The Nobel peace prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi defends actions of government, saying attacks were initiated by insurgents. Gambia took Myanmar to International Court of Justice on allegations that has and continue to commit genocide against its minority Rohingya Muslims.
The Nobel peace prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has defended Myanmar’s government against accusations of genocide at the international court of justice, calling the allegations against his country “incomplete and misleading factual picture of the situation in Rakhine state”.
Addressing a bench of 17 judges from around the world, the 74-year-old leader dismissed reports of state violence against Rohingya Muslims and blamed the conflict on an uprising by separatist insurgents.
An estimated 700,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since late 2016, escaping military clearance operations that a UN fact-finding mission described as “brutal”. It warned that Myanmar was failing to prevent genocide.
Once internationally feted as a human rights champion, Aung San Suu Kyi is leading Myanmar’s delegation to the court in The Hague.
The state counsellor, in effect the country’s prime minister, delivered an overview of Myanmar’s response to what she described as a terrorist uprising inside its borders.
The attacks were initiated by members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), Aung San Suu Kyi told the court as she displayed detailed maps of Rakhine state showing, she claimed, where the first assaults began in late 2016. Myanamar’s security forces responded to that violence, she said.
“The situation in Rakhine state is complex and not easy to fathom,” she said. “The troubles in Rakhine state … go back into past centuries and and have been particularly severe. ARSA seeks independence for Rakhine, finding inspiration from the [ancient] Arakan kingdom.”
Her speech to the UN’s highest tribunal came on the second day of an emergency legal hearing convened to consider whether protective “provisional measures” should be imposed to prevent further killings and destruction in Myanmar.
Aung San Suu Kyi said an initial phase of violence had begun in October 2016 when ARSA carried out attacks on police stations near the border with Bangladesh.
“This led to the deaths of nine police officers and more than 100 civilians as well as the theft of 68 weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition.”
She said a second wave of ARSA assaults launched in August 2017 aimed to seize the township of Maungdaw, telling the court Myanmar’s army had been forced to respond with “counter-insurgency operations”.
The charge that Myanmar’s military carried out mass murder, rape and destruction of Rohingya Muslim communities has been brought by the Gambia.
“We are dealing with an internal armed conflict, started by coordinated and comprehensive attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, to which Myanmar’s defence services responded,” she told the court.
“Tragically, this armed conflict led to the exodus of several hundred thousand Muslims from the three northernmost townships of Rakhine into Bangladesh – just as the armed conflict in Croatia with which the court had to deal led to the massive exodus of first ethnic Croats and later ethnic Serbs.”
Under the rules of the ICJ, member states can initiate actions against fellow member states over disputes alleging breaches of international law – in this case, the 1948 convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide.
Aung San Suu Kyi disputed the genocide convention as a basis for the case and asserted in court that the principle of international law is that it should compliment domestic justice.
She said if war crimes or human rights violations had been committed they would be dealt with by Myanmar’s justice system, adding that in one case soldiers had been punished for the execution of civilians.
Source: Guardian newspaper UK