January 24, 2012 Comments Off on 2012 Human Rights Watch Report on Sri Lanka
The aftermath of Sri Lanka’s quarter century-long civil war, which ended in May 2009 with the defeat of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), continued to dominate events in 2011. In April United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a report by a panel of experts that concluded that both government forces and the LTTE conducted military operations “with flagrant disregard for the protection, rights, welfare and lives of civilians and failed to respect the norms of international law.” The panel recommended the establishment of an international investigative mechanism. Sri Lankan officials responded by vilifying the report and the panel members.
The government has failed to conduct credible investigations into alleged war crimes by security forces, dismissing the overwhelming body of evidence as LTTE propaganda. The government’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), characterized as a national accountability mechanism, is deeply flawed, does not meet international standards for such commissions, and has failed to systematically inquire into alleged abuses.
In August the government allowed emergency regulations in place for nearly three decades to lapse, but overbroad detention powers remained in place under other laws and new regulations. Several thousand detainees continue to be held without trial, in violation of international law.
January 3, 2012 Comments Off on Update on SL News
Global Post – Sri Lanka: new test of India’s global influence
Deccan Chronicle – ‘The Tamil diaspora does not want peace’
New York Times (Opinion) – Sri Lanka’s Ghosts of War
Official Government News Portal of Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka Government ready to discuss scopes on Police, land powers with TNA – Govt Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella
India Ministry of External Affairs – Report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission of Sri Lanka
BBC Sinhala – 26,000 not resettled due to HSZ
BBC Sinhala – India cannot dictate terms says Govt
Sky News Australia – Sri Lankan MP held over Briton’s death
Deccan Chronicle – Tamils to blame for Lanka solution delay: Rajapaksa
Deccan Chronicle – ‘For Lanka, India comes first’
Counter Punch – A Brief Assessment – Sri Lanka’s Truth Commission
Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice – Lessons learned?
The Economic Times – Lankan lessons: War crimes and Rajapaksa regime
The Sunday Leader – Tamils, Indians, The LLRC Report And Rajapaksa Politics
Xinhua News – Sri Lanka’s PM commends China for strong support
Asian Human Rights Commission – SRI LANKA: Extravagance — national pride to continue in 2012 as well?
Asian Human Rights Commission – SRI LANKA: The New Year Wish List- 2012
December 13, 2011 Comments Off on Because I am Tamil…
New Matilda (28/11) by Brami Jegan
As Tamils gathered this week to remember those who died in the civil war, the call for an independent investigation into war crimes in Sri Lanka is getting louder, writes Brami Jegan
Yesterday I joined hundreds of thousands of Tamils across the world — in the UK, France, Germany Switzerland, America and India — to remember those who died in the 26-year struggle for our independence. It was day of haunting sadness.
The day is called “Maaveerar Naal”. Veerar in Tamil means “warrior or hero”. Maa means “great”. Naal means “day”.
It is held each year on 27 November, the date the first Tamil Tiger, Shankar, died in combat in 1982. I was two years old.
Alongside 2000 Tamils at a park in Silverwater in Sydney’s west, I wept for the 40,000 Tamils that were massacred by the Sri Lankan Government in 2009. I paid my respects to those who sacrificed their lives for my freedom.
I remembered the months of paralysing fear my family went through while my father was in the former conflict zone. I went to bed each night petrified of waking up to news he had been killed in an aerial attack by Sri Lankan Kfir jets or drones.
I honoured my dearest friend K, and the hours of laughter we shared together. A night I will never forget is when we sat under monsoon stars in Tamil Eelam in 2006, talking about life and love, war and peace till 4am in the morning. He kept the electricity generator running for me, even though it would have cost him more than he could afford because he knew I was scared of the dark. He died fighting for my identity.
The Sri Lankan Government is on a witchhunt to silence anyone that dares speak out about theatrocities committed against the Tamils. I have the honour of being on their list. This has only strengthened my resolve.
When people ask me where I am from, I say “I am Tamil”. I am not a Sri Lankan. A regime that has brutalised, terrorised and murdered, does not speak in my name.
The Mahavamsa, the great chronicle of Sri Lanka, is interpreted by the country’s rulers as“proving” that Sri Lanka is a Sinhalese Buddhist island. It can equally be read as the story of how the Sinhalese and Tamils founded the country together. In the story, the Tamil King Elara ruled with equal justice and was accepted by both communities.
As a diaspora Tamil I have struggled to understand my privileged place in the west. There is nothing I want that I can’t have. But since I first returned to Sri Lanka in 2002, I have had no peace of mind.
