A Nobel peace winner’s ignoble arguments - GulfToday

A Nobel peace winner’s ignoble arguments

Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi

For someone who had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and adored as a pro-democracy icon, Aung San Suu Kyi’s fall from grace turned complete on Wednesday when she told the United Nation’s top court that there was no “genocidal intent” in Myanmar’s crackdown on helpless Rohingya Muslims.

The entire world knows by now that not only have the Rohingya Muslims faced horrific violence at the hands of Myanmar security forces in 2016 and 2017 with no accountability, but they have also been subjected to decades-long systematic discrimination in Myanmar.

More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims were forced to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape what has been called an ethnic cleansing campaign involving mass rapes, killings and the torching of homes. United Nations investigators have said 10,000 people may have been killed.

The head of a UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar went to the extent of warning that there was a serious risk of genocide recurring.

The case filed at the International Court of Justice by Gambia has outlined clearly that Myanmar’s campaign against the Rohingya, which includes “killing, causing serious bodily and mental harm, inflicting conditions that are calculated to bring about physical destruction, imposing measures to prevent births, and forcible transfers, are genocidal in character because they are intended to destroy the Rohingya group in whole or in part.”

Unfortunately, Suu Kyi, who was once even mentioned in the same breath as Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, has been unabashedly taking the side of the very same armed forces that had kept her under house arrest for about 15 years.

Her argument that a military-led “clearance operation” in western Rakhine State launched in August 2017 was a counterterrorism response to coordinated Rohingya militant attacks against dozens of police stations does not hold water.

Rights groups rightly argue that Suu Kyi’s statement contradicts evidence on the ground and witness accounts.

As George Graham, director of humanitarian advocacy at Save the Children, points out: “Her remarks fly in the face of all the evidence gathered by the UN, and the testimony our own teams have heard from countless survivors.”

An Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar had made it abundantly clear in a report wrapping up two years of documentation of human rights violations by security forces that counterinsurgency operations against Rohingya in 2017 included genocidal acts.

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 UN fact-finding mission found that “the gravest crimes under international law” had been committed in Myanmar and called for genocide trials, no court has previously weighed evidence.

The horrific actions of violence and ethnic cleansing by Myanmar military have left the Rohingya horror-struck. They are genuinely gripped by fear.

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 international community that the world must not stand by and do nothing in the face of terrible atrocities that are occurring around us. It is a shame for our generation that we do nothing while genocide is unfolding right before our own eyes.”

The world community has a responsibility and shirking that cannot be an option.

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