eelamview

April 6, 2012

SRI LANKA: 'Public awaking against injustice'

Filed under: genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: — vijasan @ 10:52 am

Salem News interviewed one of the exiled journalists of Sri Lanka.

(CHENNAI / COLOMBO) – Nilantha Ilangamuwa is an ambitious young journalist purged by the government for his conviction to uphold freedom of speech and independence of media in the island nation.

He was taunted by the agents of the government and its secret service for fearlessly managing the Sri Lanka Guardian that is continuing to expose several sensitive news that is causing major irritation to the government.

The very first point in the nine points mission statement of the Sri Lanka Guardian says it all: ‘Adhere to the journalistic values of honesty, courage, fairness, balance, independence, credibility and diversity, giving no priority to commercial or political considerations over professional ones’. With that strong commitment, the Sri Lanka Guardian is fearlessly striving even after being officially banned by the President Mahinda Rajapakse’s government.

In his first-ever interview with the media, Nilantha Ilangamuwa, the editor and founder of the Sri Lanka Guardian, a well-known online newspaper on Sri Lanka, visualized the regime that is governing Sri Lanka.

He says the government will have to find its way out of its hypocritical politics and he feels that there would be an awakening of masses against the very foundation of bad governance embedded in the habitual political life of lies and crony vulgarism. He claims that these are the despicable core values of the government to stay in power.

In this interview, he talks about his profession, experience and his understanding of inherent problems in the country.

SN: – What made you to go into media?

NI: -Well, several reasons influenced me to become a journalist. I was born in the central hill country, where one could see more of the darkness of the country, than in other parts.

Most of the people in the village do farming and this was what my parents were doing. As a child during the late 80’s, I witnessed the bloody JVP riots during which many youths were assaulted, killed and their possessions looted. I still remember going with my parents and friends to see half burnt dead bodies lying here and there on the roads in our village.

Some of our neighbors were also killed in the riots. I would say most of those victims were innocent civilians who did not have any political engagement at all. Many in fear, sought refuge and came to our house too. Our house was located further away from the main road.

They came to us for their protection and spent days and nights at our house in the dark. The whole village was shocked by the massacre. All that the villagers wanted was peaceful life. But the politicians and their henchmen played their dirty role with the lives of the innocent people– it was back then, but unfortunately this campaign is even continuing now in a subtle way. You can call it a systematic state terrorism that is consuming the lives of the people.

Almost everyone in our village was fed-up with the way politicians were conducting themselves.

I left the village for higher education, during which period, I acquired good understanding of the ethnic crisis progressing in the country.

As the president of the student union, with the guidance of my school headmaster, I organized an event to interact with the inmates of a rehabilitation camp for the LTTE suspects based in Bindunuwawa and Bandarawela, where hundreds of us and the LTTE suspects spent a whole day together.

It was first time in our school history that we had this kind of experience. We all gained a lot from it and the LTTE suspects and some of LTTE cadres who had surrendered to the Army prepared foods for the students, performed dramas and played cricket with us. I recall, a former LTTE rebel Chandrasekaran. I was the commentator of the day’s events.

It was for the very first time in my life, I spoke to a LTTE rebel, who seemed to have had a very good understanding of the problem that we all were facing. He talked fluently in Sinhala and told me that the rehabilitation process would not work unless the government is in a position to solve problems associated with the essential needs of the ordinary masses.

‘I don’t think, this rehabilitation process will work’ even the army colonel (as he referred to him who was of in-charge of the camp) had said. Chandrasekaran said ‘ ‘Sir’ is a very good hearted man with good understanding of intricacies of the problem’.

‘I joined the LTTE at my own will and fought with the only objective to get parity of states with the majority. It is true that we ordinary people whether Sinhalese, Tamil or Muslims, don’t have any problems with each other, but these politicians are using us for their own benefits. When I am released from this camp, I will go home and spend some time peacefully and then will join the LTTE’ he said.

He made these comments whilst we were having our meal together. His views and the other LTTE suspect’s friendly attitude inspired us, and most of the students talked about them very positively.

Few years later, we heard the news that there was a massacre at the Bindunuwawa detention camp in which more than 20 LTTE suspects were slaughtered by the Sinhalese extremists motivated by the racist politicians.

This was the time when I started to work as a journalist. I still remember one report headlined ‘human flesh for Lions’ in the media. Sadly, this is the pathetic side of our beautiful country where these extremists dictate the lives of our people.

These two core incidents influenced me very much in addition to my personal interest to be a journalist – for example the urge to write, the will to know and to be known and to be heard by other people in my society; a desire to influence the good in my society and the thirst for knowledge, etc. were some of the personal reasons that guided me to become a journalist.

However, my family members were unhappy from the beginning that I was leaning towards journalism. My mother said to me: ‘being a journalist you will do nothing to help the society but it is an unnecessary risk to your life. At crucial times there will be no one to help you and they will point the finger at you’.

However, I always dreamt to be an independent writer with good command of the languages. This gave me the innermost strength to become a professional journalist.

As human beings, we may be unable to find people who are one hundred percent perfect and mistakes are always possible. It’s true that journalism in reality is not the journalism that we learnt in the university. It is far from it. But there are some dedicated persons in the world who genuinely seek to expresses their true hearts into words to share their real experiences. Assassinated Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickramatunge is one of them. His inspiring extraordinary article from his grave was published three days after he was assassinated by the government goons in Colombo. The letter said it all about the status of Sri Lanka.

SN:. Let us know the Newspapers that you have served before becoming an independent web-publisher.

NI:. I started writing when I was 18 years old. A year after I came out of school, I published the Monthly Magazine called Siwdesa. I was one of the main contributors to the Magazine and my mentor was Sandun Gunasinghe, who is the son of late Dayasena Gunasinghe, who was the founder and chief editor of Divaina, a weekly edition. Let me talk a bit about this.

Sandun had deep understanding of journalism, but later he was away from the field due to some personal reasons and the bitter experiences he had experienced in his work. During that time, he shared his father’s experiences with me and told me about how colleagues of the same paper had indulged in foul play.

Once he told me about an editorial written by his father, that was critical of the President J R Jayawardhane’s unethical politics. One of the deputy editors, translated that editorial into English and gave it to President JRJ who could not read Sinhala.

A close ally of the President visited him with the article and the translation and told him that the writer is against the President and that he must do something immediately to deal with the write up. The trouble makers are the pathetic predators in this profession. It was one of main reasons that influenced the late Gunasighe to say goodbye to that paper and start the magazine Siwdesa where I started my journalism. Late Gunasinghe was a real hero of Sri Lankan journalism, even though not many today talk about his service.

It is very common in our culture that people with acclaim are not appreciated whilst the corrupts thrive are mushrooming all over. Late Gunasinghe never accepted any benefits from the state to mitigate his writings. He was a born an independent and lived as an independent and died with self esteem too. I recall that his house was half constructed, when he and his family were facing troubles. At that time high level ministers offered him large sums, but he never accepted them.

After my work at Siwdesa, I moved to Divaina, which is a sister paper of the Island published by the Upali Newspapers Group. I worked there for few years and contributed a lot, but suddenly there was an internal conflict in management. One group that had extreme views, tried to kick the editor out. I too got caught in the debacle and was accused as an agent of foreign intelligence agencies helping the separatists.

But I never supported the separatists or separatism. I was one of those who strongly criticized the LTTE’s violent attacks on civilians. I was never against Tamil people that was what some writers misinterpreted.

I know many writers who wrote what the politicians wanted them to project. I still remember one of the deputy editors of the newspaper who was always proud of the maverick Minister Marvyn Silva saying that, “every month I receive essential stuffs from the Minister’.

However, after Divaina, I worked with Mawbima, (which was later banned by the Government) and the Sunday Standard. The Sunday Standard was the first paper where I started my journalism in English. Hanna Ibrahim was my first editor, and she gave me all the encouragement to develop my skills. My entering into English medium brought troubles with some of my colleagues who wrote bad about me and expressed strong criticisms.

SN: Please provide us the names of the websites you have run and why some of them were abandoned.

NI: Before I started the Sri Lanka Guardian, I used to write for few web sites. In August 2007, I started the Sri Lanka Guardian as a result of the banning of our existing newspapers by the Government saying that we are helping the LTTE. As far as I know, we never helped the LTTE, but there were articles that were from Tamil people. Back then, we had the slogan – ‘Our Journalism is not only for the South but even beyond that of Omanthei check point.’ Omanthei was the border post for the government and the Tamil Tigers.

The reason why Sri Lanka Guardian was banned was simple. It was because the government thinks that the Sri Lanka Guardian and few other websites can cause harm to the public opinion about the government. It is true that we were criticising the Government and its allies because in a democracy we have the fundamental right to do so.

We are not subjects of an autocratic King, but are citizens of the country contributing to the advancement of our people who pay taxes out of their hard earned income.

The government seems to believe that these websites that are character assassinating the ministers and their leaders and the officialdom that provides unaccountable service to the masters.

What is wrong in the character assassination when the very same eccentrics in the government who point their fingers at us publicly character assassinate themselves. Whether these men have good “character” to promote is another matter. If they are really concerned, they must first abandon the state run newspapers before they attack the websites as they are the ones originating the news about these dubious characters.

Banning the websites like ours is simply a paranoia that is pervading the massive intelligence service of the government.

SN: What are the core values or principles of the SLG? Who are your contributors?

NI: Well, as I told you earlier, the Sri Lanka Guardian was started in August 2007 after the newspapers I worked for were banned by the government. There was threat on other papers too, not to recruit those journalists who had worked for the banned newspaper company that I worked for. I had no choice and started the Sri Lanka Guardian, with a group of friends, most of them were based outside Sri Lanka. I personally invited some well-known writers and analysts to contribute to our website. Our basic principle is to open the gate for voiceless people and facilitate the freedom to express their views, feelings and thoughts without any fear. Sri Lanka Guardian is an open forum and accommodates diverse views even if they offend the government, groups or individuals so long as they are just, fair and truthful.

Today, the Sri Lanka Guardian has many contributors from several countries and there is no need to mention all by their names.

SN: You are an exiled journalist. What made you to leave the country? Will you or can you return to Sri Lanka now or in the future.

NI: The intelligence service attached to the Military of Defense started to follow me for a while. They arrested and interrogated me in the notorious fourth floor cell in Colombo for over 6-7 hours. Following that, an order was given by a top military man to take necessary action against me.

Without proper reasons and based on gossips, the government took this decision against me. The gossip was that a government pampered the gutter media based in Helsinki run by a notorious money launderer who accused me of links with the Indian Intelligence Service- Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). According to the news, I am a RAW agent because I published articles of former high profile RAW officials in the Sri Lanka Guardian. This was the cause for the intelligence to take action against me.

I didn’t and don’t have any agenda as accused by the government. If at all, it is the nefarious Helsinki gutter editor who had an agenda. He meets the President when the President visits the West and the government provide him with five star facilities to engage with him and to receive advise. This controversial man was part of the jumbo team of campaigners of Sri Lanka at the UNHCR session in Geneva.

These types of association with the unscrupulous persons are rotting Sri Lanka. They are been used to prop up charges against individuals and I am a victim of this degrading conduct. These are done at a heavy cost to the victims, whist ensuring the reprehensible agent’s safes are always loaded with laundered funds to provide the government with their despicable service.

I still remember, as an independent reporter when I went to Jaffna to report on the ongoing war. This irritated a top military official who became suspicious of my presence. Later, I came to know that they kept a distance from me because they had received calls from Colombo warning of my involvement with the RAW.

When I reached Muhamalai, where hundreds of soldiers were killed by the Tamil Tigers once, one of the commanding officers who got to know me realized that I did not have any links as others had claimed. But the campaign of caricaturing me as a RAW agent extended further and many other writers followed the scandal generated by the Helsinki opportunist.

My safety in Sri Lanka became precarious and there was ample evidence that the Government will target me. It was the main reason why I left the country with the help of Mr. Basil Fernando of the Asian Human Rights Commission. If I’m an agent of the RAW, then why should AHRC help me?

If I had remained in Sri Lanka, by now I would been six feet below the ground or my body destroyed without any trace of evidence. If not for Mr. Basil Fernando my fate would have been in the hand of the government’s death squad.

 

The day that the government pampered Helsinki website started to attacked me by saying that I am an agent of the RAW, I phoned the Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksha and I asked for his advice and assistance.

I was surprised when he said, ‘Nothing will happen if you make a complaint to the police. Only thing you must do is to attack them back. It must be tit for tat response’. I was astonished to hear his comment. If this had happened in a responsible democracy, the response would have been to protect me. Gotabaya holding green card of USA should have shown maturity in his handling my call.

The current situation is precarious for the exiled journalists to return to Sri Lanka. The government does not like any form of opposition. Killing the chicken to scare the monkey is a proverb that projects the government’s attitude.

The President’s policy is clearly– ‘if you’re not with us you’re a traitor of the Nation’. This speaks volume of the mindset of the government. The very basis of trust needed for good governance has been torpedoed in Sri Lanka. There is worry that the autocratic rule will go further to reflect regimes like that of Stalin’s Russia, Pol Pot’s Cambodia and the Bokossa of Africa.

SN: Why did GoSL ban the Sri Lanka Guardian? Are you affected by this decision?

