Suu Kyi refutes Myanmar genocide allegations at The Hague

Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks on the second day of hearings

Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks on the second day of hearings   | Photo Credit: Reuters

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace prize laureate, lead her country's defence against accusations of genocide against its Rohingya Muslim minority.

Gambia, a small West African country, has launched a case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice, the U.N.'s highest court, alleging it has violated the 1948 Genocide Convention.

Ms. Suu Kyi, Myanmar's top political leader, told the World Court that allegations that Myanmar had committed genocide against Rohingya Muslims were “misleading and incomplete”.

Myanmar's defence forces were responding to attacks by armed local groups in Aug 2017, Ms. Suu Kyi said adding that her country has ordered an independent inquiry and court martial may follow based on the report.

Earlier, Ms. Suu Kyi shocked critics and galvanized supporters at home by travelling to The Hague to head her country's delegation. Her office said she was going to “defend the national interest”.


Ms. Suu Kyi listened impassively on Tuesday as lawyers for Gambia detailed graphic testimony of suffering of Rohingya at the hands of the Myanmar military.

A photograph of Ms. Suu Kyi with three smiling generals who are also Myanmar government ministers — Lieutenant General Ye Aung, Lieutenant General Sein Win and Lieutenant General Kyaw Swe — was shown in the courtroom by Gambia's legal team as evidence of what they said were her close ties to the military. It sparked widespread reactions by her supporters who denounced it on social media as an attempt to mock her.

In three days of hearings this week, judges are hearing the first phase of the case: Gambia's request for “provisional measures” — the equivalent of a restraining order against Myanmar to protect the Rohingya population until the case is heard in full.

Although Ms. Suu Kyi has not revealed details of her government's defence, she and her legal team are expected to argue that the court lacks jurisdiction, and that no genocide has taken place in Myanmar.

Gambia has argued it is every country's duty under the convention to prevent a genocide from taking place. Gambia has political support from the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Canada and the Netherlands.

More than 730,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar after the military launched a crackdown in western Rakhine state in August 2017. Most now live in crowded refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Myanmar argues the military “clearance operations” in Rakhine were a justifiable response to acts of terrorism, and that its soldiers have acted appropriately.

On Tuesday, the United States unveiled sanctions against four of Myanmar's top military leaders, including top military chief Min Aung Hlaing deputy his deputy Soe Win, and two subordinates, citing alleged human rights abuses against the Rohingya and other minorities.

Military spokesman Zaw Min Tun told the BBC's Burmese language service on Wednesday the sanctions would have no effect as those named did not have assets in the United States. “Still, there is damage to our dignity,” he said.

The legal threshold for a finding of genocide is high. Just three cases have been recognised under international law since World War Two: In Cambodia in the late 1970s; In Rwanda in 1994; and at Srebrenica, Bosnia, in 1995.

Although a United Nations fact-finding mission found that ”the gravest crimes under international law” had been committed in Myanmar and called for genocide trials, no court has weighed evidence and established a genocide in Myanmar.

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 7:40:03 PM |

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