Monday 27 January 2020

Myanmar's Suu Kyi to lead genocide defence at World Court

Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi leaves after attending a hearing in a case filed by Gambia against Myanmar alleging genocide against the minority Muslim Rohingya population, at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands December 10, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman
Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi leaves after attending a hearing in a case filed by Gambia against Myanmar alleging genocide against the minority Muslim Rohingya population, at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands December 10, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Toby Sterling

Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi will lead Myanmar's defence at the World Court on Wednesday, where her country faces accusations of genocide against its Rohingya Muslim minority.

Gambia, a small West African country, has launched a case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice, the U.N.'s highest court, alleging it has violated the 1948 Genocide Convention.

Suu Kyi, Myanmar's top political leader, shocked critics and galvanized supporters at home by travelling to The Hague to head her country's delegation. Her office said she was going to "defend the national interest".

Suu Kyi listened impassively on Tuesday as lawyers for Gambia detailed graphic testimony of suffering of Rohingya at the hands of the Myanmar military.

In three days of hearings this week, judges are hearing the first phase of the case: Gambia's request for "provisional measures" - the equivalent of a restraining order against Myanmar to protect the Rohingya population until the case is heard in full.

Although Suu Kyi has not revealed details of her government's defence, she and her legal team are expected to argue that the court lacks jurisdiction, and that no genocide has taken place in Myanmar.

A woman holds a picture of Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration outside the International Court of Justice (ICJ), on the second day of hearings in a case filed by Gambia against Myanmar alleging genocide against the minority Muslim Rohingya population, in The Hague, Netherlands December 11, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman
A woman holds a picture of Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration outside the International Court of Justice (ICJ), on the second day of hearings in a case filed by Gambia against Myanmar alleging genocide against the minority Muslim Rohingya population, in The Hague, Netherlands December 11, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman
A woman holds a picture of Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration outside the International Court of Justice (ICJ), on the second day of hearings in a case filed by Gambia against Myanmar alleging genocide against the minority Muslim Rohingya population, in The Hague, Netherlands December 11, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman
Supporters of Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi demonstrate outside the International Court of Justice (ICJ), before her arrival for the second day of hearings in a case filed by Gambia against Myanmar alleging genocide against the minority Muslim Rohingya population, in The Hague, Netherlands December 11, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman
People demonstrate outside the International Court of Justice (ICJ), before the arrival of Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi for the second day of hearings in a case filed by Gambia against Myanmar alleging genocide against the minority Muslim Rohingya population, in The Hague, Netherlands December 11, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman
A woman attends a demonstration outside the International Court of Justice (ICJ), before the arrival of Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi for the second day of hearings in a case filed by Gambia against Myanmar alleging genocide against the minority Muslim Rohingya population, in The Hague, Netherlands December 11, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman
Supporters of Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi demonstrate outside the International Court of Justice (ICJ), before her arrival for the second day of hearings in a case filed by Gambia against Myanmar alleging genocide against the minority Muslim Rohingya population, in The Hague, Netherlands December 11, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman
Members of Myanmar Hindus community hold portraits of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi to pray as they gather in front of City Hall for a rally Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019, in Yangon, Myanmar. (AP Photo/Thein Zaw)
Supporters hold portraits of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi march on a street in downtown Yangon toward City Hall for a rally Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019, in Yangon, Myanmar. (AP Photo/Thein Zaw) (AP Photo/Thein Zaw)
Supporters holding portraits of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi march on a street toward City Hall Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019, in Yangon, Myanmar. (AP Photo/Thein Zaw)
Buddhist monks holding portraits of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi stand on stage to pray as they gather in front of City Hall Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019, in Yangon, Myanmar. The International Court of Justice in The Hague on Tuesday began a hearing into allegations of genocide in Myanmar over the military campaign against the Rohingya minority, with Suu Kyi set to defend those who once held her under house arrest. (AP Photo/Thein Zaw)
Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi leaves after attending a hearing in a case filed by Gambia against Myanmar alleging genocide against the minority Muslim Rohingya population, at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands December 10, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman
Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi leaves in a car past the protesters after attending a hearing in a case filed by Gambia against Myanmar alleging genocide against the minority Muslim Rohingya population, at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands December 10, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman
Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi leaves in a car past the protesters after attending a hearing in a case filed by Gambia against Myanmar alleging genocide against the minority Muslim Rohingya population, at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands December 10, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman
Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi leaves the International Court of Justice (ICJ), after attending a hearing in a case filed by Gambia against Myanmar alleging genocide against the minority Muslim Rohingya population, in The Hague, Netherlands December 10, 2019. REUTERS/Eva Plevier
Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi leaves the International Court of Justice (ICJ), after attending a hearing in a case filed by Gambia against Myanmar alleging genocide against the minority Muslim Rohingya population, in The Hague, Netherlands December 10, 2019. REUTERS/Eva Plevier

Gambia has argued it is every country's duty under the 1948 Convention to prevent a genocide from taking place. Gambia has political support from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, as well as several Western nations including Canada and the Netherlands.

More than 730,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar after the military launched a crackdown in the country's western Rakhine state in August 2017. Most now live in crowded refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Myanmar argues the military "clearance operations" in Rakhine were a justifiable response to acts of terrorism, and that its soldiers have acted appropriately.

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 United Nations fact-finding mission found that "the gravest crimes under international law" had been committed in Myanmar and called for genocide trials, no court has weighed evidence and established a genocide in Myanmar.

Asked about the possibility that Suu Kyi could flatly deny atrocities have taken place in Myanmar, Gambian Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou said outside the court on Monday that: "It would be extremely disappointing if she does that again". (Reporting by ; Editing by Alex Richardson)

Reuters

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