Amnesty withdraws highest award from Aung San Suu Kyi

Human rights group accuses Myanmar leader of ‘shameful betrayal’ of values

Amnesty International has withdrawn its highest honour, the Ambassador of Conscience Award, from Aung San Suu Kyi. It follows what it describes as “the Myanmar leader’s shameful betrayal of the values she once stood for”.

In a letter to Ms Suu Kyi, Amnesty International’s secretary general Kumi Naidoo said that “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.”

It continued “today, we are profoundly dismayed that you no longer represent a symbol of hope, courage, and the undying defence of human rights.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.”

Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the accolade in 2009. At the time she was held under house arrest, which she was eventually released from eight years ago.


When she was finally able to accept the award at an event in Dublin in 2012, Ms Suu Kyi 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, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, said that “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,” he said.

Ms Suu Kyi became the de facto leader of Myanmar’s civilian-led government in April 2016, since when her administration is believed to have 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,” said Mr O’Gorman.

In his letter to her Mr Naidoo expressed Amnesty’s disappointment that she had not used her political and moral authority to safeguard human rights, justice or equality in Myanmar. He also cited her apparent indifference to atrocities committed by the Myanmar military and increasing intolerance of freedom of expression.

Last December, Dublin city councillors voted to strip Ms Suu Kyi of her Freedom of the City of Dublin award which she received in 2000.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times