October 17, 2011 Comments Off on ICJ submission to investigate SL criminals in Aust.
The Age – Sri Lankan envoy ‘war crimes’
SRI Lanka’s high commissioner to Australia, former navy Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe, should be investigated for war crimes, a brief before the Australian Federal Police says.
The submission, from the International Commission of Jurists’ Australian section, has compiled what a source has told The Age is direct and credible evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Witnesses – former Sri Lankan residents now living in Australia – can attest to the crimes, the source said.
Admiral Samarasinghe was the commander of the Sri Lankan navy’s eastern and then northern areas, as well as naval chief of staff, during the final years of the country’s bloody civil war with separatist terrorist group the Tamil Tigers.
In the final months of fighting in 2009, according to the United Nations, up to 40,000 civilians caught in the north and east of the country were killed when government forces moved against the insurgent army.
Separate and independent allegations have been made, to the jurists’ commission and other investigators, that naval ships fired directly on unarmed civilians as they fled the conflict.
There has been no evidence Admiral Samarasinghe was involved in shelling, or gave direct orders to that effect, but the submission before the AFP states military superiors hold a responsibility for the actions of those under their command.
A spokesman told The Age that ”the AFP is currently evaluating the submission. Therefore it is not appropriate to comment further.”
Admiral Samarasinghe told The Age that all of his – and the navy’s – actions during the conflict were legal. ”There is no truth whatsoever of allegations of misconduct or illegal behaviour,” he said.
”The Sri Lanka Navy did not fire at civilians during any stage and all action was taken to save the lives of civilians from clutches of terrorists.”
The commission submission has been sent to the AFP and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, as well as to the offices of the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. It calls for investigations into Admiral Samarasinghe and other key military and political figures, including President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is commander-in-chief of Sri Lanka’s armed forces, with a view to issuing arrest warrants against those responsible.
The International Commission of Jurists is an independent international law body, based in Geneva. It holds consultative status with UNESCO, the Council of Europe, and the African Union.
The Australian section made a similar submission over allegations of war crimes during East Timor’s struggle for independence – and evidence it gathered was used by that country’s
Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation, the official body set up to investigate human rights abuses.
President of the Australian section is former NSW Supreme Court justice and attorney-general John Dowd. He declined to comment.
But independent of the commission dossier, another member of Sri Lanka’s diplomatic corps with links to Australia is already under investigation by the AFP for his alleged role in possible war crimes.
In May, The Age detailed allegations against dual Australian-Sri Lankan citizen Palitha Kohona.
Dr Kohona, who was an Australian diplomat in the 1980s, and is now Sri Lanka’s representative to the UN, is accused of sending, via intermediaries, text messages to defeated Tamil Tigers and civilians, telling them they could surrender, unarmed and under a white flag, to government troops.
About 20 followed the instructions. Eyewitnesses report they were loaded into army trucks. They were later found, shot dead, nearby.
The AFP has confirmed it is evaluating the allegations against Dr Kohona ”with a view to determining any potential breaches of Australian law”.
Dr Kohona has denied the allegations, admitting he sent the messages, but saying they were never a guarantee of safety, only advice on how best to surrender. ”I never had the authority to issue orders to troops or to discuss surrender terms of any terrorists, either directly or indirectly.”
Admiral Samarasinghe enjoyed a distinguished 37-year-career in the Sri Lankan navy. He was commander of the Eastern Naval Area, then commander of Northern Naval Area between 2007 and 2009. In May 2009, the final month of the war, he was made navy chief of staff, before being promoted, two months later, to navy commander.
Admiral Samarasinghe resigned his commission in January to take up his diplomatic post in Canberra. At the time of his appointment, foreign affairs officials reportedly saw his nomination as ”problematic”, in light of his command role in a military accused of serious human rights violations. But his appointment was not opposed.
Since the end of the war, allegations the navy fired on civilians have been raised inside Sri Lanka and out. The country’s reconciliation tribunal heard from a woman that in May 2009 she tried to escape the war zone in a boat.
”We held two white flags and on seeing the Navy we called them ‘Aiya, Aiya’ [Sir, Sir]. There was sudden shelling and eight died on the spot . . Navy hit; Navy attacked and many people died.”
Part of the commission submission is further testimony from Tamils now living in Australia that shelling came from the sea in the final weeks of fighting.
Admiral Samarasinghe said this week: ”All conduct of the Sri Lanka Navy was within the rules governing domestic and international laws.
”There were no orders given to fire by anyone to Sri Lanka naval vessels. Rules of engagements were clear to all commanders.” He said the accusations levelled at him, and at other members of the Sri Lankan military and political establishment, were politically motivated.
