Wednesday, December 23, 2009

AG gives green light to bail journalist Tissainayagam

By Susitha R. Fernando - The Attorney General has informed the Court of Appeal that he has no objection if bail is given to Editor and veteran journalist J. S. Tissainayagam who has been jailed for 20 years rigorous imprisonment by the High Court of Colombo.

J. S. Tissainayagam was convicted on three counts including editing, printing and distributing the publication North Eastern Monthly magazine during the period between June 1, 2006 and June 1, 2007, thus inciting communal disharmony it which were offences punishable under Prevention of Terrorism Act. He was also convicted for collecting money to run the magazine and thereby furtherance of terrorism an offence punishable under Emergency Regulations.

The veteran journalist was arrested on March 7, 2008 when he went to Terrorist Investigation Division to visit his friend Jasiharan and his wife, who had been taken into custody the previous day. There he was arrested and since then he had being in remand.

© Daily Mirror

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Sri Lankan government approves bail for Tissainayagam - The Hindu

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

On Sri Lankan Killings, As Alston Asks Rajapaksas, Why Not UN's Nambiar?

While the UN in New York has been mute about the admission by Sri Lanka's former General Sarath Fonseka of orders by Presidential brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to kill those who sought to surrender, an independent rapporteur for the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva Philip Alston wrote to the government on December 18 formally requesting answers.

If the past is any guide, the Rajapaksa administration will either not provide direct answers, or will issue vituperative denials. It did this in response to video footage depicting Sri Lankan soldiers killing bounded and naked people, footage that has since been authenticated.

So one wonders, given not only the UN's role in the final days of what even it called the "bloodbath on the beach" in Sri Lanka, but especially UN chief of staff Vijay Nambiar's reported role in the deadly surrenders, why Rapporteur Alston has not already demanded answers from the UN itself. Nambiar was present with Ban at the Security Council stakeout on Monday morning.

On December 15, Inner City Press asked the UN spokesman, Martin Nesirky

Inner City Press: John Holmes has appeared on an interview with CNN’s [Christiane] Amanpour, and seemed to confirm that during the final days of the fighting in Sri Lanka, that Vijay Nambiar was telephoned by leaders who sought to surrender, who ended up being killed. So, there is a big controversy right now in Sri Lanka about the charge that the Defence Minister, with whom Mr. Ban has met, gave the orders to kill surrendering prisoners. I wonder if it’s possible, is that… Number one, can you, it’d be good to hear instead from Holmes about Nambiar, or maybe from Mr. Nambiar, but what was the UN’s role in these attempted surrenders? And where does it stand on Mr. Ban’s call for accountability or some type of an outside investigation or panel of inquiry into possible war crimes?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: What Mr. Holmes said yesterday, he speaks for himself in this particular case; of course, I am not going to amplify what he said. He knows what he’s talking about. What I would suggest is that you let me find out some more details and then I can answer you with more certainty.

Inner City Press: All right. Maybe from Mr. Nambiar on some basis, because I think he’s confirmed that he got these calls from people who ended up being killed while waving white flags. So, it seems important to nail down what happened.

Spokesperson Nesirky: Once he’s back in town, we’ll see what we can do.

After that, with Nambiar in Copenhagen ostensibly unreachable by the UN, he gave a quote to the New York Times trashing a former UN official fired for openly blowing the whistle on what he called the UN's cover up of electoral fraud in Afghanistan. So on December 17, Inner City Press again asked

Inner City Press: Earlier this week there was an issue that came up with Mr. Nambiar and his role in the deadly surrender at the end of the Sri Lankan conflict, and you were like, well, when he comes back we’ll talk to him. Clearly he is reachable, apparently, to at least the New York Times. Mr. Nambiar, I mean. Is he in Copenhagen? Is that where he gave those comments?

Spokesperson Nesirky: I will have guidance.

Later, the UN inserted into the transcript an answer -- but not about Nambiar, much less the killings in Sri Lanka:

[The Spokesperson later announced that the reason Peter Galbraith's appointment as Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan was terminated was that the Secretary-General determined that such action would be in the interests of the Organization. Further elaboration would not be appropriate at this time since Mr. Galbraith has chosen to challenge the termination of his appointment.]

Now Alston writes to the Sri Lankan government, but not to the UN's own Vijay Nambiar, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff. Ban Ki-moon will speak before Christmas about Copenhagen. What about extrajudicial killings, and the UN's own role? Watch this site.

Alston's letter to the Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations office at Geneva

18 December 2009


I have the honour to address you in my capacity as Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions pursuant to General Assembly resolution 60/251 and to Human Rights Council resolution 8.3.

I write to your Excellency's Government with regard to the circumstances of the death of three senior representatives of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Mr. Balasingham Nadeshan, Mr. Seevaratnam Pulidevan and Mr. Ramesh, as well as of members of their families, in the night of 17 to 18 May 2009.

