Armed Conflicts, Asia-Pacific, Crime & Justice, Democracy, Global, Global Geopolitics, Global Governance, Headlines, Human Rights, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Peace, Press Freedom, TerraViva United Nations

Sri Lanka Seeks U.S.-U.N. Backing for Domestic Probe of War Crimes Charges

The immediate aftermath of the war saw thousands of tourists flocking to the region, gawking at the remnants of a bloody past. Their numbers have since dwindled and a war tourist trail now remains mostly deserted. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 6 2015 (IPS) - Sri Lanka’s newly-installed government, which has pledged to set up its own domestic tribunal to investigate war crimes charges, is seeking political and moral support both from the United States and the United Nations to stall a possible international investigation.

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera is due in the United States next week to press the country’s case before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“Any domestic investigation would not negate the need for continued international action and engagement to ensure justice and accountability in Sri Lanka, or Sri Lanka’s need to cooperate with the United Nations." -- David Griffiths

The United States was one of the prime movers of a resolution adopted last March by the 47-member Human Rights Council to appoint a U.N. panel, headed by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, to probe into “alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka” at the end of decades-old war between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) back in 2009.

During his visit to New York, Samaraweera is also scheduled to meet with representatives of Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Asked about the new government’s proposed “domestic mechanism”, HRW’s Asia Director Brad Adams told IPS, “We do not expect the government to conduct a serious investigation.”

He specifically mentioned the former Army Chief Sarath Fonseka – who led the armed forces to victory against the LTTE – being a member of the current government thereby politicising any such domestic investigation.

Adams also hinted the investigation could get embroiled in local politics since the newly-elected president, Maithripala Sirisena, is planning to hold island-wide parliamentary elections in June this year.

“The United Nations should continue to be at the centre of the current process,” he added, but still complimented the government for reaching out to HRW.

“We are very encouraged and we are happy to meet with the foreign minister,” Adams said.

David Griffiths, deputy director for Asia-Pacific at Amnesty International, told IPS President Sirisena and other officials in the new administration have promised Sri Lanka will restore rule of law and conduct domestic investigations into alleged crimes under international law.

He said commitments have also been given to investigate the killing of journalists.

“These are important pledges which are to be welcomed, provided that the investigations are conducted promptly and in good faith, with independence, adequate resources and effective witness protection, and provided that where sufficient admissible evidence exists, they lead to the prosecution of those suspected of the crimes, regardless of their rank or status.”

What’s crucial, said Griffiths, is that a change in rhetoric must be matched by a change in political will and followed by action.

He pointed out that Amnesty International has documented Sri Lanka’s long history of ad hoc commissions of inquiry that have not delivered justice – the new administration must address this legacy of impunity.

“Any domestic investigation would not negate the need for continued international action and engagement to ensure justice and accountability in Sri Lanka, or Sri Lanka’s need to cooperate with the United Nations,” he declared.

Asked about the remote likelihood of Sri Lanka being hauled before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Dr. Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka’s outgoing Permanent Representative to the United Nations and a former chief of the U.N. Treaty Section, told IPS, “The ICC acquires jurisdiction over an alleged violator of its provisions only after the relevant state becomes a party.”

Sri Lanka is not a party, but a state could voluntarily submit to the jurisdiction of the court.

Importantly, said Dr. Kohona, it is individuals and groups who can be indicted before the ICC because crimes are committed by individuals and groups.

“An individual can be indicted if his country is a party to the ICC Statute, or if the Security Council has referred the matter to the ICC or if a state voluntarily accepts the jurisdiction of the ICC,” he explained.

A prosecution is not automatic. It follows a long process of investigation, he added.

According to the United Nations, the United States included Art 98 (2) which prohibits a person being surrendered to the ICC contrary to the provisions of a state’s treaty obligations.

The United States has concluded 143 bilateral agreements, including with Sri Lanka, for this purpose. The United States signed but did not ratify the Rome Statute that created the ICC.

Another possibility, as in the case of non-ICC member Sudan, is that the Security Council can decide on hauling Sri Lankan individuals before the court.

But any such resolution in the Security Council could be vetoed either by China and Russia, or both, since they have close political ties to Sri Lanka –at least to the former government President Mahinda Rajapaksa, which denied war crimes charges and refused to cooperate with the U.N. investigations.

