Morning Brief

Aung San Suu Kyi Defends Myanmar Against Genocide Charges

Myanmar’s national leader is one of only a few to personally address the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi leaves Naypyidaw, Myanmar, on Dec. 8 ahead of her appearance at the International Court of Justice in the Hague.
Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi leaves Naypyidaw, Myanmar, on Dec. 8 ahead of her appearance at the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Aung San Suu Kyi heads to The Hague to defend Myanmar against charges of genocide, Turkey is moving Syrian refugees back across the border, and Russia’s foreign minister meets Trump in Washington.

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Aung San Suu Kyi Defends Myanmar in The Hague

Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi appears in the Hague today for the start of a three-day hearing as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) considers genocide charges against Myanmar for a military crackdown in 2017 that caused more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee the country. The case, brought by Gambia and backed by other Muslim states, is the first brought before the ICJ by a country without a direct connection to events in question.

Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is scheduled to defend her country against the charges of genocide on Wednesday. (The government maintains the campaign was a legitimate attack on Rohingya militants.) She will be one of few world leaders to personally address the ICJ, and her decision do so after remaining mostly silent on the accusations for so long is significant. It is also politically expedient: Tens of thousands have turned out for rallies in Myanmar to support her trip, which comes ahead of elections next year.

Why is Aung San Suu Kyi appearing? Despite foreign criticism, Aung San Suu Kyi’s appearance at the Hague could boost the leader. “She may feel both that she is the most capable person to do this and that it is her duty,” Christina Fink, a professor of practice of international affairs at George Washington University, wrote in an email. “But beyond that, she may also see that it could have benefits for her domestically,” including possible concessions from the military on constitutional amendments. (Currently, Aung San Suu Kyi is barred from serving as president.)

“Much of the Myanmar public is impressed with Aung San Suu Kyi for making the decision to represent the country at the ICJ,” Fink added. “Many people in Myanmar believe the reports of military atrocities against the Rohingya are exaggerated.”

What will come of it? The ICJ case is the first international attempt to bring Myanmar to justice for the alleged atrocities against the Rohingya. During this week’s hearing, Gambia’s lawyers will request the court take action before the full case is heard. A judgment on whether Myanmar breached the 1948 Genocide Convention will likely take years.


What We’re Following Today

Turkey is resettling refugees in northern Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to be moving forward with his plan to resettle at least one million of the Syrian refugees living in Turkey into a strip of formerly Kurdish-held territory in northeastern Syria, with Turkey already transporting small numbers of Syrians across the border. The movement comes just two months after Turkey launched an offensive against Kurdish fighters, displacing 200,000 people. The security situation on the ground raises significant concerns about the refugees’ safety, FP’s Lara Seligman reports.

Russia’s top diplomat heads to the White House. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is in Washington today for a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, the first since a controversial White House visit in 2017. The talks are likely to deal with arms control, as the New Start nuclear agreement between the United States and Russia is set to expire in 2021. They come amid tensions over Syria and Ukraine. The 2017 meeting coincided with the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and Trump disclosed classified information about an Islamic State intelligence source to Lavrov.

U.N. Security Council set to meet on North Korea. The U.N. Security Council will hold a meeting Wednesday to address North Korea’s recent short-range missile launches and what it says was a significant test at a rocket launch site. As nuclear talks with the United States stall, the provocations have raised concerns that North Korea could resume nuclear and long-range missile tests next year. While the United States requested the Wednesday meeting, it also blocked a Security Council meeting on human rights in North Korea—likely in an attempt to save the nuclear talks, FP’s Colum Lynch and Robbie Gramer report.


Keep an Eye On

The Nobel ceremony. Most of this year’s Nobel prizes—already announced—will be officially awarded in Stockholm today. (The Peace Prize is presented in Oslo, Norway.) But the Swedish Academy’s decision to award the literature prize to the Austrian writer Peter Handke, accused of being an apologist for the Serbian regime of Slobodan Milosevic, has sparked outrage—particularly in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina. A few countries will boycott the ceremony.

In Washington, FP’s Amy Mackinnon spoke with the Bosnian writer Riada Asimovic Akyol about her reaction to Handke’s award and the experience of genocide denial.

The man who could beat Boris Johnson. British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is running to replace Johnson in No. 10 Downing Street. But the real threat to Johnson isn’t the Labour leader, it’s 25-year old Ali Milani, who is seeking to oust Johnson from his parliamentary seat in an increasingly diverse and left-leaning West London constituency.

While Johnson has never lived in the area and has barely been seen campaigning there, Milani has been based there for years, knows the local issues, and has a strong ground game. The race is surprisingly close, Stephen Paduano reports for FP. If Milani wins the seat of a serving prime minister, it would be a first in British politics.

Continued protest in Paris. French trade unions called for another mass street protest today to push President Emmanuel Macron to drop his pension reform plans. On Monday, nationwide strikes again disrupted public transportation. Teachers, hospital workers, and students are expected to walk off today, with the government closely watching the turnout.

Sudan’s new government. Even though Sudan’s new prime minister visited Washington last week and agreed to swap ambassadors, Sudan remains on the U.S. state sponsors of terrorism list. Its blacklisted status will only make its fragile transition to a democratic government more difficult,  Hala Al-Karib and El Sadig Hassan argue in FP.


Odds and Ends

Mexico’s ambassador to Argentina, Óscar Valero Recio Becerra, has been recalled from his post after a video appeared to show him shoplifting a book from a Buenos Aires bookstore. Back in Mexico, the career diplomat will be investigated by an ethics committee. The incident could embarrass President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who ran on a promise to boost honesty among public employees.


That’s it for today.

For more from FP, visit foreignpolicy.com, subscribe here, or sign up for our other newsletters. Send your tips, comments, questions, or corrections to morningbrief@foreignpolicy.com.

Audrey Wilson is the newsletter editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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