Legal Team Defended Myanmar to ‘Best of Their Ability’ at ICJ, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Says

By Kyaw Phyo Tha 19 December 2019

YANGON—State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said on Wednesday evening that Myanmar’s delegation defended the country “to the best of their ability” against genocide charges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), in her first briefing to the nation since she returned from The Hague on Saturday.

The Gambia accused Myanmar of violating the 1948 Genocide Convention over military clearance operations in northern Rakhine State, which caused more than 730,000 Rohingya to flee the Southeast Asian country for Bangladesh. The African country asked the ICJ to order “provisional measures” to prevent more violations.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi led the country’s legal team in presenting oral arguments before the court from Dec. 11 to 12.

In her 15-minute-long speech on Wednesday she said representing Myanmar at the ICJ was an honor but also “a grave responsibility”, as the case submitted by The Gambia accused Myanmar of the most serious of crimes, genocide.

However, she said, the delegation constantly kept in mind the honor of Myanmar, the aspirations of its people, and its obligations as a member of the international community.

“We built our defense firmly on a foundation of honesty and respect for the rule of law, never losing sight of our ultimate goal, which is sustainable peace and harmony among all communities in our country,” said she in her speech, which was televised by state broadcaster Myanmar Radio and Television.

The State Counselor said the challenge that Myanmar is now facing at the ICJ stems not just from the events of the last few years, but from missed opportunities in decades past to squarely address the social, economic and political ills of Rakhine.

“The past can’t be changed but we can make the best of our present to enable us to build a happy future,” she said.

Regarding her defense at the World Court, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi told the public that she didn’t dispute that amid the armed conflict in Rakhine there may have been violations of human rights and infringements of universally accepted norms of justice and rule of law.

“However, these don’t amount to genocide or intent of genocide and we are willing and able to prosecute wrongdoers,” she said, while stressing that the provisional measures requested by The Gambia could have a negative impact on efforts to achieve reconciliation and sustainable peace and development.

She also thanked her supporters who staged large rallies at home and outside the ICJ to show their solidarity with her as her delegation defended the country against genocide charges before the court.

“The support of our people, given generously and unquestioningly … was a great source of strength to us when we presented our case at the ICJ,” she said, noting that the case was presented honestly and comprehensively and the delegation is now awaiting the court’s decision.

“So, whatever may come, we will face it. Together,” she said.

Al Haj U Aye Lwin, the chief convener at the Islamic Center of Myanmar and a founding member of Religions for Peace, Myanmar, told The Irrawaddy that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s briefing on the ICJ hearings demonstrated her qualities as a leader.

“Our Islamic teachings say a leader is the people’s servant. I can’t help but praise her for the attention she paid to the public,” he said.

He also welcomed the State Counselor’s comments acknowledging possible human rights violations in Rakhine and her willingness to prosecute the wrongdoers, as well as her determination to make the best of the present to build a better future.

“It reflects that she doesn’t like the status quo. At the same time, she doesn’t blame anyone; rather she takes responsibility as a leader. It’s remarkable.”

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