Amnesty’s Griffiths told IPS the adversarial relationship promoted by Sri Lanka’s former leadership vis-à-vis the United Nations was unhealthy and unproductive, and the new Sri Lankan government has now vowed to “prioritize” its engagement with the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The Sri Lankan government has committed to a large number of important reforms in a very short period of time, and international expertise and technical assistance could help it to fulfil its reform agenda, particularly where truth seeking, reparation and justice are concerned, he added.

“Amnesty International cannot stress enough the need for justice for the victims of appalling human rights abuses and their families,” Griffiths said.

Last year, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein criticised the former Sri Lankan government for its refusal to cooperate with the investigation.

“This continuing campaign of distortion and disinformation about the investigation, as well as the insidious attempts to prevent possible bona fide witnesses from submitting information to the investigating team, is an affront to the United Nations Human Rights Council which mandated the investigation,” he added.

“The Government of Sri Lanka has refused point blank to cooperate with the investigation despite being explicitly requested by the Human Rights Council to do so,” Zeid said.

“Such a refusal does not, however, undermine the integrity of an investigation set up by the Council — instead it raises concerns about the integrity of the government in question. Why would governments with nothing to hide go to such extraordinary lengths to sabotage an impartial international investigation?” he said.

The report of the U.N. panel is expected to go before the next session of the Human Rights Council in March. But Sri Lanka is seeking a deferment.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

 
Republish | | Print | |En español


  • Lord Shiva

    Without an international independent investigation of war crimes, human rights abuses and genocide and bring the perpetrators to accountability and the delivery of justice, Tamils will feel betrayed bythe International community and their Apartheid mindset towards the Dravidian Tamils.

    The International Community’s failure to prevent the mass atrocities against ordinary civilians when committed, the failure to force for an all out independent international investigation against the perpetrators are simply exposing how the minorities rights
    and freedom are respected at the international level while these so called international community and nations boasting democracy, freedom, human rights, international and rule of law. These nations have viewed the Tamils as terrorists until the genocide details slowly come out to surface due to the global media, human rights groups and other progressive NGOs including Channel 4 TV of the UK, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and International Crisis Group.

    The new government in Sri Lanka is also trying to cover up genocide, war crimes, mass rapes and murders and it is an acceptance of the crimes committed against the Tamils by the majority Sinhalese community and its regime forces since independence. There will never be a reconciliation until the rule of law is applied equally to all and the justice is delivered. How can anyone trust these Sinhalese who committed mass atrocities and genocide who are advocating not to deliver Justice.?

    Tamils have witnessed several commissions, government appointed groups to
    cover up crimes, no material results emerged from it, and a process of delays until the regime is in power and washout their hands later. As the Tamil Youth lost their patience, the democratic and Gandhian struggle has become violent due to the Sinhala racists forces used thuggery and violence against the innocent Tamils. The current Srisena regime has members of the failed regimes of the past and Tamils have no confidence in them either. Tamils are not expecting a miracle from the failed Sinhala leaders.

    Tamils are back to their old stage now.It looks like there is no solution for the Tamils or a meaningful reconciliation will take place if the current regime trying to protect war criminals, serial killers, genocidal criminals, mass rapists, torturers, provide impunity to those armed forces who committed mass atrocities. This is forcing the Tamils to continue with their towards Eelam that is the only solution for the Tamils to live with dignity, respect, rule of law, freedom, human rights and independence.

  • Lorance

    Hey Lord Shiva, You continue to talk about Tamils and try to paint a picture that Tamils are innocent and saints. You think Sinhalese are idiots. No way. We Sinhalese suffered enough for 30 years from the LTTE terrorism. I myself still suffer from the injuries caused way back in early 1990s due to Tiger bomb blasts. How many innocent people were killed by you? How many places you have destroyed? How many villages you attacked? How many bus bombs and car bombs? How many political leaders and others and innocent people you killed? Finally we tought a lesson to you Tamils that do not ask. Separate state in our Sinhalese motherland. We are ready to live with you in peace and harmony. If you also want to live with us in peace, do not talk like this? Otherwise you will get the same response from Sinhalese in the future as well.

  • disgustman

    It is a question of what causes the rift between the two races and not how
    they acted in given circumstances, if a solution is to be found. The cause is the Sinhala State or majoritism, which has to be viewed in the 21st century standards, to move forward. Nothing is impossible.

