Catholic priest criticises silence of Church in Sri Lanka

September 27, 2011 Comments Off on Catholic priest criticises silence of Church in Sri Lanka

BBC – Church accused of ‘being silent’

A Catholic priest who stayed in a government declared ‘safe zone’ during the last stages of war has strongly criticised the Church in Sri Lanka for being silent about the plight of trapped civilians.

In an open letter to the Pope, Fr GA Francis Joseph has blasted Church authorities for not raising its voice at a time some western countries and the UN ‘voiced their dismay’ at Sri Lanka government’s military strategy.

“Last night’s toll of the dead is 3318 and of the injured more than 4000,” the letter sent on 10 May, 2009 and seen by the BBC Sinhala service, Sandeshaya stated.

“It was a barrage of artillery, mortar, multi-barrel shelling and cluster bombs, weapons which Sri Lankan government denies using on the civilians in the no fire zone,” says Fr Joseph’s letter to the Pope.

He was living among 365,000 Tamil civilians at the time of writing, the former Rector of St Patrick’s College Jaffna stated in his strongly worded letter.

‘Vanished’

“It is unfortunate that the Church in Sri Lanka does not have the wisdom and guts to air her views forcefully and unequivocally regarding the ongoing war,” said Fr Joseph adding that the sending of the letter may result with his killing by the government or excommunication by the Church.

Kingsley Swampillai, the bishop of Trincomalee and Batticaloa, later told a government appointed commission that the priest vanished after security forces took him in for questioning.

The bishop said Father Francis was among those leaving the war zone in May 2009 and passing through the military checkpoint at Omanthai when people travelling with him saw him taken in for special questioning.

“And then he was no more – nobody saw him thereafter,” the bishop said.

In a recent Wikileaks revelation, US Ambassador in Colombo Patricia Butenis has told authorities in Washington that Archbishop Malcolm Ranjit requested the US not push accountability issues against Rajapaksa administration.

Wikileaks

The Archbishop has argued that such action would push the government towards a more hardline approach, an opinion agreed by the US ambassador.

The Archbishop office in Colombo, however, has strongly rejected a leaked Wikileaks cable as ‘baseless’ and ‘false’.

A spokesperson from the Archbishop’s ofice, Rev. Father Benedict Joseph has told The Sunday Leader that this was not the first instance where the Archbishop’s name had been misused and denied the contents of the leaked cable entirely.

However, Fr Joseph’s desperate letter to the Pope in 2009 is highly critical of the Church as well as the Sri Lankan government.

“Knowing that diplomacy comes so perilously near deceitfulness, that our trust in those who are proficient in its exercise, dwindles as time passes by,” said the priest whose fate is unknown states.

“The Tamils struggling for freedom look up Your Holiness to come to their rescue.”

Following the Sri Lankan government’s declaration of the military victory over Tamil Tigers a week later, Pope Benedict XVI called upon all combatants to facilitate the evacuation of civillians.

Addressing a public prayer meeting in the Vatican City after the government announced that all civillians in the war zone have reached safety, the pope said that he joins in the call of the UN Security Council “which just a few days ago demanded guarantees for their safety and security.”

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Find a political solution – UNSG

September 26, 2011 Comments Off on Find a political solution – UNSG

UN News Centre – Sri Lanka: Ban stresses need for accountability process over end to civil war

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today stressed the need for a “credible national accountability process” over actions in the final stages of the civil war in Sri Lanka during a meeting with Mahinda Rajapaksa, the country’s President…“He also underlined the need to find a political solution to the underlying factors of the past conflict,” according to information provided by a spokesperson for Mr. Ban after the meeting between the two officials…

Lawsuit filed against SL Army General turned diplomat to UN

September 26, 2011 Comments Off on Lawsuit filed against SL Army General turned diplomat to UN

TamilNet – Torture case filed against Sri Lanka’s ex-General Shavendra Silva
BBC Sinhala – Civil lawsuit filed against Major General Shavendra Silva
BBC Tamil – Audio story in Tamil

American University
Washington
NEWS RELEASE

For Further Information: 202-725-8745

Lawsuit filed against Sri Lankan Army General Responsible for Executions, Torture & Attacking Civilians; Currently Living in NYC

NEW YORK, N.Y., SEPT. 23, 2011 – This morning, American University Washington College of Law’s UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) against Sri Lankan General Shavendra Silva, who currently resides in New York City. General Silva was the commander of the 58th Division of the Sri Lankan Army during its brutal counter-insurgency campaign that costs the lives of up to 40,000 civilians in spring 2009. General Silva currently resides in New York City, and is Sri Lanka’s Acting Permanent Representative to the United Nations. As the United Nations General Assembly is ongoing, this lawsuit shines a spotlight on a war criminal in its midst.

