The Amnesty International (AI) has withdrawn its most prestigious human rights prize from Aung San Suu Kyi, accusing the Myanmar leader of perpetuating human rights abuses by not speaking out about violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
This is the eighth honour that the former Nobel peace prize winner has been stripped of over the past year, with Amnesty following the example of Canada, US Holocaust Museum, UK’s Edinburgh, Oxford, Glasgow and Newcastle and Canada’s Carleton Universities which also revoked Suu Kyi’s honorary degrees and awards.
The long-celebrated Nobel Laureate was given Amnesty’s most prestigious honour, the Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2009 marking the 20th anniversary of her arrest and 20 years since it declared her a prisoner of conscience.
The AI yesterday announced the withdrawal of its highest honour from Suu Kyi in light of the Myanmar leader’s shameful betrayal of the values she once stood for.
Once hailed as a champion in the fight for democracy, Suu Kyi has been stripped of a series of international honours over a Rohingya exodus that began in August 2017.
More than 700,000 members of the mostly stateless group fled across Myanmar’s western border into Bangladesh after the Myanmar military launched a crackdown in response to Rohingya insurgent attacks on the security forces.
U.N.-mandated investigators have accused the military of unleashing a campaign of killings, rape and arson with “genocidal intent”.
Suu Kyi’s administration rejected the findings as one-sided and said the military action was engaged in a legitimate counterinsurgency operation.
Amnesty International said in a statement on Tuesday she had failed to speak out and had “shielded the security forces from accountability” for the violence against the Rohingya, calling it a “shameful betrayal of the values she once stood for”.
The global advocacy organisation’s secretary general, Kumi Naidoo, wrote to Suu Kyi on Sunday saying the group was withdrawing the award because it was “profoundly dismayed that you no longer represent a symbol of hope, courage, and the undying defence of human rights”.
Zaw Htay, the Myanmar government’s main spokesman, did not pick up Reuters calls seeking comment on Monday.
“As an Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience, 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,” wrote Kumi Naidoo.
“Today, we are profoundly dismayed that you no longer represent a symbol of hope, courage, and the undying defence of human rights. Amnesty International cannot justify your continued status as a recipient of the Ambassador of Conscience award and so with great sadness, we are hereby withdrawing it from you.”
Since Suu Kyi became the de facto leader of Myanmar’s civilian-led government in April 2016, her administration has been actively involved in the commission or perpetuation of multiple human rights violations, the Amnesty press release said.
“Aung San Suu Kyi’s failure to speak out for the Rohingyas is one reason why we can no longer justify her status as an Ambassador of Conscience,” said Kumi Naidoo.
Critics have called for her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize to be withdrawn but the foundation that oversees the award said it would not do so.
Amnesty International (AI) also said Suu Kyi had not condemned military abuses in conflicts between the army and ethnic minority guerrillas in northern Myanmar and her government had imposed restrictions on access by humanitarian groups.
Her government had also failed to stop attacks on freedom of speech, it said.