NI: The Sri Lanka Guardian was banned because of its outspoken stand and as a result of government sympathetic dubious and intolerant worms in the media like the one operating from Helsinki dictating terms. Soon after the ban, we published an editorial quoting an Assyrian proverb: ‘I need not fear my enemies because the most they can do is attack me. I need not fear my friends because the most they can do is to betray me. But I have much to fear from people who are indifferent.’

The response on the ban is mixed. The readership from outside Sri Lanka has grown whilst readers in Sri Lanka has been denied access. Even the dedicated readers from Sri Lanka are accessing Sri Lanka Guardian via proxy web links. What we published is reproduced in many websites that are not affected by the ban. According to statistics more than five hundred thousand people were accessing our site a month before the ban and after the ban readership went down dramatically and we are seeing steady increase now but not of the scale experienced before.

Going further, to the obsessed government, Sri Lanka Guardian is guilty of publishing articles upholding the fundamental democratic value of freedom of speech. Sri Lanka Guardian is the voice of the oppressed and an outspoken media on issues that the state wishes to suppress. It gives opportunities to wide range of views, including that of the opposing. This is what the government wants us to compromise and become a poodle media like those surviving under its control.

The legal idiom: ‘You are innocent until proved guilty’ has no meaning in Sri Lanka, as one is made guilty and punished before charges are even framed. We were fascinated to read the news of the government, that the banned web media should contact the Information Ministry to have a chat to remove the ban. Sri Lanka Guardian will not enter into any pleas when sword of the Damocles is held on its head.

SN GoSL says it wants some discipline the media. Why can’t you abide by this?

NL: What Sri Lanka needs is media freedom where news is reported freely and responsibly and opinions expressed without fear. In order to maintain accountable media there must be mechanisms to deal with complaints and a responsible legal system to deal with claims. The control of media from the biased politicians must be shifted to an independent authority and judiciary too must be made independent from the politicians to make fair decisions.

When the government agenda is motivated to control the media to reflect only its voice, the voice of Sri Lanka Guardian has become a thorn in the flesh to face heavy sanctions.

SN: Have you applied for registration with the GoSL? If not why?

NI: No, we have not applied and may not apply under present circumstances. The banning of some media is an agenda to silence the independent web media.

The government’s approach on this is pathetic. It rushed and introduced the ban following local and international pressures from its supporters. To this date, we have not received any official notification of the ban. They banned the websites based on a pending law. What this pending law is? It is clearly, a bull in the china shop situation- destroying the very foundation of democracy for selfish reasons.

Our registration with the domain company binds us and we follow the publication laws. You can’t open even free email service without registration or signing an agreement.

SN: What is your readership prior to the ban and now?

NI: Until last October, we had more than five hundred thousand readers per month, which works out to be over twenty thousand per day. But at the end of November last year following the ban, around three hundred thousand access were registered. But it is progressively increasing.

SN: Is SLG reaching Sri Lanka? If not, do you have alternative strategies?

NI: The readers cannot access the Sri Lanka Guardian in Sri Lanka after the ban. But they can access through proxy websites. We are however maintaining free email service for our readers through which they can receive all the updates of the SLG daily. We are also using social networks and micro blogging sites to reach Sri Lanka. In the future, we are planning to technically expand our website to reach Sri Lanka in a much bigger scale.

SN: There is a claim that you have link with the TMVP, the de facto faction of the LTTE which was led by Karuna Amman, who is a Minister in the present government. What do you have to say on this?

NI As a journalist, I have contacts not only with TMVP but also with wide range of links. Without contacts how can you manage a news-site? I was the first journalist to interview Karuna after the formation of the TMVP and after he came to Colombo, following his imprisonment in London.

I met him several times at his office in Narahenpita, Colombo. He also called me frequently. We had many discussions, but nothing beyond journalism and all the time I spoke to him about the national issues.

At one point he was in deadly conflict with Pillayan as a result of the Helsinki money laundering journalist’s campaign, who fermented a wedge between both. I have written to TMVP officials about recruitment of child soldiers by the group, and about poverty in the eastern province.

With Karuna joining the government, his intentions too changed. He joined hands with the government intelligence service and caused problems for me personally and the SLG.

Nilantha IlangamuwaSN: What do you wish to say to the GoSL?

NI The Sinhala saying ‘don’t try to play your fiddle to a deaf elephant’ is my advice to the Sri Lanka government. In my life, I voted only once and it was during 2005 presidential election. We were inspired to vote for President Rajapaksa, even though knowing about his very many worrying problems in his political career including that of the murder in Beliatta and exclusively patronising his southern base Hambanthota. Many people have good thoughts about the President. Perhaps they still believe he will restore rule of law in the country.

War against the LTTE was an important factor. I was always saying people from all walks of life must be stakeholders in the effort. But at the end, the President and his family members took advantage of the war effort and used it to undermine the peoples’ rights. Both Tamil and Sinhlaese as well as Muslims, became easy pawn to the power hungry Rajapakse & Co., and Mahinda is trying to portray him as the greatest leader Sri Lanka had by defeating the Tamils like the historical Dutugemunu.

What we have to realize is that terrorism is the product of failures of the state. The Government killed the terrorism three years ago, but the deep rooted disease is still festering.

Medication for the disease is not just devolution or giving police some power or dealing with the land power to selected institutions but it must be restoring rule of law for the entire country and devolving powers without any hidden agendas.

For that, the President must prove he is honest and sincere and will go beyond his vote bank to become a statesman. You can’t solve long term problems by ducking and diving. Good governance practices must progressively come into the administration of the government.

To achieve this, constitutional changes must be brought in to ensure defined, independent, responsible and accountable divisions of powers between executive, legislative and judicial mechanisms and devolvement of powers for the people to participate in their affairs, thus facilitating a short to long term plan to address the grievances of the minorities. Anti-minority sentiments in the state bureaucracy must be weaned out and broadminded officialdom must play its due role to create better governance in the country.

Further, state interference in the freedom of speech must be brought to end together with the closure of impunity enjoyed by the state and its agents that is undermining the people’s right to live and liberty.

I had a long conversation with Lal Wickramatunge (the brother of assassinated Lasantha Wickramatunga of the Sunday Leader) about a report published by the Sri Lanka Guardian. He told me that his dead fathers’ ashes that was brought from abroad, was mishandled and thrown away by the officials at the Colombo airport.

This country belongs to all of us but what the President seems to be thinking that it only belongs to his family and friends. In order to give an image that he is the peoples man, he portrays himself down to earth in front of the people.

SN: What do you wish to say to the people in Sri Lanka and the world at large about your predicament and also about your wishes?

NI: Mahinda is not a Mahatma. He is only extending the established historical hate agenda of the nation much more boisterously. Due to his narrow minded attitude we are unable to praise our real heroes. In the past, we did not have the courage to come forward against injustice and when few did come forward they were killed. It will take time for the people to realise the situation they are in as a result of failing in good governance. Mahinda’s foolishness will not be tolerated forever and the people will respond in kind and it is not too far away.

President Rajapaksha is an extension of the old breed of hate politics. He is thinking that the world is still in the 70s and 80s. If he continue to extend his hegemonic heroic policies, only the time will make him a discredited villain.

People are now coming forward and seeking justice. How far Mahinda & Co., will tolerate this changing trend when they are getting cornered in many fronts is a real worry and if it escalates further, his regime may unleash spate of calculated violence against the people like what happened in 1915 ( Gampola) , 1956 ( Galoya), 1958, 1977 and 1983.

Intolerance to injustice could be an alternative though. That could be the creation of a real opposition. Such an opposition will lead to balance of power. Balance of power could lead to the creation of principles for good governance. Good governance will help change the present state of social disorder to social order. This may lead to the creation of the basic institutions that today do not exist in the country. But, the present regime is deliberately engaged in sabotaging every possibility of such a dream becoming true. The government of Sri Lanka is engaged in the systematic elimination of everything and everyone who is intolerant to injustice.

See what has happened to this President. His own commissions of inquiries, promises to provide justice and his rantings to find a durable political resolution acceptable to all the people have been proved a façade. He was able to use his authoritative card of defeating the LTTE all these while. But finally got caught on the implementation of LLRC report. His manipulations did not work internationally and the matter has now reached the UN forum.

 

International awareness of his deceptive practices is the reflection of the frustration that is prevailing in Sri Lanka which the President is trying to undermine by the traditional emotive and hate mongering politics.

LLRC must be the starter to bring about good governance in Sri Lanka. Mahinda will be made to implement it and if he fails, Sri Lanka will continue to face pressures from the international community. In the event of not responding to the UNHRC resolution, Sri Lanka will enter into the next phase when the UN effort will impose an international inquiry. If this too is undermined, the matter will certainly reach the Security Council. Sri Lanka cannot take comfort that China and Russia will help preventing a Security Council resolution. Sudan is a good example when friendly Russia and China abstained on the vote against the resolution.

If Sri Lanka antagonizes India to prop up China, it will put Sri Lanka into greater peril. If India decides to take decisive steps against Sri Lanka to exert its regional authority, China will find it hard to interactively support Mahinda. The situation will become worse when India is backed by the West and it has the clout to influence Russia.

Sri Lanka is starting to face the indirect sanctions as a result of aids not filtering through from the West and due to US sanctions against Iran. If Sri Lanka attempts to undermine the carrot and stick policy of the international community and play deceptive games to enjoy the carrots only, it is expected to face serious consequences in the international field.

Mahinda has made the biggest mistake by exposing his siblings and relatives in the partnership business of administering Sri Lanka in a scale unprecedented in the history of Sri Lanka. This could lead to serious consequences when his family members collectively participate in the failures and the end result could be of any ones guess.

Finally, I can only tell my brethrens back home that unless they wide open their eyes and respond to the country’s leadership beyond the parochial prejudices, Mahinda administration will only lead them to peril.

SN: Thank you Nilantha.

NI: Good to be with you.

Salem-News.com

www.salem-news.com

www.humanrights.asia

Kohona under AFP spotlight over war-crime charges

Filed under: genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: — vijasan @ 10:44 am

Australian Federal Police (AFP) have said that they will evaluate a document submitted by the Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations (AFTA) charging Palitha Kohona, an Australian citizen and currently Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, over alleged war-crimes. AFP said in a letter AFTA that the referral was from the Minister for Justice, Jason Clare as a result of a correspondence to Michele Rowland, MP by AFTA.

Sydney Morning Herald reported in an investigative story in May 2011 that Dr Palitha Kohona, admitted to sending an SMS message through a European intermediary giving instructions to leaders of the Libertation Tigers to surrender. In this “white flag” incident Sri Lanka Army (SLA) soldiers is alleged to have gunned down all the LTTE members who surrendered. The Journalist Ben Doherty appeared to have visited Sri Lanka and gathered the pertinent evidentiary information, including a statement from an eye-witness to the incident.

Following a submission to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for Kohona’s complicity on war-crimes, and the SMH story, AFTA submitted in September 2011, through Michelle Rowland, to the then Minister of Justice, a 32 page legal brief titled “To Investigate The Involvement of Dr. Palitha T H Kohona in a Joint Criminal Enterprise during the Last Phase of the War in Sri Lanka,” where the document described Dr Kohona’s involvement in the alleged complicity in the killing of unarmed LTTE surrendees.

“Due to a reshuffle in the cabinet the submission did not get the immediate attention of the previous Minister. AFTA then requested Michelle Rowland MP to resubmit our submission to the new Minister Hon Jason Clare and the new Minister took prompt action and informed us on March 7th 2012 that he has forwarded our submission to AFP for their consideration,” AFTA told TamilNet.

“The Government [Australian] takes allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other human rights violations very seriously. The Commonwealth Criminal Code act 1995 contains a range of offences for war crimesand crimes against humanity. Each of these offences applies to conduct both within and outside of Asutralia and all carry severe penalties.

“Investigation of allegations of these crimes is the responsibility of the Australian Federal Police (AFP). As such, I have forwarded Dr Rajakulendran’s submission to the AFP for their consideration,” the letter from the Minister of Justice, Jason Clare, to Ms Rowland said.

The submission to the ICC on war crimes charges against Kohona is still pending.

Related Articles:
21.02.11   Kohona could face court over Tamil Tiger deaths – Sydney pap..
13.02.11   TAG, SCET’s legal brief asserts ICC obligated to probe Kohon..

UK accused of permitting alleged war-criminal to escape prosecution

Filed under: genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: — vijasan @ 10:43 am

Questions have been raised over the failure of the British Foreign Office to investigate Prasanna de Silva, ex-Sri Lanka army general alleged to be complicit in war-crimes, as reports emerged that the Mr Silva’s return to Sri Lanka is imminent, sources in London said. European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) assisted by Society for Threatened Peoples Switzerland, and TRIAL, submitted to the British Foreign Office in January 2012, a 28-page dossier on the alleged involvement of De Silva in war crimes committed during the last months of the Sri Lankan civil war. The dossier is widely believed to be the reason for De Silva’s war crimes predicament, according to political observers in UK.

The Global Tamil Forum (GTF), an active diaspora group, last week sought to bring a judicial review against UK’s foreign secretary over refusal to declare military attache persona non grata alleging that Silva was involved in systematic attacks on Tamil civilians between January and May 2009 when he was a senior commander in the Sri Lankan army.

Prasanna de Silva, Ex-Commander of 55th Division

Prasanna de Silva, Ex-Commander of 55th Division

Fred Carver, the campaign director of the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, said he could not believe that the British government had accepted Silva’s diplomatic accreditation in the first place, the Guardian said.

