Suu Kyi defends Myanmar military against genocide charges

Bloomberg December 11 | Updated on December 11, 2019

Aung San Suu Kyi stands before the UN’s International Court of Justice on Wednesday in the Peace Palace of The Hague, on the second day of her hearing on the Rohingya genocide case

Myanmar’s de facto leader and noble laureate Aung San Suu Kyi addressed the International Court of Justice on Wednesday to deny allegations the country’s military had committed genocide against minority Rohingya Muslims.

The small Muslim-majority nation of Gambia that brought the case against Myanmar had laid out a detailed and graphic case a day earlier, saying thousands of Rohingya Muslim were systematically raped and murdered at the hands of Myanmar’s powerful military. They are calling for temporary measures to protect the Rohingya community against ongoing atrocities.

But Suu Kyi dismissed Gambia’s case as a half-truth, saying “the situation in Rakhine state is complicated and not easily fathomed.” She attributed the exodus of more than 740,000 civilians to neighboring Bangladesh to an ongoing internal armed conflict with insurgents.

”Gambia has placed an incomplete and misleading picture of the factual situation in Rakhine state in Myanmar,” she told the court.

‘Genocidal Intent’

Following multiple investigations, the UN directly accused Myanmar’s military, known as Tatmadaw, of perpetrating the atrocities against the ethnic minority with “genocidal intent” while accusing Suu Kyi herself of complicity in the crimes. The violence against the Rohingya began in earnest in 2017, although the community has faced systematic marginalization in Myanmar for years.

While the government has shown no signs of holding senior military officials accountable, Suu Kyi insisted any officers, civilians or soldiers found guilty of war crimes through Myanmar’s independent inquiry would be held accountable and the country has made every effort to investigate the conflict.

“There is currently no other fact finding body in the world that has garnered relevant first hand information on what occurred in Rakhine in 2017 to the same extent as the independent commission of inquiry,” she said. “They must be allowed to run their course.”

Following the speech, Global Justice Center President Akila Radhakrishnan said in a statement Suu Kyi’s depiction of an internal military conflict “with no genocidal intent against the Rohingya is completely false.”

“Multiple independent agencies and experts, as well as Rohingya themselves, have documented mass killings, widespread rape, and wholesale destruction of land and property intentionally inflicted on innocent civilians,” Radhakrishnan said. “This is genocide and it’s precisely what the Genocide Convention set out to prevent.”

With close to one million Rohingya living in squalid refugee camps across the border in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazaar area, Suu Kyi told the court Myanmar was taking every step to ensure their safe and dignified repatriation, disputing claims by numerous rights groups.

“How can there be genocide when such concrete steps are being taken,” she asked.

Published on December 11, 2019

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