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
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.
October 17, 2011 Comments Off on Aust. has asked SL to respond – spokeswoman for Rudd's office
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.
October 17, 2011 Comments Off on Greens call on Rudd to speak up
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.
October 17, 2011 Comments Off on SL war crimes must not go unpunished – John Dowd AO QC
*********** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***********
INVESTIGATION OF SRI LANKAN WAR CRIMES
“Those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity at the end of the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009 must not be allowed to go unpunished”, said John Dowd AO QC, the President of The International Commission of Jurists, Australia (ICJA). “The expert committee established by the United Nations Secretary-General found credible allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law. The Expert Panel called on the Sri Lankan Government to immediately commence genuine investigations into such allegations. This has not happened”, said John Dowd.
“In continuing violation of international human rights law, there are thousands of former combatants and civilians in Sri Lankan detention camps still not identified or accounted for”, said Mr. Dowd.
“The International Commission of Jurists, Australia has furnished the Australian Federal Police with a brief of evidence that corroborates and substantiates the findings of the UN Secretary-General’s Expert Panel. Since October 2009, such evidence has been taken from witnesses in Australia and overseas”, said John Dowd. “It is clear that Australia has an obligation to investigate and, where appropriate, to prosecute those responsible”, said Mr. Dowd. “Australia owes this much to the Australian citizens and residents who are victims of the Sri Lankan civil war.”
“In 2009 the ICJA together with New South Wales Young Lawyers established the Sri Lanka Evidence Project, an evidence-gathering project to take statements to be used in an independent war crimes tribunal”, said Mr. Dowd. “Under Commonwealth law, there is ample possibility to prosecute these most serious offences here, where
Australia has custody of a person and where immunity does not apply.” Mr. Dowd noted that “more than two years after the end of hostilities in Sri Lanka, no one on either side of the Sri Lankan civil war has been charged or prosecuted.”
A press conference will be held at 11:00am at the Parliamentary Press
Conference room at NSW Parliament House.
October 3, 2011 Comments Off on Insensitive act by Aust. HC to SL
A TOP Australian diplomat has handed out certificates to alleged Tamil rebels after they were put through two years of official ”rehabilitation” at camps run by the Sri Lankan government.
In a move condemned by a leading international law advocate, Australia’s high commissioner to Sri Lanka, Kathy Klugman, took part in a ceremony in Colombo on Friday to release about 1800 Tamils after what the military called ”a two-year rehabilitation program”. But John Dowd – president of the International Commission of Jurists in Australia and former New South Wales attorney-general – condemned the program in the camps as ”re-education, not rehabilitation”.
He warned that Australia was lending legitimacy to a regime that refuses to allow an investigation of alleged war crimes during the country’s vicious civil war…
…The Greens in Australia are demanding Sri Lanka be suspended from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to be held in Perth this month – a move Professor Dowd has backed.
Australia has so far adopted a cautious line on Sri Lanka in international forums, last week praising the establishment of a Sri Lankan reconciliation commission in a statement to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. This came despite Amnesty International condemning Colombo’s official inquiry into the final weeks of the conflict – when more than 7000 people are believe to have been killed – as ”flawed at every level”.
A Foreign Affairs Department spokesman said Australia had not provided any funding for Sri Lanka’s rehabilitation programs.
”Nor has Australia supported activities relating to ex-combatants in detention. Australia has urged the Sri Lankan government to charge or release ex-combatants,” he said.
ABC Radio Australia – Top Aussie diplomat in Sri Lanka critcised
Australia’s High Commissioner in Sri Lanka has been criticised for taking part in a ceremony in which former Tamil rebels were given certificates of rehabilitation.
The former rebels at military-run run camps where they’ve been held since the end of the civil war had gone through a two year rehabilitation process.
But John Dowd, president of the International Commission of Jurists in Australia, says the camps are run for re-education, not rehabilitation purposes.
He says no Australian diplomat should be participating in such a process.
Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speaker:John Dowd, president of the International Commission of Jurists in Australia
September 27, 2011 Comments Off on Catholic priest criticises silence of Church in Sri Lanka
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.
“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.
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.”
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
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
September 26, 2011 Comments Off on Rudd answers ques on SL war crimes
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.
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