Amnesty International Strips ‘Conscience’ Award From Aung San Suu Kyi

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Ore Huiying / Getty Images

The human rights organization Amnesty International is rescinding its highest award that it once bestowed to Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who lived in detention for years in support of democratic rights in her home country.

Suu Kyi, the 1st State Counselor of Myanmar, received the Ambassador of Conscience Award from Amnesty International in 2009 for spending 15 of the previous 21 years under house arrest by military leaders in her nation. For her time in detention, she was given a Nobel Peace Prize as well in 1991, Human Rights Watch previously reported.

But the organization says it has no other choice but to rescind the award based on events now happening in Myanmar, according to a statement put out by the group.

The military in that nation is not technically under the direct control of the civilian-led government. But the actions of that military have not been deemed improper by the government, said Amnesty International, and Suu Kyi has at times justified their atrocious actions — including the slaughter, rape, and torture of thousands of Rohingya people in the Rakhine State of Myanmar. Suu Kyi has described the Rohingya, while these actions were being taken, as “terrorists.”

“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,” Amnesty International Secretary General Kumi Naidoo said in a statement.

The organization couldn’t turn a blind eye to the fact that Suu Kyi’s military leaders were committing these actions, and that she herself was doing nothing to stop them.

“Today, we are profoundly dismayed that you no longer represent a symbol of hope, courage, and the undying defense of human rights,” Naidoo added. “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.”

Suu Kyi was released from her final stint under house arrest eight years ago on Wednesday. In 2012 she was invited by the Nobel Prize committee to finally give a speech for her having receiving the award more than 20 years earlier.

In that speech, Suu Kyi noted that peace and democracy had an opportunity to flourish in her home country. “The potential of our country is enormous,” she said, according to the Nobel Prize website. “This should be nurtured and developed to create not just a more prosperous but also a more harmonious, democratic society where our people can live in peace, security and freedom.”