TGTE renews its call for an international independent investigation on Sri Lanka!

February 14, 2012

A fundamental difference has prevailed in the international community between the powerful governments on the one hand and the civil society on the other on the question of how to deal with alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and its armed forces in the final phase of the civil war there. Rights based civil society organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and International Crisis Group have clearly taken the position that the Sri Lankan State has neither the willingness nor the capacity to investigate its own crime, and based on that these organizations refused to participate or give evidence as witnesses at the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) sittings.

In contrast, several of the governments have been encouraging the Sri Lankan State while applying minimal pressure towards carrying out its own inquiry on alleged crimes committed by the very same State. Now, when the LLRC Report is finally released, we observe the same kind of differences; whereas the civil society sections of the international community rejected the Report, some prominent governments not only acknowledged but also welcomed the recommendations contained in the report, while pointing out its failure to address issues of crimes against humanity and war crime accountability. It is in this context that we have to see yesterday’s announcement coming from the US.

The dismal failure in the position taken by the US and several other governments to address the crucial issue of justice is a source of grave disappointment to the Tamils. At the same time, this does not come as a total surprise to us. During the final stages of the war, according to the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts Report, more than 40,000 people died. According to the Bishop of Mannar, Rev Rayappu Joseph, more than 146,000 Tamil people remain unaccounted for. The Dublin People’s Tribunal found that “the attempt to annihilate the Tamil population with or without the use of illegal weapons certainly constitutes one form of war crime. The question remains if the government intended genocide in respect of the Tamil people in brutally suppressing armed and political resistance.” Despite serious warnings from people like the former Australian Foreign Minister, Gareth Evans, the international community, and especially the United Nations, abandoned the Tamil people and with it also its own doctrine of Responsibility To Protect.

Today, again, the world’s governments are disregarding their moral and legal obligations by focusing exclusively on Sri Lanka’s own LLRC Report, which has been rejected outright not only by the Tamil people as evidenced by the statements of the TNA, the elected representatives of the Tamil people inside the island of Sri Lanka, and the Tamil Diaspora, but also by reputable international organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and International Crisis Group. Even the US Government, in its latest press release, acknowledged that the LLRC Report has not covered the War Crimes allegations in sufficient detail. The South African Foreign Ministry in its statement released last week said that the LLRC Report “should have addressed in more detail the question of holding those people responsible for human rights violations to account.” We also hold the view that if the Government of Sri Lanka is permitted to adopt the view as propounded by the LLRC that whatever happened in the final stages of war are isolated incidents, then it would be tantamount to providing the Government of Sri Lanka with an escape channel from the serious charges of international crimes leveled in the Secretary-General’s Expert Panel Report.

It would be a fallacy to imagine that the very power structure which stands accused of these heinous crimes will now begin a process to bring its own members to justice. Therefore, we perceive the leading governments’ choice to focus exclusively on the LLRC Report amounting to an attempt to derail the mounting international clamor for formal international investigations on Sri Lanka.

If these international actors are bent on giving the GOSL one further chance, they can, while focusing on the LLRC Report, also bring up a resolution at the forthcoming UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) calling for the establishment of an international investigation on Sri Lanka. In fact, that has precisely been what the Panel of Experts of the UN Secretary General has recommended. The Expert Panel in its recommendations stated that the GOSL should initiate an effective accountability process. At the same time, it recommended that the UN Secretary-General should also proceed to establish an independent investigation mechanism. For the Expert Panel, it was not a question of one or the other mechanism but of both to bring about accountability in relation to crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the final phases of the war. In fact, we believe that the two mechanisms would complement each other if they are executed in good faith.

Therefore, we are calling upon the mandate holders of the UN HRC to pass a resolution at the March sessions in Geneva for the establishment of an international investigation on international crimes in Sri Lanka. In view of the criticisms of the LLRC’s Report by international civil society that we have seen, it is also our desire that such an international commission of investigation should be given the mandate to examine if all the assertions of the LLRC are verifiable or not.

Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran
TGTE Prime Minister

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