SL HR issues continue to be discussed post CHOGM

November 8, 2011 Comments Off on SL HR issues continue to be discussed post CHOGM

The Australian Opinion Editorial – Commonwealth should unite on human rights

…The second important issue for the meeting concerned the civil war in Sri Lanka and whether the government and the Tamils had committed war crimes in the conflict’s final years. The question was virtually ignored. A UN Human Rights Commission report suggests substantial evidence of war crimes by the government and the Tamil Tigers, especially in the final two to three years of the conflict. A separate independent report by the International Crisis Group came to much the same conclusion. Indeed, there is sufficient evidence to justify an international inquiry into the actions of both sides, potentially leading to indictments before the International Criminal Court.

But the Commonwealth leaders suggested the matter should be managed bilaterally, rather than by the organisation as a whole.

This failure to debate what happened in Sri Lanka may have consequences for the Commonwealth down the line. Indeed, several weeks ago Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke strongly against the lack of action in Sri Lanka, and indicated that if the next Commonwealth meeting were held there, as planned, he would not attend. He may not be the only leader to take such a stand when the time comes…

Malcolm Fraser was prime minister from 1975 to 1983.

SMH Opinion Editorial – Politics has no place when it comes to crimes against humanity

…Last week Attorney-General Robert McClelland halted the possibility of the arrest and charging of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and in my view undermined similar ”citizens arrests” of individuals against whom it could be said there is a prima facie case of crimes against humanity.

Over the course of the past two months not only Australia, but Canada and Britain have stymied the progress of such arrests. McClelland took less than 24 hours to refuse to allow charges to be filed against Rajapaksa despite the fact that the person laying the charges was Jegan Waran, a 63-year-old man who claimed to have direct evidence of war crimes being committed against the Tamil people during the country’s recent civil war.

McClelland says that Rajapaksa has diplomatic immunity. We don’t know whether there were other reasons but Australia does have an important relationship with Sri Lanka, on whom it depends for co-operation to stop asylum seekers leaving that country. That relationship may have had some impact on the decision.

While McClelland was busy with his red pen at the same time, in the Canadian province of British Columbia, Attorney-General Shirley Bond blocked a lawsuit, brought by the Canadian Centre for International Justice and the Centre for Constitutional Rights, which sought to prosecute former US president George Bush under Canada’s criminal law for crimes of torture allegedly committed during the Iraq War…

…It is doubtful that any of them would have prevented legal action against any senior member of the Gaddafi regime had they landed in their jurisdiction. That is why their actions smack of hypocrisy and blatant political self interest.

The prosecution of crimes against humanity, however, should never be subjected to a political interest test. If there is a prima face or arguable case against Bush, Rajapaksa or Israeli government officials then governments have no business in interfering to prevent the operation of the criminal law by the independent judicial system.

One global elder statesman who would be cheering McClelland on for his actions last week would be Henry Kissinger, an opponent of the idea of universal jurisdiction for crimes against humanity. ”Universal jurisdiction risks creating universal tyranny – that of judges,” Kissinger wrote in 2001. And long may that remain the case.

Greg Barns is a barrister and National President of the Australian Lawyers Alliance.

The Australian – CHOGM memorable but not meaningful

Over 130 media reports in a fortnight on Sri Lankan war crimes and CHOGM

November 8, 2011 Comments Off on Over 130 media reports in a fortnight on Sri Lankan war crimes and CHOGM

The below list of media coverage is only a fraction of what we have managed to collate over the past fortnight. There have been reports, especially radio and television, which are not available readily online and hence are not included but will be archived on our website in the near future.

The media craze that exploded in Australia in the lead up to the CHOGM has shown us that although world leaders will play politics on the issue of human rights, the Australian media and public will give issues such as accountability for war crimes and restoration of justice the importance they deserve.

In the face of mounting criticism, in failing to convince the world that it is not guilty, the Sri Lankan government has resorted to confuse the world through propaganda which aims to defame, discredit and distract those who are bold enough to step up and speak out against the Sri Lankan regime. These actions of a desperate regime are indicative of how low this pathetic government will stoop to, and are a measure of the success of our work.

The Tamil people in the North-East of the island of Sri Lanka have no rights, no freedom and no voice. It is our responsibility to stay strong, stay positive and most importantly stay focused on what the job at hand is.

