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Home EJIL Analysis A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Published on December 4, 2019        Author: 
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(Image credit: AFP)

Next week, Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and de facto head of government of Myanmar, will appear in person before the International Court of Justice. She will be defending her country in the case brought by Gambia for breaches of the Genocide Convention due to atrocities against the Rohingya. The Court will be holding oral hearings on provisional measures in the case (for our earlier coverage, see here). According to an AFP report:

Ardent fans of Aung San Suu Kyi are snapping up spots on $2,000 tours to The Hague, in a display of moral support as Myanmar faces charges of genocide over the Rohingya crisis at the UN’s top court in December.

Supporter rallies, billboards and outpourings of praise online followed the shock announcement by the country’s civilian leader last week that she would personally represent Myanmar at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The once-lauded democracy champion will be defending the 2017 military crackdown against the Rohingya minority.

One travel operator is organising a five-day tour to The Hague that includes visa and transportation as part of a $2,150 package, said employee Ma July — a prohibitive rate for most in the developing nation.

Social influencer Pencilo and well-known TV presenter Mg Mg Aye are among the 20 or so people to have already signed up.

“I believe this is our duty as citizens,” Pencilo, 29, told AFP Friday, urging any of her 1.1 million Facebook followers who have the means to do the same.

“It’s important the world knows her compatriots are fully behind her.”

– ‘We stand with you’ –

All of this is so deeply disturbing on so many levels that I genuinely find myself bereft of words. But the image above somehow manages to convey it all – Peace Palace, Photoshop, Facebook. For analysis of why Suu Kyi has decided to appear before the Court in person, perhaps due to her total inability to accept a reality that is not to her liking, or perhaps as part of a cynical strategy to buoy support for her party and herself within Myanmar, see here and here. Either way, it will be a sad spectacle, in more ways than one.

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2 Responses

  1. Itzchak Kornfeld

    Dear Marko:

    Thanks for this enlightening piece. I join you in your feelings shock and bereavement at this state of affairs. It seems like the rich and powerful in Myanmar see the process before the ICJ as a circus and a charade, which is not only dumbfounding, but also stunning. It appears to me to be a further denudation of the rule of law that is occurring these days. I believe that as the two pieces you have provided links to, point out, this may simply be a stunning political ploy. However, what is even more astonishing to me from a legal perspective, is that Myanmar did not challenge the Court’s jurisdiction.

    For those interested in the case: Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (The Gambia v. Myanmar), the following link to the ICJ may be helpful: https://www.icj-cij.org/en/case/178.

  2. Arnaldo di Latebiosa

    Dear Marko, in view of the appalling reports that keep coming in from Myanmar your emotions are more than justified, of course; as a matter of fact, however, you will easily agree that nothing seems to be more in line with international practice than Mrs. Aung San’s heading a defence team before the International Court of Justice in a case where accusations have been brought against Myanmar, of which she not only is the de facto leader, but also its… de jure foreign minister; under this respect, the remark, among others, by the NYT “she could have stayed home” can only be replied to with ‘they should go to press only after reviewing international practice’.

    As regards her Nobel credentials, to the best of our knowledge the above media or any other had never until now requested that political leaders renounce raison d’état upon receiving the peace prize or please explain why they apparently refrained from criticising Barack Obama’s failure to make sure the US finally complied with the 1986 Nicaragua judgment issued, incidentally, by the same court Myanmar stands today accused before, a judgment that found the US guilty of an act as unlawful as the use of force in violation of art. 2, para 4, of the UN Charter. Nobody in Oslo seems to have seriously questioned the incumbent peace laureate either, on the hundreds of dead at the hands of security forces in ethnic clashes these very days in his home country. And even aside from the Nobel laureate circle nobody is asking Mrs. von der Leyen, as proof of her commitment to protecting the environment, that carbon emissions be banned as of today, rather than from 2050, let alone seriously investigating what calculation brought the Commission to that figure rather than to 2051 or 2049 or any other double from a lottery in Brussels, to be honest.

    In other words, international issues show an annoying tendency to stubborn complexity.

    Back to our case, that Aung San Su Kyi rejected the genocide accusation brought against Myanmar before the court is true, but also, coming from a defence team, hardly surprising; what was surprising, by contrast, again coming from a defence team, was her acknowledgement of some wrongdoing by Myanmar’s army generals, who currently stand accused in a separate international criminal case, thereby obviously weakening their chances of impunity. Very praiseworthy by Mrs. Aung San at a time when the trend goes, the above media will agree, quite in the opposite direction, namely towards impunity, at least from international justice, an evidence of which was for instance John Bolton’s threats against holding US military personnel to account “we will ban them from entering the US” snarled the former security advisor in relation to international judges “we will prosecute them in the US criminal system, we will sanction their funds and we will do the same for any company or state that assists them”. Listening to John Bolton, no surprise the Nobel peace prize went to Aung San Su Kyi, at least. adlatebiosa {at} gmail(.)com