Laws of Wars: political and international aspects

"The world is aware that the LTTE was using civilians as a human shield which is a grave crime under International Law and a crime against humanity. The entire world was watching carefully as to how well the civilians were treated in Sri Lanka during the conflict and how carefully they were taken out of the conflict for protection and to safe enclaves, when the LTTE last stages resorted to self destruction."

By Sarath Wijesinghe

(October 27, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The current violations of the laws or customs of war including murder, ill treatment and deportation of civilians, slave labour in camps, and similar offences and atrocities are parts of war crimes, which are recognized under international law as crimes against humanity since World War 1, World War 2 and onwards. The current debate is the proposition and the revelations in the international media, especially among NGOs that the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE have committed war crimes. The laws of war are guidelines to be followed and effective during wars and armed conflicts, especially for the protection of the sick, wounded, disabled and the affected persons such as civilians and citizens around war zones with no connection to the war or the conflicts. Why do US and some western democracies treat GOSL and equally are questionable as it is a banned terrorist organisation considered to be the most ruthless and feared.

War is justifiable in certain circumstances for self-defence under International Law, and for the protection of citizens in a democratic society. There is no dispute that Sri Lanka and India are model democracies in South Asia in which the current President Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Government in power is democratically elected. According to the US State Department the LTTE is the most ruthless, powerful and organized terrorist organization which is responsible for the killings of hundreds of thousands of civilians, destruction of national wealth and killing of two leaders of South Asia in Sri Lanka and India and wiping out the entire democratic elected leaders of the Tamil people and killing innocent civilians of Tamil and Sinhala ethnicity. It is legal and justifiable to take all appropriate steps to eradicate terror and terrorism, which has made life miserable and unsafe.

It is to the amazement, surprise and to the disbelief that President Rajapaksa with the help of the armed forces has wiped out LTTE terrorism by disproving the accepted norms and belief by the world that terrorism could not be eradicated militarily. There was no foreign intervention or there is hardly any support for the President Rajapaksa and his brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa - The Defence Secretary - to achieve this unexpected and unbelievable goals and successes.

The Law.

The Laws of War are codified in Hague in modern concepts conventions from 1898 and 1907. The modern concepts were developed under auspicious of “Nuremburg” trials on the definitions of the London Charter of 8th August 1945. Nuremburg principals show what constitutes a war crime, the procedure and crime under International Law. International Law does not impose a penalty yet the responsibility runs to the head of state.

There were a series of trials and prosecutions to the members of Nazi Government from 1945 onwards. They were dealt with conspiracy and crime against peace, wars of aggression, crime against humanity, war crime and dealing with civilians. These Laws of International Law gradually improved mainly from the World War two having witnessed unprecedented and grave atrocities that shocked the world. Massacres of opponents and victims of wars were frequent and rampant and the need of for Wars of Laws and guidelines were required when there was only total war especially in the west followed by international conflicts.

Current Situation.

Geneva Convention and the Treatises of 1949 which is ratified by 194 countries have dealt with these aspects in detail. Article 27 of 27th 4th Geneva convention is produced as follows –

“Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honour, their family rights, their religious convictions and practises, and their manners and customs. They shall at all times be humanely treated, and be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof and against insults and public curiosity. Women shall be especially protected against any attack on their honour, in particular against rape, enforced prostitution or any form of indecent assault. Without prejudice to the provisions relating to their state of health, age and sex, all protected persons shall be treated with the same consideration by the Party to the conflict in whose power they are, without any adverse distinction based, particular, on race, religion or political opinion. However, the Parties to the conflict may take such measures of control and security in regard to protected persons as may be necessary as a result of the war.”

The wordings here are beautiful and the meanings have deep and broad meanings based on humanity. But, are theses been adhered to in the wars and conflicts to the last word is a moot issue, We have a classic example in Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam and many other countries and colonies from the time of the World War one of treatment of victims of civilians affected by the war. These are excellent expectations which are difficult to put in to practice. There are 4 treatises and additional protocol setting standards in treatment of victims of war and protecting of civilians in and around the war zone. and the basic rights of those who are captured during military conflict.

The world is aware that the LTTE was using civilians as a human shield which is a grave crime under International Law and a crime against humanity. The entire world was watching carefully as to how well the civilians were treated in Sri Lanka during the conflict and how carefully they were taken out of the conflict for protection and to safe enclaves, when the LTTE last stages resorted to self destruction. These were civilians who were starving and living in fear amidst the LTTE fighters who are generally ruthless and brain washed by the senior carders. It is amazing to note that until the USA report was prepared specifying a certain period of committing war crimes, neither USA nor any other country ever raised the issue at LTTE of war crimes although Sri Lanka as well as any other countries fell victims of this menace. One of the main reasons is the enormous number of LTTE carders and sympathises who fled the country using various illegal ways and means of entering the western green pastures. Today the immigrants of Sri Lankans in countries such as the EU, USA, Canada and Australia are in millions which are economically and politically powerful. The good news is that these people who are otherwise named as Sri Lankan Diaspora is day by day realizing the truth and look forward to considering Sri Lanka, victorious from war as their motherland, again. For the Diaspora and especially the youngsters cricket and the winning of the war are which is, unbelievable coupled with peace, prosperity and a bright future are the main attractions to attract for Sri Lankans again despite vigorous anti Sri Lankan propaganda worldwide. Areas of attractions to attract Sri Lanka’s world famous natural beauty and the enormous natural resources which are full of culture, historical and modern where the inhabitants are world famous for smile and friendship are attractions of the second and third generations of Diaspora is a good sign for a bright future.

