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Criminal case against Myanmar junta launched in Turkey

The complaint centers on reports of torture inside the notorious Yay Kyi Ai military interrogation center in Yangon
Criminal case against Myanmar junta launched in Turkey

Myanmar junta chief Min Aung Hlaing speaks in capital Naypyidaw on Jan. 31. (Photo: AFP/Myanmar Military Information Team)

Published: March 31, 2022 07:02 AM GMT
Updated: April 01, 2022 06:49 AM GMT

A criminal complaint has been filed against leaders of Myanmar’s military junta in the Turkish capital of Istanbul for their “widespread and systematic” use of torture since the February 2021 coup.

It is the first case initiated in a national court outside Myanmar for crimes committed within the country since the coup last year, said Chris Gunness, project director of the Myanmar Accountability Project (MAP), which filed the case.

The complaint was filed at the prosecutor’s office in Istanbul by lawyer Gulden Sonmez, acting for MAP on behalf of the victims, MAP stated in a press release on March 29.

The details of the complaint were not known immediately but it centers on reports of torture perpetrated in the notorious Yay Kyi Ai military interrogation center in Yangon, the commercial hub of the Southeast Asian nation.

“The military junta acted in a strict chain of command, committing crimes in a systematic, widespread and pre-planned manner,” said Gülden Sönmez. 

“Turkey is a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture and an investigation must be initiated based on universal jurisdiction against the generals and commanders involved in these crimes, as well as those who actually committed the torture.”

“The absence of meaningful action to prevent these ongoing crimes makes universal jurisdiction cases even more important”

MAP said the multiple cases of torture amounted to international crimes while citing the UN’s latest report which said that 325 people including 26 children had been tortured to death since the coup. The report further concluded that hundreds, if not thousands, have been subjected to torture.

Many more cases have been reported by rights organizations and the local media in Myanmar, where the military is known to have used torture as a weapon against its citizens for decades.

“The absence of meaningful action to prevent these ongoing crimes makes universal jurisdiction cases even more important,” said Gunness.

Evidence of severe torture has been presented along with the identities of named perpetrators in the file lodged with Turkish authorities, demanding that those responsible should be arrested and extradited to Turkey to face justice and in order to prevent the ongoing crimes, MAP said. 

“Turkey showed great sensitivity to the persecution of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims in 2017,” said Gunness, who was in Istanbul for the case. “There is growing support here, not just for humanitarian intervention but for targeted legal action against the Myanmar generals for the atrocity crimes they and their henchmen are committing on a daily basis.” 

Turkey has been supportive of the genocide case against the Myanmar junta at the International Criminal Court in the Hague and the Turkish government also voted for a robust UN General Assembly action in a strongly worded resolution in June 2021.

The government in Ankara has also supported the decision of the UN General Assembly to deny recognition to the Myanmar junta. 

“The Security Council has been hamstrung by the threat of Russian and Chinese vetoes and ASEAN has been hopelessly divided. In this context, it is vitally important that UN member states, such as Turkey, support criminal accountability in their national courts,” Gunness added.

More than 1,700 people have been killed by security forces and more than 12,000 have been detained in the 14 months since the coup.

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