Burmese leader will lead delegation to international court of justice next month
Aung San Suu Kyi will travel to The Hague to defend Myanmar against allegations of genocide, her office has announced.
The Burmese leader, once an icon of democracy but now tainted by her association with what UN investigators have described as crimes against humanity, will lead a delegation to the international court of justice (ICJ) next month.
This month the Gambia lodged a 46-page application to the UNs highest court alleging Myanmar had carried out mass murder, rape and destruction of communities in Rakhine state, including against Rohingya people. Public hearings in the case will be held from 10 to 12 December.
More than 700,000 members of the Rohingya community, a minority Muslim group, have fled Rakhine state since October 2016, when the Gambia alleges that Burmese security forces commenced so-called clearance operations after attacks by militants on several police outposts.
The Burmese soldiers systematically shot, killed, forcibly disappeared, raped, gang-raped, sexually assaulted, detained, beat and tortured Rohingya civilians and burned down and destroyed Rohingya homes, mosques, madrasas, shops and Qurans, the submission from the west African country alleges.
Aung San Suu Kyi spent decades under house arrest in Myanmar for campaigning for democracy. After her release she was elected to government in 2015, but she is thought to have little operational control over the military, which until recently ruled as a junta.
She has repeatedly refused to condemn their actions, claiming there is not enough evidence to definitively say what has been happening in Rakhine and blaming terrorists for an iceberg of misinformation about the situation.
Her inaction has led to calls for her to be stripped of the Nobel peace prize she was awarded in 1991. A number of other prizes and honours given to her have already been withdrawn.
Aung San Suu Kyis appearance at the The Hague in December is likely to be her most full-throated and high-profile defence of her countrys actions against the Rohingya and other minorities in Rakhine state and could further tarnish her reputation.
Myanmar military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told Reuters the decision to send Aung San Suu Kyi was made after the army consulted with the government. We, the military, will fully cooperate with the government and we will follow the instruction of the government, he said.
A spokesman for Aung San Suu Kyis party, the National League for Democracy, said she had decided to take on the case herself. They accused Aung San Suu Kyi of failing to speak out about human rights violations, spokesman Myo Nyunt said. She decided to face the lawsuit by herself.
If the ICJ takes up the case, it will be the first time the court in The Hague has investigated genocide claims on its own without relying on the findings of other tribunals such as the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which it consulted for claims against Serbia and Croatia.
The Gambias application argues that under the rules of the ICJ, member states can bring actions against other member states alleging breaches of international law in this case the 1948 convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide.
The 600,000 Rohingya who remain in Myanmar are said to be in real and significant danger of further genocidal acts, the application says. The Gambia is calling for punishment for those responsible, compensation for the victims and an immediate end to attacks. The ICJ has no means to enforce its rulings.
Separately, the International Criminal Court (ICC) last week authorised a full investigation into crimes committed against the Rohingya. Like the ICJ, the criminal court cannot enforce arrest warrants or judgments but can ask member states to detain the individuals it accuses.
The Gambia is about 95% Muslim and its application is supported by other Muslim states.