The paper, quoting Carver, added, “Any intern equipped with Google and a working mouse could have determined that there were credible allegations against Silva. Now they know what they should have previously suspected and investigated, they should not hesitate to revoke it before it is too late. If they do nothing then Silva’s unhindered return will be rightly interpreted as signifying that Britain is soft on war crimes suspects,” the paper said.

Siobhain McDonagh, the Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden and vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group for Tamils, described the FCO’s failure to act sooner on the dossier as “unfathomable, the paper said.

“It does seem extraordinary [for the FCO] to take no action and just rely upon the Sri Lankan government to withdraw him,” she said. “Given the evidence and that the government saw the dossier from the NGOs, why on earth did they take no action?” the Guardian said quoting McDonagh.

In a Factual Supplement to the Report to Congress on Sri Lanka’s war on violations of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law, the US Department of State today accused the 55th Division which was commanded by Prasanna de Silva as responsible for shelling hospitals.

US report said: “UN Panel of Expert [PoE] report concludes that “Virtually every hospital in the Vanni, whether permanent or makeshift, was hit by artillery.” The Panel found that the PTK [Puthukkudiyiruppu] Hospital was shelled every day from January 29 to February 4 most likely by the 55th Division of the SLA. The GSL claimed that no hospitals remained in the Vanni, but the POE report found that the UN and ICRC continuously updated the government on the whereabouts of medical facilities and make-shift hospitals in the region. The POE report also mentions that testimony by government doctors from these hospitals may not be accurate because they initially claimed that government forces repeatedly fired on their facilities but later changed their stories to reflect the GSL’s position.” US report said.

Prasanna de Silva is the second high level diplomat, after Jegath Dias, who will be leaving the post on the grounds of imminent prosecution based on alleged war-crimes and crimes against humanity.

In September 2011, Maj. Gen. (retd.) Jegath Dias, deputy Counsel in Sri Lanka’s embassy in Germany, and commander of Sri Lanka Army’s (SLA’s) 57th division during the last phase of the Sri Lanka war, was recalled by Colombo “in response to accusations he was involved in war crimes,” according to Swiss media.

Shavendra Silva, another UN diplomat, was saved by “diplomatic immunity” from prosecution in a New York court over alleged war-crimes. Sri Lanka’s President Rajapakse is also being sued in the Federal Court in the District of Columbia, despite the intervention of the US State Department which “suggested” immunity to Rajapakse.

Chronology:

06.04.12  UK accused of permitting alleged war-criminal to e..
31.03.12  Mass-rape alleged in Theavipuram amid civilan slau..

Related Articles:
03.04.12   Plaintiffs file appeal on war-crimes case against Rajapakse ..
08.02.12   Boyle: Appointing alleged war-criminals to UN posts, a viola..
02.11.11   Shavendra raises immunity defense to escape torture charges
14.09.11   Colombo recalls Dias over war crimes prosecution fear
04.08.11   Rights groups urge Swiss Attorney General to prosecute Dias ..
04.05.11   German Rights Group accuses Dias of war-crimes
01.08.10   Dias case filed in European Court, German Ambassador meets S..

External Links:

ECCHR: The Prasanna De Silva Case
Guardian: Sri Lankan diplomat may avoid questioning on war crimes claims
Guardian: William Hague faces legal action over Sri Lankan diplomat war crimes claim
USGov: Factual Supplement to the Report to Congress …

 

April 5, 2012

US State department report on Srilanka

Filed under: eelamview, genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: , — vijasan @ 11:05 pm

This report is submitted pursuant to the Conference Report (H. Conf. Rep. No. 112-331) accompanying the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2012 (Div. I, Pub.L. No. 112-74).

Since the last report by the Department of State to Congress on August 11, 2010, significant new allegations of violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL) have been raised regarding the conflict in Sri Lanka.

The UN Panel of Experts (POE), appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, released a report that, without reaching factual conclusions or assigning individual culpability, identified what it characterized as credible evidence of violations of IHL and IHRL by both the Sri Lankan Security Forces and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) cadres. The POE report recommends steps to address those allegations, including both new domestic and an international accountability mechanism, but neither has yet been created.

The Government of Sri Lanka publicly released the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’s (LLRC) final report on December 16, 2011. The report called for investigations into, and possible prosecutions for, specific instances of reported cases of deliberate attacks on civilians by Sri Lankan Security Forces, reports of enforced disappearances, and reports of mistreatment of LTTE detainees. The LLRC’s recommendations related to demilitarization, freedom of expression, land reforms, and rule of law issues are also particularly significant. If fully implemented, these recommendations could provide the Government of Sri Lanka with an opportunity to promote national reconciliation and assist in revitalizing many of Sri Lanka’s democratic institutions. However, the report fails to adequately address allegations that LTTE cadres and Sri Lankan Security Forces violated IHL and IHRL during the final months of the conflict.

The LLRC report expressed concern that its recommendations, like those put forward by similar commissions before it, would not be implemented by the Government of Sri Lanka, specifically pointing to the lack of implementation of its September 2010 interim recommendations. Since the LLRC report was released, culpable individuals have not been identified by a credible mechanism, and no one has been held to account. The Government of Sri Lanka also informed the Department of State that it created a cabinet sub-committee to develop a plan to implement the LLRC recommendations. The constitution and work-plan of that sub-committee is not yet known. Further, the Sri Lankan government informed the Department of State that the Sri Lankan Army has constituted a five-person court of inquiry headed by a Major General to investigate the specific allegations identified in the LLRC report. Subsequent media articles report that the court of inquiry also will review video material depicting summary executions by Sri Lankan forces. According to government officials, the court can refer the cases of culpable individuals to the Attorney General for prosecution. The Sri Lankan Army also formed a board of inquiry to provide recommendations for military reform based on the LLRC findings. Several Government of Sri Lanka interlocutors also informed Department of State officials that the Sri Lankan Attorney General was actively reviewing an undefined set of allegations to determine whether sufficient evidence exists to bring criminal charges.

Relating to detention, according to information provided by the Government of Sri Lanka to the Department of State, as of February 10, there were 228 individuals in detention under investigation and 892 individuals in rehabilitation. The government permits international humanitarian organizations access to some detention facilities where former LTTE combatants are detained, including the facility in Boosa, where approximately 200 detainees are held. The government denies that detention facilities operated by military intelligence exist. Humanitarian organizations are not allowed to visit suspected illegal detention facilities operated by paramilitary groups. International humanitarian organizations have only been allowed to visit detainees in rehabilitation facilities upon release.

On March 22, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted a declaratory resolution that notes with concern that the LLRC report does not adequately address serious allegations of violations of international law and, among other things, calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to implement the constructive recommendations made in the LRRC report.

While this report draws attention to open questions regarding allegations of violations of IHL and IHRL, it is not meant to be a legal determination confirming any of those allegations.

I. Efforts at Accountability

A. The Panel of Experts (POE)

On June 22, 2010, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed a three-member Panel of Experts (POE) to advise him on the nature and scope of allegations of violations of IHL and IHRL during the final stages of the conflict. On April 12, 2011, the POE submitted its report to the UN Secretary General. The report highlights a number of allegations of violations by the government it describes as credible, including: large-scale shelling of “No Fire Zones,” systematic shelling of hospitals, and summary execution, rape, and torture of surrendering LTTE cadres and civilians fleeing the conflict zone. The report also highlights a number of allegations against the LTTE it describes as credible, including using civilians as a strategic buffer, forced labor, and summary executions of civilians attempting to flee the conflict zone.

B. The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC)

On May 15, 2010, President Rajapaksa established the LLRC under the Special Commission of Inquiry Law of 1978. Pursuant to this law, the LLRC was charged with determining, among other things, the causes of the conflict, identifying those responsible and recommending lessons learned from the conflict and methods for civilian restitution. On December 16, 2011, the government publically released the LLRC’s final report. The report makes significant observations and recommendations with respect to the origins of the conflict, land reforms, restitution, and other efforts to reconcile the ethnic communities of Sri Lanka. The report also suggests that the government investigate specific allegations of direct attacks on civilians, launch a full investigation into reports of enforced disappearances and abductions, fund an independent investigation into the veracity of videos showing summary executions, and investigate allegations of detainee abuse, torture, and summary execution. However, the LLRC’s recommendations fail to adequately address accountability for violations of IHL and IHRL by government security forces and LTTE cadres during the conflict.

While the Commission’s report identifies eight cases of alleged attacks against civilians by Sri Lankan security forces, it only calls for further investigation of three of them. This stands in stark contrast to the vast number of credible allegations examined in the POE report and the 208 instances of harm to civilians or civilian objects identified in the Department of State’s 2009 Report to Congress. While the Government of Sri Lanka’s public statements indicate it maintained a policy of “zero civilian casualties” and the only civilian deaths occurred during crossfire, the POE estimated that civilian casualties in the final months of the conflict ranged from 10,000 to 40,000. This strongly suggests the need for further investigations. The LLRC report also inadequately addresses allegations of government shelling on civilians in “No Fire Zones” (NFZs), a series of three protected areas unilaterally declared by the government. The LLRC report concludes that although civilian casualties occurred, the security forces did not deliberately target civilians and “there appears to have been a bona fide expectation that an attack on LTTE gun positions would make a relevant and proportional contribution to the objective of the military attack involved.” Reports from the POE and the UN directly contradict these conclusions. Moreover, the LLRC report raises but does not resolve questions about why the Government of Sri Lanka created additional NFZs after becoming cognizant that the LTTE would exploit such zones to launch attacks, to which the government would respond, putting civilians at risk. More needs to be done to investigate why the government decided to create subsequent NFZs.

While the LLRC recognized that hospitals and other humanitarian objects were shelled, it concluded that the security forces did not deliberately target these objects and that the context of the shelling was a “confused picture.” In contrast, the POE report concluded that security forces repeatedly shelled humanitarian objects whose locations it knew due to reports from the UN and ICRC. These allegations implicate grave breaches of IHL and merit further investigation. The LLRC and POE reports both address the supply of humanitarian aid to the conflict zone. Although only the POE concluded that the government deliberately underestimated the number of civilians in the conflict zone, both reports call for an investigation into the flow of medical supplies.

The LLRC report also fails to critically analyze or investigate the “white flag” incident, in which high level LTTE leaders were allegedly shot despite assurances from the Government of Sri Lanka that they could safely surrender. While the circumstances surrounding the incident remain uncertain, the POE concluded that the LTTE leadership intended to surrender. However, the LLRC only mentioned the above incident briefly, citing testimonies that dismiss the allegations. The Department of State does not take a position regarding the allegations concerning this incident but notes that the discrepancy between the POE and LLRC reports merits further investigation. The LLRC’s report also addresses video recordings that purportedly depict Sri Lankan soldiers summarily executing bound prisoners. On May 23, 2011, UN Special Rapporteur Christof Heyns released a report to the HRC that found the video evidence credible. The LLRC Report concludes that the video’s authenticity cannot be verified through available forensic information and calls for the government to “institute an independent investigation into this issue.”

The POE Report briefly discusses allegations of sexual and gender-based violence by government security forces during the final days of the conflict. The Panel pointed to several videos that strongly suggest that women were raped or otherwise sexually assaulted before being executed, but made no definitive conclusions. The LLRC report does not address allegations of sexual and gender-based violence.

Finally, the LLRC report makes a number of important recommendations regarding the government’s detention policy and the use of child soldiers that the government should implement as soon as possible. The Commission also expressed concern and recommended that the government investigate reports alleging enforced disappearances, and recommends that the government investigate such reports. The Sri Lankan government should immediately undertake an independent, transparent, and impartial investigation into these reports as called for in the LLRC report.

II. Conclusion

The Department of State continues to encourage the Government of Sri Lanka to fulfill the LLRC’s recommendations. In addition, the Department of State believes that the Government of Sri Lanka should establish an independent mechanism to investigate the credible allegations that the LLRC failed to address, including the targeting of civilians, the shelling of No Fire Zones, the killing of surrendering LTTE cadres, sexual and gender-based violence, supply of humanitarian relief, enforced disappearances, and arrest and detention policies, among others. Each investigation should be independent of government influence and transparent, and provide adequate witness protection.

As a long-time friend of Sri Lanka, the United States supports Sri Lanka’s efforts at reconciliation. Accountability for violations committed by both sides of the conflict and justice for the victims are critical features of that reconciliation because it allows communities to affirm a common commitment to principles of justice and to cope with the years of ravages from armed conflict. Any credible accountability effort must be even-handed and hold both parties to account. Truth and accountability for the crimes committed during the last months of the conflict would prevent impunity and undermine those who wish to make the LTTE into future heroes. Sri Lanka’s peaceful future depends on trust—trust between Sri Lankans of all backgrounds, and trust between Sri Lankans and their government. That trust depends on acknowledgment of truth and justice for victims, and responsible, transparent, and systematic efforts to deal with past wrongs and secure protections against their recurrence. [courtesy: State.gov]

A factual supplement to this report is available on the Department of State

website at: http://www.state.gov/j/gcj/srilanka/index.htm

Office of War Crimes Issues has submitted a report on Sri Lanka to the U.S Congress.

Filed under: eelamview, genocide srilanka, tamil eelam, war crimes — Tags: , — vijasan @ 11:02 pm

The US State Department Office of Global Criminal Justice (GCJ), formerly the Office of War Crimes Issues (WCI), led by Ambassador-at-Large Stephen Rapp, has submitted a report on Sri Lanka to the U.S Congress.

