Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi today ruled out the allegation of ongoing genocide or genocidal intent at Rohingya villages in Rakhine of Myanmar.
She was speaking in Myanmar's defence on the second day of 3 days’ hearing at the UN's highest court, a day after the Gambia brought genocide allegation against Myanmar and urged her to stop the ongoing genocide against Rohingyas.
“How can there be an ongoing genocide or genocidal intent as concrete steps are being taken in Rakhine? Rakhine today suffers an internal arm conflict between the Buddhist Arakan army and Myanmar defence forces. Muslims are not part of this conflict,” she told the court.
Rejecting the accusations of genocide committed against Muslim Rohingya minority, she termed the Gambia’s claim as "incomplete and misleading".
She said the "clearance operation" led by the military in western Rakhine State launched in August 2017 was conducted in the response of Rohingya militant attacks at police stations.
A 17-member panel of judges of ICJ was hearing a case, the first international legal attempt to bring Myanmar to justice over alleged mass killings of the Rohingya minorities in 2017, filed by the Gambia on November 11.
Yesterday, the Gambia accused Myanmar of breaching the 1948 genocide convention and urged the UN top court to order Myanmar to stop genocide against the Rohingya minority.
The African country unfolded the evidence of genocide against Rohingyas before the International Court of Justice and urged the court to prosecute the Myanmar generals responsible for the bloody crackdown.
Around 740,000 Rohingyas fled to neighbouring Bangladesh after a bloody crackdown by the Myanmar military in 2017 that fact-finding mission of the United Nations has already described as genocide.
Suu Kyi, in defense of the actions of the Myanmar military’s bloody crackdown, admitted that there may have been civilian casualties including some killed.
She, however, argued these as an inevitable part of the conflict and said, "It cannot be ruled out that disproportionate force was used by members of the defence services …"
The Myanmar civilian leader said her country has own justice system for trial “if war crimes have been committed".
The country has previously denied almost all allegations made by refugees against its troops, including of mass rape, killings and arson, and promised to punish any soldiers involved in what it says were isolated cases of wrongdoing.
Once feted in the West, Suu Kyi has faced mounting international criticism over the Rohingya crisis. But she has remained popular at home since coming to power in 2016 as part of the transition to democracy after decades of military rule.
What did the Gambia say in yesterday’s hearing?
The Gambia yesterday unfolded the evident genocide against Rohingyas on the first of three days of hearings at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
Rohingya people were killed, their children were thrown into fire, women were raped, houses were burnt down, the Gambian legal team told the judges adding that it was ethnic cleansing that stemmed from unjustifiable intolerance.
Massacres of Tula Toli and Chut Pyin villages
The legal team representing The Gambia presented the massacres of the villages of Tula Toli and Chut Pyin as an example.
“The first round of shooting was like a rain of bullets. The second round was slow as the soldiers killed the men individually. They aimed a gun at each man and shot,” Lowenstein stated, reading out descriptions of the Tula Toli massacre from the UN fact-finding mission’s report.
“Soldiers then turned to the women and children who, after being separated from the men, were forced to sit in a lowered area on the shore. Some of the children were shot, some thrown into the river, and others thrown onto a fire.”
How the women were gang-raped
He then continued to describe how the women were gang-raped, locked inside their houses and the houses then set on fire.
The lawyer also presented satellite images captured during the time when these villages were burning to prove how only Rohingya homes were being set on fire, while Buddhist Rakhine homes were being spared.
Myanmar’s genocidal intent is evident
“The fact that Myanmar has genocidal intent is shown by its toleration for hate rhetoric and public hatred of the Rohingya,” he said.
“The fact-finding mission also concluded that Myanmar’s genocidal intent is evident in its lack of remorse. The Tatmadaw’s actions are glorified.”
Another lawyer, Tafadzwa Pasipanodya, presented how the Rohingyas placed in internment camps, long before the violence of 2017.
Again citing the UN report, the lawyer described how after the 2012 violence in the Rakhine State, the population was cordoned off into military-controlled camps surrounded by barbed wires, and they were not allowed freedom of movement.
Evidence is overwhelming
“We believe that the evidence is not just sufficient, but it is overwhelming. The court has never had such comprehensive or such compelling evidence of the commission of genocidal acts as it has before it now,” commented Paul Reichler, the head of the legal team.
“The genocide in Rwanda was a failure of humanity that can easily happen again. Mr President, tragically, it has happened again, in Myanmar. The time to prevent further genocide is now, because nothing less will protect the Rohingya from further destruction as a group,” he concluded.
The UN fact-finding mission has already described the brutal crackdown of Myanmar army as genocide.
Another genocide unfolding
Gambia’s Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou, in his opening comments said, “Another genocide is unfolding right before our eyes yet we do nothing to stop it.”
“This is a stain on our collective conscience. It’s not only the state of Myanmar that is on trial here, it’s our collective humanity that is being put on trial.”
“All that The Gambia asks is that you tell Myanmar to stop these senseless killings,” he told the UN top court.
“I stand before you to awaken the conscience of the world and arouse the voice of the international community,” said Tambadou, a former prosecutor at the tribunal into Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.
“In the words of Edmund Burke, ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’.”
Tambadou went on, “Every day of inaction means more people are being killed, more women are being raped and more children are being burned alive. For what crime? Only that they were born different.”