According to information I have received:

On 17 May 2009, the day before your Excellency's Government announced that its forces had completely defeated the LTTE. Messrs, Nadeshan, Pulidevan and Ramesh were trapped with other senior cadres of the LTTE in a small area north of Vellamullivaikkal. Through intermediaries they sought to establish contact with your Excellency's Government to inquire how they could surrender to the Sri Lanka Army (SLA). The reply, coming from the Secretary of Defence in your Excellency's Government and from a Members of Parliament who is at the same time a senior adviser to the President, and conveyed through the intermediaries, was that they should walk towards the positions of the SLA in a way that made their intentions clear and holding a white cloth. The Commander of the SLA 58th Brigade, the unit on the front line with the last LTTE position, however, received a telephone call from the Secretary of Defence instructing him to order his forces to shoot those surrendering. When Messrs. Nadeshan, Pulidevan and Ramesh walked towards the SLA positions carrying white cloths in the first hours of 18 May 2009, soldiers opened fire on them and killed them. An unspecified number of family members of the three men were killed as well.

These allegations were made by the Commander of the Sri Lanka Army at the time of the events and subsequent Chief of Defence Staff (now retired) General Gardihewa Sarath Chandralal Fonseka, in an interview to the newspaper The Sunday Leader. The accounts of journalists embedded with the SLA 58th Brigade confirm some of the alleged circumstances of the death of Messrs. Nadeshan, Pulidevan and Ramesh and their families.

While I do not wish to prejudge the accuracy of these reports, I would like to refer your Excellency's Government to fundamental legal rules applicable to all armed conflicts under international humanitarian law and human rights law.

Common Article 5 (applicable to armed conflict not of an international character) of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, to which your Excellency's Government is a party, dictates that "[p]ersons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely [....]". To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at anytime and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons: (a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds".

Similarly, an authoritative study of customary international humanitarian law finds that attacking and killing persons who are recognized as hors de combat is prohibited. Persons hors de combat include anyone who clearly expresses an intention to surrender, provided he or she abstains from any hostile act and does not attempt to escape (Rule 47 0f the Customary Rules of International Humanitarian Law identified in the study of the International Committee of the Red Cross).

It is my responsibility under the mandate provided to me by the Human Rights Council to seek to clarify all cases brought to my attention. Since I am expected to report on the death of Messrs. Nadeshan, Pulidevan and Ramesh, as well as of the members of their families, I would be grateful for the cooperation and observations of your Excellency's Government. In particular in relation to the following questions:

1. Are the allegations summarized above accurate, If not so, please share the information and documents proving their inaccuracy.

2. What information does your Excellency's Government have on the family members of Messrs. Nadeshan, Pulidevan and Ramesh allegedly killed on 18 May 2009.

3. Please refer to the results of my military, police, judicial and other inquiry or investigation carried out in relation to the allegations summarized above.

I undertake to ensure that your Excellency's Government's response to each of these questions is accurately reflected in the report I will submit to the Human Rights Council for its consideration.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Philip Alston
Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions

© Inner City Press

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sri Lanka refugees may lose voting rights -monitors

By Ranga Sirilal - Many of Sri Lanka's war refugees may be unable to vote in January polls, the first national election after the government's crushing defeat of separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in May, election monitors said on Monday.

That could provide a fresh grievance for the country's mostly Hindu ethnic Tamil minority, many of whom believe the Buddhist Sinhalese majority has a habit of discriminating against them.

Administrative obstacles and a lack of proper procedures for those in camps to register could mean nearly all of the more than 300,000 war refugees, who are overwhelmingly Tamil, will be unable to vote in the Jan. 26 presidential poll, independent election monitors said.

"Up to 95 percent of IDP's might be deprived of their voting rights at the presidential elections as a proper mechanism has not been in place," one of the monitors, Keerthi Thennakoon of the Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE), told Reuters.

But he added that "if the elections commissioner acts swiftly he can rectify the mistakes" before the election.

Over 280,000 ethnic minority Tamils fled their homes due to intense fighting between the Tamil Tiger rebels and the military during the last phase of the 25-year civil war, which effectively ended on May 18 with the killing of top separatist leaders. They joined tens of thousands who fled earlier.

Officials say 70 percent of the war refugees have relocated from the main military guarded camps and thousands of others are being allowed to come and go from the camps where they have been held since the end of the war.

The government has faced pressure from foreign countries and aid and rights groups to speed up resettlement of the thousands of Tamils displaced by war. However, many of those who have left the camps have not returned to the original residences where they would normally vote.

Election officials says voter registries are up to date and refugees will be allowed to cast their vote, if they apply in advance.

"We are setting up special polling booths for people in camps to vote but people who are displaced from their original place of registration have to apply for voting in their present location," Assistant Elections Commissioner for the northern district of Vavuniya A.S. Karunanidhi told Reuters.

However, independent election monitors said there was no proper voter education process to tell refugees where they can vote, how to register and how they can apply for a temporary identity card, nor is it yet clear how the refugee ballot boxes will be identified and located.

