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Myanmar said Wednesday its leader Aung San Suu Kyi will head the legal team contesting a genocide case filed against it in the International Court of Justice over the crackdown on Rohingya Muslims two years ago that set off their exodus to Bangladesh.

Myanmar’s military has been accused of carrying out mass rapes, killings and arsons against Rohingya during a counterinsurgency campaign initiated in western Myanmar in August 2017 after rebel attacks. Myanmar’s population is overwhelmingly Buddhist, and the country has long denied citizenship and other rights to the Rohingya.

Gambia filed the genocide case on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the court based in the Netherlands said Monday it would hold public hearings on Dec. 10-12.

When filing the case, Gambia’s justice minister and attorney general, Abubacarr Marie Tambadou, told The Associated Press he wanted to “send a clear message to Myanmar and to the rest of the international community that the world must not stand by and do nothing in the face of terrible atrocities that are occurring around us. It is a shame for our generation that we do nothing while genocide is unfolding right before our own eyes.”

The head of a U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar warned last month that “there is a serious risk of genocide recurring,” and the mission also said in its final report in September that Myanmar should be held responsible in international legal forums for alleged genocide against the Rohingya.

Myanmar has strongly denied carrying out organized human rights abuses. Its announcement that Suu Kyi would head the legal team was posted on the Facebook page of the office of the state counsellor, a position Suu Kyi holds along with that of foreign minister. Myanmar’s government releases much public information on Facebook.


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