Three Nobel Peace Prize winners on Monday urged fellow laureate Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar to speak out about violence against the Rohingya minority, warning she otherwise risks prosecution for “genocide”.
The trio – Tawakkol Karman, Shirin Ebadi and Mairead Maguire – implored the embattled Myanmar leader to “wake up” to the atrocities after visiting squalid camps in Bangladesh home to nearly one million Rohingya refugees.
“This is clearly, clearly, clearly genocide that is going on by the Burmese government and military against the Rohingya people,” Maguire said Monday, using another name for Myanmar.
“We refuse this genocide policy of the Burmese government. They will be taken to the ICC (International Criminal Court) and those who are committing genocide will be held responsible.”
The UN has described the systematic violence by Myanmar against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state as possible genocide and ethnic cleansing, but has stopped short of outright accusing the army of war crimes.
Suu Kyi, once a global rights icon, has witnessed her reputation among the international community crumble over her handling of the Rohingya crisis.
Critics have called for the Nobel prize she won under house arrest in 1991 to be revoked.
Her fellow three female laureates issued a personal appeal to the beleaguered leader as they toured the overcrowded camps in Cox’s Bazar district on Sunday and Monday, hearing firsthand stories of rape and murder against the Muslim minority.
Karman, a Yemeni rights activist, warned Suu Kyi that she risked being hauled to the ICC if she did not intervene.
“If she will continue her silence, she will be one of them,” said Karman, fighting back tears, after meeting Rohingya refugees.
“It’s an appeal to our sister Aung San Suu Kyi to wake up, otherwise she will be betrayed (as) one of the perpetrators of this crime.”
Myanmar has staunchly denied the charges and blocked UN investigators from the conflict zone in Rakhine state, souring relations with a host of western allies.
Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have sought sanctuary in Cox’s Bazar after fleeing a Myanmar army crackdown launched last August, sparking a humanitarian emergency in the Bangladesh border district.
Critics have accused Suu Kyi of adopting a siege mentality as global condemnation has mounted.
Myanmar considers the Rohingya illegal “Bengali” immigrants but has signed an agreement with Bangladesh to repatriate some 750,000 refugees back across the border.
The process has stalled, as the UN warns any returns must be voluntary and rights groups warn Rohingya could be forced into ghettoes once in Myanmar.