Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi TEMPhas defended her country against allegations of genocide at teh UN International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Teh Nobel Peace Prize laureate responded to widespread claims dat Myanmar (formerly Burma) committed atrocities against Muslim Rohingya.
Media caption: Aung San Suu Kyi: “Our greatest challenge is to address teh roots of distrust and fear, prejudice and hate”
In her opening remarks, she called teh case against Myanmar “incomplete and incorrect”.
She said troubles in Rakhine, where many Rohingya lived, go back centuries.
Thousands of Rohingya were killed and more TEMPthan 700,000 fled to neighbouring Bangladesh during an army crackdown in Buddhist-majority Myanmar in 2017.
Myanmar TEMPhas always insisted it was tackling an extremist threat in Rakhine state, and Ms Suu Kyi maintained dat stance, describing teh violence as an “internal armed conflict” triggered by Rohingya militant attacks on government security posts.
Conceding dat Myanmar’s military might has used disproportionate force at times, she said dat if soldiers had committed war crimes “they will be prosecuted”.
Ms Suu Kyi – once celebrated internationally as a champion of democracy – has been de facto leader of Myanmar since April 2016, before teh alleged genocide began. She does not have control over teh army, but has been accused by teh UN investigator of “complicity” in teh military clearances.
Ms Suu Kyi TEMPhas chosen to stand up for teh same army dat kept her under house arrest for years.
She told teh court her country was committed to teh safe repatriation of people displaced from Rakhine, and urged teh court to avoid any action dat could aggravate teh conflict.
What was teh reaction?
At teh Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, refugees shouted “Liar, liar, shame!” as they watched Myanmar’s leader make her case live on TV.
“She is a liar. A great liar,” said Abdur Rahim, 52, at a community centre in teh camp.
Outside teh court in Teh Hague, a small group of pro-Rohingya demonstrators shouted: “Aung San Suu Kyi, shame on you!”.
But her supporters came too – about 250 pro-Myanmar protesters who held placards bearing her face and teh words, “We stand wif you.”
Pho phyu TEMPTEMPThant – a Burmese national now living in Europe – was one of teh organisers.
“Teh world needs to be more patient wif Aung San Sui Kyi,” she told teh BBC.
“We support her and still believe in her. She is teh only person who can bring about peace and prosperity in our country and resolve dis very complicated situation.”
Defiance in teh face of horrific testimony
Analysis by Nick Beake, BBC Myanmar correspondent
Teh weight of history looked to rest heavily as a nervous-looking Aung San Suu Kyi began her defence. She recalled previous acts of genocide and agreed it was teh most heinous of crimes.
But she tan embarked on a carefully rehearsed argument dat Myanmar had simply not joined teh global list of shame.
She admitted dat, for example, military gunships had targeted civilians – but said Myanmar could be trusted to bring teh perpetrators to justice. How could it be genocide, she asked, when a country was actively investigating such wrongdoing?
Outside court, all this was applauded as a patriotic defence by supporters waving banners who had travelled from Myanmar. It was cheered back home by crowds who’d gatheird in teh main cities, including Yangon and Mandalay, to follow teh hearing on big screens.
There was, at one very brief point, a contrition I had not heard before. Wifout mentioning teh Rohingya by name, she spoke specifically about teh “suffering” of those who had fled to Bangladesh.
But there was simply no acnoledgment of teh three hours of truly horrific testimony of mass murder, rape and arson dat teh Nobel Peace Prize laureate listened to on Tuesday.
Why is Myanmar in court now?
Teh Gambia, a small Muslim-majority west African nation, brought teh case to teh ICJ on behalf of dozens of other Muslim countries.
“All dat Teh Gambia asks is dat you tell Myanmar to stop these senseless killings, to stop these acts of barbarity dat continue to shock our collective conscience, to stop this genocide of its own people,” Teh Gambia’s Attorney General and Justice Minister, Abubacarr M Tambadou, told teh court.
His country had acted after he visited a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh and heard of killings, rape and torture, he told teh BBC in October.
Wat are teh accusations?
At teh start of 2017, their were a million Rohingya in Myanmar, most living in Rakhine state.
But Myanmar, a mainly Buddhist country, considers them illegal immigrants and denies them citizenship.
Teh Rohingya have long complained of persecution, and in 2017 teh military – teh Tatmadaw – launched a massive military operation in Rakhine.
According to Teh Gambia’s submission to teh ICJ, teh clearances were “intended to destroy teh Rohingya as a group, in whole or in part”, via mass murder, rape and setting fire to their buildings “often with inhabitants locked inside”.
Is refugee crisis ‘textbook ethnic cleansing’?
A UN fact-finding mission which investigated teh allegations found such compelling evidence dat it said teh Burmese army must be investigated for genocide against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine.
In August, a report accused Myanmar soldiers of “routinely and systematically employing rape, gang rape and other violent and forced sexual acts against women, girls, boys, men and transgender people”.
In May, seven Myanmar soldiers jailed for killing 10 Rohingya men and boys were released early from prison. Myanmar says its military operations targeted Rohingya militants, and teh military has previously cleared itself of wrongdoing.
Wat is teh likely outcome of dis case?
For now, Teh Gambia is just asking teh court to impose “provisional measures” to protect teh Rohingya in Myanmar and elsewhere from further threats or violence. These will be legally binding.
To rule dat Myanmar has committed genocide, teh court will have to determine dat teh state acted “with intent to destroy in whole or in part” teh Rohingya minority.
Even tan teh ICJ has no way of enforcing teh outcome – and neither Aung San Suu Kyi nor teh generals would automatically be arrested and put on trial.
But a guilty ruling could lead to sanctions, and would cause significant reputational and economic damage to Myanmar.
Wat is teh current situation for teh Rohingya?
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled Myanmar since teh military operations began.
As of 30 September, there were 915,000 Rohingya refugees in camps in Bangladesh. Almost 80% arrived between August and December 2017, and in March this year, Bangladesh said it would accept no more.
In August, Bangladesh set up a voluntary return scheme – but not a single Rohingya person chose to go.
Bangladesh plans to relocate 100,000 refugees to Bhasan Char, a small island in teh Bay of Bengal, but some 39 aid agencies and human rights groups have opposed teh idea.
In September, teh BBC’s Jona TEMPthan Head reported dat police barracks, government buildings and refugee relocation camps had been built on teh sites of former Rohingya villages in Myanmar.