Relatives of War Crime Victims in Myanmar Seek Justice in Philippines
October 26, 2023 | by b1og.net
In a desperate bid for justice, relatives of victims of alleged war crimes in Myanmar have turned to the Philippines to hold their nation’s ruling generals accountable. Human rights lawyers representing five Myanmar nationals have filed a criminal complaint in the Philippines, arguing that a 2009 Philippine law promoting human rights requires the country to prosecute war crimes committed outside its borders under the principle of universal jurisdiction. The complainants seek to test whether such a case can succeed outside the violence-ridden country, where thousands have been killed and detained since the military coup in 2021. This legal effort highlights the dire situation in Myanmar and the ongoing fight for accountability and justice on an international scale.
Victims of alleged war crimes in Myanmar seek justice
In a desperate attempt to seek justice, relatives of victims of alleged war crimes committed by Myanmar’s military have filed a criminal complaint in the Philippines. These victims hope that by taking legal action outside of Myanmar, they can hold their nation’s ruling generals accountable for their actions. The filing of the complaint in the Philippines is a significant move as it represents an effort to test the possibility of success in prosecuting war crimes committed in another country.
Filing a criminal complaint in the Philippines
Human rights lawyers representing five Myanmar nationals have filed a joint complaint before the Department of Justice in the Philippines. They argue that a 2009 Philippine law promoting human rights obligates the country to prosecute war crimes committed anywhere in the world under the principle of universal jurisdiction. The complainants hope that this legal recourse will provide them with an opportunity to seek justice for the war crimes committed in Myanmar.
Legal basis for prosecution in the Philippines
The legal basis for prosecuting war crimes committed in Myanmar in the Philippines stems from the country’s domestic laws and international legal principles. The 2009 Philippine law promoting human rights serves as the foundation for these prosecutions, as it establishes the obligation to prosecute war crimes irrespective of the geographic location in which they were committed. Additionally, the principle of universal jurisdiction allows for the prosecution of individuals for crimes against humanity, even when the crimes were committed outside the prosecuting state’s territory.
The Parties Involved
The victims and their representatives
The victims of the alleged war crimes in Myanmar are the ones seeking justice through the filing of the criminal complaint in the Philippines. Their representatives are human rights lawyers who are advocating on their behalf. These representatives have taken on the role of navigating the legal process and ensuring that the victims’ voices are heard and their rights are protected.
The accused Myanmar ruling generals
The complaint filed in the Philippines targets Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the head of Myanmar’s ruling military council, along with eight of his military commanders and a state minister. These individuals are specifically named as the perpetrators of the alleged war crimes committed in Myanmar. The victims and their representatives are seeking accountability and justice from these ruling generals.
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Human Rights Obligations
Philippine law on human rights
The 2009 Philippine law promoting human rights establishes the country’s commitment to upholding human rights principles and ensuring that perpetrators of war crimes are held accountable. This law serves as the legal basis for prosecuting war crimes committed in Myanmar, as it mandates the prosecution of such crimes regardless of where they were committed. By invoking this law, the victims and their representatives are highlighting the Philippines’ obligation to pursue justice in cases of war crimes.
Principle of universal jurisdiction
The principle of universal jurisdiction allows for the prosecution of individuals for crimes against humanity, even when the crimes were committed outside the prosecuting state’s territory. This principle is significant in the context of the criminal complaint filed in the Philippines, as it enables the country to exercise jurisdiction over the alleged war crimes committed in Myanmar. By invoking universal jurisdiction, the victims and their representatives are seeking to ensure that perpetrators of war crimes do not evade accountability based on geographic boundaries.
ASEAN’s Non-Intervention Policy
Criticism of ASEAN’s approach
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has a policy of non-intervention in each other’s domestic affairs. This policy has been criticized by many, as it has allowed human rights atrocities to persist in the region. By adhering to a non-intervention policy, ASEAN has often been unable to effectively address and respond to human rights abuses committed by member states. In the case of the war crimes in Myanmar, this policy has hindered the victims’ access to justice and accountability.
Implications for human rights atrocities in the region
The non-intervention policy of ASEAN has significant implications for human rights atrocities in the region. By refusing to intervene in the domestic affairs of member states, ASEAN has created a situation where human rights abuses can occur without sufficient consequences. This lack of intervention and response from ASEAN member states enables perpetrators of atrocities to operate with impunity, undermining the fundamental principles of human rights and justice.
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Prosecutor’s decision in the Philippines
The complaint filed by the victims and their representatives will be reviewed by Philippine government prosecutors. These prosecutors have the authority to approve or dismiss the complaint based on its merits and adherence to Philippine law. The decision reached by the prosecutors will determine whether the case proceeds to the next stage in the legal process.
Deadline for approval or dismissal of the complaint
Philippine government prosecutors have a deadline of 90 days to approve or dismiss the complaint. Within this timeframe, the prosecutors will carefully review the evidence and arguments presented in the complaint. They will assess whether there is sufficient legal basis to pursue the prosecution of the alleged war crimes committed in Myanmar. At the end of this period, a decision will be made regarding the complaint.