Rapp, who visited Sri Lanka in February this year, has noted in the report efforts taken by the Sri Lankan government and the international community to investigate and hold accountable violators of international humanitarian and human rights law.

The report draws attention to open questions regarding allegations of violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL) but it is not meant to be a legal determination confirming any of those allegations, Stephen Rapp’s office said.

In the report the Office of Global Criminal Justice notes that the LLRC Report fails to critically analyze or investigate the “white flag” incident, in which high level LTTE leaders were allegedly shot despite assurances from the GSL that they could safely surrender.

The Department of State does not take a position regarding the allegations concerning the “white flag” allegations but notes that the discrepancy between the report of the UN Panel of Experts and the LLRC reports merits further investigation.

The Report:

I. Legal Framework

The United States recognizes a State’s inherent right to defend itself from armed attacks, including those by non-state actors such as terrorist groups. In the context of a non-international armed conflict—that is, an armed conflict that is not between states—common article 3 of the Geneva conventions of 1949 provides basic treatment protections to all individuals not taking part in hostilities, including civilians and detained members of the Armed Forces. Its core requirements are that individuals not taking part in hostilities must be treated humanely and without “adverse distinction” based on race, religion, or similar criteria. To this end, the article prohibits murder; cruel treatment; torture; the taking of hostages; outrages upon personal dignity; and the passing of sentences without judgment by a court providing recognized guarantees. Sri Lanka is neither a party nor a signatory to the Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions, which includes more detailed rules relevant to non-international conflicts than those set forth in, article 3.

As with the two previous reports, our assessment of investigations undertaken by the Government of Sri Lanka (GSL) and international bodies is mindful of Sri Lanka’s pertinent international obligations. For example, Sri Lanka is a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the 1949 Geneva Conventions. In addition, Sri Lanka is subject to relevant customary international law obligations, which in the area of international humanitarian law include the principles of distinction and proportionality, which are intended to protect innocent civilians from harm. The principle of distinction holds that civilians and civilian objects (such as hospitals and schools) shall not be the object of direct attack, though civilians lose this immunity if they directly participate in hostilities. The principle of proportionality prohibits attacks that may cause incidental loss of life, injury, or damage to civilians that would be excessive in relation to the direct military advantage anticipated. The civilian population must not be used to shield military objectives or operations from attack, and parties must take all practicable precautions, taking into account military and humanitarian considerations, to minimize incidental death, injury and damage to civilians.

II. Efforts at Accountability

There are a variety of ways in which a government may undertake effective investigations and other accountability processes. While some international law conventions call for criminalization of certain human rights violations and serious violations of IHL, other routine administrative and special investigative processes, such as commissions of inquiry (COI), can play an important role in establishing a factual record of events. Although COIs and other investigative bodies are often implemented at the national level, in some instances governments seek international participation to bring specialized expertise into, and help foster public confidence in, so-called “hybrid” investigations. Fully internationalized processes undertaken without the relevant government’s consent have generally been pursued by the international community only when the State concerned lacks the capacity, political will, or both, to undertake an independent, credible, and effective inquiry. In the case of serious violations of IHL and human rights, including the type of atrocities alleged to have occurred in the final months of the conflict in Sri Lanka, however, such commissions do not obviate the need for criminal investigation and, if appropriate, prosecutions.

Whether domestic, international, or hybrid, investigative processes should operate consistent with best practices derived from extensive experience in order to be both credible and effective. There are several key criteria for evaluating the adequacy of a COI, including: independence and competence; adequate mandate and authority; witness and COI protection; adequate resources; a public report; and a timely and transparent government response.

A. The Panel of Experts (POE)

On June 22, 2010, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed a three-member Panel of Experts (POE) to advise him on the nature and scope of allegations of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law during the final stages of the conflict, and the implementation of a commitment made in a joint statement by the President of Sri Lanka and the Secretary General on May 23, 2009, to address accountability. The POE consisted of former Attorney General of Indonesia Marzuki Darusman, former South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission Commissioner Yasmin Sooka, and American law professor Steven Ratner.

The GSL strongly opposed the establishment of the POE, and described it as “an unwarranted and unnecessary interference with a sovereign nation.” The POE and GSL were unable to come to agreement regarding the modalities of a visit of the POE to the country. The POE did receive written submissions in response to a set of questions provided by the POE to the GSL, and engaged with the GSL in a face-to-face dialogue.

On April 12, 2011, the POE submitted its report to the UN Secretary General, which he then shared with the GSL.[1] On April 13, 2011, the GSL issued a statement that decried the report as “fundamentally flawed” and “patently biased.” On April 25, 2011, the Secretary General’s office made the report public.

The report highlights a number of allegations of violations by the GSL it describes as credible, including: large-scale shelling of “No Fire Zones,” systematic shelling of hospitals, and summary execution, rape, and torture of surrendering LTTE cadres and civilians fleeing the conflict zone. The report also highlights a number of allegations against the LTTE it describes as credible, including: using civilians as a strategic buffer, forced labor (including of children), and summary executions of civilians attempting to flee the conflict zone.[2] The serious allegations in the report regarding the conduct of both sides, if proven, would indicate violations of IHL and IHRL.

Based on its assessment that the LLRC was “deeply flawed” and did not meet international standards as an accountability mechanism, as well as other obstacles to accountability such as “triumphalism” and the eroded independence of the Attorney General and domestic courts of Sri Lanka, the POE recommended a series of steps to implement the joint commitment on accountability between the UN Secretary General and Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa. The report recommended that the GSL should immediately commence genuine investigations into alleged violations of IHL and IHRL committed by both sides in the conflict and that the GSL should issue a public, formal acknowledgment of its role in, and responsibility for, extensive civilian casualties during the final stages of the conflict. The report also recommends that the Secretary General immediately establish an independent international mechanism to monitor and assess the extent to which the GSL carries out an effective domestic accountability process, as well as to independently investigate credible allegations.

The POE was not a commission of inquiry and thus did not undertake fact-finding, nor did it reach factual conclusions regarding disputed facts or establish culpability for alleged violations. Therefore, the work of the POE did not directly result in a process to hold accountable the individuals alleged to be responsible for violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. However, by undertaking an assessment of the allegations against the GSL and LTTE in the public record “[i]n order to understand the accountability obligations arising from the last stages of the war…,” the POE established a strong case that such a process is needed.

The Secretary-General transmitted the POE report to the President of the U.N. Human Rights Council and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights on September 12, 2011. In the announcement regarding the transmittal, the UN also announced the Secretary-General selected UN Population Fund Executive Director Thoraya Obaid to undertake the review of UN actions recommended by the POE. The UN has not completed that assessment.

B. Humanitarian Operation Factual Analysis: July 2006-May 2009

On August 1, 2011, the GSL released a report produced by the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defense entitled “The Humanitarian Operation Factual Analysis: July 2006-May 2009.” The report provides a detailed analysis of the types of atrocities committed by the LTTE, describes the organization’s structure and components, and describes the various failed negotiations with the LTTE and its failure to abide by cease-fire and other agreements with the GSL. The report also describes what it characterizes as the GSL’s “civilian rescue operation” during which it defeated the LTTE. In that context, the report outlines the military procedures used to safeguard civilian lives and protect civilian rights, including institutional frameworks, training, monitoring of alleged violations and investigations/prosecutions. The report does not, however, address any of the alleged violations of IHL or IHRL identified by the POE or available in the public domain. Moreover, while the report contains a table summarizing major offenses committed by Sri Lankan security personnel between 2005 and 2010, the table identifies no recorded offenses for the year 2009, the period during which most of the allegations in the POE report fall.

C. The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC)

On May 15, 2010, President Rajapaksa issued a proclamation establishing an eight-member commission under the Special Commission of Inquiry Law of 1978. Pursuant to this law, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission was charged to “inquire and report within six months on the following matters that may have taken place during the period between February 21, 2002 and May 19, 2009:

The facts and circumstances which led to the failure of the ceasefire agreement operationalized on February 21, 2002 and the sequence of events that followed thereafter up to May 19, 2009;

Whether any person, group, or institution directly or indirectly bear responsibility in this regard;

The lessons to be learned from those events and their attendant concerns, in order to ensure that there will be no recurrence;

The methodology whereby restitution to any person affected by those events or their dependents or to heirs, can be effected; and

The institutional administrative and legislative measures which need to be taken in order to prevent any recurrence of such concerns in the future and to promote further national unity and reconciliation among all communities, and to make any such other recommendations with reference to any of the matters that have been inquired into under the terms of this Presidential Warrant.”

Secretary Clinton welcomed President Rajapaksa’s establishment of the commission in her press appearance with Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris during his May 2010 visit to Washington and outlined U.S. expectations that the commission would follow established best practices.

Although initially given six months to report, the GSL extended the deadline for the LLRC report twice, each time for an additional six months. The LLRC commenced public hearings on August 11, 2010, and finished in March 2011. According to the LLRC website, the Commission held 41 field visits and 149 public sittings.

In mid-September 2010, the LLRC provided the GSL a set of interim recommendations that dealt with five topical areas: detention; land issues; law and order; administration and language issues; and socioeconomic and livelihood issues. Particularly relevant to the question of accountability were the recommendations relating to detention and administration and language issues. Although the GSL established an Inter-Agency Advisory Committee (IAAC) to facilitate the implementation of the interim recommendations, LLRC’s final report notes that the GSL has not fully implemented its interim recommendations.

On December 16, 2011, the GSL publically released the LLRC’s final report. The GSL issues the entire report in English but only the executive summary in Sinhala and Tamil. The report makes significant observations and recommendations with respect to the origins of the conflict, land reforms, restitution, and other efforts to reconcile the various ethnic communities of Sri Lanka. In particular, the LLRC calls on the GSL to enact a uniform policy aimed at the resettlement of internally displaced persons (IDPs), to take steps to prevent harassment and attacks on media personnel and organizations, to ensure their freedom of movement and, to investigate alleged crimes against journalists, to prioritize compensatory relief in addition to economic development projects, and to undertake reconciliation projects to reunite the population of Sri Lanka. The report also suggests that the government investigate specific allegations of direct attacks on civilians, launch a full investigation into reports of enforced disappearances and abductions, fund an independent investigation into the veracity of the Channel 4 videos, and investigate allegations of detainee abuse, torture, and summary execution. The Commission’s findings and recommendations regarding international humanitarian and human rights law issues are examined in greater detail in Section III.

D. Assessment of the LLRC as a COI

The following sections evaluate the LLRC’s establishment, mandate, composition, and activities compared to standards outlined by the Department of State in its August 2010 report to Congress.[3]

Independence and Competence:

The members of the LLRC included former Attorney General C. R. de Silva, former Assistant Secretary of the Ministry of Justice Karunaratne Hangawatte, former Legal Advisor at the Sri Lankan Ministry of External Affairs Rohan Perera, former Foreign Secretary and Sri Lankan Permanent Representative to the UN HMGS Palihakkara, former Secretary to the Treasury C Chanmugam, former Deputy Legal Draftsman Manohari Ramanathan, former High Court Judge M.P. Paranagama, and senior attorney at law M.T.M. Bafiq. There was no information that indicated that the GSL consulted with affected communities in selecting the commission members. Despite the high percentage of women and Tamils among those giving testimony, only one of the eight commission members was female (also the sole Tamil commissioner), and only one was from the Muslim community.

All but one of the members of the commission previously worked for the GSL, raising concerns about their independence and impartiality. Two of the commission members were senior government officials during the last months of the conflict, one of whom, Hewa M.G.S. Palihakkara, as Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN, publicly commented on behalf of the government on events surrounding many of the allegations raised. Meanwhile, the Chairman of the LLRC served as Attorney General during the period when the 2006-2009 Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate and Inquire into Serious Violations of Human Rights was in operation. That commission was charged with investigating sixteen allegations of serious human rights violations. The International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) identified significant concerns regarding independence of that commission due to the role of the then-Attorney General, the later-Chairman of the LLRC. These factors have fostered the perception that commission members had an interest tied to that of the government in a particular outcome of the commission’s work.

Serious concerns have also been raised regarding the process of questioning witnesses before the LLRC. The POE report describes as “non-confrontational” the line of questioning used when dealing with members of the security forces and issues related to violations of IHL.[4] The POE report goes on to relate that in some cases, commission members appeared to lead respondents with questions that contained the answers. The POE report also claims commission members failed in some cases to pursue important lines of questioning of government officials that could have revealed specific information relating to culpability for violations of IHL and IHRL.[5]

Adequate Mandate and Authority:

In terms of addressing accountability, the LLRC’s mandate was, at least initially, unclear. Based on the phrase, “and to make any such other recommendations with reference to any of the matters that have been inquired into under the terms of the warrant” and verbal assurances by the GSL, the United States government interpreted the LLRC mandate to be sufficiently broad to allow it to address allegations of violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law. On March 4, 2011, in response to U.S. Senate Resolution 84, the Sri Lanka Ministry of External Affairs further clarified the mandate of the LLRC, stating that the Commission’s mandate included consideration of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law. The Ministry also stated that the Attorney General would have the power to institute criminal proceedings based on the LLRC’s findings.

