Suu Kyi rejects genocide claims in UN court
Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been defending her country against allegations of genocide at the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ).
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate is responding to widespread claims that Myanmar (formerly Burma) committed atrocities against Muslim Rohingya.
In her opening remarks, she called the case against Myanmar “incomplete and incorrect”.
She said troubles in Rakhine, where many Rohingya lived, go back centuries.
Thousands of Rohingya were killed and more than 700,000 fled to neighbouring Bangladesh during an army crackdown in Buddhist-majority Myanmar in 2017.
Myanmar has always insisted it was tackling an extremist threat in Rakhine state, and Ms Suu Kyi maintained that stance, calling the violence an “internal armed conflict triggered by attacks on police posts”.
Conceding that Myanmar’s military may have used disproportionate forces at times, she said that if soldiers had committed war crimes “they will be prosecuted”.
Ms Suu Kyi has been de facto leader of Myanmar since April 2016, before the alleged genocide began. She does not have control over the army but has been accused by the UN investigator of “complicity” in the military clearances.
She said Myanmar was committed to the safe repatriation of people displaced from Rakhine, and urged the court to avoid any action that could aggravate the conflict.
The ICJ is the UN’s top court, and cases must be submitted to it by countries.
This one has been brought by The Gambia, a small Muslim-majority west African nation, on behalf of dozens of other Muslim countries.
“All that The Gambia asks is that you tell Myanmar to stop these senseless killings, to stop these acts of barbarity that continue to shock our collective conscience, to stop this genocide of its own people,” The Gambia’s Attorney General and Justice Minister, Abubacarr M Tambadou, told the court.
His country acted after he visited a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh and heard of killings, rape and torture, he told the BBC in October.
At the initial three-day hearing, The Gambia is asking the ICJ in The Hague to approve temporary measures to protect the Rohingya. But a final ruling on genocide may be years away.