Desperation in Myanmar
High death toll and detention figures
Myanmar has been plagued by a high death toll and a significant number of individuals held in detention since the military overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government in February 2021. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, at least 4,155 people have been killed, and more than 19,600 remain in detention. These figures highlight the desperate situation in Myanmar and the urgent need for accountability and justice for the victims of war crimes.
Impacts of military rule and armed conflict
The military rule and armed conflict in Myanmar have had devastating impacts on the country and its people. The seizure of power by the military junta has led to widespread human rights abuses and a lack of democratic processes. The armed conflict between the military and opponents of military rule has further exacerbated the situation. The combination of military rule and armed conflict has created an environment of fear, violence, and impunity, leaving victims desperate for justice.
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UN investigation findings
An investigative group established by the United Nations conducted an inquiry into the war crimes committed in Myanmar. In August, this group published findings that provided strong evidence of indiscriminate and disproportionate targeting of civilians, mass executions of detainees, and large-scale burning of civilian houses. The UN investigation findings contribute to the body of evidence that can be used to prosecute those responsible for the war crimes in Myanmar.
International Criminal Court and World Court cases
The actions of Myanmar’s generals are also under investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also known as the World Court. The ICC is investigating the war crimes committed in Myanmar, while the ICJ is handling a genocide case against senior Myanmar officials. These international investigations demonstrate the global recognition of the severity of the war crimes and the need for accountability.
Argentina’s investigation under universal jurisdiction
In November 2021, courts in Argentina agreed to investigate allegations of genocide and crimes against humanity against senior Myanmar officials under the principle of universal jurisdiction. This investigation showcases the application of universal jurisdiction outside of the region where the crimes were committed. It serves as a precedent for the criminal complaint filed in the Philippines and further highlights the international efforts to hold perpetrators of war crimes accountable.
Zing Raltu’s father and friend murdered
Zing Raltu, one of the complainants, shared a heartbreaking personal testimony during a news conference in Manila. She revealed that her father, a Christian community leader, and his friend were murdered by army troops two years ago while trying to deliver medicine to displaced villagers in Myanmar’s western Chin state. Zing Raltu’s testimony emphasizes the personal anguish and loss faced by victims of war crimes in Myanmar.
Salai Za Uk Ling’s account of artillery bombardments and destruction
Another complainant, Salai Za Uk Ling, recounted the devastating impact of artillery bombardments and airstrikes carried out by the military in Chin state. He reported that at least 350 people were killed, and more than 2,000 houses and buildings, including dozens of Christian churches, were destroyed. Salai Za Uk Ling’s account provides a firsthand perspective on the scale and severity of the war crimes committed in Myanmar.
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Lack of Justice in Myanmar
Military rule and lack of democratic processes
Since the military junta seized power in Myanmar, the country has been plagued by military rule and a lack of democratic processes. The military has imposed its authority and suppressed dissent, denying the people of Myanmar their basic rights and freedoms. This lack of democratic governance undermines the rule of law and creates an environment conducive to the commission of human rights abuses.
Human rights abuses and impunity
The military rule in Myanmar has been characterized by widespread human rights abuses committed with impunity. The military and its affiliated militias have targeted civilians, carried out mass executions, and engaged in large-scale burning of houses. These grave human rights violations have gone unpunished, contributing to a culture of impunity. The lack of justice in Myanmar perpetuates a cycle of violence and creates an urgent need for accountability through international legal mechanisms.
Comparison to Duterte’s Controversy
Accusations against former President Duterte
Former President Rodrigo Duterte faced accusations of encouraging thousands of extrajudicial killings in his brutal police-enforced crackdown on suspected drug dealers. Although Duterte denied ordering extrajudicial killings, there were claims of threats against suspects’ lives. The controversy surrounding Duterte’s actions raises concerns about human rights abuses and the need for accountability in the Philippines.
Investigation by the International Criminal Court
The International Criminal Court is currently investigating the allegations of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines under Duterte’s administration as a possible crime against humanity. This investigation reflects the international community’s commitment to addressing human rights abuses and pursuing justice. The comparison to Duterte’s controversy highlights the interconnectedness of human rights issues and the importance of accountability on a global scale.
In conclusion, the filing of a criminal complaint in the Philippines by the relatives of victims of alleged war crimes in Myanmar represents a significant step towards seeking justice and accountability. With an understanding of the legal basis for prosecution, the involvement of various parties, and the context of human rights obligations and international investigations, it becomes clear that there is a pressing need for accountability for the war crimes committed in Myanmar. The testimonies of victims and the comparison to similar controversies in the Philippines further underscore the urgency of addressing human rights abuses and ensuring justice for the victims. Through international legal mechanisms and the commitment of countries like the Philippines, there is hope for a future where perpetrators of war crimes are held responsible and victims find the justice they seek.