Monday, December 19, 2011

Sri Lankan army commanders 'assassinated surrendering Tamils'

By Alex Spillius and Emanuel Stoakes | The Telegraph

Sri Lankan army commanders were ordered by the country's leaders to assassinate surrendering Tamils in the final phase of the long and brutal civil war, according to a senior former military officer.

The claims are contained in a sworn deposition, seen by The Daily Telegraph, made by a career officer who rose to the rank of major general before he fled the country in fear of his life to seek asylum in the United States.

He is the highest ranking person to assert that atrocities against Tamil rebels and civilians were sanctioned at the highest echelons of the government. The source had the highest security clearance and close contact with some of the army's most powerful figures.

His testimony contradicted a government-appointed commission, which concluded that Sri Lanka's military did not intentionally target civilians.

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission report, which was released last week, said some isolated allegations of civilian abuses by security forces needed to be investigated further, suggesting that any violations could only have resulted from soldiers who were not following orders.

That assertion flew in the face of an extensive United Nations report that accused the government of deliberately shelling civilian areas and possibly killing tens of thousands of people in the final months.

In his deposition, the major general says that he was informed that Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the defence secretary and brother of President Mahindra Rajapaksa, passed on "some instructions to a field commander to get rid of those LTTE [Tamil Tiger] cadres [who] are surrendering without adhering to normal procedures".

Such an order, he said, "should come from either the secretary of the defence, with the knowledge of the president involved. He also has to be kept informed. The commanders could not undertake such decisions."

It has been estimated that 20,000 people or more died in the closing months of the civil war in 2009.

The source, whose name has been withheld for his own safety, confirmed that assassinating Tamil Tigers who had been captured or surrendered became "standard operating procedure" as the Sri Lankan military forces closed in on the last rebel resistance on a strip of land on the island's northeastern coast. Tamil activists are hoping that the evidence provided by the officer will build pressure for a war crimes prosecution against the president or defence secretary.

The US Department of Justice has a live file on the issue but has yet to prosecute, despite a leaked cable written by the US ambassador to Colombo which said that "responsibility for many alleged crimes rests with the country's senior civilian and military leadership", including both Rajapaksas and Gen Sarath Fonseka, then the armed forces commander.

American human rights lawyers are seeking to prosecute the defence secretary under the US Torture Victim Protection Act, which allows prosecutions against foreign leaders and officials who commit torture or extra-judicial killings.

Bruce Fein, a human rights lawyer, said that the alleged actions of Sri Lanka's rulers and commanders appeared to be genocide.

"It's hard to come to conclusion that the aim wasn't to destroy the Tamil people in whole or substantial part," he said, citing the definition of genocide under international law.

A video obtained by Channel 4 purported to show the assassination of what were thought to be Tamil rebels. The Sri Lankan army labelled the video as a fabrication. Other witnesses described various incidents of indiscriminate killing.

The UN also blamed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for allegedly using civilians as human shields – a claim also made by the Sri Lankan government – and for using child soldiers.

Throughout its 26-year battle for autonomy, the ethnic minority rebels pioneered suicide bombing as a terror method, killed thousands of civilians among the Sinhalese majority and committed numerous atrocities that led to it being designated as a terrorist organisation by the US and Britain.

The testimony from the senior officer was first obtained by The International, an investigative website based in the US. It backed up various other allegations of illegal conduct by the authorities.

He said that to his knowledge shortly after becoming defence secretary in 2005 Mr Rajapaksa sanctioned the creation of a "hit squad" known for operating out of a white van to remove suspected LTTE members or collaborators off the streets of the capital Colombo.

Yolanda Foster, the Sri Lanka researcher for Amnesty International, said: "We doubt Sri Lanka's will and ability to bring the perpetrators to justice, given the scale of the allegations and the potential that serving members of the Sri Lankan government may be implicated."

A spokesman for the Sri Lankan high commission in London said: "We categorically deny these malicious allegations."

© The Telegraph

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sri Lanka: No more excuses, it is time to act

Editorial | Tamil Guardian

Now that Sri Lanka's farcical attempt at accountability - the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) report - has finally been published, there can be no more excuses. The LLRC has for too long been the international community's fig leaf, used by governments across the world, including the US and the UK, to stall calls for accountability and a credible investigation into allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The commission's inquiry, its findings and its recommendations serve only to further vindicate the overwhelming justification for an independent, international investigation. For the victims, justice is well overdue. The time to act is now.