At the age of 22 I came face to face with the horrors of war: orphaned children; adults and children who had lost their arms, legs and eyesight; Tamil women who had been raped by the Sri Lankan army; men who had been tortured. The memories are endless and terrifying.
How do I reconcile my fortunate life with these stories? How do I explain to my western friends the pain and suffering I have witnessed? How do I not let their pain become a part of me?
I feel incredibly lost in post-war Sri Lanka as do many other diaspora Tamils. What is our role now?
Two and a half years ago genocide was committed against the Tamils of Sri Lanka and the entire international community did nothing to stop it.
The horrifying images of war crimes and crimes against humanity shown in Channel Four’s ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ were a stark wake up call to the world. The broader understanding and perception of the Tamil struggle is shifting.
UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, our former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser have come out strongly in favour of an independent war crimes tribunal for Sri Lanka. As has the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts, Amnesty International, International Crisis Group, and Human Rights Watch.
Shamefully our Prime Minister and Foreign Minister won’t add their voice to this call for an independent investigation.
I don’t know if there will ever be an independent war crimes tribunal for Sri Lanka. But the Arab Spring has shown the world that anything is possible. Hope must continue in some form.
The war no longer defines me. But the struggle forever will. I am a Tamil and with that comes a responsibility. A responsibility to myself, to my father, to K and to the Maveerars to honour the sacrifices and strength of my ancestors: “Because you died, we continue to live”.
October 25, 2011 Comments Off on More media coverage – war crimes
The Australian – War crimes case against leader
AN Australian man caught in the violent last months of Sri Lanka’s civil war has launched an Australian war crimes case against Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa as the leader is to fly in to the country for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
October 24, 2011 Comments Off on Australian citizen files against SL Pres. for crimes against humanity
An Australian citizen who says he saw hospitals deliberated attacked by Sri Lankan forces has filed war crimes charges against president Mohindra Rajapaksa in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court.
Click here to watch video
SRI Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa – who was due to arrive in Australia last night – has had a charge laid against him in a Melbourne court accusing him of war crimes in his country’s civil war.
Sri Lankan-born Australian Arunachalam Jegatheeswaran filed an indictment against the President yesterday, declaring he was seeking justice for thousands who perished in a series of aerial bombardments and ground attacks on shelters, schools, hospitals, orphanages and community centres.
The court move coincides with this week’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, which the Sri Lankan President is attending. ”People are still suffering because of what he did and I think the world should know,” Mr Jegatheeswaran told The Age.
”I’ve seen all of these things,” he said, having been a volunteer aid worker in Sri Lanka from 2007 to 2009. ”I can’t bear that the person who is responsible for all of this – who is the commander-in-chief – is coming to my country and getting off scot-free. I’m asking the highest court of justice in Australia to decide whether he is guilty or not guilty.”
The indictment had been filed under the Australian criminal code with the Melbourne Magistrates Court yesterday and set for hearing on November 29, his lawyer, Rob Stary, said.
For the case to proceed, the AFP would have to conclude there is enough material to compile a brief of evidence of criminality, which it would then refer to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for consideration. If a decision to prosecute is made, the Attorney-General’s consent would be sought.
Mr Rajapaksa, who strenuously denies any wrongdoing, has already been cited in a brief of evidence compiled by the International Commission of Jurists’ Australian section and handed to the AFP.
The brief recommends that the President be investigated for alleged war crimes, along with Sri Lanka’s high commissioner to Australia, Thisara Samarasinghe, and other military and
political figures. Mr Samarasinghe has also denied committing war crimes and, in an interview with The Age last week, cast himself as a unifier of the Sinhalese and Tamil communities in Australia.
Mr Jegatheeswaran, 63, who arrived in Australia in 1987 and became an Australian citizen three years later, says he is still haunted by the killings and injuries he saw. ”I am living testimony to what happened. I’m trying to forget, but I just can’t,” he said.
Mr Stary said he had written to federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland last Thursday to alert him to the move and urge him to take up the case. He had also written to the Australian Federal Police yesterday asking them to serve the indictment on Mr Rajapaksa.
”The government will need to show a bit of backbone to investigate it, but there is absolutely no reason on the face of it why they should not pursue it. It’s incontrovertible in our view that war crimes have been committed,” Mr Stary said.
A spokesman for Mr McClelland said he had not been told about any criminal matter or charges relating to Mr Rajapaksa.
In a seven-page statement, Mr Jegatheeswaran describes how he returned to Sri Lanka early in 2007 to work as a volunteer and initially stayed with relatives in the Tamil stronghold of Kilinochchi.
