| by Robinhood
( April 12, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) On the 27th of March 2014 there was a new era opened for Sri Lanka. That is the post Geneva Era. The signs of these posts Geneva Era are that the Human Rights character of Sri Lanka would be taken upon for an international inquiry by the UNHRC. There is no other higher organization found who can investigate these crimes. These types of inquires are held for a country under special situation and circumstance.
Although the Geneva Era has a long history towards Sri Lanka, a starting and a decisive juncture was in the year 2009. During the year in May the European Council presented a resolution in the UNHRC about Sri Lanka. That was the first resolution brought in the UNHRC with reference to accountability in the war.
The 12th statement in the resolution stated that “considering the importance of ending the impunity, allegations against violating of Human Rights and international humanitarian laws, should be investigated according to the international standards and prosecute the offenders thereby urging the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) to prevent such recurrence in the future.
Denying the allegation and adopting the resolution with the concurrence of the GOSL there was no swearing taken to investigate and prosecute the offenders for whatever the Human Rights abuses happened. The resolution which praised the president’s statement that war was not the final solution but a political solution would be granted certifying to legislate the 13th amendment and its full function.
The resolution which was adopted after five years on 27th March 2014 included a broad and an explicit paragraph about accountability in the resolution adopted by the European Union in 2009.
In post independent Sri Lanka copious Human Rights violation and political violence has been a part since 1971. However during 1971, 1983 and 1988-89 period brazen Human Rights abuses were swept under the carpet without meeting justice. The crimes committed by state forces against the rebels and mankind was not investigated, reviewed, inquired nor were lessons learnt socialized but only rebels were prosecuted despite killings. Thousands of killings committed by both parties were not convicted but exploited. An impression of “In order to combat a civil war we can commit endless crimes” was silently implied, generalized and rooted within the hearts and minds of the people. As a Singhalese living in the south of Sri Lanka didn’t we witness these deadly horrendous crimes in 1983 and during 1988/89 periods?
Post Geneva Era is a moment that these belated and buried state crimes are internationally exploded. This would be numerically implementing the justice for the young men and women killed during 1971 and 88/89 era.
The amount of killings committed by the government forces and the LTTE should not be yet another resemblance of crimes committed in 88/89 where dead bodies found without heads and heads displayed without bodies time to time. Evidences of these horrendous crimes against humanity should be recorded and justified. On the 26th March 2013 emphasizing the importance of an international investigation of Human Rights violation during the war Ms. Navi Pille issued the following statement. At a time where five years has elapsed after the end of the war the Human Rights council emphasize the importance to remember the depth of monumental crimes and the allegations of Human Rights abuses committed by the government and the LTTE which caused thousands of civilian deaths, people injured, disabled and disappeared during the war. There will be no confidence in reconciliation if the government fails to address the agony of the people affected and saved their lives in the war. She further added new witnesses are revealed and they are willing to give evidences if an international inquiry is held.
Manifesting their support for the High Commissioners report and for the resolution against Sri Lanka the western countries and the nongovernmental organization raising a question asked what is the progress gained in the post democracy in Sri Lanka after the war. By legislating the 18th amendment the independent commissions have become commissions of the executive president. They questioned lied how the international community can trust the credibility of an independent Human Rights investigation in a country where the independence of the judiciary is undermined by impeaching the Chief Justice without a fair trial.
During this session new evidences collected between the terror periods of 2005 – 2009 and before were presented to the Human Rights council creating decisive changes. This war was a consequence of an armed conflict initiated as a result of an ethnic minority community living in a territory facing immense inequity for a long period. The war had an ethnic inclusion and the Tamil people’s struggle has gained an international dimension during the time. Hundreds of Tamil organization representatives met the ambassadors and clarified their points. Amid those presented Tamil National Alliance (TNA) able to highlight their viewpoints more than others. Parliament MP’s Mavei Senadirajah, M. Sumandiran, Suresh Premachandran, Selvam Adaikalanadan and Shridaran were amongst who were presented for the session. During the final discussion with respect to the high commissioners report about Sri Lanka there was a joint communiqué held with the leadership of Mavei Senadirajah. During the communiqué he asserted that TNA would give their utmost support for the resolution and urged the member states to cast their votes in favour of the resolution. While the session was in progress the involvement of TNA was a deciding factor and able to turn the session in favour of the resolution. The leadership was hosted by MP. M Sumandiran.
However there were few Tamil organizations and politicians who criticized the resolution. Representing a nongovernmental organization Gajendra Kumar Ponnambalam Addressing the session said the Sri Lankan Tamil community needs an interim administration under an international observation. He asserted that this resolution was solely tabled for the necessity of the American geo politics needs but not to fulfill the aspirations of the Tamil population living in Sri Lanka. During the session and during the series of meetings held many Tamil organizations accused that US and Britain should bear responsibilities for the genocide committed against the Tamil population in Sri Lanka.
