Aung San Suu Kyi must defend the Rohingyas, say human rights lawyers

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Sep 08, 2017
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There has been dismay in the West over Aung San Suu Kyi's response to the persecution of Burma's Rohingya population

Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters

Human rights barristers have joined calls for Aung San Suu Kyi to criticise attacks on the Rohingya population in Burma and to press the country’s generals to bring an end to their persecution.

Kirsty Brimelow, QC, head of the human rights committee of the Bar in England and Wales, told The Brief that the treatment of the Rohingya could “reach the level of ethnic cleansing” unless Suu Kyi intervenes.

Suu Kyi, the state counsellor and a Nobel peace prize winner, was lauded by Western lawyers while she was kept under house arrest for 15 years. However, she has been widely criticised for her failure to defend the Rohingya, tens of thousands of whom have sought refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh. 

“Whilst the Rohingya have been subjected to many years of institutionalised discrimination and human rights violations, the current military attacks may reach the level of ethnic cleansing unless Aung San Suu Kyi uses her power and moral authority to act,” Brimelow said. 

Brimelow, of Doughty Street Chambers in London, added that the Burmese leader “must speak to condemn atrocities being committed by the military against the Rohingya. She must lead the way in taking steps to end the violence and protect these people”.

Suu Kyi was a speaker at the 2015 global law summit, organised by the Ministry of Justice in conjunction with the Bar Council and the Law Society, the bodies that represent most lawyers in England and Wales.

The Bar Council declined to comment yesterday on Suu Kyi’s approach to the Burma crisis.

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