Header Ads

 New website available at www.slguardian.org

Will CHOGM mitigate convenient amnesia of war crimes

| by Pearl Thevanayagam

(October 01, 2013 London, Sri Lanka Guardian) The time is now ripe to remind the government that there is no escaping UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council) and possible indictment by the ICC (International Criminal Court) following UNHRC High Commissioner Ms Navi Pillai’s fact-finding mission in Sri Lanka this month. ICC has incarcerated many African leaders including the former president of Ivory Coast Laurent Gbagbo for war crimes and Slobodan Milosevic of former Yugoslavia in Hague. Ironically his wife who is also under trial is pleading for exoneration of war crimes.

These should send a warning signal to the present government of Sri Lanka that its war crimes do not go un-noticed despite its sending emissaries to the four corners of the world that it ended three decades or more of LTTE terrorism. 

There is simply no way out and white-washing war crimes does not cut much ice when the island is up for world scrutiny over its horrendous onslaught tantamount to genocide on the Tamil ethnic minority in the final thrust of the government military forces in Wanni in 2008/2009. 

Hosting CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting), holding local elections for the first time in decades in the Northern Province where the Tamil predominant party TNA (Tamil National Alliance) won with a majority and showing the world it acted democratically have to take back seat to the grave and gross violations of human rights in this under-reported part of the world. 

This government cannot escape from its war crimes against its legitimate ethnic Tamil minority. Please do not tell the surviving Tamils who suffered in the war they should let bygones be bygones. Having said that, Tamils certainly do not want to carve out a separate state in this minuscule island. All they ask for is parity and dignity failing which self-governance including police and land powers.

Just a few days ago a Sri Lankan family who were forcibly made to board the plane to be deported back to Sri Lanka managed to get an emergency injunction and their departure stopped.

There are many horrendous reports in the UK of those victims of war who recount tales of torture, rape, abduction and murders by the government security forces during the final stages of the war.

UNHRC only needs to contact UK solicitors for bona fide accounts of these crimes.

To jog the memory of convenient amnesiacs this writer reproduces an article published in Sri Lanka Guardian.

Sri Lanka is next in line

| by Pearl Thevanayagam

(December 02, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Former President of Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, is now on trial at the ICC (International Criminal Court) facing four charges of crimes against humanity committed by his camp as recently as between December 2010 and April 2011 since he refused to concede victory to his contender in November 2010 presidential elections. The charges against the President and his camp are murder, rape, sexual violence, persecution and other inhuman acts.

Gbagbo ruled over the African state for 10 years and the charges the ICC is currently bringing against him and five others relate only to election violence since November 2010. However his rule was beset with `economic crimes' such as looting, armed robbery and embezzlement and is being investigated by Ivorian justice officials.

A noteworthy and unique position the state has is that it is not accepted by the ICC among its 192 members but Ivorian officials willingly handed him over to the ICC when requested to do so by the ICC prosecutor.

Therefore the development in Ivory Coast is a warning signal to Sri Lanka and it cannot ignore international eyes and particularly the UN whose actions are unpredictable and answerable to all its member states. At one point UN appeared to be pussyfooting on the issue of war crimes during the latter stages of the three decade old war and Tamils were vexed by its lethargy. The relationship between the UN and ICC are intertwined and of this fact there is no dispute.

By May 2012 Sri Lanka could become the ninth country to face ICC when UN decides on the course of action to take against it, should the evidence gathered so far for war crimes were proved to be bona fide. None other than the UN Secretary General, the ultimate authority, Ban-Ki-Moon's presentation of report on Sri Lanka's conduct of the war would be carefully scrutinised along with independent INGO reports.

Countries which the ICC launched in 2002 is conducting investigations, charging leaders or have already been charged and brought to trial are Uganda, DR Congo, Central African Republic, Darfur, Libya, Kenya and Ivory Coast and Serbia.

The UN and the international community eagerly await the LLRC (Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission) report, a domestic fact finding mechanism, instigated by the government in the wake of damning evidence emerging from war witnesses and victims of torture and families of those disappeared between 2008 and 2009 when war intensified.

