Myanmar State Counselor Arrives in Netherlands to Lead Rohingya Genocide Defense

By The Irrawaddy 9 December 2019

YANGON—State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is leading a legal team contesting a genocide lawsuit at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague stemming from the 2017 Rohingya crisis, arrived in the Netherlands at around 12 a.m. Monday, Myanmar time.

The Gambia filed the case on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation at the World Court last month, accusing Myanmar of genocide against Rohingya Muslims.

Representatives from both countries will appear before the court from Dec 10 to 12 for a series of public hearings.

More than 700,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh in late 2017 after the government’s security forces launched clearance operations in northern Rakhine State in response to a series of attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on police outposts in the area. UN investigators said the operations had “genocidal intent”. Both the Myanmar government and military have denied the accusations.

The government announced in November that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, in her capacity as Union minister for foreign affairs, would lead a team to The Hague to defend the country at the ICJ.

The team left Myanmar on Sunday morning. For all the speculation that military representatives would join the team, there were no army officers in sight. Rather, the State Counselor was accompanied by two Union ministers and officials from the Union Attorney-General’s Office.

Military spokesperson Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told local media that the government decided not to include military representatives in the delegation, though the two sides appeared to have agreed during a series of meetings in recent weeks that an army representative would join the team.

This month’s hearings will not consider whether Myanmar is guilty of genocide, but focus on The Gambia’s request that provisional measures be taken against the country to prevent further acts of genocide.

Myanmar’s team is scheduled to appear at hearings on Dec. 11 and 12. It is not clear whether Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will personally lead the legal defense, as has often been speculated.

Daw Hla Myo Nwe, a member of the Myanmar Constitutional Tribunal, said at a discussion on the ICJ case organized by the Ministry of Information that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi would make a statement on Dec. 11, the day Myanmar is due to make its first oral argument at the court.

“It’s an opportunity to let the world know where Myanmar stands [on the case]. An announcement made by a foreign minister at an international court could make an impact and the judges would take it very seriously,” she said.

Legal experts said the ICJ normally takes years to reach a decision in a case, but any provisional measures could be announced in weeks. Though the court has no way of enforcing them, its rulings can affect countries’ international reputations and set legal precedents.

Meanwhile, in Myanmar, thousands of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s supporters have rallied around cities across the country in recent days to show solidarity with her.

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