As commander of the 58th Division, General Silva was responsible for conducting Sri Lanka’s bitter and brutal war against Tamils in northern Sri Lanka, and directly caused the untold suffering of thousands of Tamil civilians. Under the auspices of “fighting terrorism”, General Silva led the Army’s campaign of war crimes and crimes against humanity across northern Sri Lanka. In particular, protected persons – civilians – and protected places – hospitals – were deliberately attacked by General Silva and his forces, which violates Sri Lankan law, American law and international law. General Silva is also responsible for the torture and extrajudicial executions of surrendering members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), in clear contravention of the laws of war.

“These egregious violations of international and domestic law have gone unanswered for over two years now, as survivors continue to suffer in suffocating silence on the island. Finally, after years of waiting for someone to answer for the loss of loved ones, the voices of Tamil victims and survivors have been granted their day in court. Today, U.S. courts provide a forum for justice and accountability, where there would otherwise be continued impunity for Sri Lanka’s crimes against Tamils,” said Ali Beydoun, lead counsel on this case, director at American University Washington College of Law’s UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic, and a Senior Partner at SPEAK Human Rights Initiative.

Up to 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final months of Sri Lanka’s military onslaught against Tamil regions in 2009, according to a report from a United Nations Panel of Experts. However, over two years later, there have been no investigations or prosecutions of those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. “This lawsuit is one small yet substantial step towards accountability for Sri Lanka’s bloodbath on the beach. We will continue pursuing these cases until justice is served,” Beydoun said.

This lawsuit seeks damages for violations of international, Sri Lankan and domestic law under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) and Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA). These statutes grant jurisdiction to U.S. courts over human rights violations committed abroad, and serve to ensure that the U.S. does not become a safe haven for war criminals.

The day will not be getting any easier for Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa, as massive protests greet his arrival in New York for the 66th U.N. General Assembly. This day marks a uniquely perfect storm for justice, as demands for accountability begin to echo throughout New York and the world.

WASHINGTON COLLEGE OF LAW
4801 MASSACHUSETTS AVENUE, NW
WASHINGTON, DC 20016-8181
202-274-4088
FAX: 202-895-4520

Rudd answers ques on SL war crimes

September 26, 2011 Comments Off on Rudd answers ques on SL war crimes

ICP – Report on Sri Lanka Called “UN Report” by Rudd, Nambiar Declines Comment

UNITED NATIONS, September 22 — While Sri Lanka’s government claims that the Panel of Experts report describing war crimes is “not a UN report,” that is precisely what Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd called it Thursday night at the UN when Inner City Press asked him about the report.

Rudd had been scheduled to speak at 6 pm about the Commonwealth. Notably, there is a move to oust Sri Lanka from the Commonwealth in light of war crimes.

But Rudd’s stakeout was pushed back past 9 pm, at which time he opened on wider themes. Inner City Press asked the first questions, about Palestine and the move in the Commonwealth to push for accountability for war crimes in Sri Lanka. Video here, from Minute 7:55.

Rudd answered that members of the Commonwealth have been watching Sri Lanka over the last two years, “acutely aware of the report written by the UN,” and of the government’s Commission.

Rudd said that the Lessons Learnt report must deal with the “issues raised in the UN report.” He said there will be many more conversations, that the key is the content of the Lesson Learnt report. Video here, from Minute 12:24.

No war crimes committed – SL diplomat to Aust

September 26, 2011 Comments Off on No war crimes committed – SL diplomat to Aust

ABC Radio Australia – Sri Lankan envoy speaks out against Commonwealth suspension call

Sri Lanka is dismissing calls for its suspension from the Councils of the Commonwealth and complained to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs about the latest campaign.

A group of Australian academics, politicians and human rights campaigners is making the demand unless Sri Lanka cooperates with an independent investigation into alleged war crimes during the country’ civil war.