Public Relations Team
Australian Tamil Congress

30 October

2SER FM – Sri Lanka war crimes claim

30 October

SMH Opinion Editorial – Human rights inaction ‘a disgrace’

Radio New Zealand – Amnesty wants CHOGM meeting shifted from Sri Lanka

The Conversation – Devil in the discretion? Experts on the CHOGM 2011 communique

SMH – Sri Lanka pitches for Games over breakfast

AFP – Britain urges Sri Lanka to make progress on rights by 2013

News.com.au – Sri Lanka spruiks the 2013 CHOGM

29 October

SMH Opinion Editorial – See no evil is Australia’s way on war crimes

The Age Opinion Editorial – Crew arranges deckchairs on stricken empire liner

SMH – Gillard double-crossed over Games bid

The Australian – CBD shut down as protesters march into Perth

SMH – Sri Lanka outflanks Gillard on Games bid

Perth Now – Take CHOGM off Sri Lanka, says ex-PM

28 October

Channel 10 News – CHOGM Protests

The Age – Sri Lanka spurns war crime claims

SMH – Tamil protesters want Rajapaksa arrested

Herald Sun – Tamils want Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa arrested

ABC TV Lateline – Queen welcomes 54 countries to CHOGM

Al Jazeera – Commonwealth’s relevance in question

The Star – Taking a stand on Sri Lanka

Radio Netherlands – Sri Lanka issue divides Commonwealth

Radio Netherlands – UNSG calls for more accountability on Sri Lanka human rights

AFP – Protest peaceful at Commonwealth summit

27 October

ABC Drum Unleashed – War crimes in Australia’s too-hard basket?

The Australian – Tamils still ‘enslaved’ in northern Sri Lanka

SMH Opinion Editorial – Sri Lankan rights abuses top the bill as leaders talk

Amnesty International – Commonwealth leaders must stop Sri Lanka hosting key summit

Australia Network News – Global concerns

Reuters – Commonwealth ministers stumble over human rights

ABC News – Gillard raises human rights concerns with Sri Lanka

ABC Radio Connect Asia – Australian PM raises allegations with Sri Lankan leader

ABC Radio Melbourne – Sri Lanka dealing with war allegations: president

ABC Radio Newcastle – Gillard rules out Sri Lanka CHOGM boycott

The West Australian – Commonwealth values put to test by Sri Lanka

The West Australian – No plans to move 2013 summit from Sri Lanka: Australia

Canberra Times – Gillard raises war crimes allegations

ABC Radio Connect Asia – Sri Lankan spokesman rejects war crimes accusations

The Australian – Push for tougher rights sanctions

The Age – PM pushes hard line on Sri Lanka

The West Australian – No plans to move 2013 summit from Sri Lanka: Australia

Sky News – Next CHOGM in Sri Lanka

The West Australian – Sri Lanka says war crimes allegations ‘propaganda’

ABC TV 7.30 Report – CHOGM report

Toronto Sun – Commonwealth takes steps to beef up human rights monitoring

The Star – How to revive the Commonwealth

SBS News – PM raises human rights concerns with Sri Lanka

26 October

The Australian – Fraser backs call to bar Colombo

Channel 10 News – Sri Lanka accused

NineMSN – New Sri Lanka war-crime evidence: judges

Australia Network News – Australia raises alleged human rights abuses with Sri Lanka

ABC Radio PM Program – Rudd concedes some nations may boycott CHOGM 2013 in Sri Lanka

SBS World News – Tamils maintain CHOGM pressure on Sri Lanka

The Wire – Sri Lankan President avoids war crime indictment (part 1)

The Wire – Sri Lankan President avoids war crime indictment (part 2)

The West Australian – Commonwealth seeks to avoid slide into irrelevance

ABC Radio Connect Asia – Sri Lanka govt under fire over Tamil national question

Perth Now – PM raises war crimes with Sri Lanka

ABC Lateline – Gillard questions Sri Lanka’s investigation of war crimes

The Conversation – Why the Commonwealth must take action against Sri Lankan war crimes

ABC TV News – Sri Lanka spokesman rejects human rights allegations

ABC South West Victoria – War crimes case decision upsets Tamils

West Australian – War crimes heat on Sri Lanka

Adelaide Now – Leaders split on human rights abuses

Blacktown Sun – Reform push sets PM for human rights showdown

Perth Now – Sri Lanka to host despite abuse record

International Business Times – Attorney General Rejects War Crimes Charges, Cites Rajapaksa’s Diplomatic Immunity

ABC News – War crimes case decision upsets Tamils

SMH – Fraser calls for war crimes investigation into battle with Tamil Tigers

NineMSN – Democracy commissioner debated in Perth

Reuters – Human rights to test Commonwealth leaders

Australia Network News – War crimes

News.com.au – Next CHOGM in Sri Lanka despite concerns

ABC News – War crimes case decision upsets Tamils

Deccan Chronicle – Tamil Aus community criticises govt decision to stop cases against Rajapakse

ABC TV 7.30 Report – Leaders descend for CHOGM

ABC Radio Connect Asia – Australia rejects calls to charge Sri Lanka’s visiting president

Globe and Mail – Harper’s stand on Sri Lanka is just not cricket

The Telegraph – Commonwealth leaders to discuss succession and Sri Lanka at Perth summit

