US Holocaust Museum revokes Suu Kyi’s human rights award

Aung San Suu Kyi was a Mandela-like figure in Myanmar who spent years under house arrest for opposing the country’s military dictatorship. (AP)
Updated 08 March 2018
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US Holocaust Museum revokes Suu Kyi’s human rights award

WASHINGTON: The United States Holocaust Museum is revoking a major human rights award given to Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s civilian leader, saying she has failed to respond adequately to the mass killings of Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority.
The museum announced Wednesday that the Elie Wiesel Award given to Suu Kyi in 2012 would be rescinded. The move is just the latest in a series of blows to Suu Kyi’s international reputation, which has plummeted over the Rohingya massacres.
In response to the museum’s action, a spokesman for Suu Kyi said the decision appeared to be based on “the wrong information” and that it made the Myanmar government “very disappointed and sad.”
Suu Kyi was a Mandela-like figure in Myanmar who spent years under house arrest for opposing the country’s military dictatorship. She became an international rallying point and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. Her party won a landslide victory in 2015 and she assumed the newly created post of state counselor, although the military still retains significant political and economic power.
Hopes had been high for Suu Kyi to make the transition from revered opposition figure to reformist political leader, given her long campaign for democracy. Instead, human rights advocates consider her a disappointment, particularly in her response to the Rohingya killings.
The Holocaust Museum has embraced the plight of the Rohingya in recent years, and published a report in November that concluded there was “mounting evidence of genocide” committed by both the military and armed Buddhist extremists.
In a letter to Suu Kyi released Wednesday, the museum accused her government of obstructing United Nations investigators and promoting “hateful rhetoric” against the Rohingya community, even as it acknowledged she has little influence over the military.
The museum had hoped Suu Kyi “would have done something to condemn and stop the military’s brutal campaign and to express solidarity with the targeted Rohingya population,” the letter stated. “The severity of the atrocities in recent months demand that you use your moral authority to address this situation.”
Suu Kyi does not oversee her country’s military or its security operations that set off the exodus of Rohingya refugees, but three former fellow Nobel Peace laureates last month accused her and the army of committing genocide in northern Rakhine state. They said that as the country’s leader she cannot avoid responsibility. Her government has defended the military operation in the north and has embraced the prosecution of journalists along with other attempts to suppress and discredit the media.
Zaw Htay, Suu Kyi’s spokesman, said in response to a request for comment: “Myanmar has always been supportive of the Holocaust Museum’s principles and activities and the purposes of the museum. But now, now the latest situation in Rakhine state, we see that the Museum has no balance perceptions on us.”
He added: “We assume that the decision of revoking the award is also based on of the wrong information they have received. The Myanmar government is very disappointed and sad on the decision made by the Museum. And this decision will not have any effect on the supports from Myanmar people to the state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.”


Brazilian police arrest fugitive linked to Hezbollah

Updated 14 min 20 sec ago
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Brazilian police arrest fugitive linked to Hezbollah

  • Police took Assad Ahmad Barakat into custody in the border city of Foz do Iguacu
  • In 2004, the US Treasury Department accused Barakat of serving as a treasurer for Hezbollah

SAO PAULO: Brazilian police on Friday arrested a fugitive sought in Paraguay who is accused by US officials of belonging to Lebanon's Hezbollah militia and of being a key financier of terrorism.
Police took Assad Ahmad Barakat into custody in the border city of Foz do Iguacu, which is home to the famous Iguazu Falls and sits where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet.
Authorities in Paraguay are seeking Barakat on allegations of false representation, police said, and Brazil's Supreme Court authorized his arrest earlier this month. The Brazilian federal prosecutor's office said in a statement that Barakat's case meets the requirements for an arrest with a view to extradition.
In Paraguay, Barakat is accused of presenting a declaration of incorrect nationality and omitting information about the loss of nationality, the prosecutors' statement said. Barakat was born in Lebanon but has lived in South America for years.
Prosecutors said they had information that Barakat applied for refugee status in Brazil when he learned of Paraguay's arrest warrant, but that only the recognition of refugee status would prevent his extradition, which was not the case here.
In 2004, the US Treasury Department accused Barakat of serving as a treasurer for Hezbollah, which it considers a terrorist organization, and ordered American banks to freeze any of his assets found in the United States. At the time, Barakat was serving time in a Paraguayan prison for tax evasion. Two years later it added several of his associates to its watchlist, on which Barakat remains.
Brazilian police said Argentine authorities have accused associates of Barakat of laundering $10 million in a scheme in casinos, and they have frozen the group's assets.
Barakat was extradited from Brazil to Paraguay in 2003 and was convicted of tax evasion. He returned to live in Brazil in 2008 after he was released from prison, police said.

 

SAO PAULO: Brazilian police on Friday arrested a fugitive whom US authorities have accused of serving as Hezbollah's financier and who has repeatedly been accused of illegal activity in a lawless border area where three South American nations meet.
Police took Assad Ahmad Barakat into custody in the Brazilian city of Foz do Iguacu, which is home to the famous Iguazu Falls and sits where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay converge. The Tri-Border Area, as it is known, has long been a haven for smugglers, traffickers and counterfeiters, and US authorities and others have alleged it is also a redoubt for terrorism support and financing.
Authorities in Paraguay are seeking Barakat on allegations of false representation, police said, and Brazil's Supreme Court authorized his arrest earlier this month.
The Brazilian federal prosecutor's office said Barakat's case met the requirements for an arrest with a view to extradition — but it was not clear when or if that would happen.
In 2004, the US Treasury Department said Barakat was one of the most influential members of Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, which the US considers a terrorist organization. It accused him of using his businesses in the Tri-Border Area as a front for fundraising for Hezbollah as well as coercing local shopkeepers into giving money to the organization.
A Treasury official at the time said he had used "every financial crime in the book" to fund Hezbollah and "underwrite terror," and the department ordered his assets frozen in the United States. Barakat was then serving a prison sentence for tax evasion in Paraguay.
Two years later it added several of his associates to a list of people whose US assets can be frozen and whom Americans and U.S. companies are prohibited from dealing with. Barakat remains on that list.
In a 2001 interview with The Associated Press, Barakat acknowledged that he was a "sympathizer" of Hezbollah but said that did not mean that he supported terrorism.
Attempts to reach Barakat's lawyer were unsuccessful.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which researches and advocates against anti-Semitism, hate and terrorism, praised the arrest.
"We have monitored international terrorist activity in the lawless contiguous Triple Frontier region for some 20 years," Shimon Samuels, the center's director for international relations, said in a statement. He added that he hopes the arrest was "a sign that the three countries will begin to drive Hezbollah out of Latin America."
Beyond the longstanding accusations of his involvement with terrorism, Barakat has faced other legal troubles over the years and was even extradited from Brazil to Paraguay once before, according to police. They said he returned to Brazil in 2008 after serving his sentence.
In Paraguay, Barakat is currently accused of presenting a declaration of incorrect nationality and omitting information about the loss of nationality, Brazilian prosecutors said Friday. Barakat was born in Lebanon but has lived in South America for years.
Prosecutors said they had information that Barakat applied for refugee status in Brazil when he learned of Paraguay's arrest warrant, but that only the recognition of refugee status would prevent his extradition, which was not the case here.
Brazilian police also said Argentine authorities have accused associates of Barakat of laundering $10 million in a scheme in casinos, and they have frozen the group's assets.