Witness and COI Protection:

Sri Lanka has no witness protection laws, and there is no information that indicates that the LLRC developed a discrete program for witness protection. According to the recorded testimonies on the LLRC’s website, the commission did allow and take in camera testimony at the discretion of the witness. Meanwhile, experience in other countries has shown that, absent such a program, witnesses, especially those victimized by recent conflict, are unlikely to come forward due to fears of arrest, personal harm, or harm to their families. A number of Sri Lankans informed Department of State officers that they, or people they knew, had declined to appear before the LLRC out of fear of retribution. Additionally, those that come forward publicly in Sri Lanka also run the risk of being branded LTTE sympathizers, heightening the likelihood of reprisal. Reporting by the International Crisis Group (ICG) and other international organizations appears to confirm that some individuals who testified before the LLRC have since received threats by the military. The ICG has also described other situations in which the format of the hearings and the presence of security officials could have served to intimidate individuals appearing to provide statements. The Department of State has received credible first-hand information regarding efforts by the GSL to cause witnesses to alter the retelling of events related to international humanitarian law violation allegations, as well.

Adequate Resources:

While the LLRC heard testimony a number of times and in a number of locations, those hearings may not have provided adequate opportunities for victims to testify. Although the LLRC allocated at least 56 days for sittings in Colombo and 22 days in the North and East of Sri Lanka, the State Department received several complaints from people in the North who wished to testify but were unable to do so because of the rushed sittings of the LLRC in those areas. Such persons often were told to make written submissions to the Commission, although in some cases witnesses lacked resources to do so or were illiterate. In addition, while the LLRC may have had adequate resources to conduct hearings, its staff had no investigators or lawyers with experience investigating IHL violations.

Government Response:

In submitting the LLRC report to Parliament, Leader of the House Nimal Siripala de Silva, on behalf of the government, stated that the proper way to respond to the report was to establish a mechanism to gather information, investigate accusations, and refer possible charges to the Attorney General. President Rajapaksa has not publicly commented on the LLRC Report. However, the GSL has informed the Department of State of three entities within the government created to respond to the LLRC. The first is a cabinet sub-committee created to address the recommendations within the LLRC report regarding demilitarization, land reform, and freedom of expression. The second group is a board of inquiry within the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) that will address demilitarization of the North and other general reforms to the military. Finally, a five-member court of inquiry led by a Major General in the SLA has been established to investigate the specific allegations of serious violations identified in the LLRC report. News reports have indicated that this court will also investigate the Channel 4 video. This court will refer any cases it finds credible to the Attorney General for prosecution. Sri Lankan officials also made clear to Department of State officials that individuals can bring additional allegations to the SLA court of inquiry or the Attorney General. The Department of State is not aware of any formal action plan to implement the LLRC’s final recommendations from November 2011 or its interim recommendations from September 2010. In its report, the LLRC expressed its fear that its recommendations would suffer the same fate as past recommendations by Sri Lankan COIs and go unanswered by the GSL. The LRRC concluded that its recommendations should be “implemented expeditiously.”[6]

III. Evaluation of the LLRC Findings & Recommendations Regarding Accountability

A. Civilian Casualties

The LLRC report recognizes that significant civilian casualties occurred during the final stages of the conflict. In particular, the report details the testimony of witnesses reporting eight attacks by GSL Security Forces against civilians that the witnesses describe as intentional. Those allegations include: three reports of shelling civilians; two reports of the Navy targeting civilian boats; one report of the Army forcing civilians to retrieve the body of an Army soldier while under fire; one report of 35-40 civilians dying when a food line was shelled; and one report of the Army shelling 40-45 expectant mothers. Regarding these specific instances, the report states, “[T]he Commission stresses that there is a duty on the part of the State to ascertain more fully, the circumstances under which such incidents could have occurred, and if such investigations disclose wrongful conduct, to prosecute and punish the wrong doers.”[7] However, the Commission’s final recommendations only call for further investigation into “observation 4.359 vi. (a) and (b) and any reported cases of deliberate attacks on civilians.”[8] The relevant sections of 4.359 to which this recommendation refers list two reported attacks by the navy and the incident involving the forced retrieval of an Army soldier’s body, meaning that the report does not ultimately recommend investigation into the other five instances reported by the Commission.

The LLRC’s recommendations fall short of fully acknowledging all credible allegations of intentional attacks on civilians by the GSL and LTTE. The LLRC report does not call for investigations into allegations of deliberate attacks on civilians in the Vanni other than the three instances briefly discussed in the report. For other civilian casualties, the report concludes that they “appear to be due to cross fire, the LTTE’s targeted and deliberate firing at civilians, as well as due to the dynamics of the conflict situation, the perils of the geographical terrain, the LTTE using civilians as human shields and the LTTE’s refusal to let hostages get out of harm’s way.”[9] The LLRC report details the technological capabilities of the GSL to detect and distinguish civilians from the LTTE, including GPS and special reconnaissance missions into the Vanni, and concludes that the “the military strategy that was adopted to secure the LTTE-held areas was one that was carefully conceived, in which the protection of the civilian population was given the highest priority.”[10]

This conclusion, however, does not consider whether the government security forces properly used the capabilities examined in the report, whether attacks were directed at LTTE forces rather than civilians, or whether those attacks were proportional. The report also calls for a professionally-administered household survey in all parts of the island to determine the full scale and circumstances of death and injury to civilians in order to resolve the “unverified sweeping generalization of a highly speculative nature as regards casualty figures.”[11] In late February 2012, the GSL Department of Census and Statistics published “Enumeration of Vital Events, 2011, Northern Province, Sri Lanka,” a report of a census the department conducted in June and July 2011 of households in the former conflict region. Amongst many figures on population statistics during the last five years of the conflict, the report noted 7,934 deaths in the Northern Province in 2009 due to non-natural causes, with an additional 2,635 persons reported as untraceable. These figures, however, have been widely criticized by international non-governmental organizations, such as the International Crisis Group, as misrepresentative and not in conformity with professional standards.

The handful of incidents noted in the LLRC report stands in stark contrast to the vast number of credible allegations examined in the POE report. While the GSL’s public statements indicate it maintained a policy of “zero civilian casualties” and the only civilians killings occurred during crossfire, the POE estimated that civilian casualties range from 10,000 to 40,000 for the final months of the conflict.[12] Based on verified reports from civilians, seasoned aid workers, and doctors in the conflict zone, the POE concluded that in many cases, GSL security forces shelled areas it knew to be principally occupied by civilians.[13] In addition, the Department of State’s 2009 Report to Congress listed 208 instances of harm to civilians or civilian objects, which strongly suggests that the LLRC’s conclusion that only three allegations of attacks against civilians deserve further investigation is a gross underestimation. These instances, as well as those allegedly perpetrated by the LTTE in both the LLRC and POE reports, merit further investigation. Hence, the notable gap between LLRC and POE findings regarding civilian casualties suggests that the GSL should establish an accountability mechanism to ensure that all allegations, not just the three identified in the LLRC report, are fully investigated.

With respect to LTTE attacks against civilians, the LLRC concluded that the LTTE was guilty of “grave violations of core Principles of IHL.”[14] Specifically, the Commission found that LTTE cadres used civilians as human shields, shot at civilians attempting to escape to safe areas, forced civilians to provide support services, used military equipment in civilian areas, and forcibly conscripted child soldiers.[15] The POE report found credible allegations for all of these same crimes.[16] The LLRC report contemplates “framing charges against LTTE cadres,” but fails to make specific recommendations about investigating and prosecuting LTTE crimes.[17] Accountability for violations of IHL and IHRL by both sides of the conflict is important to ensure justice for victims, to prevent a resurgence of violence, and for rebuilding Sri Lanka. The GSL should therefore fully investigate abuses committed by the LTTE and hold individuals accountable for such crimes.

B. Shelling of the No Fire Zones (NFZs)

At the end of the conflict with the LTTE, the GSL created a series of “No Fire Zones” (NFZs) aimed at providing civilians trapped in LTTE territory a safe haven into which government forces would not fire. On January 20, 2009, the GSL unilaterally declared the first NFZ (NFZ-1) located about 800 meters from the frontline. Even though the LTTE did not recognize any of the NFZs, the government claimed that it would continue to recognize the humanitarian spaces. Within days of establishing NFZ-1, however, government forces began shelling within the safe area, reportedly because they had taken fire from LTTE forces within NFZ-1. A pattern soon developed in which the LTTE would use NFZ-1 to fire on GSL forces, and then GSL forces would respond with heavy shelling into NFZ-1. Once it realized that NFZ-1 was not protecting civilians and was being used by the LTTE for cover, the GSL created a second NFZ (NFZ-2) on February 12, 2009. The same pattern of violence emerged in NFZ-2, however, and the government established a significantly smaller third NFZ (NFZ-3) on May 8.

The LLRC report concludes that Sri Lankan security forces did not deliberately target civilians in the NFZs. The report states that although civilian casualties occurred “in the course of crossfire,” “there appears to have been a bona fide expectation that an attack on LTTE gun positions would make a relevant and proportional contribution to the objective of the military attack involved.”[18] The LLRC concluded that returning fire into the NFZs was not a violation of the IHL principles of distinction or proportionality because “Security Forces were confronted with an unprecedented situation when no other choice was possible and all ‘feasible precautions’ that were practicable in the circumstances had been taken.”[19] According to the LLRC, making determinations about the units responsible for the contested shelling would be nearly impossible.[20] Despite the purported impossibility of investigating shelling in the NFZs, the LLRC nonetheless concluded that the LTTE was responsible for the majority of civilian deaths in the NFZs. The LLRC did not make any recommendations to investigate who was responsible for the shelling of civilians in the NFZs, but does call for compensation to be provided to all affected parties.

Reports from the POE and the UN directly contradict the conclusions of the LLRC with respect to civilian casualties in the NFZs. The POE report concludes that credible allegations suggest that the GSL deliberately or negligently targeted civilians within the NFZs.[21] For instance, in one incident on January 24, 2009, civilians and medical workers reported that hundreds of civilians died at a UN hub amidst intense shelling coming from government positions. LTTE cadres reportedly never fired within 500 meters of the UN hub, and because of GPS and reports to the GSL by the UN and ICRC, the government security forces were aware of the hub’s location. In other reported incidents, GSL forces shelled food distribution lines, hospitals, and IDP encampments known to the GSL.[22] In another incident, the POE report found that 140 civilians were killed on March 26 in Ambalavanpokkanai by artillery fire from government positions.[23] The report also states that the civilians were capable of being identified by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) often used by the GSL. Furthermore, the POE report states that the Sri Lankan Security Forces repeatedly used Multi-Barrel Rocket Launchers (MBRLs) and other large artillery, which are used to shell large areas of land rather than return fire on specific locations, against targets in the NFZs.[24]

Another report done by the UNITAR Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT) for the Panel of Experts used satellite time-series imagery to conclude that the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) established and maintained capabilities to fire substantial quantities of artillery munitions into areas heavily populated with IDPs, specifically NFZ-2 and NFZ-3. The UNOSAT report found that that the SLA repeatedly rotated the fire bearing of heavy caliber howitzers towards NFZ-2 and later NFZ-3. The report also states that the SLA erected mortar batteries along the western shore of Nanthi Lagoon without viable military targets except for locations clearly falling with NFZ-2 and NFZ-3, both of which remained populated with tens of thousands of IDPs. UNOSAT also found over ten specific air strike impact craters identified immediately adjacent to IDP tent concentrations, a functioning hospital, and within NFZ-2, contrary to denials by the Sri Lankan Air Force.

The evidence gathered by the POE and UNOSAT indicates that the LLRC report does not adequately address the responsibility for shelling in the three NFZs. While the LLRC report concludes that it is difficult to ascertain the origin of artillery attacks, the government nonetheless has a duty to investigate the alleged abuses committed by Sri Lankan armed forces in the NFZs. Experiences in other post-conflict settings in relation to the use of force demonstrate that ascertaining the origin of shelling in the NFZs is not as impracticable as the LLRC suggests. A more thorough investigation potentially could determine what violations, if any, occurred, who committed them, and the extent to which officials in the government knew about or authorized such violations.

C. Attacks Against Humanitarian Objects

The LLRC report concludes that the Sri Lankan security forces did not deliberately target hospitals and other humanitarian objects in the NFZs. For instance, the report examined an attack against the Vallipunam Hospital and IDP camp nearby on January 21, 2009, which killed over 40 civilians. The LLRC concluded that the origin of the shells could not be accurately determined, but did note that the LTTE were positioned 500 meters away from the hospital.[25] The Commission also believed GSL statements that all patients had been moved from the Anandapuram Hospital before being fired upon by SLA forces, even though reports from aid workers and doctors indicated otherwise.[26] Finally, the LLRC found no definitive evidence that the GSL was responsible for the shelling of Puthukkudiyiruppu Hospital (PTK). The report relies on the testimony of two doctors from PTK stating that no shells hit the hospital and that they did not know from where the shells came. On the other hand, the report also mentions the testimony of a government official being treated at PTK who testified that he and his father-in-law were injured in a direct hit to the hospital and the shell likely came from government forces.[27]

The LLRC report nevertheless concludes, “The Commission is satisfied, on a careful consideration of all the circumstances, that shells had in fact fallen on hospitals causing damage and resulting in casualties. However, the material placed before the Commission points to a somewhat confused picture as to the precise nature of events, from the perspective of time, exact location and direction of fire.”[28] The Commission called for “expeditious grant of appropriate redress” but only as a “humanitarian gesture” to “instill confidence in the reconciliation process.”[29]

In contrast to the LLRC report, the POE report concludes that “Virtually every hospital in the Vanni, whether permanent or makeshift, was hit by artillery.”[30] The Panel found that the PTK Hospital was shelled every day from January 29 to February 4 most likely by the 55th Division of the SLA. The GSL claimed that no hospitals remained in the Vanni, but the POE report found that the UN and ICRC continuously updated the government on the whereabouts of medical facilities and make-shift hospitals in the region. The POE report also mentions that testimony by government doctors from these hospitals may not be accurate because they initially claimed that government forces repeatedly fired on their facilities but later changed their stories to reflect the GSL’s position.[31]

Ultimately, both the LLRC and POE reports indicate that much uncertainty surrounds the extent and origin of shelling against hospitals and other humanitarian objects during the finals months of the conflict. The LLRC did investigate several instances of such shelling, but its conclusion that attacks against hospitals simply represented a “confused picture” neglects the fundamental need to fully investigate potential violations of IHL.[32] As these allegations implicate grave breaches of IHL, they merit full investigation and, if appropriate, prosecution of the responsible individuals.

