Suu Kyi leads defense against genocide rap

Top News | AGENCE FRANCE -PRESSE 9 Dec 2019

Fallen democracy heroine Aung San Suu Kyi will make history when she defends Myanmar in The Hague this week against charges of genocide targeting the Buddhist state's minority Rohingya Muslims.

The African state of Gambia, acting on behalf of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, will ask the International Court of Justice to take emergency measures to halt Myanmar's "ongoing genocidal actions."

But in a highly unusual move, the office of Nobel Peace laureate and Myanmar civilian leader Suu Kyi has said she will lead a team to the United Nations' highest court.

She will be one of the first national leaders to address personally the tribunal since it was set up in 1946.

Her plan to appear before the court's judges for a three-day hearing starting tomorrow is "unprecedented and very unwise," said Cecily Rose, an assistant professor in international law at Leiden University.

Although Oxford-educated Suu Kyi's background is impressive, Rose added, "she has no legal qualifications and will be completely at sea before the court."

Around 740,000 Rohingya fled into Bangladesh after Myanmar's military launched a deadly crackdown on the minority in 2017, which UN investigators concluded was genocide.

The case will be the first international legal attempt to bring Myanmar to justice over the crisis.

Muslim-majority Gambia's case alleges that Myanmar breached 1948's UN Genocide Convention. It is seeking the special measures pending a decision on whether to take on the wider case, though a final judgment could take years.

Suu Kyi, 74, has headed to The Hague in order to "defend national interests."

Myanmar is expected to argue that the court has no jurisdiction, that its military operation was targeting Rohingya militants, and that its own investigations into alleged abuse are adequate.

However, Suu Kyi's international reputation has been battered by her response to the crisis, with critics saying she has acted as an apologist for the same military that kept her under house arrest for many years.

This week's case will be only the fourth in the ICJ's history invoking the genocide convention, after two involving the 1990s Balkans wars and another between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda in 2002.

Judges have ruled only once that genocide was committed: the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Bosnia.

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