Geneva: A leading United Nations human rights investigator has criticised Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s civilian leader, for acting as a “fig leaf for military atrocities” against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
In an interview ahead of Tuesday’s release of a 400-page report on alleged “genocidal” crimes, Australian lawyer Chris Sidoti said that Nobel laureate Ms Suu Kyi could not escape responsibility for failing to act over the violence. The report, by three independent experts including Mr Sidoti, provides the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva with harrowing details of mass killings and rape by Myanmar’s military that prompted more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh last year.

Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Photo: AP

“The very first thing she could have done was not provide cover for the military by dismissing the overwhelming number of reports of mass rape as fake,” Mr Sidoti said. “She could have refused to provide a fig leaf for military atrocities of the most serious kind… she has enormous moral authority, she won 80 per cent of the popular vote in the 2015 election.” 

Sidoti is a former Human Rights Commissioner and ex-commissioner of the Australian Law Reform Commission.
The presentation of the final investigation to the Swiss-based council will mark a crucial step on the long road to obtaining justice for thousands who lost their lives or their homes or who were brutalised during the merciless operation by Myanmar’s troops.
A preliminary report released last month by Sidoti, former Indonesian attorney-general Marzuki Darusman and Sri Lankan lawyer and women’s rights expert Radhika Coomaraswamy, called for Myanmar’s senior generals to be prosecuted for genocide.
Based on 875 interviews with victims and eyewitnesses plus satellite imagery, it documents the shooting and stabbing of children, the scorching of Rohingya villages and gang rape on an enormous scale. Mr Sidoti told The Daily Telegraph: “The level of trauma in the camps in Bangladesh is beyond anything I have ever seen.”

Last month, the Myanmar government dismissed the UN investigators’ findings as “false allegations”. However, the UN panel has recommended a referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague as an option, which has already won support from some quarters. Last week, more than 160 British MPs signed a letter urging Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to refer Myanmar’s military to the court.

An ICC trial was only one way to push for justice, Mr Sidoti added, explaining that other options could include a specialised criminal tribunal or an individual country exercising its rights to universal jurisdiction for crimes of this magnitude.
Tuesday’s report will also remind the international community of its obligations to take action, and will explicitly include a call for a ban on arms sales and on “high level exchanges and training” with the Myanmar military until it has been reconstituted.
According to Mr Sidoti, the reluctance of the international community to act sooner is “the most haunting question of all”.

Telegraph, London

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