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Amnesty International strips Aung San Suu Kyi of its highest award


Photo: AFP

Amnesty International has stripped Aung San Suu Kyi of a prestigious human rights award following what it described as a “shameful betrayal” of the values she once stood for.

This is the latest in a series of accolades to be withdrawn from Aung San Suu Kyi, including the US Holocaust Museum’s Elie Weisel award and Freedom of the City awards, which were revoked by Edinburgh, Oxford, Glasgow and Newcastle, reported The Guardian. 

Amnesty International said on Monday that Aung San Suu Kyi, now Myanmar’s civilian leader, was no longer a symbol of hope, and that it had withdrawn its highest honour, the ambassador of conscience award. It cited her “apparent indifference” to atrocities committed against the Rohingya and her increasing intolerance of freedom of speech.

Aung San Suu Kyi received the ambassador of conscience award in 2009, while under house arrest, for her role in championing peace and democracy. She was described as “a symbol of hope, courage and the undying defence of human rights” by Irene Khan, Amnesty International’s then secretary general.

Related: Canada strips Aung San Suu Kyi of honorary citizenship over Rohingya crisis

Kumi Naidoo, the organisation’s current secretary general, said in a letter to Aung San Suu Kyi that her ambassador title could no longer be justified.

“Our expectation was that you would continue to use your moral authority to speak out against injustice wherever you saw it, not least within Myanmar itself,” Naidoo wrote in the letter.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been widely accused of being apathetic or complicit in the plight of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, who, the UN has warned, continue to be targeted in an “ongoing genocide”.

More than 700,000 Rohingya people remain in Bangladesh, having fled a brutal military crackdown that began in August 2017. UN investigators said that during the campaign, Myanmar’s military carried out killings and gang rapes with “genocidal intent”, and called for the commander-in-chief and five generals to be prosecuted for the gravest crimes under international law.

Related: US accuses Myanmar military of ‘planned and coordinated’ Rohingya atrocities

Yanghee Lee, the UN special investigator on human rights in Myanmar, said she believed Aung San Suu Kyi was in “total denial” about accusations of violence. “Without acknowledgement of the horrific crimes against the community, it is hard to see how the government can take steps to protect them from future atrocities,” said Naidoo.

Amnesty International added that Aung San Suu Kyi’s administration had stirred up hatred against Rohingya by labelling them “terrorists”, obstructed international investigations into abuses, and failed to repeal repressive laws used to silence critics.