D. “White Flag” Incident

The LLRC Report also fails to critically analyze or investigate the “white flag” incident, in which high level LTTE leaders were allegedly shot despite assurances from the GSL that they could safely surrender. While the circumstances surrounding the incident remain uncertain, the POE concluded that the LTTE leadership intended to surrender.[33] However, the LLRC only mentioned the above incident in a few short paragraphs, citing testimonies from a general and a government agent dismissing the allegations.[34] The Department of State does not take a position regarding the allegations concerning the “white flag” allegations but notes that the discrepancy between the POE and LLRC reports merits further investigation.

E. Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

The POE Report briefly discusses allegations of sexual and gender-based violence by GSL security forces during the final days of the conflict. The Panel pointed to several videos that strongly suggest that women were raped or otherwise sexually assaulted before being executed, but did not make any definitive conclusions due to a lack of evidence.[35] The POE indicated that this lack of evidence is likely partially due to strong cultural stigmas in Sri Lanka that cause reports of sexual violence to go underreported.[36]

The LLRC report does not address allegations of sexual and gender-based violence at the end of the war.

F. Supply of Humanitarian Relief

The LLRC acknowledges that food and medical supplies became scarce with the intensification of the conflict, but does not surmise that the GSL purposefully underestimated the number of civilians trapped in various combat zones “for the purpose of starving the civilian population as a method of combat.”[37] The report states that amounts of food aid were determined by the government in consultation with the World Food Program (WFP) and other humanitarian organizations and, therefore, these circumstances do not “warrant any possible inference that there was a deliberate intention to downplay the number of civilians in the NFZs for the purpose of starving the civilian population as a method of combat.”[38] However, the LLRC report also concludes that “the issue of medical supplies to civilians in the conflict areas during the final days of the conflict is a matter that requires further examination, given the humanitarian considerations involved.”[39]

The LLRC’s characterization of the government’s role in food distribution contrasts with allegations that the POE found credible. According to the POE report, the GSL purposefully underestimated the number of civilians that remained in the conflict zone so as to justify sending less food and medical supplies into the zone (e.g. the government estimated that only 10,000 civilians remained in NFZ-3, whereas the UN estimated that 100,000 remained). The POE report also states that the Ministry of Defense systematically deprived persons in the conflict zone of humanitarian assistance by imposing extensive restrictions on convoy participants.[40] The GSL based its restrictions on the belief that the materials would be used to benefit the LTTE, but denial of items such as surgical equipment would have increased the suffering of wounded civilians and wounded LTTE belligerents and could only have had a humanitarian purpose, according to the POE.

While the circumstances surrounding the distribution of food and medical supplies into the conflict zone remain uncertain, the civilians who perished or were otherwise harmed in the Vanni because of a lack of humanitarian aid deserve a complete investigation into this matter, and the GSL should instigate an independent and impartial investigation into the government’s possible role in depriving civilians of humanitarian relief.

G. Establishment of NFZs 2 & 3

An important question the LLRC raises but leaves unanswered is why the GSL created a second and third NFZ after becoming cognizant that the LTTE would exploit such zones to launch attacks, to which the GSL would respond, putting civilians in harm’s way. The LLRC report recognizes a pattern in which the LTTE exploited the NFZs and civilians there to attack GSL forces and then force civilians to follow them to the next NFZ. This tactic of using human shields was expressly recognized in both the LLRC and POE reports. The LLRC report concludes, “The conclusions to be drawn from these representations is that the conduct of the LTTE, in gross violation of IHL obligations on the protection of civilians, radically transformed the very character of the NFZ and made it an integral part of the LTTE’s combat operations to achieve their military objectives.”[41] Despite its knowledge that the LTTE used NFZ-1 and the civilians therein as part of its military strategy and that the GSL would respond to attacks from the NFZ thereby harming civilians, the GSL unilaterally declared NFZ-2 on February 12, 2009 and NFZ-3 on May 8, 2009.

In its concluding statements, the LLRC expressly remarked that “The Sri Lankan experience has in fact given rise to a debate as to whether, by unilateral declaration of a No Fire Zone, the Government unwittingly provided the LTTE an opportunity to consolidate itself amongst the civilian enclave for strategic purposes.”[42] The LLRC does not make any recommendations regarding the GSL’s decision to unilaterally create NFZs 2 and 3. Likewise, the POE report does not expressly address this issue, although the POE report does detail the creation of the NFZs and the significant civilians casualties incurred in NFZs 2 and 3. More needs to be done to investigate how and why the GSL decided to create NFZs 2 and 3 after it concluded that the LTTE used NFZ-1 as part of its military strategy and thereby endangered thousands of civilian lives.

H. Enforced Disappearances

The LLRC report states that the Commission is concerned about the number of reports alleging enforced disappearances during the conflict and after surrender or arrest. The report found credible allegations of abductions of at least 12 people in the Batticaloa district, 100 in Mannar, and 6 in Jaffna. The Commission found a “clear duty of the State to cause necessary investigations into such specific allegations and where such investigations produce evidence of any unlawful act on the part of individual members of the Army, to prosecute and punish the wrongdoers.”[43] This impartial tone of the report’s findings on the missing turns more partisan, however, when it concludes that such investigations are necessary “to clear the good name of the Army who have by and large conducted themselves in an exemplary manner in the surrender process and when civilians were crossing over to cleared areas, which conduct should not be tarnished by the actions of a few.”[44]

Like the LLRC report, the POE report found a number of credible allegations of enforced disappearance. The Panel reported 32 instances of alleged disappearances in May 2009 alone, many of which involved groups of people rather than individuals.[45] The report recommended full investigation into and potential prosecution for allegations of enforced disappearance by the GSL during and immediately after the conflict.[46] An independent and impartial investigation into reports of enforced disappearance and any resulting prosecution and punishment would bring justice and closure to those affected by missing family members, and the GSL should immediately begin the investigations called for in the LLRC report.

I. Arrest/Detention Policy

The LLRC report makes a number of important recommendations regarding the GSL’s detention policy that the government should implement as soon as possible. The report notes several instances in which LTTE detainees remain in detention without charges and in which next of kin were either not notified of a detainee’s whereabouts or not allowed to visit. The report states that all next of kin should have the right of access to detainees. The LLRC report also states that no person should be detained outside authorized places of detention and that law enforcement authorities should follow legal provisions when taking persons into custody, such as issuing a formal receipt of arrest and providing details of the place of detention.[47] In an important recommendation, the LLRC concludes that “The failure or refusal by the Police to record an arrest, detention and transfer or to record complaints of abductions and failure to investigate the same would constitute a criminal offence and steps should be taken to prosecute such wrongdoers.”[48] The LLRC also recommends that an “Independent Advisory Committee be appointed to monitor and examine detention and arrest of persons taken into custody under any regulations made under the Public Security Ordinance or the PTA.”[49] All of these recommendations are important in ensuring that the rights of detainees are protected. The LLRC makes laudable recommendations about law enforcement procedures for detainees and their next of kin as well as calls for investigations into allegations of violations of those laws.

The Department of State is aware of approximately 228 detainees under investigation remaining in GSL custody and an additional 892 detainees remaining in rehabilitation facilities. The government has permitted international humanitarian organization access to some detention facilities where former LTTE combatants are detained, including the Boosa detention facility where approximately 200 detainees are held. The government does not provide access to any detention facilities operated by military intelligence, stating that none existed. International humanitarian organizations have also only been permitted to visit detainees in rehabilitation as they are released.

J. Videos Showing Evidence of Summary Executions

On May 23, 2011, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (SR) Christof Heyns released a report to the Human Rights Council 17th session that, in part, dealt with a video aired by Channel 4 in the United Kingdom. The video in question, provided by Channel 4 on November 30, 2010, is a longer version of the video aired by Channel 4 on August 25, 2009, that purportedly depicted Sri Lankan soldiers summarily executing bound prisoners.

The matter of the original, shorter version of the video is covered in detail in the Department of State’s second report to Congress of August 2010. In summary, the GSL commissioned four experts to evaluate the authenticity of the footage, and ultimately found the footage inauthentic based on a number of factors. Philip Alston, the then-UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, commissioned a separate, independent group of forensic experts to analyze the video. A January 2010 report by these experts concluded that there was strong evidence to suggest the video was authentic. Then-SR Alston contended that the video necessitated an impartial investigation into the question of whether war crimes had been committed.

The extended video investigated by SR Heyns contains additional executions and shows the faces of some soldiers. SR Heyns commissioned three experts to analyze the video, including an audio and firearms expert. As a result of that analysis, SR Heyns concluded that the extended video was authentic, and that it “…provides credible evidence that serious crimes have been committed within the context of the Sri Lankan civil war, which should together with any other available evidence be examined systematically and professionally by domestic investigators, as well as by an independent, international investigational body…”

The LLRC Report directly addresses the Channel 4 videos and concludes that its authenticity cannot be verified through available forensic information. The LLRC Report raises questions about the footage’s authenticity stating that the Commission “finds that there are troubling technical and forensic questions of a serious nature that cast significant doubts about the authenticity of the video and the credibility of its content.”[50] The Report commendably calls for the GSL to “institute an independent investigation into this issue.”[51] While the GSL has said that the Army court of inquiry would investigate the Channel 4 videos, the State Department is not aware of any action by the GSL to implement the LLRC’s recommendation of establishing an independent investigation into the Channel 4 videos.

K. Child Soldiers

The LLRC recommends full investigations into the conscription of child soldiers by the LTTE and other political parties. Notably, the report calls for the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), the GSL, and UNICEF to fully implement the 2008 Action Plan between the parties to release and reintegrate child soldiers. The LLRC also calls for large-scale projects to reintegrate, educate, and provide counseling for former child soldiers.[52]

The LLRC report also makes an important accountability recommendation regarding the prosecution of recruiters of child soldiers: “In instances where there is prima facie evidence of conscription of children as combatants, any such alleged cases should be investigated and offenders must be brought to justice. In this regard, the complaints of alleged recruitment of children by illegal armed groups/groups affiliated with the LTTE or any political party should be investigated with a view to prosecuting the offenders to ensure that the practice would not occur in the future.”

http://www.state.gov/j/gcj/srilanka/index.htm

***************

Sri Lanka

Reports and Other Publications
-04/04/12   Report to Congress: Measures Taken by the Government of Sri Lanka and International Bodies To Investigate and Hold Accountable Violators of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law [Get Acrobat Reader PDF version   ]
-04/04/12   Factual Supplement to the Report to Congress on Measures Taken by the Government of Sri Lanka and International Bodies To Investigate and Hold Accountable Violators of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law [Get Acrobat Reader PDF version   ]
-08/11/10   Report To Congress on Measures Taken by the Government of Sri Lanka and International Bodies To Investigate Incidents During the Recent Conflict in Sri Lanka, and Evaluating the Effectiveness of Such Efforts
-10/22/09   Report to Congress on Incidents During the Recent Conflict in Sri Lanka  [2761 Kb]

Sri Lankan navy throwing the stones on Indian fishermen

Filed under: genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: — vijasan @ 10:28 pm

Redif.com’s A Ganesh Nadar travelled to Rameswaram to meet fishermen harrowed by the Sri Lankan navy, which has been resorting to stone pelting to drive them away from what it claims as its territory

Sri Lankan navy’s attacks on Indian fishermen sailing out from Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu have been a routine affair.

Besides arrests and firing, the Lankan navy, which has been claiming that the fishermen often stray into its international maritime boundary line to lay their nets, has been resorting to pelting stones at the ‘intruders’. It, perhaps, is the only navy in the world that resorts to such an act.

The Indian fishermen, who have been at the receiving end on most occasions, are however fearful of retaliating. Till last count, their 532 counterparts have fallen to Sri Lankan bullets.

Sahayam, a fisherman in Rameswaram, says: “They bring the stones in white plastic bags; open them in front of us and then start pelting us with 1.5-inch-radius stones. We get hurt, our cabin glasses get shattered. They have guns too. If we throw the stones back they will start shooting. At least we are just hurt not dead.”

Meanwhile, Rameswaram, situated in the Gulf of Mannar at the very tip of the Indian peninsula, is teeming with stories about how times have changed in the coastal area. The Rameswaram jetty, though, lies in the same decadent state since the last five decades.

