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International mechanisms set in motion to probe war crimes

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The nakedness of the ruling regime is on public domain and no amount of denial can stop the Exposure of the Century of War Crimes committed by the State on its own population.
by Pearl Thevanayagam

(July 04, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) As Channel 4 video footage of alleged human rights abuses by the government security forces is poised to be telecast by ABC in Australia today, even its aboriginies would learn there is this island in the Indian Ocean not very far from their birthplace which is accused of committing horrendous war crimes and Sri Lanka would forever go down in history as a once peaceful nation turned Killing Fields of the 21st century.

The video only emphasises and reiterates the Darusman Report assigned by the UNSG Ban Ki Moon which clearly implicates the government of gross human rights abuses of point-blank killings of those civilians and LTTE cadres who surrendered on the orders of the government which urged them to come out of Mullivaikkal with white flags, rape and torture of detainees in detention camps and photographing on mobile phones of stripping naked and shooting of civilians and LTTE cadres while gloating over their horrendous feats in doing so.

The nakedness of the ruling regime is on public domain and no amount of denial can stop the Exposure of the Century of War Crimes committed by the State on its own population.

The international barriers to interfering in a nation’s internal affairs is rapidly crumbling as is seen in the recent Arab uprisings by angered civilians and descending of international defence forces or peace-keeping missions to maintain stability and bring justice to the common people. No more could leaders bury their heads in the sand hiding behind the veneer of sovereignty and territorial integrity while subjugating its people and violating their fundamental human rights.

The two main global mechanisms applicable to Sri Lanka’s situation are the UN and Commonwealth and one can add US’s dominance over Sri Lanka’s affairs since it holds the key to the island’s economic empowerment through IMF and the World Bank although the latter two are UN’s financial arms but in reality dictated to by the US.

The UN and Commonwealth, although two separate international bodies, have much more in common with their objectives vis-a-vis responsibilities towards member states. The Harare Commonwealth Declaration issued on October 20, 1991 during the 12th CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) is an improvement on the Singapore Declaration of 1971 and is recognised as the most important instrument to the Commonwealth’s uncodified constitution.

The Singapore Declaration committed the Commonwealth to world peace and support for the United Nations, individual liberty and egalitarianism, opposition to racism and colonialism, eradication of poverty, ignorance, disease and economic disparity, free trade, institutional co-operation, multilateralism and last but not least the rejection of international coercion.

The most important amendment in the Harare Declaration is the removal of a reference to the opposition to international coercion. Whereas the Singapore Declaration implied that not even the Commonwealth itself had any right to enforce its other core values as they could only be enforced by using coercive powers, Harare Declaration resolved this issue by clarifying the Millbrook Commonwealth Action Programme which clearly mandated the Commonwealth to concern itself with its member states’ internal situations.

However, a leaked document in October 2010 revealed the Secretary General instructing his staff not to tread on Human Rights issues of its member states.

In an exchange of emails between this writer and Gareth Thomas MP who recently joined the Inter-Parliamentary Committee for Tamils in the House of Commons UK he opined that he would be systematically raising the issues of war crimes.

Be that as it may, obtained exclusively by Sri Lanka Guardian, Alastair Burt, the Commonwealth Minister in charge of Sri Lanka, is on record responding to Harrow West MP (Labour) Gareth Thomas who raised Sri Lanka’s abysmal record of war crimes and other injustices such as extra-judicial killings, and detention of prisoners without trial and legal representation, suppression of freedom of expression among others (PS:Yesterday’s report in Sri Lanka Guardian, Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields) thus: In recent years, the Commonwealth has been accused of not being vocal enough on its core values. Allegations of a leaked memo from the Secretary General instructing staff not to speak out on human rights were published in October 2010.[73]

Nevertheless the pressure on member states to remedy and atone for their abuses of human rights is mounting and the walls of legal recourse are closing in on states violating them.

The roles of the UN Security Council and the International Court of Justice which is primary judicial organ of the UN have many ifs and buts since Sri Lanka is not party to UNSC’s resolutions under Article 25 which allows it to make binding decisions for member countries.

But the ICJ is functionally independent of the UN in terms of financing and personnel and it can adjudicate dispute among states. The ICJ has heard cases related to war crimes, illegal state interference and ethnic cleansing among others and continues to hear cases.

Sri Lanka’s hue and cry over Channel 4 videos that they were doctored is a pathetic swan song of a dying man. The evidence is out there that war crimes were committed. The video is doing its circuit worldwide and no more can the government distance itself from accountability for war crimes against Tamils.

There are positive signs the government will stand trial for war crimes and it is about time the succeeding powers start addressing seriously the ethnic issue dogging the country for well over six decades. Or else a more virulent outbreak of insurgency with the co-operation of international powers cannot be ruled out.

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