AFP – Sri Lanka says war crimes allegations ‘propaganda’

25 October

The Australian – War crimes case against leader

The Age – Sri Lankan President accused in Australian court

ABC Radio PM Program – War crimes accusations gather pace as Sri Lankan President arrives

ABC News – Australian accuses Sri Lankan president of war crimes

ANU News – Diplomatic Immunity could be tested for war crimes: expert

ABC Lateline – Attorney-General kills war crimes charges

ABC Radio On Air Highlights – Australian AG vetoes Sri Lanka war crimes case

ABC Radio On Air Highlights – Australia rejects calls to charge Sri Lanka’s visiting president

NineMSN – Wait for report on Sri Lankan crimes: Rudd

Australia Network News – Commonwealth gathering

ABC Radio News – Two views of Sri Lanka’s war

ABC News – No war crimes case against Sri Lanka leader

SMH – Sri Lankan envoy welcomes crimes case halt

Reuters – Australia mounts pressure on Sri Lanka over war crimes

The West Australian – Sri Lanka calls Australian war crimes case ‘hilarious’

The Australian – Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa enjoys immunity in Australia

The West Australian – Australia presses Sri Lanka over war crimes claims

The Conversation – Experts respond: indicting the Sri Lankan president for war crimes

The West Australian – Sri Lankan files war crimes brief in Australia

International Business Times – War Crimes Charges Filed Against Visiting Sri Lankan Leader

Herald Sun – Arunachalam Jegatheeswaran files war crimes indictment against Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa

ABC Drum Unleashed – Time is of the essence

Green Left Weekly – War criminal Rajapaksa to visit Perth

Canberra Times – Do the right thing and have Samarasinghe recalled

The Conversation – Experts respond: indicting the Sri Lankan president for war crimes

SMH – Govt must OK Sri Lanka president’s case:PM

NDTV – War crimes charges filed against Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa

SBS World News – No prosecution for Sri Lanka president

24 October

ABC TV Lateline – Australian accuses Sri Lanka’s president of war crimes

ABC Radio Connect Asia – Australian accuses Sri Lanka’s president of war crimes

Reuters – Sri Lankan Tamils press for justice

The Vancouver Sun – Canada rallies behind Commonwealth human-rights reports

AFP – Australia presses Sri Lanka over war crimes claims

Toronto Sun – Harper to champion human rights at Perth summit

23 October

Green Left Weekly – War criminal Rajapaksa to visit Perth‎

20 October

BBC Sinhala – CHOGM must deal with war crimes in Sri Lanka – ICJ

19 October

ABC Unleashed – A diplomatic dilemma of the Sri Lankan kind

The Australian – Secrecy and denial are also war crimes

SMH – Commissioner hits back over Tamil war crime claim

Sky News – Greens want Sri Lankan envoy recalled

18 October

SMH – Sri Lanka faces pressure on war crimes claim

The Age – Rudd quizzed over envoy

ABC 7.30 Report – Allegations of Sri Lankan war crimes in the spotlight

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

ABC Radio Connect Asia – Australian police examine Sri Lanka war crimes dossier

ABC TV News – Sri Lankan president under investigation

The Wire – Pressure mounts on Sri Lanka over war crimes

NineMSN – Sri Lanka submission a matter of urgency

ABC Radio Sydney – Calls to suspend Sri Lanka from Commonwealth

Independent.UK – Australian police study Sri Lanka ‘war crimes’ dossier

17 October

The Age – Sri Lankan envoy ‘war crimes’

ABC Radio PM Program – AFP considers war crimes investigation against Sri Lankan dipomat

Channel 10 6.30 with George Negus – Sri Lankan war criminals

ABC Radio Sydney – Sri Lankan diplomat named in war crimes brief

ABC Radio Asia Pacific – Australian police examine Sri Lanka war crimes dossier

Reuters – Australia pressured to investigate Sri Lanka envoy for warcrimes

More media coverage – war crimes

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

Press conference: Sydney Marriott Hotel

October 24, 2011 Comments Off on Press conference: Sydney Marriott Hotel

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE on 25 October 2011

Australian Citizen Files War Crimes Charges Against Sri Lankan President

Australian citizen Arunachalam Jegatheeswaran has instituted proceedings against Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The indictment was filed with the Melbourne Magistrates Court under the Australian criminal code. The Magistrate has issued the charges and a date has been fixed for the hearing of the charges.