The LLRC is the by-product of sustained international pressure following the horrific findings of the UN expert panel, and Sri Lanka's desperation to stave off any meaningful investigation and subsequent discovery of truth. For governments across the world, it has been convenient to support Sri Lanka's assertion that the LLRC would answer the serious allegations made by the UN expert panel. However, it should come as no surprise that the LLRC report falls far short of this. The international community's willingness to play along with Sri Lanka's theatrics has been dismaying and deplorable. It has revealed a shameful disregard for the much preached about doctrine of universal human rights and the proclamation of 'never again'.

Making a mockery of any serious allegations, the words 'war crimes' only feature twice in the entire LLRC report. Never in the main body of the text, 'war crimes' only crop up during the citation of other reports by human rights organisations, one on Sri Lanka and the other on Israel. Undoubtedly, the emergence of compelling and damning evidence of atrocities, forced the commission to concede that some violations of human rights did take place. It would have simply been untenable to tow the Sri Lankan government's long held, official line of zero civilian deaths and maintain even the pretence of credibility. Beyond this meagre admission however, the report dismisses any notion of a 'systematic', 'persecution' of Tamil civilians by Sri Lanka's armed forces and the 'deliberate' targeting of civilian establishments - key assertions made by the UN expert panel - as untruths.

Criminal responsibility for atrocities is conveniently deflected from those in power. Ignoring the testimonies of a significant number of witnesses that identify a clear chain of command, and thereby command responsibility to crimes, the report urges the prosecution of individual soldiers if found guilty. Even if such witness testimony is negated, the scale of civilian deaths in Sri Lanka could not have taken place without the knowledge of the most senior military officials. International law is uncompromising in this regard - responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide goes to the very top. In the case of Sri Lanka, the defence secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the then head of the army, General Sarath Fonseka, and the commander in chief - the president - Mahinda Rajapaksa are principally answerable.

The LLRC itself states that Sri Lanka is unable to adequately investigate aspects of the conflict crucial for determining culpability, such as the direction and nature of artillery fire on hospitals. Although inviting international experts would be the logical conclusion of such a finding, the LLRC do nothing more than lament over Sri Lanka's technical short-comings and proffer the LTTE as an alternative. In the complete absence of reasoning and self-confessed inadequacy of scientific investigation, such a blanket dismissal of government responsibility and guilt, underlines the commission's partiality, prejudice and flippant attitude towards genuinely investigating all sides.

The commission's inherent bias in favour of the state and the armed forces is laid bare in its own findings. To the LLRC, the 'good name' of the army was not an investigative finding, but a primordial truth, with the commission's raison d'etre 'to clear the good name of the Army'. The possibility of Channel 4's Killing Fields documentary being doctored and thereby tarnishing the army's reputation is stated to be 'more serious' than, as is almost undeniably the case, the footage is prima facie evidence of war crimes. Most abhorrent of all, the commission gives credence to the supposed 'dilemma' faced by Sri Lankan Army commanders - to protect civilians or neutralise the enemy.

Ultimately, in Sri Lanka, the impotency of any internal enquiry is a foregone conclusion. The state's culture of impunity, its catalogue of abandoned commissions and abject failure to meaningfully implement any recommendations of previous commissions is an indisputable truth. That the LLRC was commissioned directly by the ruling regime, to investigate the actions of that regime and its stooges, and present its findings to the ruler, is beyond ridicule.

The government's brutal clamp down on dissent and suppression of any support for an investigation into allegations of war crimes, brings into question an internal inquiry's ability to find the truth. Together with the lack of a witness protection programme, the documented overbearing military presence during evidence gathering, and reports of witnesses being photographed and filmed by wanton by-standers, the authenticity of witness statements is irrevocably undermined. When the president has imprisoned the very man who engineered the government's so called victory, the absolute independence of those running the commission, who were after all appointed by that very same president, is at the very least disputable.

Sri Lanka is already manoeuvring itself to further stalling measures, with the LLRC recommending a myriad of commissions, inquiries and even a 'household survey' to examine civilian deaths. If left unchecked such internal inquiries could span months, if not years and still fail to arrive at meaningful accountability or justice - such has been the case for over sixty years.

