Myanmar said Wednesday its leader Aung San Suu Kyi will head the legal team contesting a genocide case filed against it in the International Court of Justice over the crackdown on Rohingya Muslims two years ago that set off their exodus to Bangladesh. Myanmar’s military has been accused of carrying out mass rapes, killings, and arsons against the Rohingya during a counterinsurgency campaign initiated in western Myanmar in August 2017 after rebel attacks. Gambia filed the genocide case on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the court based in the Netherlands said Monday it will hold public hearings Dec. 10-12. When filing the case, Gambia's justice minister and attorney general, Abubacarr Marie Tambadou, told the AP he wanted to "send a clear message to Myanmar and to the rest of the international community that the world must not stand by and do nothing."
Myanmar has denied carrying out organized human-rights abuses. Its announcement that Suu Kyi would head the legal team was posted on the Facebook page of the office of the state counselor, a position Suu Kyi holds along with that of foreign minister. The brief announcement Wednesday night on the effort "to defend Myanmar’s national interest" didn't specify that Gambia’s application to the court involved genocide, but said it was "with regard to the displaced persons from the Rakhine state," the area from which the Rohingya fled. It said Suu Kyi will lead the team of international lawyers in her capacity as foreign minister. The more than 700,000 Rohingya fleeing for their safety crossed Myanmar’s border into Bangladesh and since then have lived in crowded refugee camps there, with no hope of safely returning to their home villages.
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