It was an unusual sight as Nobel laureate Aung Sang Suu Kyi arrived at the International Court of Justice to defend the Myanmar military over charges of genocide against the Muslim minority Rohingyas. The human rights icon who struggled against dictatorship was defending Myanmar’s generals over accusation of mass killings, rape and expulsion of the Rohingya community.
Suu Kyi shocked critics when she decided to head her country’s delegation to the Hague for the landmark case. The de facto prime minister has been immensely critcised for her silence on the atrocities, calling the situation an internal conflict, and denying that the army was wiping out the minority.
The case-filed by Gambia-is the first international attempt to bring Myanmar to justice . The sparsely populated African country urged Myanmar to stop ‘the genocide of its own people’. Gambia is being backed by the OIC, Netherlands, and Canada. No individual will be charged and the final judgment could take years, but it is still a watershed moment for victims and their communities.
More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh after a bloody crackdown was carried out in 2017 by the Myanmar army. UN investigators have concluded that the operation was carried out with genocidal intent raising serious concerns of crimes against humanity. The Rohingya have been termed as the most persecuted community in the world.
Before Suu Kyi could present her defence she listened impassively as the opposing side detailed graphic testimonies of the atrocities. Gambia’s Justice Minister urged the world court to stop the ‘senseless killings’ in Myanmar. He said the world’s failure to act over Mynamar is a stain on our collective conscience and humanity.
Myanmar has long denied accusations of genocide. In her nation’s defence, Suu Kyi maintained that the case was ‘incomplete and incorrect’ and that troubles in the Rakhine state, where Rohingya lived, go way back. She admitted that Myanmar may have used disproportionate force but this was only due to the threats of militant attacks on security forces.
The fact that Suu Kyi has chosen to stand up for the same army that kept her under house arrest for several years is preposterous. Once celebrated as a champion of democracy, she has now chosen to be pawn in the hands of the Myanmar establishment.
Suu Kyi has no control over the powerful Myanmar military but is seen as complicit in the crimes. There are calls that her Nobel Prize should be revoked. In another blow, the US has imposed sanctions on Myanmar’s army chief over the killings. There case has raised the plight of the Rohingya on the global stage and delivered a message that they are finally being heard.