In the condition it is today, the jetty still manages to accommodate 768 fishing boats.

Assistant Director of Fisheries Dr M Karthikeyan says that he is aware of the state of the jetty but has no idea what the government is going to do.

He also refuses to talk about the stoning of fishermen by the Sri Lankan navy. “It is a topic with international ramifications. I am not allowed to talk about it.”

Sesuraja, the fishermen’s association secretary, puts things in perspective.

He says, “The problem started with the ethnic war in Sri Lanka. Before the war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Sri Lankan government started, Lankan fishermen used to come to Rameswaram and our fishermen used to land up there. We used to fish together around the Katchatheevu island.”

The ethnic war everything changed, he says, adding that the waters became a battleground for the Lankan Navy and the LTTE. Indian fishermen though went about their job in the region, as the Lankan Navy was busy hunting down the LTTE.

Once the war was over, the Lankan fishermen resumed operations. However, this time they objected to Indian fishermen intruding their waters. They have been known to capture and hand over Indian fishermen to the Lankan police.

From Thalimannar in Sri Lanka, Dhanushkodi in Rameswaram island is just 18 km away. That makes the International border 9 km away; too close for comfort.

Sesuraja then trains his guns on the Indian government.

“Giving Katchatheevu (to Sri Lanka) was the biggest blunder (late prime minister) Indira Gandhi did. It reduced our fishing area by 10 nautical miles. The Katchatheevu handover agreement clause 5 says that we can fish there and dry our nets there. This was in 1974. Then in 1976 two officials from both countries sat down and changed that. They now said that Indian fishermen could dry their nets on Katchatheevu but not fish there. Obviously this was drafted by an official who knew nothing about fishing. Why would a fishermen travel 12 nautical miles to dry his nets on that island if he was not allowed to fish there. He can dry it on the mainland,” he grumbled.

Emirate, the leader of the fishermen’s association in Rameswaram, has an alternate idea for resolving the issue.

“There are 768 fishing boats here and the government spends lakh rupees each on them in diesel subsidies. Let them give Rs 5 lakh to each boat for a voluntary resignation scheme. Half the boat owners will give up their boats; the rest can fish in Indian waters. We are ready to go if the government makes it viable.”

Among other issues, one of Emirate’s grouse was, “You are telling us where we cannot fish but you are not telling us where we can fish. For the first three kilometres here we cannot fish, that area is earmarked for country boats. The next three kilometres is rocky area; there are no fish there. Four kilometres later is Katchatheevu, and Lanka claims its territorial waters start even before that.”

Emirate added that they cannot go for deep sea fishing in the open ocean, as they get tokens from the fishing department for only 24 hours. That’s because the country boats go out on alternate days.

“We had a meeting with the district collector recently. We told him that we need permission for deep-sea fishing for 50 boats. They should give us tokens for one week each. We will go fishing in deep waters north of Lanka and stay away from them,” he said.

This could solve the problem, but it involves lots of repairs to the boats which could cost anything between Rs 1-2 lakh.

“We will do that ourselves; we don’t expect the government to help us. You know banks do not give us loans at low interests like they give farmers. We have to pay normal interests even for our gold loans. That is unfair. They farm on land and we farm at sea,” he adds.

Neither their legislator who lives in Chennai nor their parliamentarian has raised their problems.

“We catch the best prawns in the state. Exporters make money, the country gets foreign exchange, and what do we get? Stones from the Lankans! And we don’t know when the bullets will start flying,” Emirate says with disgust.

His anguish pours out further, “We Tamilians do not have any shame or pride. Over 500 fishermen have died and we cannot get a single rupee in compensation. Look at neighbouring Kerala. Two fishermen died there in firing by marines on board an Italian vessel and they impounded the ship. They are demanding Rs 10 crore in compensation.

They can take on Italy, a developed nation, and we cannot take on Sri Lanka which is half of Tamil Nadu.”

A Ganesh Nadar

Rediff.com

Fishing in Turbulent Waters Northern and Eastern Provinces in Sri Lanka

Filed under: genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: — vijasan @ 9:26 pm

 

Introduction

Newly initiated development projects in the Northern and Eastern Provinces in post-war Sri Lanka are expected to open new avenues towards ethnic reconciliation, as proclaimed not only by government media but also by the mainstream development scholarship. However, this popular perception about opening up new avenues for reconciliation through development seems to foreclose certain barriers and obstructions existing within the so called development highway itself, especially with regard to ethnic minorities. To understand the possible political and other forms of repercussion of the currently existing development-community encounter, one should turn one’s ears not only to the subject-agents of the development discourse but also to those who are subjected to the development industry, considering the fact that the subalterns also are involved in creating meanings (or counter-articulate the dominant discourse, as Laclauian discourse analysts would suggest) in their own way. This piece explores the ways in which the local communities in the Northern fishing villages receive the messages enunciated by the dominant or official discourse of development and counter-articulate meanings in a different, competing manner and the ways in which this community-development encounter would affect the wider problem of post-war ethnic and social reconciliation.

Jaffna’s fishing industry

The Fishing industry, being one of the main sources of livelihood of a large number of people in the Jaffna Peninsula, happens to be a sector that was severely affected by the thirty years ethnic civil war. Before the war, Jaffna was the largest fishing production district and contributed about 48,000 metric tons per year comprising almost one fourth of the total production of the country.  However, this significantly developed fishing industry was  severely affected by the war. “While the Jaffna District alone provided 20-25% of the total fish production in Sri Lanka before 1983, its contribution was reduced to 3-5% by the end of the third Eelam war.” The annual fish production in the District numbered around 2000 metric tons during the war. Although this got recovered to some extent in two years after the war, it is far from pre-war levels.

Current Problems and Challenges

Many problems regarding the fishing industry in the North in many ways related to the militarization that was strengthened during the last phase of the war but not completely relaxed even after the end of the war. For instance, some coastal areas, which are very significant to fishing, still remains as High Security Zones (HSZ); and therefore fishermen are banned from engaging in their livelihood activities in those areas; in many areas, fishermen were allowed to go to sea only within a permitted corridor, and even for that they had to get passes from military forces. Currently, although some of those restrictions have been removed or relaxed in some coastal areas, the Northern fishing community, CBO leaders and civil society representatives remain concerned about the continuing stringent security arrangements even after two years after the end of war, in the areas where Northern fishermen used to do their livelihood activities.

Although the authorities are claiming that the situation in the Northern Province has largely been normalized in terms of de-militarization, this claim was highly contested by the special situation report on the Northern and Eastern Provinces presented to parliament by M.A Sumanthiran, a TNA parliamentarian on October, 21, 2011. The report explains the situation of the fishing industry in Jaffna within a militarized context, as follows,

Severe restrictions are placed on members of Tamil fishing communities, resulting in a drastic impact on their means of livelihood. The report tabled by me in July of this year detailed the restrictions placed on members of the fishing community in Mullaitivu, especially in the areas of Kokkilaai to Chundikkulam in Kilaakaththai, Maathirikkiraama, Uppumaaveli, Thoondai, Alambil, Semmalai, Naayaaru, Kokkuththoduvaai, and Karunaattukkernee. These restrictions are still in place and of serious concern is the fact that several Sinhala fishermen in the area have received direct permission to fish in this area from the Ministry of Defence.

Apart from the militarization, Jaffna based researchers and civil society members highlight a series of other issues related to the development of fishing industry in the region. These  issues include illegal fishing in the Sri Lankan waters by Indian fishermen, which is popularly known as ‘Indian Trawler’ issue. Other contentious issues include an increasing number of seasonal fishing in Northern and Eastern regions by Southern fishermen; illegal fishing methods used by Indian and Southern fishermen that has negative impacts on resources; lack of sophisticated boats that are essential for deep sea fishing; lack of stock assessment; specific problems in the island areas like transport problems and dependency on big mudalalies who have political patronage; lack of infrastructure facilities; institutional support and insurance facilities etc.

 

Potholes, Checkpoints and Cattle in the Development Highway

Although recently initiated development projects in the Northern Province have addressed some of the issues discussed in the preceding part of this article, they have not contributed to make a significant breakthrough. Structural problems that barricade the development of the fishing industry such as regional disparity, dependency relations, political patronage structures and related socio-economic issues remain to date. On the contrary, sometimes, these development initiatives seem to contribute towards furthering of some of these issues. For instance, the merchants from the Southern Provinces who have coolers, sophisticated techniques and market networks are now being facilitated to come along the ‘development highway’ into the Northern fish market, to strengthen their dominance over the Northern competitors, whilst the perceptions of the Northern fishing community over this new development is not yet publicly heard. Some sectors of the Jaffna civil society members expressed their feelings on this aspect of regional disparity in the highly propagated post-war development, by comparing and contrasting the current situation with the ‘good old days’ of the Jaffna fishing industry. Signs of uneven development between North and South become apparent by the way Southern fishermen get all the advantages in the competition for limited resources in the sea because of their technological and economic advancement.

Fishing and Development

The fishing industry which is a large source of livelihood in the Peninsula, seems not to get its due prominence in the government’s development agenda, although there is wide expectation that the fishing communities stand to reap benefits from the ending of the war and the post-war development activities. Government representatives especially highlight the significance of these general infrastructure developments such as transport facilities. They emphasize the fact that newly constructed Mannar Bridge and Kallady Bridge and road developments in the coastal areas have benefited the fishing communities and encouraged merchants in other areas to expand their market relationships to Jaffna.

Special initiatives with regard to fishing sector are also in the pipeline. They include opening up of a new office for fisheries-related issues named District Fisheries Exchange Office; distribution of some equipments; establishment of new fishing villages under the post-war resettlement programme; introduction of new laws regarding illegal fishing methods etc.

However, a different form of articulation of a ‘development discourse’ can be observed when one listens to the fishermen in the Northern Province. Many of them interviewed for this study said that although the government has performed erratic development activities those activities don’t address concerns of fishing communities.  The Northern fishermen do not go to the South for seasonal fishing, basically owing to their lack of resources and technological capacity required. It can also be observed that they sometimes tend to perceive this in ethnic terms. There were some allegations that especially in Manner area Southern fishers are supported by military forces. Some fishermen in Karainagar explained the negative impact of the Southern fishers’ arrival to the North. The low income categories were mostly affected by some environmentally harmful methods used by them such as blasting of shells; using cylinders to catch conches and using ‘small eye nets’ to capture prawns by the fishermen coming from Negombo, Beruwala and Matara areas. A community leader claimed that “if this happens in their areas, the government’s response would have been different. But here they are able to destroy our resources, without facing to any charge.”

 

Periphery within periphery: patronage strengthened

In the case of the current development initiative in the Northern Province, it can clearly be observed that some dependency structures supported by relations of political patronage are being reinforced and strengthened. The situation in the island area in the Jaffna peninsula, which can be considered as a periphery within a periphery, both in geographical and in socio-economic terms, provides a fine example for this. Many islands do not have roads to link with the mainland and therefore the fishing communities are depended on businessmen who own transport facilities and linkages with the market in the mainland. For a long time, a large number of poor fishing families have been exploited by this economic dependency structures, against the background that they all are become debtors to a few businessmen who could control the market and transport facilities.

These dependency structures facilitated by political patronage have significantly developed in the island region during the period of the war because of certain strategic reasons in the area.

To make development really affective on a community, there needs to be a broader approach for addressing not merely the minor technical issues, but more structural issues as explained above.

Concluding Remark

The case of the fishing industry in the Jaffna Peninsula suggests that the current development strategy can reinforce and reproduce some existing social hierarchies, power relations and suppressions among people in the war affected areas. The manner in which post-war development is being framed by mainstream nationalism strengthens uneven development among different ethnic communities that would lead to more tension amongst inhabitants in the war affected areas. In other words, against the popular belief that development is the solution to the ethnic problem, a politically articulated discourse of development can also fuel the conflict, by unevenly distributing the benefits of economic growth among different ethnic communities.

###

This essay is part of a series on the theme of post war reconciliation, justice and development initiated by the International Center for Ethnic Studies, (ICES). Colombo. The views expressed are the author’s own and does not necessarily represent the views of the ICES.

groundviews.org

The rape of a 13 year old and paramilitary presence in Jaffna

Filed under: genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: — vijasan @ 9:20 pm

 

March 3, 2012 marked a very dark ebb in our society as it saw the horrific rape and murder of little Jesudasan Lakshini (13), allegedly at the hands of former EPDP cadre, Kanthasami Jegatheswaran (alias Kiruba) (31), from the Delft Island, Jaffna. Currently being held in remand at the Jaffna Remand Prison, the accused was produced before the Kayts Magistrate this week (30). However, the hearing was further postponed to April 9, 2012, as the Delft Police had failed to conclude their compilation of eye witness statements, said attorney-at-law K.S. Ratnavel, who is appearing on behalf of the victim’s family. The pending statement is the last of four eye witness statements attesting to having witnessed Lakshini being intercepted and taken by the accused on her way to the market, he added. This raises the glaring question as to why the Police was unable to obtain a mere four eye witness statements in the course of almost a month following this incident, unless of course exterior political forces are in play.

