Tuesday, January 05, 2010


By Munza Mushtaq - An elite panel of 11 judges will decide if the President Mahinda Rajapaksa led government and its armed forces were instrumental in carrying out gross violations of human rights and involved in war crimes against innocent civilians in the Northern Province during the run up to its significant yet controversial victory over the ruthless rebel outfit, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

With an impressive jury hailing from across the globe, the highly revered Milan based Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) will attempt to put an end to months of controversy over the final phase of the war in Sri Lanka, at an international tribunal which will thoroughly investigate allegations that the Government of Sri Lanka and its armed forces committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during its final phase of the war with the LTTE.

The international hearing will be held on January 14 and 15 at the Trinity College, Dublin, with the provisional findings from the tribunal scheduled to be announced at a public meeting on January 16, 2010.

The Tribunal will be co-hosted by the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin and the School of Law and Government, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland. The event is being organised by the Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka (IFPSL).

The government has however shrugged off the Dublin Tribunal terming it as yet another concerted ‘international conspiracy’ against Sri Lanka.

Members of the Panel of Judges of the People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka are:

1) Fran̤ois Houtart РUNESCO awardee for non-violence and tolerance, Chairperson of the UN Committee on Economic Recession, Prof. Emeritus, University of Louvain, Belgium.

2) Rajinder Sachar – Former High Court Judge of Delhi, headed the Sachar Committee appointed by the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to prepare a report on the social, economic and educational status of the Muslim community in India.

3) Nawal al Saadawi – Egyptian writer, trained as a medical doctor, known for her outstanding work for women’s rights in Egypt and in the region. She has been imprisoned for her activities and writings in Egypt. She has also been United Nation’s Advisor for the Women’s Programme in Africa (ECA) and Middle East (ECWA) from 1979 to 1980.

4) Sulak Sivaraksa – Thai Buddhist peace campaigner and writer, initiator of a number of social, humanitarian, ecological and spiritual movements and organisations in Thailand. He was awarded the Alternative Nobel Prize (Right Livelihood Award).

5) Denis Halliday – Former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations. He resigned from his 34 year old career in the UN because of the economic sanctions imposed over Iraq by the Security Council. Laureate of the Gandhi International Peace Award.

6) Gianni Tognoni – Secretary General, People’s Permanent Tribunal, Milan, Italy.

7) Daniel Feierstein – Director of the Centre for Genocide Studies at the Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero, and Professor in the Faculty of Genocide at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

8) Mary Lawlor – Director, Front Line – The International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Dublin, Ireland.

9) Oystein Tveter – Norwegian Scholar of International Law and member of the People’s Tribunal on extra-judicial killings and violations of human rights in the Philippines

10) Eren Keskin – Kurdish-born lawyer and a human rights activist in Turkey, vice president of the Human Rights Association, Istanbul. She co-founded the project “Legal Aid For Women Who Were Raped Or Otherwise Sexually Abused by the National Security Forces”, to expose the abuses happening to women in Turkish prisons. In 1995, she was imprisoned for her human rights activities and was adopted as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

11) Francesco Martone – Ex Senator in Italy, a leading activist in the non-governmental sector and an ecologist.

Organisers of the tribunal told The Sunday Leader that the judges for the hearing have been chosen from across the globe — south to the north in order to transcend geopolitical barriers and to ensure that its findings are both credible and ethically binding.

Ireland has been chosen because of its historical status as a post-colonial nation, the success of the Northern Ireland peace process, and its traditional policy of neutrality.
“The People’s Tribunal will investigate the allegations that the Government of Sri Lanka and its armed forces committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during its final phase of the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

“The Tribunal will also examine violations of human rights in the aftermath of the war and the local and international factors that led to the collapse of the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement,” a press release from the organisers said.

Several legal and human rights groups from Asia, the European Union and the United Nations are scheduled to submit reports on alleged crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes against peace in Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, although a formal invitation was extended to the Sri Lankan High Commissioner in London, Nihal Jayasinghe, the organisers have received no response from Jayasinghe and so a lawyer will present the Sri Lankan government’s position at the hearing.

“Evidence will be given by individuals and groups who have first hand knowledge about these crimes,” organisers told The Sunday Leader via email.

Meanwhile, the IFPSL citing reasons for such a tribunal emphasized that the war saw a ‘terrible human cost’ and was a ‘war without witnesses’ due to the fact that journalists and other potential witnesses like aid workers were prevented by the government from remaining in the conflict area.

By April 2009, according to United Nations’ internal documents, the air raids and use of heavy weapons were resulting in the death of approximately 116 people a day.

During the last weeks of the war, according to reports in the British and French press, over 20,000 people were killed when the Sri Lankan armed forces allegedly used heavy artillery fire against hundreds of thousands of Tamil people crowded in an extremely small area.

According to Human Rights Watch, hospitals were bombed 30 times between December 8, 2008 and May 2, 2009 and, according to a French medical team, cluster munitions and white phosphorous have been used against these civilians.

“There has been media evidence of torture, summary executions, rape and sexual violence, and of food and water being used as a weapon of war against civilians by the Sri Lankan military,” the Forum said.

Meanwhile the Government’s Defence Spokesman Minister Keheliya Rambukwella vowed to defeat what he termed as an ‘international conspiracy’ against Sri Lanka and its sovereignty.

He claimed that an ‘international conspiracy’ was in place to bring disrepute to Sri Lanka and despite such conspiracies, his government will not waiver but will instead fight till the end to protect the nation and its sovereignty.

Pooh-poohing the tribunal in Dublin, Rambukwella said, “These are all part of the international conspiracy, we have defended these allegations before and will do so in the future.”