Though it was not in existence in 1971 and 88/89 terror period but by 2005 it was developed to a factor with a wide acknowledgment created that the United Nations should interfere if there is any international humanitarian laws are violated in any internal civil conflicts. The impact of this was strong during the final phase of the war. During the last UNHR council session much information’s intervened to Sri Lanka was featured and the responsibility of the United Nations too was stressed. During the conflict in Sri Lanka there was a report presented to the UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon stating that the UN failed to bear the responsibility of protecting the people during the conflict in Sri Lanka.
By the way, this war was raged in the presence of many witnessing devices such as digital cameras and mobile phones. There were opportunities to transfer live video clips via internet. Even satellite images of the final disaster were taken and presented to the UNHRC. Though we didn’t see live killings of the rebels by government forces we saw hundreds of such killings in 88-89 periods. Now similar evidences (video clips) of such killings remains with the UNHRC. During this session Callum Mcrae of Channel 4 submitted such evidences to the council. Captured LTTE women cadre’s who were shot and stripped naked or stripped naked and later shot, nude corpses of female cadre’s who were sexually abused were visible in those videos.
In 1971 female cadres of JVP were stripped naked and soda bottles were inserted into their genitals by the police and government forces. During a parallel meeting in the session a Singhalese human rights activist said during this war, LTTE women cadres were stripped naked and sexual abused was a result of not prosecuting similar crimes happened in the past. The context of crimes committed by both parties cannot be hidden. However the ethnic face of the war, the responsibility of the United Nations, the recording of crimes and the modern technology is few of those contexts.
In the resolution tabled in the Human Rights Council in 2009 an acceptable internal domestic inquiry for the Human Rights abuses happened during the war was urged. The Sri Lankan government failed to acknowledge to such an inquiry. By simply refusing to such an inquiry the reality cannot be undermined. The resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council with respect of Sri Lankan government’s reconciliation, accountability and promotion of Human Rights depicts such truths.
Conferring why the proposed investigation in the resolution about possible allegation of Human Rights violation should be an international inquiry is puerile. If the inquiry is not domestic it has to be an international inquiry. A one year time frame would be provided for the inquiry. UN special representatives and residual special delegates would be assisting the inquiry. It is expected a scholar who is knowledgeable about Sri Lanka and who has already directed such an inquiry would be appointed to lead the investigation.
In order to obtain an international investigation and contribution to certain activities Professor Nimalka Fernando made an outstanding role representing the civil societies. She headed two parallel meetings relevant to Sri Lanka’s Human Rights situation and in two occasions addressed the Human Rights Council and urged the necessity for an international inquiry. She warned due to this resolution Sri Lankan government would face immense pressure and if it fails to cooperate in line with the resolution there would be egregious consequence in future. According to her statement one consequence would be that Sri Lanka would be isolated in the Human Rights Council. She asserted that this resolution will impact not only to the North of Sri Lanka but this would help the South of Sri Lanka to protect Human Rights and to promote good governance.
The time frame given for the international inquiry is relevant to the time frame given in the LLRC appointed by president Rajapaksa. The LLRC commission exceeded its legal boundary an investigated the current Human Rights abuses. It is expected the appointing UN commission would inquire its investigation from February 2002 to end of 2011. There are strong evidences up to now. The reported film given by Channel 4 is outstanding evidence. Evidences about sexual abuses are produced by Yesmic Sooka of the Human Rights Watch and few domestic organizations. Comprehensive reports about specific crimes such as the killings of five students in Trincomalee and the killing of 13 aid workers in Muthoor are framed ready. During the session in a parallel meeting senior doctor who was working in the Vanni during the war Dr. Varadarajah said that he would be willing to give evidence as a witness in an international commission is held. There is no doubt that his evidence would be a stronger one. The evidence produced during the Darusman committee made by Ban Ki Moon too is contributed to this. There are unofficial reports that Sri Lankan military officials too would be within the witnesses.
Names of LTTE leaders who recruited child soldiers too are included in the report. Bomb explosions triggered by the LTTE in civilian busses in the south too would be inquired. Taking the trapped civilians as human shields too is a war crime.
The main challenge of this inquiry is not only creating a war crime report but to ascertain who is accountable for these crimes with credible evidences. There is a “chain of command” theory which would be taken as a tool. That means to theoretically inquiry who has given the commands for such war crimes?
After this inquiry there would be post inquiry implemented. There is much precedence in the HRC on how the investigation is done, how it would be concluded and how the post inquiry would be implemented. Let’s talk about it on another time.
Robinhood – Defending the rights of the war affected