Fundamentally, in Sri Lanka, any internal inquiry into atrocities against Tamils will fail, not merely due to the lack of judicial independence, technical expertise and political will, but because the majority of Sri Lanka's citizenry do not desire it. The deaths of over 40,000 civilians are not isolated incidents, devoid of forethought or intention. They constitute a deliberate persecution and targeted destruction of the Tamil nation in the Vanni - a genocide, perpetrated by the armed forces, orchestrated by the government, ignored by the judiciary, whitewashed by the mainstream press, and above all else, mandated by the Sinhala Buddhist majority. Sri Lanka cannot be left to investigate itself.

Only an international, independent investigation can justly examine crimes of such gravity and achieve the accountability and justice needed for any hope of a lasting peace. One failed internal inquiry may have been deemed a necessary formality, but with the release of the LLRC report, the world can no longer hide behind the pretence of protecting state sovereignty. To do so, not only emboldens a government that continues to brutally oppress and violate human rights, but constitutes complicity to the crime. The time to act must be now.

© Tamil Guardian

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Monday, December 19, 2011

Weighing the LLRC report in the scales of justice

Photo courtesy: CHR - Sri Lanka

By Kishali Pinto Jayawardene | The Sunday Times

Stripped of all ambiguities, the moral question regarding state accountability for civilian casualties during the last stages of the war between government troops and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was whether the government deliberately pressed ahead with its military offensive despite knowing full well the terrible toll that it would take.

Past governments had hesitated to go this far, being fully aware of the consequences. But this government did go that distance and there is no question about it. It did not take a soothsayer to foretell that the LTTE, given its abysmal track record, would use civilians to stop the advance of government forces which in fact, it did for what was to be the last time around, at least in this avatar. As to be expected, the consequences were near apocalyptic. The government's conduct, post-war, also fed into the theory that it views the minorities in Sri Lanka as being of little account, to be manipulated and intimidated as the occasion demands it.

Implicated in violations but 'without intent'

Yet putting aside the moral question for the moment, the legal question according to the laws of war is narrowly phrased in terms of whether government policy deliberately targeted civilians or places that were protected such as hospitals in pursuance of its military objective. In its Final Report tabled in Parliament this week, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) answered this question in the negative, while stressing that there was a possible implication of the military causing death or injury to civilians 'even though this may not have been with an intent to cause harm.'

The LTTE's using of civilian shields and provoking attacks by the army by placing and using their military equipment in civilian areas, is emphasized. The LLRC concludes this particular part of their mandate by calling upon the government to investigate these circumstances and if such investigations disclose wrongful conduct, to prosecute and punish the wrong doers.

Certain core questions which are unanswered

This conclusion certainly disposes once and for all, of the government's initial and unpardonably flippant defence that there were zero civilian casualties. However, the LLRC's injunction on the government does leave core problems unanswered. Who will take the responsibility to investigate, prosecute and punish in a context where the primary state organs of the police and the prosecutors are near irreparably politicized and where the judiciary itself is increasingly suffering from public perception relating to its independence from the executive or the lack thereof? Do the answers to this vital question emerge from the LLRC report, apart from mentioning the value of an independent judiciary and a transparent legal process in passing? Let us meticulously examine the Commission's reasoning though a comprehensive examination of its findings and recommendations belongs to a different forum.

In the first instance and to give it due credit for doing so in extremely difficult circumstances, the LLRC Report does link up the deterioration of Rule of Law institutions to its mandate, using somewhat surprisingly pungent language when it refers to the weakening of public institutions thereby rendering the general public powerless and helpless to a point that they have become wholly dependent on politicians.

These are reflections that would, no doubt, be shared by all right thinking people in Sri Lanka.

The LLRC applies this conclusion to specific patterns and incidents of violations of human rights that have languished without proper investigation or prosecution. Importantly, it recommends the investigation and prosecution of offenders in the death of 5 students in Trincomalee in January 2006 and 17 aid workers of the aid agency Action Contra L' Faim in Mutur in August 2006. It is stated that such action would send a strong signal in ensuring respect for the Rule of Law, which in turn will contribute to the healing process.

This particular recommendation is a strong point in the LLRC report and counters strenuous attempts by pro-government defenders to cover up these killings or merely attribute them to the LTTE, which theories were given strong support by sections of the private media. Similarly, the Report lays down specific safeguards for arrested and detained persons and expresses serious concerns regarding persons who had surrendered to the security forces at the conclusion of the fighting and had thereafter 'disappeared.' It is reminded that the State has a clear duty to investigate specific allegations, to prosecute and punish the wrongdoers and to treat such a disappearance as an offence entailing penal consequences.

