Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on the Situation in Myanmar

Myanmar de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi is in The Hague this week, defending her country over charges of genocide. Not so long ago, she was considered an icon of democracy, but her international support plummeted after she continued to stand up for her army when it was accused of genocide against the Rohingya population. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein joins the program to discuss her fall from grace.

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AMANPOUR: What do you make, first and foremost, of what we know? And Aung San Suu Kyi has asked that court to dismiss and drop this case.

ZEID RA’AD AL HUSSEIN, FORMER U.N. HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: Well, first of all, when I watched her speak, I thought to myself, you know, what a sad state of affairs that a global icon becomes this shabby political sort of figure that is basically, instead of disowning the military, standing up for them. I mean, I could almost close my eyes and imagine the voice of Bashar al- Assad. This is terrorism and counterterrorism. Well, I mean, her argument is premised on two points. One is that there were attacks by the ARSA and the military was responding. And we condemn those attacks by the ARSA in 2016 and 2017, but the response was so disproportionate that it almost redefines the meaning of collective punishment. So, in response to attacks on military bases, you commit the vilest atrocities. I mean, what sort of defense is that, really? And — so, very disappointing. Very disappointing to see what was happening yesterday.

AMANPOUR: Just to clarify that ARSA is the terrorist organization, the extremist separatist organization that is the Rohingyas. But as you say, it’s separate from the general civilian population, which has borne the brunt of the crackdown. Again, OK, so, let me play what the lawyer for the Gambia said in court. And he, of course, is really interesting. The Gambia bought this case on behalf of Muslim nations to try to defend their beleaguered population in Myanmar. This is what the Gambian lawyer said.


ANDREW LOEWENSTEIN, LAWYER OF GAMBIA: One witness recounted, the soldiers killed the male members of my family. They shot them first and then slit their throats. The courtyard was full of blood. They killed my husband, my father-in-law and my two nephews of 15 and eight years old. They even killed the child in the same way.


AMANPOUR: I mean, it’s horrible to listen to. And you and your, you know, time at the human rights commission heard a lot of that kind of terrible violation of rights. I wonder what you thought, though, of Aung San Suu Kyi, as she listened to that almost impassively throughout the time when that testimony and evidence was being presented?

HUSSEIN: Yes, I mean, it’s the same sort of response that I had when I spoke to her, both in 2016 and early 2017.

About This Episode EXPAND

Frans Timmermans tells Christiane Amanpour about an ambitious new Green Deal proposed by the EU, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein discusses atrocities against the Rohingya people in Myanmar and Yoni Appelbaum joins Hari Sreenivasan to examine the way demographic shifts in the U.S. impact politics. Plus, in a special report, Arwa Damon speaks with youth activists who are in Madrid for the COP25 summit.