Legal challenge levelled against Myanmar’s Suu Kyi as protesters take aim at Southeast Asia leaders at Sydney summit

Demonstrators brandished provocative images of Suu Kyi with a Hitler, demanded Cambodia’s Hun Sen step down, and urged the release of political prisoners in Vietnam

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 March, 2018, 4:15pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 March, 2018, 9:44pm

Lawyers in Melbourne have filed a private prosecution application against Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi, accusing her of crimes against humanity, while she and other Asean heads of state attend a summit in Sydney.

But the application – which accuses her of the forcible transfer of a population in relation to widespread and ongoing human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims inside Myanmar – faces significant barriers because a universal jurisdiction prosecution in Australia requires attorney general consent.

Ron Merkel QC, a Melbourne barrister and former federal court judge, international lawyers Marion Isobel and Raelene Sharp, and Sydney human rights lawyers Alison Battisson and Daniel Taylor filed the prosecution application late on Friday.

A statement from the legal team said there were “widespread and credible eyewitness reports … of extensive and systematic crimes against the Muslim Rohingya population by the Myanmar security forces, including extrajudicial killings, disappearances, violence, rape, unlawful detention, and destruction of property and whole villages. Ms Suu Kyi has denied these events have occurred.

‘Embrace free trade, not retreat from it’: Australia, Asean leaders vow to reject trade protectionism on first day of summit

“It is alleged that Ms Suu Kyi has failed to use her position of authority and power, and, as such, has permitted the Myanmar security forces to deport and forcibly remove Rohingya from their homes.”

Their application is being assessed by the magistrates court and a response is expected next week.

More than 650,000 Rohingya have crossed the border to Bangladesh since August, fleeing violence from the country’s military.

The application came as Suu Kyi and her fellow Southeast Asian leaders attended the Australia-Asean special summit in Sydney, where thousands of people turned out on Saturday to protest against rights abuses.

The one-time human rights icon Suu Kyi, Cambodia’s strongman leader Hun Sen and Vietnam’s Nguyen Xuan Phuc are among those attending the talks. The Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte opted not to attend. All have been accused of oppression.

Protesters brandishing provocative images of Suu Kyi with a Hitler moustache called for an end to the crackdown on Rohingya in Myanmar, demanded Hun Sen step down, and urged the release of political prisoners in Vietnam.

“We are here to protest issues that are happening in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, the Rohingya – you name it, we are here to send a clear voice to these governments that you do not mistreat human rights,” said Vietnamese-Australian protester Davy Nguyen.

“The summit is here, and the [Australian] government needs to do something – they need to put human rights before economics, before money,” Nguyen added.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has vowed at the summit to tackle human rights issues.

Reporting by Agence France-Presse and The Guardian