Press Conference:
Date: Tuesday 25 October 2011
Time: 10AM
Venue: Dalley Room, Level 2, Marriott Hotel, 36 College St, Sydney
Attending: Arunachalam Jegatheeswaran
Lucien Richter, Lawyer, Robert Stary Lawyers
Sam Pari, Spokesperson, Australian Tamil Congress
Bruce Haigh, former Australian Diplomat

Arunachalam Jegatheeswaran: “I am a living testimony of the massacre that happened to the Tamil people in the final days of the war in Sri Lanka. Mahinda Rajapakse is the Commander in Chief of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. This alleged war criminal is coming to my country, Australia and I want to make sure he is held accountable for the massacre of thousands of Tamils in 2009.”

Sam Pari: “Mahinda Rajapakse is among a small circle of men who have committed the worst crimes in the 20th century: Hitler, Idi Amin, Milosevic, Pol Pot, Al-Bashir. The Australian Tamil Congress has been repeatedly calling for an international independent investigation into war crimes in Sri Lanka. In the absence of ethical leadership by governments, it falls upon courageous civilians to pursue justice for the victims. We applaud these efforts and hope that more such individuals will find the courage to seek the justice they deserve.”

Bruce Haigh: “CHOGM must consider the issue of Sri Lankan war crimes. More importantly however the issue of the ongoing genocide of the Tamil people by the Government of Sri Lanka needs to be considered urgently and CHOGM is the forum in which to do it.”

A week ago, the International Commission of Jurists submitted a dossier of evidence and eye witness testimonies of war crimes committed in Sri Lanka, to the Australian Federal Police. Mahinda Rajapakse is due to arrive in Perth today for the Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting.

Media contact:
Mr. Arunachalam Jegatheeswaran – 0405 021 516
Lucien Richter, Lawyer, Robert Stary Lawyers – 03 8622 8200
Dr. Sam Pari, Spokesperson, Australian Tamil Congress – 0433 428 967
Mr. Bruce Haigh, former Australian Diplomat – 0417 037 988

Australian citizen files against SL Pres. for crimes against humanity

October 24, 2011 Comments Off on Australian citizen files against SL Pres. for crimes against humanity

ABC – Australian accuses Sri Lanka’s president of war crimes

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

The Age – Sri Lankan President accused in Australian court

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.”

ICJ submission on SL to Committee against Torture

October 23, 2011 Comments Off on ICJ submission on SL to Committee against Torture

ICJ submission to the Committee against Torture on the Examination of the combined Third and Fourth Periodic Reports of Sri Lanka
14 October 2011

During its 47th session on 31 October to 25 November 2011, the UN Committee against Torture will undertake an examination of the combined third and fourth periodic reports of Sri Lanka. In preparation for this examination, and in response to Sri Lanka’s combined report, the Committee issued a list of issues to be considered during the forthcoming examination. The ICJ has submitted a parallel report to the Committee against Torture, which includes replies to aspects of some questions in the Committee’s list of issues, and sets out concrete recommendations for Sri Lanka’s implementation of obligations under the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The ICJ’s submission addresses issues concerning: the definition of torture; the crime of enforced disappearances; rights on arrest or detention; habeas corpus; contemporary issues at the provincial level; non-refoulement; witness protection legislation; reparation mechanisms for victims; and the prohibition on the admission as evidence of information obtained by torture.

Click here to read full submission.

Executive Summary

In this submission the ICJ provides alternative replies to some of the questions raised in the List of Issues to be considered during the examination of the combined Third and Fourth Periodic Reports of Sri Lanka, taking place on 8-9 November 2011. The ICJ addresses the issues concerning: the definition of torture; the crime of enforced disappearances; rights on arrest or detention; habeas corpus; contemporary issues at the provincial level; non-refoulement; witness protection legislation; reparation mechanisms for victims; and the prohibition on the admission as evidence of information obtained by torture.

The ICJ concludes with a list of recommendations about what steps Sri Lanka should undertake in order to improve its adherence to the Convention. The ICJ urges the Committee to call on the Sri Lankan authorities to make amendments to the Convention against Torture Act so that it is compatible with the Convention’s provisions, to implement legal safeguards for individuals detained under the Emergency Regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act. In addition, robust measures must be enacted to safeguard full fair trial guarantees. Finally, a comprehensive State policy on remedy and reparation, including compensation and rehabilitation, must be adopted to ensure effective redress to victims of torture.

Dozens of NGOs call on Aus + Cwlth to act on SL

October 23, 2011 Comments Off on Dozens of NGOs call on Aus + Cwlth to act on SL

Australia and the Commonwealth must take action on Sri Lanka

On 20 October 2011, a coalition of leading human rights NGOs, including the Human Rights Law Centre, Human Rights Watch and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, sent an Open Letter to the Commonwealth Heads of Government [PDF] regarding the need to take urgent action on human rights in Sri Lanka at the forthcoming meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government in Perth.

The letter was written as further evidence emerges of serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law against Tamil civilians by Sri Lanka’s military, including systemic rape, murder and the targeting of hospitals and health care clinics.

Click here for the text of the letter.