Sri Lanka Is An Island Of Impunity: Protecting Convicted And Alleged War Criminals In The Military

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The Sri Lankan state which co-sponsored United Nations Human Rights Council Resolutions 30/1 in September 2015 failed to bring transitional justice or progress on substantial issues but bought time and space, now after so many Resolutions and delays unilaterally withdrew from the co-sponsorship. Lack of political will is shown by both the consensus path Wikramasinghe-Sirisena regime and current confrontational path regime of Rajapaksa siblings.

The possible avenues are a referral to International Criminal Court or setting up of an International Commission of inquiry as well as applying the Universal Jurisdiction including the filing of a complaint against Sri Lanka in the International Court of Justice [ICJ] by a member state. In this respect the co-sponsors of the Resolutions; particularly USA, UK, Canada and Germany owe heavier duties and obligations to act expeditiously to deliver justice and break the shield of impunity and sovereignty exploited by Sri Lanka to free from its International commitments and obligations

The Financial Times – London of May 15, 2009 in its editorial confirmed the same opinion as follows “The Tamils’ cause will ignite from embers of this war unless the Sinhalese show magnanimity and gives the Tamils control of their own lives.”

The appointment of Lt. General Shavendra Silva.
Lt Gen Shavendra Silva’s name was mentioned in the resolution passed by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in 2013, alleging rights abuses by the Sri Lankan Army was appointed as Chief of Staff in the Army and now appointed as the Chief of the national COVID-19 prevention centre.

The appointment of Defence Secretary
Major General [Retd.] Kamal Gunaratne is a long associate of Rajapakse’ family and played a key role in organising his presidential election campaign. The former major general commanded the Army’s 53rd division during the final phase of the brutal war and has been accused of gross human rights abuses. An estimated 70,000 civilians were killed in the conflict as per UN Reports.

The appointment to head the country’s State Intelligence Service [SIS]
In another move, President Rajapakse has for the first time appointed a military officer, Brigadier Suresh Sallay, to head the country’s State Intelligence Service (SIS). The spy agency previously operated as part of the police department. New SIS chief Sallay is the former head of military intelligence.

Brig Priyanka Fernando, New Director Real Estate & Quartering Assumes Office

A senior member of the Sri Lankan military has been convicted of public order offences in London and fined thousands of pounds after a court ruled he was not protected by diplomatic immunity. Brigadier Priyanka Fernando of the Gemunu Watch (GW) took over duties as the new Director, Real Estate and Quartering at the Army Headquarters.

Army Butcher Sunil Ratnayake Released Amidst Coronavirus Outbreak

 Ratnayake was sentenced to death over murder of of eight Tamil civilians including four children in Mirusuvil, Jaffna on 19th December 2000.

Calls for International investigation were made by several human rights activists and organizations.

  1. The Northern Provincial Council, Sri Lanka on February 10, 2015 passed a resolution unanimously to this effect.
  2. The Tamil Nadu State Assembly. India representing 80 millions Tamils passed a similar resolution unanimously in 2015.

[ a ] The irony in Sri Lanka’s politics in that those who agitate for political and human rights and justice are branded as communalists, breeding hatred and communalism in the south, while those who perpetrated the injustice and destroyed lives of Tamils are patriotic nation builders and war heroes.

[ b ] Continuing violent acts against the Tamil detainees including rape and torture of women and men as disclosed to Human rights Agencies by the victims who were interviewed by the UN Commissioners and UN Special Repporteurs who visited Sri Lanka recently and confirmed the torture etc of Tamil prisoners.

[c] The continuing sluggish judicial process in cases involving security personnel and politicians. eg. Trincomalee massacre of five students, massacre of seventeen French INGO Action Against Hunger (known internationally as Action Contre la Faim, or ACF) Thirty media workers and journalists have been killed since 2005 with no arrests so far, with cases remaining unsolved

[ d ] The promise to remove the Army in the north is as good as dead. On the contrary the Army is strengthening their presence to remain as permanent resident, having their hands in civil administration and engaging in surveillance of local population instilling fear and insecurity among the civilians [The army consists of 99% Sinhalese speaking Buddhists whereas the population in the north is Hindu/Christian Tamils and few Tamil speaking Muslims].

[ e [Sri Lanka’s attitude to international criticisms and allegations concerning its human rights violations, and war crimes has always been initial flat and blunt denial, and character assassination of officers who investigated and reported, later a qualified and partial admission and raising the defence of state sovereignty and internal matter coupled with delaying tactics to make the issue stale and/or frozen, even forgotten.

[ f ] Another promise given to the International community is the repeal of the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act 1979.This act flouts all norms of justice like indiscriminate arrests, search at any time and place, arrest and detention up to 18 months, and prolonging the detention to an indefinite period with involuntary confessions admissible as evidence for conviction. The burden lies on the suspect to disprove the nature and contents of confession, the courts being denied of the right of challenge and review, of the arrest and detention. The suspect can be kept in undisclosed detention centers unknown to the relatives. The promise to replace it with another act is yet to be fulfilled, and it appears that the new act could make some cosmic changes of mitigation leaving the core provisions intact.

The High Commissioner could also move the United Nations Security Council through the General Secretary to make a referral to the International Criminal Court or set up an ad-hoc criminal tribunal.

Member states of this great assembly could also follow the recent example of Gambia’s case against Myanmar as there are close parallels of extreme its religious ideologies in Myanmar and Sri Lanka resulting in genocide.

Reconciliation is not possible within the unitary Sri Lanka, external retributive justice as well as internationally mediated conflict resolution must be tried.

Malaysian human rights activist lawyer Maha Ramakrishnan: Who addressed the UNHRC earlier this month told TamilNet this week that the UN human rights mechanisms must consider a multi-track approach on the SL State crimes. Forwarding the statements she delivered under Agenda Item 4 and prepared for Item 5, she said the UN needs to review its previous reports, resolutions, action and enact stronger steps. Both the former “consensus” regime and present “confrontational” regime have demonstrated their lack of political will. The UNHRC resolutions failed as it didn’t foster conditions for the political will to emerge on the part of the SL State. Passing a strong resolution under Agenda Item 4 or creating an exclusive Agenda Item for “Sri Lanka” crimes, the UN must also address SL State responsibility on Tamil genocide as well as individual criminal liability, she said.

It is to be noted that Sri Lankan Government is now trying to divert the Human Rights Violations by boasting that development will solve the Tamils problems:- Kofi Annan put it this way: “We will not enjoy security without development; we will not enjoy development without security; and we will not enjoy either without respect for human rights.

Kumarathasan Rasingam – Secretary Tamil Canadian Elders for Human Rights Org.




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