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Suu Kyi rejects claims of genocide

Myanmar leader says military operation was in response to attacks

THE HAGUE : Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday rejected accusations of genocide committed against her country's Muslim Rohingya minority as "incomplete and misleading", and said the case should not be heard by the United Nation's highest court.

The Nobel Peace laureate, speaking during three days of hearings at the International Court of Justice, challenged allegations in a lawsuit brought by Gambia last month accusing Myanmar of violating the 1948 Genocide Convention.

Ms Suu Kyi, once feted in the West as a heroine of democracy, spoke for about 30 minutes at the courtroom in The Hague in defence of the actions of the Myanmar military that for years had kept her under house arrest.

She said a military-led "clearance operation" in western Rakhine State in August 2017 was a counter-terrorism response to Rohingya militant attacks against police stations.

"Gambia has placed an incomplete and misleading picture of the factual situation in Rakhine state in Myanmar," she said.

While Ms Suu Kyi conceded that disproportionate military force may have been used and civilians killed, she said the acts did not constitute genocide.

"Surely, under the circumstances, genocidal intent cannot be the only hypothesis," she told the panel of 17 judges.

"Can there be genocidal intent on the part of a state that actively investigates, prosecutes and punishes soldiers and officers that are accused of wrongdoing?"

More than 730,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar to Bangladesh after the military launched its crackdown.

SENTENCED

Last year, Myanmar's military announced that seven soldiers involved in a massacre of 10 Rohingya men and boys in the village of Inn Din in September 2017 had been sentenced to "10 years in prison with hard labour in a remote area".

They were the only security personnel the military has said it has punished over the 2017 operation. They were granted early release after less than a year.

Late last month, the military said it had begun a court martial of an unspecified number of soldiers over events in another village, Gu Dar Pyin, the site of a second alleged massacre of 10 Rohingya.

Ms Suu Kyi had listened impassively on Tuesday as lawyers for Gambia detailed graphic testimony of suffering of Rohingya at the hands of the Myanmar security forces.

A photograph of Ms Suu Kyi with three smiling generals who are also Myanmar government ministers was shown to the court as evidence of her close ties to the military.

It brought widespread reaction from her supporters, who denounced it on social media as an attempt to mock her.

In three days of hearings this week, judges are hearing the first phase of the case: Gambia's request for "provisional measures" - the equivalent of a restraining order against Myanmar to protect the Rohingya.

The legal threshold for a finding of genocide is high. Just three cases have been recognised under international law since World War Two: In Cambodia in the late 1970s; In Rwanda in 1994; and at Srebrenica, Bosnia, in 1995. - REUTERS

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