The Acting OIC of the Delft Police, SI W.P. Mendis said that the accused was first produced before the Kayts Magistrate Court on March 16, 2012, following which he was ordered to be remanded at the Jaffna Prison till his next court date on March 30, 2012, where both this case, and a previous allegation against him, would be taken up. “Just three months ago, the accused had held a young girl at gun (“plastic” pistol) point in Delft, in an attempt to intimidate and rape her. Following this incident, he was ordered by the Kayts Magistrate to sign in at the Delft Police Station on a daily basis until further notice. He was doing this until the day before the rape and murder of Lakshini.” Why an alleged attempted rapist is allowed back into the community with as little as a “wrap on the knuckles” is quite telling of the political influence the accused seems to be wielding. If instead, he had been subject to due process, Lakshini might still have been alive today.

Furthermore, villagers claim that the pistol had been in fact real and not plastic as mentioned above. If this were true, it raises two grave issues; 1.why is it that the State is yet to carry out a nation-wide disarmament programme of all former paramilitary cadres, e.g. EPDP, TMVP, PLOT etc., and 2. How is it that an armed ex-cadre can walk about freely, brandishing arms at will, within an island fully controlled by the Sri Lanka Navy? Villagers said, that it was only after they made complained about this incident to the Navy, that the Police had arrested him and produced him before the Kayts Magistrate.

The Police have also made a request to the Magistrate, for a blood sample from the accused, to be sent to Colombo for DNA testing. Having collected the sample, the Police have sent it through one of their officers to Genetech, Colombo, for testing this week (March 19).

Having visited Lakshini, a student of Neduntheevu Maha Vidyalayam’s bereaved family last week, a Jaffna –based local organization shared the following details with me.

Delft, being home to approximately 1500-2000 people now, is quite obviously a close-knit community, much like any other small town. However, the Kachchatheevu Feast (St. Anthony’s Church Feast), which is of great religious significance to Christians having drawn over 5000 devotees this year, resulted in Delft being almost deserted at the time Lakshini met with her brutal end.  Lakshini had left home for the fish market at about 8am on that fateful day, with the 100 rupee note her mother had given her to buy fish, clasped in her hand. Later that day, when she hadn’t yet returned home, her family and relations had started to search for her in their neighbourhood. “My relatives saw my child (Lakshini) being picked up by Jegatheswaran (the alleged perpetrator) whilst she was on her way to the fish market. He had told her to come with him that he would get her some fish, as fish was unavailable at the market that day. He was the one who killed my daughter,” said Lakshini’s distraught mother.

The Police was notified about this incident by woman from the village who had discovered Lakshini’s body on her way to chop firewood. “We found Lakshini’s half naked body, lying face down at a bare land approximately 30Ms down a little lane nearby the Pillaiyar Temple, at the 10th Region of Delft. She was only wearing her Shalwar top, as her trousers had been removed, and she had received multiple injuries to her head. A bicycle, an empty bottle of Arrack (quarter pint), a 100 rupee note and a few coins, and a large stone were found alongside the body of the victim,” elaborated the Delft Police.  As the Kayts Magistrate was due to arrive from Kayts the next day, to initiate an enquiry into her death, villagers had stood guard over her body until the judge arrived to the scene. The Post Mortem Report stated that the child had been raped and later killed as a result of having her head smashed by a rock.

 “I lost my dearest daughter Lakshini. I can’t believe he did this to my daughter. I heard that there was a bottle of alcohol near her body, and that her dress was all disheveled. The money she had been given to buy the fish too was still there on the ground next to her, and her head had been severely injured. I was also told that he had attempted to strangle her. I simply cannot bear the loss of my daughter,” lamented Lakshini’s father tearfully.

As this was not the first incident of assault/abuse of girls in the area that Jegatheswaran has been accused of, on discovering Lakshini’s body, the villagers had stormed into his house, dragged him out onto the street, and started beating him up. Eventually, the Navy had intervened and handed him over to the Delft Police.

Villagers said that Jegatheswaran had  been former EPDP Commander, Napoleon’s right hand man, and also a suspect in the murder of Jaffna based Journalist Mylvaganam Nimalrajan. In addition to the two above mentioned cases, villagers claimed that he had also attempted to abuse two other young girls, a mere two days prior to this incident. The villagers are enraged at the inaction of the Police, even after having lodged multiple complaints against the perpetrator, and are therefore convinced that it is as a result of some political influence that he was released by the Police, thus enabling him to carry out this heinous crime.

“The Accused has only studied till Grade 5, and is from Manipay. He used to sell newspapers for the EPDP in Jaffna during the war. As he had not returned the proceeds from newspaper sales to the EPDP, they had punished him by making him work for their office in Delft. He eventually married a young girl from Delft. We have come under fire by certain parties claiming that we’re not taking any action against him, because of his political affiliation, but this is completely untrue. Not only is he no longer a member of the EPDP, but we also don’t care what party/faction he belongs to, we will do our job regardless of his affiliations,” emphasized SI Mendis.       

It is very rarely that you get to witness the people of Delft go up in arms against any authorities, as they have been under the complete control of the Navy and the EPDP. However, this time they decided to take matters into their own hands, as so they took to the streets demanding that Jegatheswaran must not be permitted to escape and must be incriminated according to the law. “Let us punish him! We want justice! The murderer needs to be severely punished,” is what the people are said to have chanted outside the Police station that day. Angry villagers had also had confrontations with the Police and EPDP members, demanding justice.

Villagers had entered the premises of the EPDP Office in Delft, and demonstrated outside the entrance, at which point many party members had fled the scene. The people had pointed to the fact that Jegatheswaran was a member of the EPDP, and that as a result should not escape from being punished for his crimes. People are demanding that justice be served and the perpetrator receive the maximum punishment.

The Jaffna-based Tamil Daily, Uthayan Newspaper reported the following comments from TNA MP S. Sritharan. “The punishment meted out to this murderer should act as an example and put fear into the hearts of all other such perpetrators. Incidence of sexual abuse seem to be on the rise in the North, with 140 children having been abused in the Northern Province to date. The accused having committed such a crime whilst being a member of a Tamil political party in Delft which is also under the control of the Navy and the Army, is a complete violation of the people’s rights; the very rights he has a duty to protect and uphold.  So, stringent action must be taken by both the Court and the Police this time, so as to ensure that he doesn’t get away. The islands have been under the control of the Navy for more than 20 years, making it that much more unacceptable that an armed man is permitted to freely walk their streets abusing children,” he added.

groundviews.org/

(Authors note: A much shorter version of this article appeared in The Sunday Times, 1 April 2012)

Sri Lankan diplomat may avoid questioning on war crimes claims

Filed under: genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: — vijasan @ 9:13 pm

Diplomat facing allegations of crimes against humanity is set to return to Sri Lanka, raising fears he will avoid questioning

William Hague

The Global Tamil Forum pressed for a judicial review after William Hague refused to strip de Silva of his diplomatic immunity. Photograph: Giorgio Cosulich/Getty Images

The Foreign Office has been warned it is running out of time to take action against a senior London-based Sri Lankan diplomat who is facing allegations of complicity in crimes against humanity.

Last week, the Guardian revealed that an organisation representing the Tamil diaspora was launching legal action against the FCO over its failure to confront Major General Prasanna de Silva – the defence adviser at the Sri Lanka high commission in London – over allegations relating to crimes committed during the final stages of the island’s 26-year-long civil war in 2009.

The Global Tamil Forum (GTF) alleges that Silva was involved in systematic attacks on Tamil civilians between January and May 2009 when he was a senior commander in the Sri Lankan army.

It decided to press for a judicial review of the FCO’s actions after the British foreign secretary, William Hague, refused to declare Silva persona non grata and strip him of his diplomatic immunity so he could be questioned over the allegations. Scotland Yard has been handed a dossier on the allegations facing Silva but has refused to comment further on the matter.

It has emerged in the last few days that Silva is soon to return to Sri Lanka, raising fears that he may avoid questioning. The FCO’s legal advisers have also written to the GTF’s solicitors, Birnberg, Peirce and Partners, informing them there will be a two-week delay in dealing with the case because of the Easter recess.

A spokesman for the Sri Lankan government told the Guardian on Wednesday night that Silva was going home because his 18-month term as defence adviser was almost up, adding: “The claim of a lawsuit by the GTF has nothing to do with this routine transfer matter and it appears to be yet another invidious attempt to embarrass both Sri Lankan and British governments and a continuation of GTF’s history of attempting to gain misplaced publicity mileage for events it has nothing to do with.”

The Sri Lankan high commission has previously described allegations against Silva as “highly spurious and uncorroborated” and accused British media of seeking “entirely falsely, to implicate members of the Sri Lankan government and senior military figures” in such acts.

The GTF – which points out that the dossier in the hands of the Metropolitan police has also been in the possession of the FCO since late January – worries that Silva will have left the UK by the time action is taken.

“All we are seeking is justice for the hundreds of thousands of innocent people who allegedly perished at the hands of the likes of Prasanna de Silva and others,” said a spokesman. “Our kind request to the secretary of state is to let the legal process decide whether Maj Gen Silva is guilty or not guilty.”

The GTF, he added, has “complete faith in the British justice system”.

The Foreign Office confirmed it had received a dossier on Silva in January and had advised the NGOs who compiled it – the Society for Threatened Peoples, Trial and the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights – to pass “any credible evidence” on to the Met.

“We also looked closely at the dossier ourselves,” said an FCO spokesman. “However, while we were assessing this evidence, we were notified that Silva was planning to move on soon.” The spokesman said that while the British government takes all such allegations very seriously, he was unable to comment on the legal action brought by the GTF.

Siobhain McDonagh, the Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden and vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group for Tamils, described the FCO’s failure to act sooner on the dossier as “unfathomable”.

“It does seem extraordinary [for the FCO] to take no action and just rely upon the Sri Lankan government to withdraw him,” she said. “Given the evidence and that the government saw the dossier from the NGOs, why on earth did they take no action?”

The British government’s behaviour, she added, would send an unfortunate message about the UK’s commitment to human rights. “If you get a reputation for taking people who there are serious allegations of war crimes against, do other countries do the same thing?” she said.

“Do we want people who have those allegations against them here? Do we want people to think that we’re an easy or a soft option?”

Fred Carver, the campaign director of the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, said he could not believe that the British government had accepted Silva’s diplomatic accreditation in the first place.

“Any intern equipped with Google and a working mouse could have determined that there were credible allegations against Silva,” he said.

“Now they know what they should have previously suspected and investigated, they should not hesitate to revoke it before it is too late. If they do nothing then Silva’s unhindered return will be rightly interpreted as signifying that Britain is soft on war crimes suspects.”

www.guardian.co.uk/

Horrible rise of disappearances in post-war Sri Lanka continues unabated

Filed under: genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: — vijasan @ 9:12 pm

[Editors note: Also read New wave of abductions and dead bodies in Sri Lanka]

Twenty nine disappearances (including an attempted abduction) have been reported in Sri Lankan media between February and March 2012. There have been fifteen in March and fourteen in February. This brings the total number of disappearances reported in the last six months to fifty six.

Nineteen cases were reported while the sessions of the UN Human Rights Council were in progress in Geneva from the 27th of February to the 23rd of March 2012.

Out of the twenty nine disappearances in February-March 2012, sixteen of the twenty nine (16/29) appear to have occurred in the Colombo district while eight have been reported from the Northern Province (8/29). Five of those reported from the North are said to be ex-LTTE cadres who had been detained, released from detainment and then abducted. There are also three from the indigenous Wannilaye Aetto (Veddah) community.

Amongst the twenty nine 29 are also two school girls (one of whom escaped) and one university student, businessmen, a Government politician and relatives of politicians and  individuals reportedly to be members  of underworld gangs. Twenty four have been reported as abductions and five are reported as “missing”. Out of the persons who are reported as “missing” are three people from the Veddah community and two people from Jaffna. It was reported that one of the people missing in Jaffna was found dead.

Media reports had presented startling facts about involvement of the government in some of the abductions in March 2012. On 10th March, Mr. Ravindra Udayashantha, a government politician who is the Chairman of Kolonnawa Pradeshiya Sabawa (local government body in the Colombo district), was saved from being abducted when his political supporters intervened.  The abductors were apprehended by the supporters, were positively identified as being from the Army and handed over to the Police. The number of the vehicle involved in the abduction, the names of the alleged abductors, their photos and even a video clip have been published. However, the abductors were released from police custody afterwards.

On the 26th of March 2012, former Western provincial councilor Mr. Sagara Senaratne,  brother-in-law of Minister Jeevan Kumaratunga was released within hours of being abducted after the abductors had got “a call” while he was still in the van that he had been abducted in. The driver of Mr. Sagara was a eyewitness to the abduction and it appears that “the call” given to abductors to release Mr. Sagara had come after Mr. Sagara’s driver informed Minister Kumaratunga, who in turn had informed President Mahinda Rajapakse and Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse. Mr. Sagara had claimed that he would not be alive if not for the intervention of the Minister, the President and the Defense Secretary. It is not clear how the Rajapakse brothers and Minister Kumaratunga were able to ensure the release of Mr. Sagara even as he was being taken away by the abductors, without even the involvement of the Police.

In February 2012, Mr. Nethiyas Chandrapala was abducted outside the main court complex in Colombo. Also, in February 2012 Mr. Ramasamy Prabhakaran, a former detainee who had been severely tortured before being released as innocent was abducted two days before the case he had filed against senior police officers was to be taken up in the Supreme Court.

When will we see an end to disappearances in Sri Lanka?

groundviews.org

Disappearances in Sri Lanka from Oct. 2011 – March 2012 (based on media reports)

 

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