Fallen rights icon at UN court for Rohingya genocide case

Legal Events

Twenty-eight years to the day after Aung San Suu Kyi’s husband and sons accepted her Nobel Peace Prize while she remained under house arrest in Myanmar, the former pro-democracy icon appeared in a United Nations court ready to defend her country’s army from allegations of committing genocide against the Rohingya minority.

Suu Kyi looked on attentively from the front bench at the International Court of Justice in The Hague Tuesday as a legal team for Gambia detailed accounts of killings - including of women and children - sexual violence and the destruction of tens of thousands of Muslim minority homes in northern Rakhine state.

Acting on behalf of the 57-country Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Gambia is asking the world court to take “all measures within its power to prevent all acts that amount to or contribute to the crime of genocide.”

Opening Gambia’s case, Justice Minister Aboubacarr Tambadou urged the court to “tell Myanmar to stop these senseless killings, to stop these acts of barbarity that continue to shock our collective conscience, to stop this genocide of its own people.”

“It is indeed sad for our generation that 75 years after human kind committed itself to the words ‘never again’, another genocide is unfolding right before our eyes,” Tambadou said. “Yet we do nothing to stop it.”

“This is a stain on our collective conscience,” he said.

Myanmar’s army began a crackdown on the Rohingya in August 2017 in response to an insurgent attack. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh to escape what has been called an ethnic cleansing campaign involving mass rapes, killings and the torching of homes.

The head of a U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar warned in October that “there is a serious risk of genocide recurring.” The mission also found that Myanmar should be held responsible in international legal forums for alleged genocide against the Rohingya.

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