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Politics

Suu Kyi to defend Myanmar over Rohingya crisis at international court

Suit filed by Islamic organization to be heard in The Hague.

Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi is set to deny accusations of persecution of the Rohingya people when she appears at the U.N.'s highest court. (Photo by Shinya Sawai)

YANGON -- State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar will next week attend a hearing in The Hague in an apparent attempt to defend her country against accusations of persecuting the Muslim minority Rohingya people.

The three-day hearing will be held from Dec. 10 by the International Court of Justice, the United Nations' highest court, on a suit filed by Gambia on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on Nov. 11, alleging that Myanmar's cleanup operations against armed Rohingya rebels since October 2016 have violated the U.N. anti-genocide treaty banning violence against a specific group with the end goal of eliminating it. More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar to its neighbor Bangladesh as a result.

International moves to hold Myanmar responsible for the plight of Rohingyas are expanding. In November, the International Criminal Court decided to investigate the case.

The Myanmar government said Suu Kyi will represent it at the hearing as decided at its meeting in Naypyitaw, the nation's capital, on Nov. 23. The meeting was attended by the de facto Myanmar leader, cabinet ministers and top local government officials.

The meeting reaffirmed that the cleanup operations had been conducted against terrorists and that the question of human rights will be resolved in accordance with Myanmar's judicial system.

Participants in the meeting included Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the Myanmar Armed Forces. Although the armed forces and the Suu Kyi-led government stand against each other over constitutional amendment and other issues, they maintain cooperative relations concerning the Rohingya problem.

But moves to pursue Myanmar's international responsibility for the crisis in court have been rapidly expanding since the middle of November.

A London-based group of Rohingyas filed a criminal accusation on Nov. 13 against Suu Kyi and other Myanmar officials with a court in Argentina complying with the principle of "universal jurisdiction" permitting legal action against serious crimes filed anywhere regardless of where they occurred. The ICC officially decided the following day to launch an investigation into the persecution of Rohingya people to determine whether senior officials of the Myanmar military and other people are responsible for "crimes against humanity" such as mass murder.

In addition, the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, set up by the U.N. Human Rights Council to gather and protect evidence of persecution against Rohingyas, has kicked off its work in earnest by sending an investigation team to Bangladesh. Raising an objection to the dispatch, the Myanmar government said the U.N. should spend its funds to settle humanitarian problems rather than pursue responsibilities.

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