- Amnesty International has stripped Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi of its most important award, accusing “The Lady” of perpetuating human-rights abuses.
- Amnesty accused Suu Kyi of not addressing the genocidal campaign conducted by Myanmar’s military against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
- Once a beacon worldwide in the fight for democracy, Suu Kyi has been stripped of a series of international honours over the Rohingya crisis.
- A human-rights lawyer says the net is slowly tightening around Myanmar’s top generals
Amnesty International has stripped the former human-rights icon Aung San Suu Kyi of its most important award, accusing the Myanmar leader of perpetuating human rights abuses.
Amnesty accused Suu Kyi of standing by and not condemning the violence and genocidal campaign conducted by the Myanmar security forces against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
Once hailed as a champion in the fight for democracy, Suu Kyi has been stripped of a series of international honours over a Rohingya exodus that began in August 2017.
Amnesty International’s Secretary General Kumi Naidoo wrote to Aung San Suu Kyi to inform her the organisation is revoking the 2009 award.
Eight years after her release from house arrest, Naidoo expressed Amnesty’s disappointment that she had not used her political and moral authority to safeguard human rights, justice or equality in Myanmar, citing her apparent indifference to atrocities committed by the Myanmar military and increasing intolerance of freedom of expression.
“As an Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience, our expectation was that you would continue to use your moral authority to speak out against injustice wherever you saw it, not least within Myanmar itself,” wrote Naidoo.
Suu Kyi’s once iconic image as an upholder of human rights, and as a protector of her country has been decimated by the Rohingya crisis.
“Today, we are profoundly dismayed that you no longer represent a symbol of hope, courage, and the undying defence of human rights. Amnesty International cannot justify your continued status as a recipient of the Ambassador of Conscience award and so with great sadness we are hereby withdrawing it from you.”
The international human rights group named Suu Kyi as its 2009 Ambassador of Conscience Award recipient when she was still under house arrest as the de facto leader of opposition to Myanmar’s oppressive military junta led by the country’s powerful generals.
In the eight years since she was released, Suu Kyi led her party to election victory in 2015 and set up a government the following year, but she has had to share power with generals and has no oversight and no appetite to rein in military forces.
‘A shameful betrayal’
Amnesty International said in a statement on Tuesday Suu Kyi had failed to speak out and had “shielded the security forces from accountability.”
Amnesty called Suu Kyi’s failure to stand against the violence against the Rohingya, a “shameful betrayal of the values she once stood for.”
United Nations investigators have most recently in October concluded that Myanmar’s generals directed a campaign of killings, rape and arson upon the Rohingya with “genocidal intent.”
A United Nations report released in August shows how during a Myanmar “clearance operation” in September last year, soldiers shot and stabbed villagers, raped women, and burned homes while driving 6,000 ethnic Rohingya from their homes at Inn Din.
A Reuters investigation in February detailed the murder of 10 Rohingya men and boys at the hands of Myanmar troops, police officers and Rakhine Buddhist villagers on September 2, 2017. The Myanmar government corroborated this report when it sentenced seven soldiers involved to 10 years imprisonment.
Altogether it is thought more than 700,000 stateless Rohingya fled across Myanmar’s western border into Bangladesh after the Myanmar military launched a crackdown in response to a Rohingya insurgency targeting Myanmar security forces.
Unsurprisingly, Suu Kyi’s administration rejected the findings and said the military was engaged in a legitimate counter-insurgency operation.
When the generals talk
Human-rights lawyer Chris Sidoti told Business Insider that placing pressure on Suu Kyi has no impact unless the generals are being isolated.
Sidoti, currently a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Independent International Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar and an adjunct professor at the Australian Catholic University said a binding council resolution passed in October was a far more effective tool to pressure the ultimate perpetrators of the persecution of the Rohingya.
“The Myanmar generals are now under more pressure than they have ever been. They are fast running out of friends, running out of countries where they can feel safe from international justice,” Sidoti said.
Last month, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution to establish a new mechanism to prepare cases to prosecute them for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The resolution had overwhelming support. It was carried in the 47 member Council by 35 votes to 3. (Seven states abstained and two were not in the room for the vote.) Over 100 UN member states co-spons
The International Court of Justice has also commenced an investigation heading towards prosecutions.
“The generals face a future where, if they set foot in any country in the world, they could be arrested and charged and prosecuted for crimes under international law in local courts or be handed over to the International Criminal Court,” Sidoti said.
“In addition many states have already imposed targeted travel and financial sanctions on many of the top generals.”
At this stage however, Myanmar’s top two, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and Vice Senior General Soe Win, haven’t been targeted but Sidoti says, “it is only a matter of time.”
The fact-finding mission has recommended sanctions on them both.
Sidoti says, “for Myanmar, this is very good news. Myanmar has no future with the generals running the country.”
The 50-year military junta – an effective dictatorship – has left the country economically ruined and politically infantile, with Suu Kyi presenting little more than an internationally acceptable face.
“Myanmar has now endured 70 years of civil war, due to the dismal failures of the generals. Its transition to democracy has barely begun and has now seems permanently stalled.”
“The country and its people have a future only if the military is transformed. That can only begin when all the top generals have been removed,” Sidoti said.
Few honours left
Reuters reports that in March, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum withdrew its top award from Suu Kyi and she has been stripped of other significant honours, including the freedom of the cities of Dublin and Oxford, England, over the Rohingya crisis.
In September, Canada’s parliament voted to strip Suu Kyi of her honorary citizenship.
While some critics have called for her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize to be withdrawn, the foundation that oversees the award said it would not do so.
Speaking at a business forum in Singapore ahead of the ASEAN regional summit, pleaded for international investment to return to Myanmar.
She did not address the ongoing crisis which has driven hundreds of thousands of the Muslim minority into crumbling and dangerous camps on the border with Bangladesh and extinguished hopes of a brighter future for Myanmar.
Amnesty International also accused Suu Kyi of not condemned military abuses in conflicts between the army and ethnic minority guerrillas in northern Myanmar and her government had imposed restrictions on access by humanitarian groups.
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