The Geneva Convention applies at times of war and armed conflict to governments who have ratified its terms. Sri Lanka has ratified the convention on 28th February 1959 having signed the instrument on 8th December 1949. Not only Sri Lanka, but 194 countries have ratified the instrument means it has universal application which includes the USA forces who are protected by the Patriotism Act where the armed forces are well protected by the act and these are double standards and amount to throwing stones whilst in glass houses. Instead of appreciating the victory over terrorism and the steps taken for settlement of IDPs which costs billion of billions of rupees and the way in which it is done should be investigated in to by using proper channels. The most sensitive interested and the citizens with a grave feelings for the citizens of the North and East predominantly Tamil and Muslims, are the Indians. The leading Indian politicians who ones criticized having listened to here say information after having spent a number of days in Sri Lanka on the invitation of Sri Lankan President has given a full “Bill of Health” to Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan forces. After visiting Sri Lanka they submitted a fine report to the leaders of the Indian parliament of the excellent treatment offered to the trapped civilians as a result of the war for which the LTTE is responsible for.

Patriotic Act of USA.

Patriotic Act in the USA gives blanket immunity to war crime offenders of the USA where ever they are engaged in war either in US or outside are patriots who are supposed to do no wrong, thereby even those who are supposed to have committed offences will not be prosecuted and enjoys unlimited immunity. USA ironically points the finger at others, especially those countries which are independently trying to stand with no support of the legitimate arms dealers. The arms trade is one of the main lucrative and main sources of income of the Western countries, without which they will face unemployment and economic problems. These are matters that concerns small, but proud developing countries such as Sri Lanka who is a senior member of the United Nation in which the reigns are in the hands of the main contributor of funds the USA and the five main world powers.

Proposal to enact patriotic act in Sri Lanka in line with the USA Patriotic Act .

This is the ideal opportunity in Sri Lanka to enact and pass through a patriotic act in Sri Lanka as a matter of urgency under “Urgent Bills” to give protection and immunity for the war heroes and also the political leaders who gave leadership for the armed forces, who gave the courage to achieve the success of succeeding the bitter war which fought for 30 years in a short span of 2 ½ years. No other party can oppose it as they too are mooting for similar immunity for some war heroes. The USA 72 paged document prepared by here say, e-mail, text messages and fat cat NGOs based on the North and the East and world wide, which accuses the Sri Lankan government. These NGOs await foreign funds by Euros, Pounds and US Dollars. NGOism is one of the most lucrative industries who is trained to snatch the share offered to NGOs for development and maintaining the protection of human rights. Genuine suffers have no access to the sophisticated machinery which is in the hands of few leaders of the industry and they get only a few percentage only at the last stages of drops of treacle.

Sri Lankan war heroes and war crimes.

The moot issue is whether the Sri Lankan armed forces are guilty of war crimes, and also whether it comes within the ambit of the Geneva Convention, International Law and the International Humanitarian mechanism. This is a political and factual issue of treating differently on double standards. The entire length and breadth of the US report is based on unlawfully taken areal images by NGOs, text messages and e-mails and telephone calls from strong LTTE activist backed by the worldwide LTTE network in association with powerful fat cat NGOs. This is a sorry state of affairs yet a true series of events which the Sri Lanka government, the opposition and those who love the country should get together and find a solution for, without which every citizen will be in difficulty as the current revelations are connected to the economy, development and the international relations.

The armed forces cannot be found fault or dealt with the USA report alone, facts must be substantiated based on international standards. The LTTE network is still so strong worldwide that they are able to buy over the individuals and the organizations. It is the time that the Sri Lankan professional and intellectuals will have to be extremely alert, careful and to offer the fullest co-operation to His Excellency the President Mahinda Rjapaksa at this crucial hour.

International Relations.

It is very appropriate on the part of President Rajapaksa. to visit Vietnam and existing member of the Security Council. From 1/1/2009 Austria, Japan, Mexico, Turkey and Uganda will take over the Presidency of the Security Council on a monthly basis. It is time for us to be close help may be required soon in the event of a similar attempt to discredit us. We are pleased and fortunate to have good friends such as USSR and China ever prepared to help and protect us at crucial moments in this scenario. The most probable other avenue to pin us down is that some countries with vested interest may again try to use the Human Rights Committee and the Security Council of the UNO to accuse Sri Lanka of war crimes. It is also sad that they treat LTTE and the Sri Lankan government equally as a result of the infamous cease fire agreement in which the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE the most ruthless terrorist organization were treated on equal terms.

Therefore legally, morally or internationally there is no avenue either for the UN or any other machinery to accuse or deal with Sri Lanka based on Humanitarian Law, International Law or United Nation Mechanism if the Sri Lankan Government is vigilant and takes appropriate steps to protect and counter. It is to the credit of the President Mahinda Rajapaksa who is always acting ahead of others to have visited Vietnam and other important countries which are most appropriate in terms of economy, international law and international relations as much as the visit and meeting of the President Gadafie and leaders of China and many other countries and leaders. His approach on a modern and a unique model of International Relations for Sri Lanka to suite the current International Political Economic trend is excellent. Assistance and the encouragement to the President and Nation by the able Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama is excellent and is it is the duty of every citizen to rally round and strengthen the hands of President Mahinda Rajapaksa for the betterment prosperity and peace of Sri Lanka and the citizens awaiting for a peaceful and prosperous future for the Nation and the Future Generation.

(The Writer is a Senior Solicitor, Attorney- At- law, Chairperson SAARC Centre United Kingdom a former Secretary of the Bar Association and a former Chairman Consumer Affairs Authority.)
-Sri Lanka Guardian