Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi defends Rohingya genocide at United Nations court

Clay Curtis
December 12, 2019

Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday denied "genocidal intent" as she defended Myanmar's military operation against Rohingya Muslims in the UN's top court.

Once hailed internationally for her defiance of Myanmar's junta, Suu Kyi was this time on the side of the southeast Asian nation's military when she took the stand.

It could not be ruled out that the Tatmadaw had used disproportionate force, Ms. Suu Kyi told the Netherlands-based court, while also suggesting that "surely, under the circumstances, genocidal intent cannot be the only hypothesis" - the same phraseology used around a 2019 United Nations report by independent experts on the circumstances leading up to the Rakhine mass exodus.

Once hailed worldwide as a rights icon for her defiance of the same generals she is now defending, Suu Kyi also warned the Hague-based court that its involvement in the case risked "feeding the flames of extreme polarisation".

Under the International Court of Justice's huge stained-glass windows and intricate chandeliers, Suu Kyi told the panel of judges that Myanmar's military was merely dealing with an internal armed conflict when soldiersresponded to "coordinated and comprehensive attacks" by militants in the region.

This week, the International Court of Justice is considering whether to grant a provisional measure aimed at protecting Rohingya still living in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

Almost three-quarters of a million Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh after the Myanmar military launched a huge offensive that it said was in response to attacks by local militants.

The Gambia, a small west African state that is mainly Muslim, claims Myanmar breached the 1948 genocide convention and wants the court to take emergency measures to stop further violence.

Gambia's Attorney General and Justice Minister, Abubacarr M. Tambadou says the global community can not watch on while another Rwanda happens referring to the 1994 genocide.

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While Suu Kyi conceded that disproportionate military force may have been used and civilians killed, she said the acts did not constitute genocide.

She continued: "There will be no tolerance of human rights violations in Rakhine or elsewhere in Myanmar". She detailed how the army responded on August 25 2017 to attacks by insurgents trained by Afghan and Pakistan extremists.

Rohingya representatives and rights groups condemned the evidence from Suu Kyi and Burma's legal team. Both reports noted that there were nearly one million Rohingya refugees living in squalid camps in Bangladesh who stood as evidence of the crimes against humanity perpetrated against them.

But Suu Kyi dismissed Gambia's case as a half-truth, saying "the situation in Rakhine state is complicated and not easily fathomed". They are genuinely gripped by fear.

Thousands of Rohingya were killed and more than 700,000 fled to neighbouring Bangladesh during an army crackdown in the Buddhist-majority country in 2017.

Gambia's justice minister and attorney general, Abubacarr Marie Tambadou, made it absolutely clear earlier that he wanted to "send a clear message to Myanmar and to the rest of the worldwide community that the world must not stand by and do nothing in the face of awful atrocities that are occurring around us". Her activism against the brutal rule of dictator U Ne Win landed her under house arrest in 1989 spending 15 of the next 21 years in custody, and winning the 1991 Nobel Prize for Peace.

Reported by Nayrein Kyaw and Waiyan Moe Myint for RFA's Myanmar Service.

Jesmin met a Rohingya boy, seven-year-old Mohammed, whose eyes lit up when he told her he wanted to be a doctor. "They have no transparency and no accountability, but finally, we are excited that theworld can see the truth at the ICJ".

"Absurd #AungSanSuuKyi defense argument number 4: we are nice to some Muslims and even give them scholarships so how could we have committed genocide against the #Rohingya?", tweeted Adams in response.

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