”I was part of the Sri Lankan military which prevented the most brutal terrorist organisation from dividing my country. Those that still have aims to divide Sri Lanka continue to hurl baseless, unsubstantiated allegations.”
A UN report this year found it was ”unable to accept the version of events held by the government of Sri Lanka”.
It said the government deliberately shelled no-fire zones where it had encouraged civilians to shelter, as well as attacking the UN, food distribution lines and Red Cross ships rescuing the wounded.
”The government systematically shelled hospitals on the frontlines … [and] deprived people in the conflict zone of humanitarian aid, in the form of food and medical supplies, particularly surgical supplies, adding to their suffering.”
The report was equally condemnatory of the separatist Tamil Tigers, known formally as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. It said they used civilians as hostages and human shields, forcibly recruited children as young as 14 to fight, and shot – point-blank – any civilians who attempted to escape the conflict.
January 20, 2011 Comments Off on Amnesty wants Mahinda investigated
Amnesty International Press Release
For Immediate Release
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Contact: AIUSA media relations office, 202-509-8194
(Washington, D.C.) The United States should investigate Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapksa, who arrives on a surprise visit to the United States today, for his alleged role in perpetrating torture and war crimes, Amnesty International said today.
Rajapaksa reportedly left Sri Lanka early Wednesday morning with a delegation of 20 bound for the United States.
“The United States has an obligation under international law to investigate and prosecute people who perpetrated war crimes and grave human rights violations such as extrajudicial executions, torture and enforced disappearances,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director.
Rajapaksa is commander in chief of Sri Lanka’s armed forces, which face numerous allegations of engaging in war crimes, enforced disappearances, and torture. Under international law, military commanders may face criminal responsibility if they knew, or should have known, of such crimes being committed by their subordinates.
The president’s visit comes as a Panel of Experts appointed by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon works on a report advising him on accountability issues in Sri Lanka. Both Sri Lankan government forces and members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are accused of having committed war crimes in the final phase of the decades-long conflict.
Amnesty International has called for the United Nations to initiate an international investigation.
“Thousands of victims in Sri Lanka demand accountability for the abuses they’ve suffered from the Sri Lankan security forces as well as armed groups such as the LTTE,” Zarifi said.
In December Wikileaks exposed a secret United States Embassy cable sent by Ambassador Patricia Butenis from Colombo in which she noted the difficulty of bringing perpetrators of alleged crimes to justice when “responsibility for many of the alleged crimes rests with the country’s senior civilian and military leadership, including President Rajapaksa and his brothers ….”
The United States should further investigate these allegations and support calls for an international investigation into Sri Lanka’s role in war crimes.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.
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December 1, 2010 Comments Off on Will Mahinda be arrested in the UK?
Guardian.co.uk (30/11) – War crimes lawyers seek arrest of Sri Lankan president in Oxford
Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose government defeated the separatist Tamil Tigers last year amid humanitarian protests about the treatment of civilians trapped in the war zone, is due to speak at the Oxford Union on Thursday.
The visit comes as Tamil supporters claim to have acquired a video showing a former Tamil Tiger colonel being interrogated by Sri Lankan forces. His family allege he was killed after surrendering.
The Sunday Leader – New Claims By Channel 4 Rock Presidential Visit
Un-substantiated Video is ‘elongated’ version
Disapora attempts to use video as evidence of ‘crimes’
President’s arrest is “wishful thinking’
By Faraz Shauketaly in London.
Sensational new claims broadcast by Britain’s Channel 4 TV network on Tuesday night, has threatened to rock President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s semi-official visit to the United Kingdom. Presenter Jon Snow acknowledged that the new video – a lengthier version of one broadcast last year – was “unsubstantiated” but nevertheless, the revelations made on one of Britain’s more popular national news networks was a victory being celebrated by the Diaspora’s media personnel.
The strategically timed release of the news item highlighted the inadequate measures taken by agencies hired by the Sri Lanka government to repair its reputation and to showcase its own version of events of the war victory. Amidst deepening gloom that the Tamil Diaspora are clearly winning the battle on the media and public relations fronts President Rajapaksa is considering his government’s options.
The Sri Lanka High Commission immediately refuted the allegations saying that this new video was merely an “elongated version” of the one released last year which was condemned as being without substance by Sri Lanka at the time.