Going that extra mile

The Commissioners draw attention to similar recommendations by past commissions of inquiry, observing with wry humor that as these recommendations had been left unimplemented by successive governments, there has been 'understandable criticism and skepticism regarding Government appointed Commissions from which the LLRC has not been spared.' Coupled with this injunction, it calls for the judicial review of legislation and for the criminalizing of an offence of enforced disappearances, which indeed reflects the thinking of constitutional analysts, legal practitioners and activists for decades. Deploring attacks on journalists, it also calls for the enactment of a right to information law.

But to return to our core question of the Report's recommendations as to the manner in which to reverse the politicization of public institutions, it may legitimately be said that it has refrained from going that extra mile. Certainly it deals with the 'easy' question of the politicization of the police commenting on the testimony of many who had expressed anger that offenders with political patronage had escaped the reach of the law. It recommends, quite rightly, that the Department of the Police be de-linked from the Ministry of Defence. Moreover, it recommends that an independent permanent Police Commission should be established, to regain public confidence in the performance of the police service.

This recommendation has more than a trace of exquisite irony about it given that the President of Sri Lanka has not thought it fit or proper up to now, even to establish a National Police Commission in terms of the existing constitutional provisions, let alone talk of a permanent body of this nature. Here again, the core issue is independence from the executive. A police commission, whether permanent or for a limited period of time, should be completely separated from the executive. While separating the Department of the Police from the Ministry of Defence is an essential step, this cannot, by itself, address the problem.

But where the LLRC has not gone further most particularly is in addressing the subversion of the legal process with its related impact on the independence of the judiciary, (the ACF case is one excellent example), the bringing in of the Department of the Attorney General under the direct authority of the President and the 17th Amendment to the Constitution as well as its ill famed successor, the 18th Amendment. As the LLRC has opted to speak of the Rule of Law, these are fundamental components of that debate, particularly as in a postcript it has adverted to recent incident impacting on law and order.

Using the LLRC report to compel government accountability

Nevertheless and in conclusion, even though the LLRC Report may not be all things to all people, the Commissioners have undoubtedly arrived at difficult conclusions regarding the problem of impunity which would not have been easy given the tremendous pressure on them from all sides. It is also not proper to malign the Commission by stating that their recommendations merely echo past recommendations of previous commissions. This is to simplify the case.

Past reports of commissions of inquiry which were equally hard hitting concerning the duty to prosecute, mainly concerned actions of previous governments in power, not an incumbent administration. The Disappearances Commissions of the 1990's were good examples. In this instance, this is a Commission of Inquiry looking into impugned actions of a sitting government and in that respect, should be at least acknowledged for what it has tried to do, even if the conclusions may not satisfy all and sundry.

This column has repeatedly taken the position that even if the LLRC Report proved to be the best Commission report that we could ever have had, it would amount to nothing if concrete action is not taken to restore the independence and integrity of the police, the prosecutors and the institutions of justice. This action is not impossible provided that it is driven by public demand. It is not, after all, as if these concepts are alien to the Sri Lankan psyche.

The concerned public and civic action groups should now take this Report and practically use it for the restoration of this country's democratic institutions and in order to defeat this government's bland promises that specific incidents would be investigated and prosecuted. Given the President's oft repeated mantra that he would abide by the LLRC's recommendations without exception, he should be called upon to meticulously perform this task. The non-implementation of all its interim recommendations even at this stage is not reassuring and has invited censure by the LLRC itself. The burden is now upon us.

© The Sunday Times

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Monday, December 19, 2011

Your “privacy” is at stake !

By Kusal Perera | The Sunday Leader

"The right to privacy is our right to keep a domain around us, which includes all those things that are part of us, such as our body, home, thoughts, feelings, secrets and identity. The right to privacy gives us the ability to choose which parts in this domain can be accessed by others, and to control the extent, manner and timing of the use of those parts we choose to disclose.” - Yael Onn, et. al., Privacy in the Digital Environment, Haifa Center of Law & Technology

There was no space for such “privacy” within Saddam Hussein’s model of Bhath Socialist development. If State repression in Soviet Russia under Stalin was crude and brutal as some have written, then, State repression in Iraq under Saddam Hussein was meticulously ruthless. The un-embedded Indian journalist Satish Jacob who covered the Iraqi war, left this passing remark on the surveillance system that Saddam Hussein had for the Iraqi citizens, in his book titled From Hotel Palestine, Baghdad.