But the Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Canberra, Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe, argues the group is acting on “unsubstantiated evidence” and campaigning for the wrong reasons.

He says there is no prospect of Sri Lanka agreeing to an international investigation because no war crimes were committed by the government.

Presenter: Cameron Wilson
Speaker: Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe, High Commissioner for Sri Lanka in Australia

Swiss AG confirms war crimes investigation if SL diplomat returns

September 22, 2011 Comments Off on Swiss AG confirms war crimes investigation if SL diplomat returns

The Swiss Federal Attorney General confirms that he will open a war crimes investigation if Jagath Dias comes back to Switzerland

Following a criminal complaint brought by TRIAL (Swiss association against impunity) and the Society for threatened peoples (SPM) against the Sri Lankan Deputy Ambassador to Switzerland, Jagath Dias, for war crimes, the Swiss Federal Attorney General has decided that a criminal investigation will be launched if Mr. Dias were to come back on Swiss territory, because of “his personal involvement in the atrocities committed”.

On 13 September, media reports already announced that Mr. Dias, former Deputy Ambassador for Sri Lanka in Germany, Switzerland and the Vatican, had been stripped of his diplomatic status because he was strongly suspected of having committed war crimes. During the last phase of the internal conflict in Sri Lanka he was the major general of the 57th Division of the Sri Lankan Army, which is accused of intensive shelling of civilians, hospitals and religious sites. In August 2011, TRIAL and the SPM filed a criminal complaint with the Federal Attorney General against Jagath Dias for war crimes based on the previous facts.

The above-mentioned organisations have just received a 5-page decision dating back to 16 September 2011 by which the Federal Attorney General decided not to open an investigation, on the ground that Mr. Dias was no longer present on Swiss territory. However, the Federal Attorney General pointed out that several episodes of the conflict “highlight Mr Dias’ personal involvement in the military operations undertaken and in the attrocities committed”. Accordingly, the federal judicial authority considers that “the existing suspicions against him are enough to justify the opening of a criminal investigation” in the event that Mr Dias comes back to Switzerland.

Acknowledging the suffering of victims

TRIAL and the SPM welcome the decision of the Federal Attorney General. According to Philip Grant, the director of TRIAL, “Sri Lanka still denies the extent of the crimes committed. As long as no impartial investigation is carried out in Sri Lanka, the authors of these crimes may be punished abroad”. Angela Mattli, head of campaigns at the SPM, says that “after this judicial decision, the time has now come for the politics to send a clear message to the sri-lankan government: impunity for war crimes is not an option any more”.

The aforementioned organisations now invite the Swiss authorities to put pressure on the Sri-Lankan government to conduct impartial investigations about the war crimes committed by the sri-lankan armed forces and the Tamil Tigers and to prosecute the authors of these crimes.

Context

From the end of 2008 until May 2009, the Sri-Lankan government launched its final offensive to take control of the last territories in the hands of the guerrilla of the Tamil Tigers. The peak of horror was reached during this period: according to UN sources approximately 40,000 civilians were slaughtered. As such, both parties to the conflict have been responsible for multiple serious violations of international law, which, to date, have not been impartially investigated, neither in Sri Lanka nor before an international tribunal.

Wikileaks reveals SL Archbishop lobbied US

September 22, 2011 Comments Off on Wikileaks reveals SL Archbishop lobbied US

Colombo Telegraph – Wikileaks: Mahinda Rajapaksa is a “christian” – says Archbishop

A leaked US Embassy cable reveals how the Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith lobbied US government against international pressure on accountability for war crimes.

The Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith told to the US ambassador that “ pushing the government of Sri Lanka too hard on the war crimes accountability issue now could destabilize Sri Lankan democracy and could suffer revolution from the right or a coup by the military” a leaked US Embassy cable revealed.

The remarks by Washington’s embassy to Sri Lanka, are revealed by the Wikileaks leaked cable. The cable classified as “ CONFIDENTIAL” by ambassador Patricia A. Butenis.

The cable said, the Archbishop Ranjith , despite his problems with the Buddhist right has a good relationship with the President, whose wife is Catholic. It is certainly true that the President is under great pressure from the Sinhalese Buddhist right. It is also arguable that the international community’s pushing too hard on accountability could backfire…

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