Nov. 12 (UPI) — Amnesty International announced Monday it stripped Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi of its top human rights award for “apparent indifference to atrocities” committed against the Rohingya.
The London-based organization accused Suu Kyi of a “shameful betrayal of the values she once stood for.”
Amnesty International Secretary-General Kumi Naidoo said Suu Kyi has not used her position as leader of the country to safeguard human rights, particularly those of the Rohingya ethnic minority.
Human rights organizations have accused the Myanmar government of genocide against the Rohingya living in the country. Thousands have fled violence amid an uprising in August 2017 and attempted to enter neighboring Bangladesh, leading to a refugee crisis there.
The Rohingya, a group of ethnic Muslims largely living in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, are a religious minority in Myanmar, but are denied citizenship and an ethnic minority status.
Within a few weeks of the uprising, conservative estimates from Doctors Without Borders showed at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed in the violence, including at least 730 children under the age of 5, and hundreds of thousands of Rohingya had fled.
“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,” Naidoo wrote in a letter to Suu Kyi announcing the withdrawal of the 2009 award.
“Today, we are profoundly dismayed that you no longer represent a symbol of hope, courage, and the undying defense of human rights.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.”
In March, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum also rescinded a human rights award it gave to Suu Kyi. The award, named after Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel, was given to Suu Kyi in 2012 shortly after she was released from a 15-year house arrest for resisting the country’s military dictatorship and advocating for human rights.
But the museum said she has allowed the persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority to worsen since her 2016 election.
On Monday, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Rohingya refugees should be allowed to return to Myanmar only “at their freely expressed wish based on relevant and reliable knowledge of the conditions within the country of origin and the area of return.”
He said the refugees should be allowed to enter Myanmar and see the conditions first-hand.
Some 4,355 Rohingya refugees of the 925,000 sheltering in Bangladesh have been approved to return to Myanmar. The repatriations were expected to begin Thursday.