Although the LLRC has forwarded its report to the President, its mandate stipulated by the President does not require it to be made public.

INGOs such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Internatinal Crisis Group have raised serious concerns over LLRC's transparency and accountability and there is grave suspicion it is an eye-wash and a futile exercise in providing redress to war victims.

Defence Secretary and the President's brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has gone on record as saying that Sri Lanka is quite capable of dealing with any misconduct of its security forces during the war internally and that it is not a matter for outsiders. It is a fact that Sri Lanka is a member of the UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council) and in May 2012 it is the turn of Sri Lanka to be reviewed under UNHRC's Universal Periodic Review which occurs every four years for its 192 member states.

Confounding the government's attempt to exonerate itself from the serious allegation infamously known as the White Flag Case where surrendering civilians were ordered by Gotabhaya to be shot point blank is the further court sentencing of the former Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka who led the security forces in vanquishing the LTTE thereby ending over three decades of terrorism for three years. General Fonseka is purported to have disclosed to a journalist that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa gave orders to shoot surrendering civilians in Wanni.

His sin was daring to contest President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the 2010 presidential elections. Further he is on trumped up charges for engaging his relative in procuring arms from Hicorp, a US arms trader. Ironically it is the President's brother and Defence Secretary, a US citizen, Gotabhaya who had direct dealings with Hicorp.

Too many cans of worms are crawling out of the cupboard that even Bell Pottinger, the upmarket and horribly expensive advertising firm hired by the government, cannot unleash its copywriters to erase the indelible stain on the government's shady deals.

The world is not blind to the fact that media and humanitarian NGOs were barred from the theatre of war in the name of that euphemism `national security' since war intensified.

UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council) was created through the General Assembly on 15 March 2006 by resolution 60/251 replacing the Human Rights Commission which proved ineffective and by 2011 had reviewed all 192 member states under Universal Periodic Review. Each state will be reviewed every four years and Sri Lanka’s second session of the review is due in May 2012 since it was first reviewed in 2008. Therefore the UNSG commissioned report presented to the Council to make its own decision should be taken seriously as a step towards making the State accountable to its alleged war crimes and if found guilty take appropriate action against the State to ensure these are addressed and justice meted out.

The INGOs (International Non-governmental Organisations) which are largely funded by philanthropists and businesses and to some extent by governments are compelled to show results for grants received before the financial year ends in March 2012. Hence they are busy wrapping up reports gathering intelligence, revisiting war zones and in the case of Sri Lanka giving the final touch to the largest international investigation in its history into the deaths of well over 40,000 civilians in Wanni and the conduct of both the LTTE, the Tamil separatist guerrillas fighting for a traditional homeland in the North and East for the ethnic Tamils perceived to be victimised by the majority Sinhala government, and the government in fighting to a finish, a bloody and merciless ethnic war which lasted for well over three decades.

The West failed to intervene in the massacre of Tamil civilians since it was largely reeling from Islamic militancy since the nineties but mostly it also provided arms, ammunition and intelligence along with Sri Lanka's neighbours India and Pakistan and sympathisers Russia and China.

On the other hand Tamil refugees who began their exodus since the bloody ethnic riots of July 1983 have grown in significant numbers to swing votes for western political parties and hence part of its concern other than humanitarian is attributed to the fact their votes are crucial and they it should be seen to be showing sympathy towards ethnic Tamils still living in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka has an uphill task to placate the international community that its war on Tamil separatist rebels was justified and the massacre of over 40,000 civilians earned itself a reputation as ending terrorism on its own soil which super powers such as the US and UK should emulate.

The frogs at Diyawanna Oya should swim out of the river and see for themselves there is a whole universe out there and take Ivory Coast as a warning signal.

(The writer has been a journalist for 24 years and worked in national newspapers as sub-editor, news reporter and news editor. She was Colombo Correspondent for Times of India and has contributed to Wall Street Journal where she was on work experience from The Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley, California. Currently residing in UK she is also co-founder of EJN (Exiled Journalists Network) UK in 2005 the membership of which is 200 from 40 countries. She can be reached at pearltheva@hotmail.com)

Powered by Blogger.