Former democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi is among several top Myanmar officials named Wednesday in a case filed in Argentina for crimes against Rohingya Muslims, the first time the Nobel Laureate has been legally targeted over the crisis.
Rohingya and Latin American human rights groups submitted the lawsuit in Argentina under the principle of "universal jurisdiction," a legal concept enshrined in many countries' laws.
The premise is that some acts -- including war crimes and crimes against humanity -- are so horrific they are not specific to one nation and can be tried anywhere.
"This complaint seeks the criminal sanction of the perpetrators, accomplices and cover-ups of the genocide. We are doing it through Argentina because they have no other possibility of filing the criminal complaint anywhere else," lawyer Tomas Ojea told AFP.
The lawsuit demands top military and political leaders -- including army chief Min Aung Hlaing and civilian leader Suu Kyi -- face justice over the "existential threat" faced by the Rohingya Muslim minority.
"For decades, the Myanmar authorities have tried to wipe us out by confining us to ghettos, forcing us to flee our home country and killing us," said Tun Khin, President of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK).
Argentinean courts have taken up other universal jurisdiction cases, including in relation to ex-dictator Francisco Franco's rule in Spain and the Falun Gong movement in China.
Ojea said he hoped international arrest warrants would be issued as a result of the suit. However, the crime of genocide was not specifically included as it is in not in Argentina's penal code.
Myanmar faces mounting legal pressure in courts around the world for the 2017 expulsion of the Rohingya.
A separate case was filed Monday against Myanmar by The Gambia at the UN's top court in The Hague.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) yesterday approved a long-awaited full investigation into Myanmar's alleged abuse of Rohingya Muslims, including crimes against humanity and persecution.
The Hague-based war crimes court said in a statement it "authorised the prosecutor to proceed with an investigation for the alleged crimes within the ICC's jurisdiction" relating to Myanmar.
The probe will look at allegations of "systematic acts of violence", deportation as a crime against humanity, and persecution on the grounds of ethnicity or religion against the Rohingyas, it said.