Amnesty International strips Aung San Suu Kyi of its highest honour

International human rights group Amnesty has announced it has withdrawn its highest honour, the A...
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

18.04 12 Nov 2018

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Amnesty International strips A...

Amnesty International strips Aung San Suu Kyi of its highest honour

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

18.04 12 Nov 2018

Share this article

International human rights group Amnesty has announced it has withdrawn its highest honour, the Ambassador of Conscience Award, from Aung San Suu Kyi.

It said this was in light of the Myanmar leader's "shameful betrayal" of the values she once stood for.

On November 11th, Amnesty International's Secretary-General Kumi Naidoo wrote to Ms Suu Kyi to inform her the organisation was revoking the 2009 award.


Half way through her term in office, and eight years after her release from house arrest,Mr Naidoo expressed the organisation's "disappointment" that she had not used her "political and moral authority to safeguard human rights, justice or equality".

He citied her apparent indifference to atrocities committed by the Myanmar military, and increasing intolerance of freedom of expression.

"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," Mr Naidoo wrote.

"Today, we are profoundly dismayed that you no longer represent a symbol of hope, courage, and the undying defence of human rights.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."

Ms Suu Kyi was presented with the award in Dublin in 2012.


Image via @kuminaidoo on Twitter

Ms Suu Kyi was named an Ambassador of Conscience in 2009, in recognition of her peaceful and non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights.

At the time she was held under house arrest, which she was eventually released from exactly eight years ago.

When she was finally able to accept the award in 2012, she asked Amnesty International to "not take either your eyes or your mind off us and help us to be the country where hope and history merges."

Colm O'Gorman is executive director of Amnesty International Ireland.

"When we honoured Aung San Suu Kyi here in Dublin, it was for a Myanmar that would protect and defend the human rights of all.

"This is what Irish people in their tens of thousands had campaigned for decades to achieve.

"We will continue to fight for justice and human rights in Myanmar - with or without her support".

"Amnesty International took Aung San Suu Kyi's request that day very seriously, which is why we will never look away from human rights violations in Myanmar."

File photo of Aung San Suu Kyi with a portrait presented to her at an Amnesty International event at Grand Canal Square in Dublin in 2012 | Image: Laura Hutton/

Since Ms Suu Kyi became the de-facto leader of Myanmar in April 2016, Amnesty said her administration has been "actively involved in the commission or perpetuation of multiple human rights violations."

"Aung San Suu Kyi's failure to speak out for the Rohingya is one reason why we can no longer justify her status as an Ambassador of Conscience," Mr O'Gorman said.

"Her denial of the gravity and scale of the atrocities means there is little prospect of the situation improving for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya living in limbo in Bangladesh, or for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who remain in Rakhine State.

"Without acknowledgement of the horrific crimes against the community, it is hard to see how the government can take steps to protect them from future atrocities."

Amnesty International has repeatedly criticised the failure of Ms Suu Kyi and her government to speak out about military atrocities against the Rohingya population in Rakhine State, who have lived for years under a system of segregation and discrimination "amounting to apartheid".

During the campaign of violence against the Rohingya last year, the Myanmar security forces were accused of killing thousands, raping women and girls, detaining and torturing men and boys, and burning hundreds of homes and villages to the ground.

More than 720,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh.

A United Nations report has called for senior military officials to be investigated and prosecuted for the crime of genocide.

Dublin City councillors also voted to revoke Ms Suu Kyi's Freedom of the City back in 2017.

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