When aid work was disrupted by the war, he volunteered to work in a camp for displaced people, before being forced to move and eventually becoming displaced himself. ”I saw Sri Lankan planes directing bombs into towns and open areas where displaced people were congregated, including areas declared as no-fire zones. I saw many hundreds of civilians killed and injured by these attacks.
”I also witnessed many civilian buildings and public facilities damaged or destroyed by aerial bombardments. I saw houses, shelters for displaced people, schools, hospitals, religious temples, orphanages and community centres shelled and bombed.”
October 19, 2011 Comments Off on "Don't-ask, don't-tell no longer works with war crimes"
Opinion Editorial by Gordon Weiss
The Australian – Secrecy and denial are also war crimes
…Don’t-ask, don’t-tell no longer works with war crimes. The international community has become increasingly intolerant of governments solving their internal problems with impunity.
Ethical considerations aside, a secure and orderly global framework requires that international laws and treaties be respected, even when responding to an insurgency.
Yet Sri Lanka’s consistent response to allegations since the end of the war has been blanket denial. For years its envoys insisted their forces were not responsible for a single civilian death. As a result of pressure from emerging evidence, they now admit they may have been responsible for some civilian deaths, albeit unwittingly.
Australia has a duty, under our own laws and in accordance with our international legal obligations, to investigate credible allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Julia Gillard should join Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s public commitment and boycott next year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting should Sri Lanka not satisfactorily account for the deaths of civilians. Incredibly, CHOGM 2013 is scheduled for Hambantota, Rajapaksa’s hometown.
Gordon Weiss, the UN spokesman in Sri Lanka during the war, is the author of The Cage: The Fight for Sri Lanka and the Last Days of the Tamil Tigers
October 18, 2011 Comments Off on Aust. survivor of Mullivaikkal massacre recalls war crimes committed by SL
Listen to an Australian citizen who survived the Sri Lanka’s genocide of the Tamil people in 2009
ABC TV 7.30 Report – Sri Lankan president under investigation
October 18, 2011 Comments Off on Sri Lanka snaps at Canada
Winnipeg Freepress – Sri Lankan envoy fires back at Canada for backing calls for war crimes inquiry
OTTAWA – Sri Lanka says Canada is falling for terrorist “propaganda” with its newfound criticism of the Asian country’s human-rights record and its demands for an international inquiry.
“We are not happy about the statements being made. … We want Canada to see the correct situation,” High Commissioner Chitranganee Wagiswara told The Canadian Press in a recent interview.
Wagiswara’s remarks are the first public rebuttal of the hard line the Conservatives have recently adopted against the Sri Lankan government.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has criticized Sri Lanka for blocking international efforts to investigate the conduct of its forces in the final days of its long civil war against the terrorist Tamil Tigers…Read more
October 18, 2011 Comments Off on Mainstream TV channels cover SL war crimes issue
Channel 10 – 6.30 with George Negus
October 18, 2011 Comments Off on Young Aust. Lawyers' hard work on SL war crimes acknowledged
Lawyers Weekly – Young lawyers expose Sri Lankan atrocities
Two years of hard work by the New South Wales Young Lawyers (NSWYL) has culminated in the delivery of a brief to the Federal Government calling for investigations into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sri Lanka.
The NSWYL assisted the International Commission of Jurists Australia (ICJA) to prepare and submit a brief of evidence to the Australian Federal Police and Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions last Friday (14 October).
The brief calls for an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Sri Lanka during the final phase of the civil war.
“Many thousands of men, women and children were left injured, homeless and dead at the end of the civil war and justice must be afforded to those people,” said Daniel Petrushnko, president of the NSWYL.
“Those responsible for such atrocities need to be held to account. There will no peace in Sri Lanka or elsewhere in the world if international impunity for such crimes continues.”
Confidential copies of the brief have been provided to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd and Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland.
For the past two years, the NSWYL has worked jointly with the ICJ Australia to take witness statements from Sri Lankan Australians who bore witness to atrocities committed as the civil war drew to a close.
Petrushnko said the organisation is also calling on the Federal Government and Opposition to support calls for Sri Lanka to be suspended from the Commonwealth at the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to be held in Perth from 28 to 30 October.
Yesterday (17 October) the president of the ICJA, John Dowd, refused to comment on whether the brief implicated Thisara Samarasinghe, Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in Australia.
Samarasinghe was in command of the Sri Lankan navy in the north of the country in the final weeks of the civil war against the Tamil Tigers in early 2009. Samarasinghe told the ABC that the Sri Lankan navy only fired at terrorists and did not target civilians during the conflict.
Samarasinghe was appointed as the chief of the Sri Lankan navy after the conflict ended in July 2009 and retired from that position in January this year.
He took up his current role as the High Commissioner in May.