  • Justin1001

    Domestic probe findings are already known.
    1. Sri Lankan Security forces killed only the LTTE terrorists.
    2. Sr Lankan Security forces did not kill even an ant other than the LTTE terrorists.
    3. LTTE terrorists did all the killings. They shelled the cornered Tamil civilians to put the blame on the Security forces.
    4. They looted all Tamil civilian belongings.
    5. LTTE was involved in drugs trade to fund their terrorist operations.

    6. LTTE supported Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Indian Maoist and all other Terrorist outfits around the world.

    These will be the “findings”. Domestic probe will a fantastic eyewash. It will take another 10 years to publish the “findings”. By the time these “findings” comes out world would have forgotten everything.

  • Naman

    Tamils world over knows that the Domestic probes in to war crimes committed by both LTTE and the GoSL forces, will NOT be reliable. We do need the International commission to investigate.

  • Haran

    Country elected a decent president and i hope he will bring peace to the country recogonizing all as equal Sri Lankan citizens giving equal opportunity thus enabling sri lanka to compete rest of the world economically.

    Let us face it. There are good citizens in both ethinic communities – no one is better than the other. Power hungry poloticians and ultra extreemists groups created the rival condition that resulted in many loss lives and destruction of properties. Looking at the post independence history, one would recognize that the Tamils never wanted violence, they only want to live equally.

  • IEMERALD

    DO WE NEED ANYONES SUPPORT OR BLESSING. CERTAINLY NOT.
    JUST DO IT. DAMN THE DOUBTING THOMASES OF THE WEST.

  • Lord Shiva

    If the Tamils committed crimes against the Sinhalese for 30 Years, why the Sinhalese deny an international independent investigation of all crimes committed against humanity?

    LTTE was fighting the state terrorism and Sinhala Buddhist Apartheid racism and hooliganism. Sinhalese do not understand equality, pluralism, democracy and freedom and they only understand barbarianism, Sinhala Buddhist Apartheid and racism and that’s why they have been denying the Tamils rule of law, justice, democracy, equality, freedom and human rights since independence from the British.

    Only an referendum for independence and freedom will bring meaningful conclusion.

  • Lord Shiva

    The Sinhala modayas and the criminals dreaming about domestic process like previous commissions that never produced any meaningful results or solution. This is simply a cover up process and delaying tactic used by the regime and the majority and continue with their criminal activities;

    Only an international independent transparent investigation with the monitors on the ground will bring truth to the world:

    – attack, murder and disappearances of Journalists, dissidents,businessmen and civilians
    – Cold blooded murder of 17 French Charity Workers
    – Execution style killings of students in Trincomalee
    – Disappearances of tens of thousands of surrendered POWs
    – Removed from detention camps at night, raped, tortured and murdered civilians
    – indiscriminate bombings and shelling of hospitals, designated safe zones, attack of the medical staff
    – White Van abductions, detention, torture and murder of civilians
    – Attack on the Christian Churches, Muslim Mosques, Hindu Temples
    – Forcibly built Buddhist temples on Tamils’ lands with malicious intention to change the landscape and history of the Tamils
    – Disappearances of innocent people, attack on the churches in Mannar and other crimes

    if anyone who denies an international investigation means that they want to deny justice to the victims.

  • jayt

    Other groups and individuals from Europe and North America must be hauled to ICC as well.
    Sri lanka too have to list all these groups and individuals who committed war crime against Sri lanka as well as against other countries

  • Nallathamby Yoganathan

    Well, WHY SRILANKA IS AN EXCEPTION??
    SInce 1948 to 1977, in Srilanka, there were more than 100,000 innocent Tamils and Muslims were slaughtered, raped and injured in 1948, 56, 58, 67, 77 until LTTE was created by frustrated Tamils to counter the SIN-HELLa racist Terrorism by the Srilanka but NOT even one person JAILED or PUNISHED for the State sponsored systematic Mass Atrocities against Tamils and Muslims. And after LTTE born each and every month until today(including the Genocide of Tamils in 2009 in the so called NO FIRE ZONE), there were more than 150,000 Tamils mainly killed but Srilanka still adamant not only denying any investigation but also celebrate the GENOCIDE as an ANNUAL VICTORY CELEBRATION.
    Srilanka and Srilankan supporters always are happy to blame all ills on the so called terrorists LTTE but when it comes to an IMPARTIAL UN investigation, they are SUFFERING allergic reactions. WONDER WHY ?? Possible reason is this- Srilankan security forces are the GUILTY party in the island not the LTTE as they claim. This is the reason the GUILTY SRILANKA always deny access to any investigation let alone to the UN investiation
    UN did investigate German NAZIS Genocide of Jews, Genocide of Cambodians, Genocide of Kosovans and Bosnians, Genocide of Rwandan Koottus, etc, etc, WHY THE GUILTY SRILANKA IS AN EXCEPTION?????
    Srilanka did the CRIME and MUST FACE the Investigation to PREVENT the SIN-HELLa FUNDAMENTALIST racist Srilanka to do another GENOCIDE of Tamils and Muslims as already the Srilankan racist state resumed attacked on Muslims and Christians too after the 2009 Genocide of Tamils, even now occupying the North and East Tamil areas with more than 400,000 Genocidal SIN-HELLa only Military and Police and refusing to allow Police and Land powers to the North and East Provincial councils.