November 5, 2010 Comments Off on SL president cancels trip to UK for fear of prosecution
The UK Guardian – Sri Lankan president opts out of UK visit after threat of arrest
The Times of India – Sri Lanka prez calls off Britain trip fearing arrest
In an embarrassing turn of events, Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse has been forced to cancel his proposed visit to Britain following fears that he might be arrested for alleged war crimes under British law. Rajapakse’s provisional engagements included an address to the Oxford Union, and it’s learnt that certain Sri Lankan Tamil organisations were planning to move court for his arrest.
Asked to comment on the cancellation, the British foreign office said, “The president’s plans have changed.” Several phone calls to the Sri Lankan high commission fetched only silence.
Under the principle of universal jurisdiction, war crimes and crimes against humanity can be prosecuted in Britain even if they were not committed in the UK. The Global Tamil Forum has been at the forefront of the anti-Rajapakse campaign here.
In October 1998, Scotland Yard had arrested former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in London for atrocities against Spanish citizens during his 17-year rule. Rajapakse’s cancellation of his tour could well send out a message to Gujarat CM Narendra Modi, who has been targeted by human rights groups for allegedly violating religious freedom, a ground on which the US had denied him visa in August 2008. The revocation was slammed by New Delhi as “lacking in courtesy”. Modi has been to UK post-Gujarat riots, in August 2003, but the British home office was criticised for allowing him visa.
Recently, human rights activists here obtained warrants to detain Israel’s foreign, defence and intelligence ministers if they stepped on UK soil. Hearing this, they either abandoned their trip or landed at the city’s Heathrow airport, but took the next flight back.
Sri Lankan foreign minister G L Peiris was despatched to reconnoitre last month. He was met with protests outside the International Institute of Strategic Studies, where he delivered a lecture. Tamil demonstrators displayed pictures of torture on LTTE cadres by the Sri Lankan army. Peiris claimed the photos were doctored.
When Peiris called on his British counterpart, William Hague, the Sri Lankan government was asked to carry out a credible and independent investigation into reported war crimes during its extended civil war with Tamil separatists, which ended last year. He was also advised that the Rajapakse government must demonstrate its unconditional commitment to democracy, human rights and media freedom.
Besides, the British foreign office is unhappy about what a source said was the controversial background of Prasanna Silva, a Sri Lankan army officer who is now the defence attache at the Sri Lankan high commission here.
June 2, 2010 Comments Off on UN wants GoSL war crimes probe, empty words?
The head of the United Nations Commission for Human Rights called for international involvement in probing alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka’s war against Tamil Tigers.
In her opening address to the 14th session of Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, Navanethem Pillay on Monday, called for accountability in the Commission on Lessons Learned and Reconciliation appointed by President Mahinda Rajapakse.
‘Concrete initiative must now follow to provide justice and redress to victims and generally to promote accountability and longer-term reconciliation’ she said. More
June 2, 2010 Comments Off on Lee Kwan Yew – Rajapakse is "Sinhalese extremist"
Sri Lanka Guardian – Sri Lankan President “A Sinhalese Extremist, I Cannot Change His Mind” – “Giant Of Asia’ Lee Kwan Yew In News Book
“I don’t think they are going to be submissive or go away. The present president of Sri Lanka believes he has settled the problem; Tamil Tigers are killed and that is that.”
By A Special Correspondent
(May 31,Hong Kong, Sri Lanka Guardian) In a new book entitled ‘Citizen Singapore: How To Build A Nation – Conversations with Lee Kwan Yew’ by Prof Tom Plate, published by Marshall Cavendish, a subsidiary of Times Publishing Ltd, Singapore’s Minister Mentor Lee Kwan Yew has expressed his opinion on Sri Lanka after the war.
Lee Kwan Yew is acknowledged as one of the architects of modern Asia and a pioneer of the Asian economic miracle, which has set in motion a historic power shift from the West to the East. Singapore was just rated as having the most competitive economy in the world and Lee Kwan Yew is regarded as the epitome of a successful and visionary leader. He is credited with being one of the first to predict the new rise of China. His views are highly regarded and influential in governing circles and among policy elites around the world. More
May 22, 2010 Comments Off on IMF deflects on loan & GoSL war crimes
By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, May 20 — Asked about Sri Lanka, IMF spokesperson Caroline Atkinson on May 20 said, “on the war crimes report, yes of course we’re aware of that, and that’s something that’s of concern and interest.”
Inner City Press had asked about the IMF’s current visit to northern Sri Lanka, the status of the delayed third tranche of the IMF program, and this week’s International Crisis Group report on war crimes.
Despite predictions that the third tranche will not be disbursed any time soon due to the policies of the Rajapaksa government, Ms. Atkinson on Thursday deferred answering, stating that “we have a mission in the field and that will conclude soon… by the end of the week so that means probably tomorrow.” More