deadly coup and crackdown in Myanmar, and August 2022 marked five years since the Myanmar military’s most egregious attacks on the Rohingya people.

However, the individuals responsible for crimes related to both have yet to be held accountable.

Summary Film: Criminal Complaint Filed in Germany against Myanmar Generals Hear the voices of complainants from Myanmar who, together with Fortify Rights, filed a criminal complaint in Germany against Myanmar generals and others.

“An ethnically diverse and united front of survivors from throughout Myanmar are bringing this case to seek justice and accountability,” said Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder at Fortify Rights.

“Despite international attention and several ongoing accountability initiatives, the Myanmar military still enjoys complete impunity, and that must end. These crimes cannot go unpunished. Germany’s universal jurisdiction law is a global model for combatting impunity for the worst crimes and providing access to justice for survivors of atrocities no matter where the crimes occur or where the survivors are located.”

Universal jurisdiction is a legal principle enabling a state to prosecute individuals responsible for mass atrocity crimes—genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes—regardless of where the crimes occurred or the nationality of the perpetrator or victims. Universal jurisdiction is typically reserved for “international crimes,” which are so severe that they represent offenses against the entire international community.

The criminal complaint was filed on January 20, 2023. Fortify Rights is represented by Covington & Burling LLP, which has offices in Germany.  Approximately half of the 16 individual complainants survived the Rohingya genocide and Myanmar military-led “clearance operations” in Rakhine State in 2016 and 2017, and approximately half survived post-coup atrocities in states and regions throughout the country in 2021 and 2022.

The complainants include six women and ten men who represent several ethnicities in Myanmar, including Arakanese (Rakhine), Burman, Chin, Karen, Karenni, Mon, and Rohingya. They include students, scholars, farmers, human rights defenders, businesspersons, former village heads, and homemakers.

All the complainants survived or witnessed crimes in Myanmar, and many have since fled the country. At the time of writing, the complainants are located in several countries, including Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Germany, and the U.S.