“According to him (Nadim Habbash, a retired senior civil servant), there were seven different institutions for surveillance. The Mukhabarat was the first one and its function was to keep a tab on every citizen. It had a dossier on every Iraqi citizen. No Iraqi was permitted to shift into a new home, unless he had taken permission from the Mukhabarat. In many cases, permission was withheld. Every Thursday, each person was required to pay a visit to his or her ‘minder’ and give information about neighbours, employers, colleagues, friends and even family members. This was one country where a son spied on the father and the siblings and the father spied on him!” (page 14)

That was “privacy” in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Here in Sri Lanka, it is uncertain how a majority of the citizens expected their privacy to be respected and honoured. May be the urban middle class consumer does expect a certain “privacy” status defined for his/her life. Whether they do or not, personal privacy remains a “Right” in this Democratic world. Privacy is benchmarked in its most general terms by the UN Human Rights Charter under Article 12, as [quote] No one should be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks on his honour or reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interferences or attacks.[unquote]

Added are provisions in The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 17, the United Nations Convention on Migrant Workers, Article 14 and the UN Convention on Protection of the Child, Article 16, that adopt “privacy” as a “Right” of an individual.

Privacy and information have a tight co-habitation. There are restrictions for all parties in gathering or collecting information. Citizens are not allowed access to information classified as “national security”. Governments are not expected to infringe on personal information that compromise individual privacy. This compromise between the citizen and the government s/he elects, is one serious factor that decides the depth of democratic life in a society.

That “Right” for personal privacy is one which is now at stake under this regime. If the report in the Daily FT of December 09, 2011 is right and no doubt it is, considering the source quoted as official, a digital “personal information” database is to be established under the authority of the Ministry of Defence, called the Geo Citizen Information System Project. Explaining the project, Colonel, Dr. Thiran De Silva, IT Advisor to Sri Lanka Army and Head of IT Centre for Research and Development of the Ministry of Defence had claimed, this digital data base would include all SL citizens living in the country and would include “even a month old child”.

Said to be the first of its kind in South East Asia, Colonel Dr. De Silva had said, a pilot project was concluded in Gampaha district, with grama seva officers trained for 12 months with divisional secretaries. This project is not just a personal information gathering effort. It would have family background of the individual and even details such as the road network, electricity, water and even the drainage system to compile a comprehensive data book. It would include satellite image of the person’s residency as well. Latest media reports say, when residents of Gampaha district queried from soldiers who visited to collect information, as to why such information is collected, the reply had been, “Go, ask the Defence Secretary”.

This without doubt, is a clear trespassing of individual privacy. The most valid question therefore is, who gave the MoD the authority to start such a project and under what law ? There is apparently no Cabinet approval for such a project and even if there is, that does not make trespassing on privacy, any legal. All what is known is that Minister of Economic Development, Basil Rajapaksa had thrown the idea for this project and that perhaps made Gampaha the pilot project district. What makes this project appear rather dangerous is not Basil’s idea, but its implementation under the MoD. Its relation to the militarisation that this country is now subjected to.

There is a very intimidating military presence the government had collected by waging war. That was justified during the war in the South, as necessary power in defeating “separatist, Eelam terrorism”. That has left a very heavy militarisation in the North and the East, the Sinhala South is not willing to accept. But sadly, they are now grudgingly falling victim to this same militarisation, gnawing their lives.

Today, there are notice boards in Colombo that inform “This land belongs to the MoD”. Why there are no such notice boards by the Social Services Department or the Education Department may not be, because they don’t have land in Colombo. This new MoD cult in post-war Colombo stands menacingly firm, to tell the people, it now authorises citizens’ lives.

That is what had given the military the arrogance to even ignore Supreme Court determinations. The assurance the AG gave the SC over a FR petition filed against illegal registration of persons in the North in February this year, was not adhered to, leaving the SC blinkered on an apparent contempt of their judicial authority. It is this arrogance of power that had the Commanding Officer of the Central Province making a statement on 14 December, the army would provide security to all lorries transporting vegetables, whatever way they are packed and will not be allowed arrest, while the government was yet to suspend the prohibition imposed on transport of vegetables other than in plastic crates.

