Once touted as a human rights champion, Aung San Suu Kyi defended Myanmar against a claim of genocide on Wednesday, arguing the exodus of 700,000 Muslim Rohingya was an unfortunate consequence of a legitimate response to terrorist violence. Myanmar's security forces launched "counter-insurgency operations" following attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, an insurgent group challenging the "sovereignty and security of Myanmar," the 74-year-old leader told the International Court of Justice in the Hague, per the Guardian. She said attacks on police stations near the border with Bangladesh killed nine police officers and more than 100 civilians in October 2016 before attacks meant to overtake the town of Maungdaw in August 2017. "Tragically, this armed conflict led to the exodus of several hundred thousand Muslims" from Rakhine state into Bangladesh, she said.
The leader referenced the ICJ's 2015 conclusion that neither Croatia nor Serbia committed genocide in Croatia in the 1990s despite "the massive exodus of first ethnic Croats and later ethnic Serbs." She said it was possible that "disproportionate force was used" and that the military "did not distinguish clearly enough between ARSA fighters and civilians," but that such cases should be handled domestically. "There will be no tolerance of human rights violations in Rakhine," she said, describing one case in which soldiers were punished for executing civilians. "Can there be genocidal intent on the part of the state that ... punishes soldiers and officers who are accused of wrongdoing?" Suu Kyi added, per Al Jazeera. CNN reports she didn't address claims of murder, rape, and torture brought by Gambia and backed by a UN fact-finding mission. The court will consider protective measures for the Rohingya when hearings wrap Thursday. (Read more Myanmar stories.)