Myanmar authorities and citizens leapt to the defense of Aung San Suu Kyi after Amnesty International stripped her of its top award over indifference to atrocities committed against Rohingya Muslims, doubling down on support for the civilian leader in the face of global ire. Suu Kyi’s international reputation as a rights icon is in pieces and Amnesty’s move is the latest in a string of rescinded accolades. Canada revoked her honorary citizenship last month and the US Holocaust Museum in March took back an award named after concentration camp survivor Elie Wiesel. Institutions that once showered Suu Kyi with titles are rapidly distancing themselves from a leader, they argue is doing little in the face of alleged genocide and ethnic cleansing against its Rohingya minority. Amnesty’s “Ambassador of Conscience Award” was bestowed in 2009 and other recipients include Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai and Ai Wei Wei.
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, is determined that the perpetrators of the horrors committed against the Rohingya face justice. He’s the head of the UN’s watchdog for human rights across the world, so his opinions carry weight. It could go right to the top – he doesn’t rule out the possibility that civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the head of the armed forces Gen Aung Min Hlaing, could find themselves in the dock on genocide charges some time in the future. Earlier this month, Mr Zeid told the UN Human Rights Council that the widespread and systematic nature of the persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar (also called Burma) meant that genocide could not be ruled out. “Given the scale of the military operation, clearly these would have to be decisions taken at a high level,” said the high commissioner, when we met at the UN headquarters in Geneva for BBC Panorama.
A UN report has said top military figures in Myanmar must be investigated for genocide in Rakhine state and crimes against humanity in other areas. The report, based on hundreds of interviews, is the strongest condemnation from the UN so far of violence against Rohingya Muslims. It says the army’s tactics are “grossly disproportionate to actual security threats”. Myanmar rejected the report. At least 700,000 Rohingya fled violence in the country in the past 12 months. The report names six senior military figures it believes should go on trial and sharply criticises Myanmar’s de facto leader, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, for failing to intervene to stop attacks. Genocide is the most serious charge that can be made against a government and is rarely proposed by UN investigators.