Aung San Suu Kyi defends Myanmar from accusations of genocide, at top UN court

ICJ/Frank van Beek Aung San Suu Kyi appears at the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) on 11 December 2019.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


Myanmar will have “no tolerance” for human rights abuses committed in Rakhine state and will prosecute the military, if war crimes have been committed there, Aung San Suu Kyi told the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the UN’s main judicial body, on Wednesday.

Ms. Suu Kyi was testifying in defence of her country, which is facing charges of genocide committed against the mainly-Muslim Rohingya minority group, brought by The Gambia, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

The de facto leader of Myanmar, who was placed under house arrest by the country’s then military rulers off and on over more than 20 years, is not on trial at the ICJ, which settles disputes between countries. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has the responsibility of trying individuals, and in November, the ICC authorized its own investigation into alleged crimes against humanity, namely deportation, committed against the Rohingya.

“If war crimes have been committed, they will be prosecuted within our military justice system”, the Nobel peace laureate Ms. Suu Kyi said in court, during the second day of preliminary proceedings at the ICJ.

In her opening statement in front of judges in The Hague, Ms. Suu Kyi outlined decades of tensions between Rakhine’s mainly Rohingya Muslim community and their Buddhist neighbours.

These boiled over on 25 August 2017, when the country’s military – often referred to as the Tatmadaw – carried out a sweeping crackdown against Rohingya communities, in response to deadly attacks on police and security posts by separatists known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.

The result was the exodus of more than 700,000 people to neighbouring Bangladesh, many of whom told UN-appointed independent investigators that they had witnessed targeted violence of extreme brutality.

Numerous alleged human rights abuses took place, with the then UN human rights chief describing it as bearing all the hallmarks of a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

Genocidal intent ‘cannot be only possibility’: Suu Kyi

It could not be ruled out that the Tatmadaw had used disproportionate force, Ms. Suu Kyi told the Netherlands-based court, while also suggesting that “surely, under the circumstances, genocidal intent cannot be the only hypothesis” – the same phraseology used around a 2019 UN report by independent experts on the circumstances leading up to the Rakhine mass exodus.

According to the report by the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, the country’s military were responsible for the “widespread and systematic killing of women and girls, the systematic selection of women and girls of reproductive ages for rape, attacks on pregnant women and on babies, the mutilation and other injuries to their reproductive organs, the physical branding of their bodies by bite marks on their cheeks, neck, breast and thigh, and so severely injuring victims that they may be unable to have sexual intercourse with their husbands or to conceive and leaving them concerned that they would no longer be able to have children.”

Highlighting that Myanmar’s own military justice system “must” be responsible for investigating and prosecuting allegations of possible war crimes by soldiers or officers in Rakhine, Ms. Suu Kyi regretted that the case brought against her country by The Gambia was “an incomplete and misleading factual picture in Rakhine state and Myanmar”.

Tatmadaw military ‘will be put on trial in Myanmar if guilty’

If war crimes have been committed by members of Myanmar’s defence services, Ms Suu Kyi added, “they will be prosecuted through our military justice system, in accordance with Myanmar’s constitution”.

In addition, she said that “it would not be helpful” for the international legal order if the impression takes hold that only resource-rich countries can conduct adequate domestic investigations and prosecutions”.

The Myanmar representative also insisted that it was of the utmost importance that the ICJ also assess the situation “on the ground in Rakhine dispassionately and accurately”.

Case against Myanmar laid out in detail

The hearing, brought by The Gambia with the backing of the 57 members of the  Organization of Islamic Cooperation, alleges that “…against the backdrop of longstanding persecution and discrimination, from around October 2016 the Myanmar military (the “Tatmadaw”) and other Myanmar security forces began widespread and systematic ‘clearance operations’ – the term that Myanmar itself uses – against the Rohingya group”.

The “genocidal acts” that followed “were intended to destroy the Rohingya as a group – in whole or in part”, The Gambia’s submission states, detailing mass murder, rape and other sexual violence against the Rohingya and the “systematic destruction by fire” of villages, “often with inhabitants locked inside burning houses”.

From August 2017 onwards, such genocidal acts continued with Myanmar’s resumption of “clearance operations” on a more massive and wider geographical scale”, it continued.                       