With all civil institutes that need not be with the MoD, clustered under it, the security forces have thus come to play a significant role in civil administration and in the life of people, even in the South. Militarisation under this regime does not end, just there. To note a few, most would know,

• Security officers of high rank has been posted top positions in foreign diplomatic missions

• Security officers have been appointed to high administrative positions that should be held by persons from the Administrative Service (Ministry Secretaries, District Secretaries, etc.)

• Land in North and East has been brought under military supervision

• Fisheries in the North is still dictated by the navy

• Leadership training for university entrants have been brought under the military

• All security of universities and some State institutes are now with the “Rakna Lanka” security organisation listed under the MoD

• All major stadiums built with massive public funds are under the security forces

• Urban planning and development is now under the MoD

• A gazette notification allows establishment of STF camps in all 24 districts

• Security forces are given the opportunity to establish their own independent

economy through businesses (direct investments on five star hotels in Colombo and restaurants, cafes, farms run often by proxy in the North-East)

Regardless of the ignorant mood in the Sinhala South, it isn’t a joke when the SC is ignored by the police and the security forces, though in the North. It isn’t a joke when a Commanding Officer makes his own decision, irrespective of government policy. It is no joke either, when the military with the police launch their own search operation of resident areas without Emergency Regulations and without a search warrant obtained. Media reported that both the military and the police spoke persons confirmed they did search houses together in Colombo Modera on 06 December, on a tip off that some houses in that area had illegal “stuff”. But why did not they go for a search warrant and do it legally ? They don’t think they have to. That is the mind set of militarisation. In almost all countries where militarisation roles on regardless, the normal civil law is done away with. That thus allows for a gestating period where no law and order is kept by enforcement agencies. That is reason why there were so many custodial killings and murder in police cells. That is also reason why there were nine abductions reported during the last eight weeks. That also explains how a person abducted from a location in the West coast was taken across the country to finally drift dead to the beach in the East coast. The roaming of the “Grease devil” from Pottuvil in the East, via Kantale and Vavuniya to Putlam in the West had the police and the military accused, for that same reason. The most recent abduction of two youth activists in Jaffna on International HR Day and now, reports of death threats on Jaffna university student leaders and two in the academic staff through public posters put up around university precincts, is unchecked ghostly violence in a militarised society.

Subjecting the society to such violent assaults is a common path to militarisation. Military authority can not be asserted with normal civil law allowed to prevail. This necessitates much more detailed information of citizens, than required by a civil administration. That was what the Saddam Hussein regime proved in plain. They suspect every citizen and thus need as much personal information as possible, to keep a tab on social activities. Society after all, is a collective of citizens. That is precisely why, this digitisation of personal information with all such details, carried out by the army, reminds me of a quote, attributed to Bob Dylan – “The army does not start wars. Its politicians who start wars. The army only goes marching o’er them”. Not only o’er politicians, but o’er people as well.

© The Sunday Leader

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Monday, December 19, 2011

After Sri Lanka whitewashes war crimes, UN's Ban welcomes

Photo courtesy: UN Photo | Mark Garten

By Matthew Russell Lee | Inner City Press

When Inner City Press asked the UN about the Sri Lankan government's Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation Commission report, the response was that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would comment on it when it was released.

After it was released, with the claim that the government did not target civilians, Inner City Press at noon on December 16 asked Ban's Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq for comment. It took the UN nine hours to issue what many view as the quietest of diplomacy.

Inner City Press: the Sri Lankan Government has now made public its Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission report. And it says that civilians were not targeted, which runs entirely contrary to the Panel of Experts report here at the UN. It was said that once it became public, the UN may have some response to it. Is the UN aware of the report, the commission’s report and do they think it is a credible report, and what is the next step for Ban Ki-moon’s stated interest in accountability for the force?

Associate Spokesperson Haq: Well, we are continuing with our efforts at accountability. As you know, his advisory panel did come out earlier this year with their report on Sri Lanka. And we hope and trust that Member States will now again look to the contents of that report and see what can be done to follow up on the work being done by the panel led by Marzuki Darusman. Beyond that, in terms of the work done by the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation [Commission], we will need to study the full content of what this report say and may respond in due course.