Tamils make up almost 12 percent of the Indian Ocean island nation's population of 21 million. In past elections the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who led the losing battle for an independent Tamil state, discouraged Tamils from going to the polls. This time they could emerge as a key swing vote.

The refugees' situation has been a political issue since the war's end, and increasingly so in the weeks since former army commander General Sarath Fonseka said he would challenge incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the January ballot where some 14 million Sri Lankans are expected to choose from among 22 candidates.

Rajapaksa and Fonseka are considered far out in front of the rest of the field.

Whoever wins will need to reach out to the Tamil minority to avoid new unrest among the group, political analysts say, but going too far could antagonise Sinhalese nationalists whose support is needed in parliament for an effective government.

© Reuters

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tamil doctor files Rights petition in Sri Lanka Supreme Court

Click here to read the email which cost Dr.Vallipuranathan his job

The Supreme Court Monday granted leave to proceed with the fundamental rights violation petition filed by a Tamil medical officer, S.Murali, against his interdiction on his alleged comments made on the conditions in the internment camps which the Sri Lanka Government said "had brought disrepute on the Government of Sri Lanka." The petitioner had been serving as an Acting Consultant Community Physician of the Health Care & Nutrition Ministry at that time of interdiction.

Further hearing into the petition has been fixed for March 31, 2009 by a three member bench of the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice Asoka de Silva, Justices Nihal Gamini Amaratunga and P.A.Ratnaike.

The petitioner cited Preliminary Inquiry Officer A.U. K.Wanniarachchi and Director S.L.A. Navarathan of the Investigation and Flying Squad Unit of the Health Ministry, Director General of Health Services U.A. Mendis, Ministry Secretary H.A. Kahandaliyanage, Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and the Attorney General as respondents.

The petitioner has been seeking the court to declare the interdiction an alleged infringement of his fundamental rights to equality and equal protection of the law as well as the freedom of speech and expression, and to order for his reinstatement.

The petitioner was told that a preliminary inquiry was being conducted regarding an email in which he expressed a personal opinion in a reply e-mailed to Dr Chrishantha Abeysena, whose original email forwards a link to a webpage.

The Petitioner maintained that the comments were made in good faith and he never intended to bring disrepute to the government as stated in the interdiction letter, according to the submissions made by the counsel for the petitioner in the court.

Counsel M.A.Sumanthiran with Ermiza Tegal instructed by Mohan Balendra appeared for Petitioner Dr Murali.

© Tamil Net

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Tamil doctor on the mat for expressing private opinion - Lakbima News

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

UN asks Sri Lanka to answer new war crime charges

The United Nations has asked Sri Lanka to explain allegations by a former army general that surrendering Tamil rebel leaders were killed in cold blood in mid-May, the government said on Monday.

The presidency in Colombo said the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston, sought explanations on what had happened to three rebel leaders and their families who wanted to surrender.

"The government is making a careful study of the UN Rapporteur?s letter, prior to a formal response, and any action that may be necessary," the president's office said in a statement.

Two weeks ago, former army chief Sarath Fonseka said that he had been informed by a state media reporter that the defence minister, who is also the president's brother, had wanted all surrendering rebels wiped out.

Sri Lanka recently staved off attempts by Western nations to launch a UN war crimes probe into the country's 37-year ethnic conflict that ended in May when the leaders of the Tamil Tiger rebels were killed in a major offensive.

A Russian and Chinese veto at the UN torpedoed attempts to launch an investigation, but the new allegations could strengthen the case to bring Colombo before a tribunal.

The UN estimates that up to 7,000 civilians died in the final stages of the war. This figure is disputed by the government.

Alston said in his letter, a copy of which was released by the president's office, that he wanted clarifications to keep the UN Human Rights Council informed.

The government has accused Fonseka, who was in charge of the army during the final stages of the war, of "betraying" the country and making the statement for political reasons ahead of presidential elections on January 26.

Fonseka, 59, is challenging his former boss, President Mahinda Rajapakse, 64, who is seeking re-election. Fonseka has agreed to face any investigation, while Rajapakse insists he will not allow any war crimes probe.

On May 19, Sri Lankan authorities showed on television the body of Tiger supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran, a day after claiming that he was killed in a gunbattle along with a dozen other senior military cadres.

Three Tiger political wing leaders who were arranging his surrender were shot dead on May 17. The government at the time said they may have been killed by the guerrillas themselves.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, had been in telephone contact with a number of guerrillas to arrange their surrender, according to diplomats.

The government had assured Nambiar that surrendering rebels would be safe.

Fonseka said he had learnt only after the war that senior Tiger rebels had used foreign mediators to organise a plan in which they would carry white flags and give themselves up.

The UN estimates that up to 100,000 people were killed in the civil war which began in 1972 when the Tamil Tigers first took up arms.


Related Links:
UN questions government on Fonseka’s allegations - Daily Mirror

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