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

What’s the latest on coronavirus antibody tests?

Remembering Kofi Annan

Female leaders warn about the erosion of women’s rights

Yemen: Escalation in fighting must stop ‘before it’s too late’, Griffiths tells Security Council

Romania: MEPs are deeply concerned about judicial independence and rule of law

Zuckerberg, a paella, and the mighty EU questionnaires that would stop Whatsapp acquisition by Facebook?

UN cultural agency removes birthplace of Jesus from its list of heritage sites in danger

How the massive plan to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine could make history – and leverage blockchain like never before

EU tourism industry expects a new record year in 2014

Youth leaders share positive visions of the future, as Guterres launches UN75 in New York

Apple Vs. EU: Will the US tech giant ever pay for taking advantage of Ireland’s taxation?

COVID-19 lessons learned: stronger role for EU medicines regulator

Mergers: Commission prohibits Siemens’ proposed acquisition of Alstom

A Sting Exclusive: “There can be no global deal on emissions without China and the USA”, Conservative MEP Ian Duncan stresses from Brussels

UN forum spotlights cities, where struggle for sustainability ‘will be won or lost’

This is the state of the world’s health, in numbers

Peru is building a new international airport near Machu Picchu – and archaeologists are worried

The new ethical dilemmas in medicine of the 21st century

Commission extends transparency and authorisation mechanism for exports of COVID-19 vaccines

Is the world living up to its climate commitments?

A Sting Exclusive: “Asia-Pacific response to COVID-19 and climate emergency must build a resilient and sustainable future”, by the United Nations Under-Secretary-General

Fed, ECB take positions to face the next global financial crisis; the Brits uncovered

The gender gap in medicine: why must it be closed?

Trump: Hostile to Europe, voids Tillerson’s “ironclad” ally pledge

Eurozone in trouble after Nicosia’s ‘no’

The future of energy is being shaped in Asia

Vaccine against Ebola: Commission grants first-ever market authorisation

Five ways individuals can help save the oceans

Why remote working doesn’t have to mean alienated employees

3 principles to reinforce digital trust in supply chains

Food safety critical to development and ending poverty: FAO deputy chief

Commission welcomes political support by Member States to improve the protection of bees

UN panel to rally global political will to tackle internal displacement crisis

Deal on digitalisation of access to justice will benefit citizens

How the digital finance revolution can drive sustainable development

Commission Vice-President Rehn exaggerates Eurozone’s growth prospects

This NASA-inspired technology converts carbon dioxide into food. Here’s how

How cities, not states, can solve the world’s biggest problems

How to stop plastic pollution at source

Working fewer hours makes you more efficient. Here’s the proof

Mexico cannot move forward ‘without addressing the shadows of the past’, says UN rights chief

Rule of law: MEPs travel to Malta to meet with government, NGOs and journalists

Tsipras imposes more austerity on insolvent Greece; plans to win new early election soon

Coronavirus: here’s what you need to know about face masks

A critical European young voice on Net Neutrality: the distance between Brussels and Washington

How to build public trust in a sustainable energy future

Syria: Urgent, concrete actions needed, to protect children too young to ‘make sense of this senseless war’

Universal Health Coverage in the EU: Are we really leaving no one behind?

This Japanese experiment shows how easily coronavirus can spread – and what you can do about it

This start-up is recycling abandoned wooden homes in Baltimore

Conflict prevention, mediation: among ‘most important tools’ to reduce human suffering, Guterres tells Security Council

A European student just sets the question of the day: What kind of education policies are missing in Europe?

MEPs approve new CO2 emissions limits for trucks

Combat against devastating effects of tobacco can only be won ‘if the UN stands united’ – UN health official

State aid: Commission approves €2.5 billion Italian scheme to support self-employed and healthcare professionals in context of coronavirus outbreak

Sudan Prime Minister survives attempted assassination

Yemen war: UN-backed talks to silence the guns due to begin in Stockholm

As Libya talks resume in Geneva, UN negotiator seeks to overcome sticking points

The health of the human being in coexistence with a transformative biosphere

This disability activist says we must offer dignity and financial inclusion rather than just braille and ramps

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s