Inner City Press: I want to ask just sort of related to that; at least one Member State on the Human Rights Council in Geneva has told me that this report, whatever, however it is called, doesn’t even have a UN stamp on it. It sort of has been really… they found it kind of strange how it was filed by the Secretariat with the Human Rights Council. It may seem like a small thing, but to them they read into it, as did other Member States, is that the case, is it a UN report, is the UN stamp on it or is it just a piece of paper?

Associate Spokesperson Haq: It is a UN report; you can find it on the UN website. We presented it here at the United Nations, as you are well aware, and it’s a panel that is an advisory panel to the Secretary-General.

Inner City Press: Does the Secretary-General, and maybe you will either know what he thinks or you can ask him — does the Secretary-General think the Human Rights Council should take up that report of many civilian deaths prior to the universal periodic review for Sri Lanka which is, you know, long away?

Associate Spokesperson Haq: As you know, it is up to the members of the Human Rights Council what they take up. Certainly the Secretary-General does want the Member States to look at this report and take it seriously and address the contents and the recommendations of that report. But, how they go about that, as you know, these are bodies of Member States and we’ll await what kind of decisions they take.

After that exchange nine hours went by. Inner City Press reported stories on the International Criminal Court, Haiti and Ban's native South Korea. Then at 9 pm on Friday Ban's office issues this (non) statement:

Subject: Note to correspondents in response to questions on the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission for Sri Lanka
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply
Date: Fri, Dec 16, 2011 at 8:56 PM
To: matthew.lee [at]

Note to correspondents in response to questions on the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission for Sri Lanka

The Secretary-General notes that the report of Sri Lanka's Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) was tabled in parliament today and welcomes that it has been made public.

The United Nations will be studying the report closely. The Secretary-General hopes that the Government of Sri Lanka will move forward with its commitment to address accountability concerns in good faith as an essential step towards reconciliation and lasting peace in the country.

So Ban, despite the obvious whitewash in the government's report, "welcomes that it has been made public," and counts on the government to "address accountability." This goes beyond "quiet diplomacy."

© Inner City Press

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Monday, December 19, 2011

Rights watchdogs slam LLRC report

BBC Sinhala

Slamming the government war panel report as a ‘whitewash,' international human rights watchdogs have re-iterated their call for an international inquiry into the alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka.

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation (LLRC) in its report has concluded that the security forces did not deliberately target civilians in the last stages of the war against the Tamil Tigers.

The report has, however, accused the LTTE of gross human rights violations.

Although the report acknowledges serious human rights problems in Sri Lanka, said Amnesty International (AI), it "falls short of fully addressing the war crimes and crimes against humanity."

Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific director said the report has reaffirmed watchdogs' long-held view that the war panel is "biased" and it's report has failed to address violations of international law.


He has urged Sri Lanka to address issues raised in LLRC report and report to the UN Human Rights Council at its next session.

"The LLRC has admitted its own inability to establish the facts about the conduct of the fighting, and points out legal complexities beyond its abilities. This is why the international community must now follow up with an investigation, bringing to bear the full resources and assistance of the UN and the international community," Sam Zarifi said.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW), which refused to appear before the LLRC together with the AI and International Crisis Group (ICG), agrees.

The long awaited report has provided “little new information” on accountability, it said.

"Governments and UN bodies have held back for the past 18 months to allow the Sri Lankan commission to make progress on accountability," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

The HRW added that the "failure" of the LLRC to investigate and prosecute wartime perpetrators shows the "dire need" for an international investigation.

However, Mr Adams said it is important that the LLRC has dismissed the government’s "bizarre claims" that no civilian casualties were caused by the security forces.

"It is clear that justice for conflict-related abuses is not going to happen within Sri Lanka’s domestic institutions," Adams said.

Military 'to be withdrawn'

"The government has been playing for time by appointing the LLRC. That time has now run out."

But the government has pledged action based on the report.

Tabling the report in parliament, Leader of the House Nimal Siripala de Silva said the security forces would be withdrawn from all aspects of community life.

The security forces will disembark themselves from civil administration, and, in particular, from participation in any decision making in respect of land issues.

UK based Sri Lanka Campaign for peace and justice, has described the report as a "whitewash."

It's campaign director Fred Carver said the outcome of the report was not a surprise as a result f the "flawed methodology" of the panel.

"Victims of the serious rights abuses committed by both sides will feel let down," he said.

© BBC Sinhala

Read More

Bookmark and Share
© 2009 - 2014 Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  © Blogger template 'Fly Away' by 2008

Back to TOP