He emphasized that despite his government defending itself against war crimes allegations in the past including at the United Nations, conspiracies were still very much prevalent and cited the Dublin hearing as one such conspiracy.

“We won’t bow down to these conspiracies, we will fight and defend our nation and sovereignty,” Rambukwella declared.

He added that although Sri Lanka will not be formally present at the hearing, it had the intelligence apparatus to gather the necessary information which comes out from the Dublin Tribunal scheduled for mid this month.

© The Sunday Leader

Related Links:
Permanent Peoples' Tribunal (PPT) - Wikipedia
When People Judge: The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal - Corporate Watch
Why a tribunal on Sri Lanka? - Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka
PPT on the genocide of the Armenians - Armenian News Network
PPT in Colombia - Upside Down World
PPT on Industrial Hazards and Human Rights - pan-uk.org
PPT in Lima - Enlazando Alternativas
PPT on European Transnational Corporations in Latin America and the Caribbean
PPT on Philippines - International Association of Democratic Lawyers

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Unknown said...

It is a good thing rhat impartial inquiery is held about this serious allegations. It is a tragedy that Sri Lankan's had lost the capacity to investigate impartially.
May the Truth prevail all Over!!!

Tamil Kovil said...

The Sri Lankan government killed 17 members of my family in 2009 alone – I am of Tamil origin.

My husband and I are still looking for a number of relatives and of those we have managed to trace, most of them are now disabled/sick due to the genocidal acts committed by the Sri Lankan government.

We, the Tamils, knew that the footage was true as this is what we have been facing for years now.

No one can bring back my relatives.

But, we deserve justice.

Let there be a war crimes investigation.

Moreover, we still need a fair and just system for those who have been unfortunate enough to survive, but are now living under the tortuous Sri Lankan government.

My 34 year old husband, residing in London now, still wakes up from his nightmares of the times when he was tortured by the Sri Lankan Sinhala government.

He was just 12 years old when he was tortured.

Why? – because he was a Tamil.

We all have painful recollections and we have been living in hell.

Anonymous said...

The international comunity requested the Sri Lankan government time and time again to conduct inquiries into these war crimes firstly to find out if these crimes even took place. All that the SL government kept doing was deny and it has shown the world that it is not prepared to do justice. So now the concerned organisations have taken the initiative to do what the SL government and their so called minister of human rights are refusing to do. As some are trying to dialute the main focus here it is not a matter of inquiring just the killing of the LTTE members trying to surrender with white flags. Infact we tamils are not much concerned about their deaths because they were fighting to die. It is their family members who did not want a part of it, the thousands (we dont know how many thousands)of innocent civilians who were shelled and also killed by the cluster bombings indescriminately, the thousands of injured patients in make shift hospitals who also died of shelling, the youth who were shot and killed blind folded, the innocent but critical journalists both Singhalese and Tamils who were killed but with no signs of any attepmt upto now by the government to bring justice to them and many more incidents which we have not heard of. Permenant People's Tribunal is not a joke and they are recognised for their previous inquiries into simmillar incidents in other countries. It will bring so many unknown truths about the dirty war to light. They haven't even started their first phase of this process which is to find out if these allegations are true or not and the SL government has allready started slinging mud on them. This alone tells us that the SL government has a lots to hide. Most interesting thing about this would be when the Sinnghalese population finds out how much lies they have been told about the nature of this so called 'biggest human rescue mission'

Unknown said...

may these 7 ambasadors of Justice, find a solution for the the ongoing delay in prosecuting the war criminals, Mahinda Rajapaksa, Kotabaya, Sarth Fonseka, Ban Ki Moon could delay U.N War Crime Charges with the influence of China, as China is seeking commercial gains from the war crime aid in Sri Lanka, but we very much hope these 11 neutral Judges will not let Justice fail.
Genocide in Sri Lanka is real, The Tamils were killed, raped burnt on purpose under a hidden agenda ,racially motivated, Indian Congress Govt too is partially involved in the Genocide activities on Tamils. Tamil civilians being used as sheild by rebels is absolute lie by the Rajapksa Government.
Mahinda, Sarath Fonseka, KOtabaya must be prosecuted

Unknown said...

There were many strong evidences to establish that numerous serious violations of international law, both humanitarian law and human rights law, were committed by Sri Lankan forces during the military operations in northern Sri Lanka including the large scale massacres of 20,000 civilians another 50,000 maimed in the first two weeks of May 2009 alone, five students’ summery execution in eastern Sri Lanka and summery execution of 17 local aid workers of the French aid agency Action Famine (ACF) in August 2006.

On the objectives and strategy of Sri Lanka ’s military operation, Sri Lanka ’s military planners deliberately followed a doctrine which involved the application of disproportionate force and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian lives infrastructure, and suffering to civilian populations. These rights violations and possible war crimes of the Sri Lankan state against section of its citizens are utter disregards to the basic principles of any decent democracies and cannot be and should not be tolerated by the decent democratic world and the international criminal court.

I am sure many will agree with me, a credible independent inquiry would be in the "best interests" of Sri Lanka and very important for a meaningful political reconciliation to take place between Sinhalese and Tamils in Sri Lanka.

International Criminal Court must take up the U.N. call for a transparent and internationally supervised full investigation on Sri Lanka so that people who committed crimes against humanity with impunity can be brought to justice.

A transparent and internationally supervised full investigation on Sri Lanka also very important to find a sustainable peaceful and acceptable political solution to address the legitimate root cause of Tamils based on Tamils’ Right to Self-Determination.

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