Advert in SMH – Wake up and smell the bloodshed

October 19, 2011 Comments Off on Advert in SMH – Wake up and smell the bloodshed

There are precedents for seeking Samarsinghe's recall

October 19, 2011 Comments Off on There are precedents for seeking Samarsinghe's recall

ABC Unleashed – A diplomatic dilemma of the Sri Lankan kind

…Receipt of the submission presents the AFP with something of a dilemma. It currently has a presence in Sri Lanka working with the Sri Lankan navy, army and police in preventing persecuted Tamils from leaving the country by boat for Australia.

The armed forces of Sri Lanka occupy traditional Tamil lands in the north. There are now emerging credible claims of rape and other abuse by members of the occupying forces against Tamil women and those old people and children that remain who are seeking to eke out a living with what few assets they have left.

The Sri Lankan police have blood on their hands, having engaged in the extra-judicial killing of Tamils. They have been involved in the murder of Sri Lankan journalists. Press freedom is all but dead in Sri Lanka. In 2009 the editor of The Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunge, was murdered. In the same year JS Tissainayagam, a Tamil journalist and newspaper editor, was jailed for 20 years for publishing editorials critical of the government in 2006.

Over the years the Sri Lankan High Commission in Australia has conducted a campaign of harassment against Sri Lankan Tamils living in Australia. They were assisted by the AFP, who saw nothing wrong in visiting and intimidating Tamils in their homes at odd hours.

A Victorian Supreme Court Judge, Paul Coghlan, strongly criticised the AFP during his summary at the conclusion of a trial into the alleged terrorist activities of three Tamil males at the end of March last year. One of the accused, Arumugan Rajeevan, had the novel experience of being “unarrested” by AFP agents. He was pulled over as he was driving to a meeting, and arrested and handcuffed at gunpoint. Realising they did not have the legal grounds to arrest him, the AFP “unarrested “him. Coghlan also commented that Rajeevan had been abused during his interview which was an “absolute departure from normal principles”. No admission of fault or attempt at recompense was made.

Admiral Samarasinghe, as chief of staff of the Sri Lankan navy, oversaw the shelling of Tamil soldiers and civilians trapped in what had been declared a safe zone at the end of the civil war. The navy then blocked attempts by the International Committee of the Red Cross to evacuate the injured, women and children from the safe zone…

…There are precedents for seeking Samarsinghe’s recall. In September of this year General Jaghat Dias who was Sri Lanka’s ambassador to Germany and Switzerland was recalled to Colombo after the Swiss government contacted the Sri Lankan government concerning accusations that General Dias ordered troops of the 57th division, which he commanded, to fire on civilian and hospital targets during the army’s final offensive against the separatist Tamils in 2009.A report by the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights accused Dias of participating in acts of torture and the execution of rebel fighters.

In 1995 Australia rejected the nomination as ambassador of retired Indonesian General Herman Mantiri. His nomination was rejected on the basis of war crimes committed by Mantiri against the East Timorese. In 2005 and 2008 the Canadian government refused to accept nominations for the position of high commissioner put forward by the Sri Lankan government, for reasons associated with human rights abuses…

3rd day running, media goes wild on SL war crimes issue

October 19, 2011 Comments Off on 3rd day running, media goes wild on SL war crimes issue

NineMSN – Greens want Sri Lankan envoy recalled

SMH – Commissioner hits back over Tamil war crime claim

Even china is reporting on this…
China Post – Australia faces pressure to probe alleged war crimes linked to Sri Lankan envoy

Aust. media goes crazy with latest news on ICJ submission

October 18, 2011 Comments Off on Aust. media goes crazy with latest news on ICJ submission

ABC Radio PM Program – Human Rights campaigners want Canberra to investigate Sri Lanka war crime allegations

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Efforts by human rights groups to get the Australian Federal Police to conduct a war crimes investigation into Sri Lanka’s high commissioner to Australia could cause a diplomatic row at next week’s Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth.

The push has already prompted calls by the International Commission of Jurists for Sri Lanka to be sanctioned at the meeting.

In Canberra, the opposition has been demanding to know whether the Government knew of allegations against the former navy second in charge, retired Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe, before it accepted him as high commissioner.

Rights campaigners have revealed to PM that they began preparing a legal submission to the Federal Police only after it became clear that both Sri Lanka’s government and the United Nations were not going to proceed with an investigation into claims of war crimes in the final stages of Sri Lanka’s civil war.

Peter Lloyd reports…Read more

Shadow Foreign Miniser questions Aus. Govt's acceptance of alleged war criminal as diplomat

October 17, 2011 Comments Off on Shadow Foreign Miniser questions Aus. Govt's acceptance of alleged war criminal as diplomat

The Age – Rudd quizzed over envoy

SHADOW foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop has demanded that Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd reveal whether the government knew about the allegations against Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe before it accepted him as Sri Lanka’s high commissioner…

…Ms Bishop told The Age yesterday: ”The allegations against the Sri Lankan high commissioner are extremely serious. Kevin Rudd should review whether the government was aware of the allegations prior to accepting his appointment as high commissioner, and whether the government undertook any inquiries or investigations into the appointment.”

