Former democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi is set to make legal history when she defends Myanmar in The Hague this week against charges of genocide targeting the Buddhist state's minority Rohingya Muslims.
The tiny west African state of Gambia, acting on behalf of the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, will ask the International Court of Justice to take emergency measures to halt Myanmar's "ongoing genocidal actions."
But in a highly unusual move, the office of Nobel Peace laureate and Myanmar civilian leader Suu Kyi has said she will lead a team to the UN's highest court, based in the turreted Peace Palace in the Netherlands.
Legal experts said Suu Kyi would be one of the first national leaders to personally address the tribunal since it was set up in 1946 after World War II to rule in disputes between countries.
Her plan to appear before the court's judges for the three-day hearing starting Tuesday was "unprecedented and also very unwise", Cecily Rose, an assistant professor in international law at Leiden University, told AFP.
"States never ever send politicians to lead legal teams at the ICJ," she said.
Although Oxford-educated Suu Kyi's background was "impressive, she has no legal qualifications and would be completely at sea before the court," Rose added.
Around 740,000 Rohingya were forced to flee into camps in Bangladesh after Myanmar's military launched a violent crackdown on the group in 2017, which UN investigators concluded amounted to genocide.
The case will be the first international legal attempt to bring Myanmar to justice over the crisis and is a rare example of a country suing another over an issue to which it is not directly a party.
Muslim-majority Gambia's case alleges that Myanmar has breached the 1948 UN Genocide Convention. It is seeking the special measures pending a future decision by the court on whether to take on the wider case. Source: AFP.