An official from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet confirmed during a Senate hearing yesterday that the Prime Minister had been given ”advice” about Mr Samarasinghe’s appointment, but was unable to say what that advice was or when it was given.

A spokeswoman for Mr Rudd said it would be inappropriate to comment on the ICJA brief as it was being considered by the federal police.

She also said there was ”an expectation that Sri Lanka will be the subject of discussion by Commonwealth members” at the CHOGM meeting next week…

…The Greens called for Mr Rudd to push for members of the Sri Lankan government to be brought before the International Criminal Court – despite the fact Sri Lanka is not a signatory to the court – and for the federal government to ban Sri Lankans from CHOGM, which meets in Perth next week…

…President of the ICJA and former attorney-general John Dowd said those responsible for war crimes should not be allowed to go unpunished.

Aust. has asked SL to respond – spokeswoman for Rudd's office

October 17, 2011 Comments Off on Aust. has asked SL to respond – spokeswoman for Rudd's office

Reuters – Australia pressured to investigate Sri Lanka envoy for warcrimes

Australia’s government came under pressure Monday from rights groups and lawmakers to investigate Sri Lanka’s top envoy to the country for war crimes, risking a diplomatic row ahead of a summit of leaders from 54 Commonwealth nations in Perth.

The International Commission of Jurists’ (ICJ) Australian section has handed police direct and credible evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Sri Lanka Navy during the last stages of the bloody civil war against Tamil rebels in 2009, The Age newspaper said, citing unidentified sources.

Sri Lanka’s Canberra high commissioner, former admiral Thisara Samarasinghe was the navy’s eastern and then northern areas commander, as well as chief of staff, in the last months of the war, during which naval ships allegedly fired on civilians as they fled the conflict, the paper said.

“The report … is extremely serious,” said Lee Rhiannon, a senator Australia’s influential Greens Party, which backs Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s minority Labour government.

“With a delegation from Sri Lanka, headed up by their President Mahinda Rajapaksa due to arrive shortly in Perth for CHOGM, the Australia government can no longer refuse to take action.”

Australia’s government, already wallowing in opinion polls, will be reluctant to add a diplomatic upset to domestic concerns about carbon taxes and border security already worrying voters.

Samarasinghe told The Age that all of his and the navy’s actions in the final months of fighting were legal under the rules of conflict.

“There is no truth whatsoever of allegations of misconduct or illegal behaviour. The Sri Lanka Navy did not fire at civilians during any stage and all action was taken to save the lives civilians from clutches of terrorists,” he said.

There was no evidence Samarasinghe was directly involved in or gave orders for shelling, The Age said, but the submission before Australian police stated that military superiors held “a command responsibility” for the actions of subordinates.

Amnesty International last month said between 10,000 and 20,000 civilians were killed in the war’s last months, but a national inquiry has failed so far to investigate war crimes by both the army and Tamil rebels.

Sri Lanka deflected a Western-led push for a war crimes investigation at recent U.N. Human Rights Council sessions. Western nations are still calling for an independent probe for killing thousands of civilians in May 2009.

A United Nations advisory panel’s report says there is “credible evidence” that both sides committed war crimes, which the government hotly contests. Many of the allegations originated with pro-Tamil Tiger sources or propaganda outlets.

Canada has publicly criticized Sri Lanka over its human rights record, setting the scene for a confrontation at the Commonwealth summit next week, at which human rights protesters have also promised to target “war criminals and parasites” among leaders.

The Greens Party’s Rhiannon said Australia should follow the lead of the British and Canadian prime ministers, who have both spoken about Sri Lankan war crimes.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd would not immediately comment on the accusations as they were with police, but a spokeswoman said Australia had asked Sri Lanka to respond to the United Nations.

Greens call on Rudd to speak up

October 17, 2011 Comments Off on Greens call on Rudd to speak up

MEDIA RELEASE
17 October 2011

Time for Rudd to act on call for Sri Lankan war crimes tribunal

Responding to today’s report about war crimes in Sri Lanka Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon has urged Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd to add his voice to the growing international call for an independent investigation into the final stages of the Sri Lankan civil war. (SMH http://tinyurl.com/4y5jrdz)

“The report from the Australian Chapter of the International Commission of Jurists linking the Sri Lankan High Commissioner Thisara Samarasinghe with war crimes in Sri Lanka is extremely serious,” Senator Rhiannon said.

“With a delegation from Sri Lanka, headed up by their President Mahinda Rajapakse due to arrive shortly in Perth for CHOGM, the Australia Government can no longer refuse to take action.

“Mr Rudd should follow the lead of the British and Canadian Prime Ministers, who have both spoken about Sri Lankan war crimes.

“I understand that Admiral Samarasinghe’s claim that ‘the Sri Lanka Navy did not fire at civilians during any stage’, is untrue. Australian’s who were in the conflict zone in 2009, have told me that the Navy engaged in direct fire from the seashore into heavily populated civilian areas throughout the last five months of the war.

“According to a former United Nations spokesperson up to 40,000 civilians were killed in the later stages of the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009.

“In May 2010, my colleague Adam Bandt said the Australian Government would not be wise to accept ex-military officers for diplomatic positions. This appointment should once again be revisited in light of the ICJ submission to the Australian Federal Police and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions,” Senator Rhiannon said.

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