  • Nallathamby Yoganathan

    The Current President Mr.Maithribala Srisena WAS THE DEFENSE MINISTER during the 2009 GENOCIDE of TAMILS, CBK- Sounds Likd COLD BLODDED KILLLER Chandrika and Ranil were in POWER when so many atrocities and Mass killings of Tamils and Muslims during 80s and 90s and afetr 2000. That is, Srilanka is SIN-HELLa FUNDAMENTALIST RACIST state where all SIN-HELLa Institutions are 100% SIN-HELLa racist. In Srilanka, no sane person can expect any sort of justice at all. If any president or prime minister DARE to allow Autonomy to Tamils, he/she would be killed by the so called BUDDHIST MONKS as they killed Mr. SWRD Bandaranayake then Prime Minister even after he GAVE UP the BANDA-SELVA Pact allowing limited Autonomy to North and East where almost 100% Tamils and Muslims lived in 1948 but not Srilanka SYSTEMATICALLY SETTLED 1 Million SINHALESE wirh STATE FUNDING into North and East while ETHNICALLY CLEANSED Tamils and Muslims in North and East. the Srilankan CENSUS REPORTS clearly show that JUST 18 SINHALESE LIVED In ENTIRE NORTH and EAST when the Srilanka got independence from the Britain.

  • Nallathamby Yoganathan

    Srilanka ONLY changed the LEADER of the same RACIST GENOCIDAL PARTY. It is not a new Government as People think.
    The Current President Mr.Maithribala Srisena WAS THE DEFENSE MINISTER
    during the 2009 GENOCIDE of TAMILS, CBK- Sounds Likd COLD BLODDED
    KILLLER Chandrika and Ranil were in POWER when so many atrocities and
    Mass killings of Tamils and Muslims during 80s and 90s and afetr 2000.
    That is, Srilanka is SIN-HELLa FUNDAMENTALIST RACIST state where all
    SIN-HELLa Institutions are 100% SIN-HELLa racist. In Srilanka, no sane
    person can expect any sort of justice at all. If any president or prime
    minister DARE to allow Autonomy to Tamils, he/she would be killed by the
    so called BUDDHIST MONKS as they killed Mr. SWRD Bandaranayake then
    Prime Minister even after he GAVE UP the BANDA-SELVA Pact allowing
    limited Autonomy to North and East where almost 100% Tamils and Muslims
    lived in 1948 but not Srilanka SYSTEMATICALLY SETTLED 1 Million
    SINHALESE wirh STATE FUNDING into North and East while ETHNICALLY
    CLEANSED Tamils and Muslims in North and East. the Srilankan CENSUS
    REPORTS clearly show that JUST 18 SINHALESE LIVED In ENTIRE NORTH and
    EAST when the Srilanka got independence from the Britain.

  • Nallathamby Yoganathan

    Lets assume that the so called Domestic Probe WERE TRUE, then ask yourself WHY THE SRILANKA SO ALLERGIC to any investigation !!!!!!!.
    You cannot insult the intelligence of HUMANS by talking both ways.

  • Kailas Pillai

    For about 67 years Lankan minorities have suffered pogroms inflicted with impunity. The pogrom of 1958, 1977 and 1983 were quite brutal. No prosecutions of the perpetrators ever took place. Non-violent resistance started in 1983. A mindset has evolved in which any mention of justice to victims was considered unpatriotic – this has set in hard after the civil war ended in May 2009. The previous regime set up the so called LLRC which totally exonerated the Lankan armed services. The present government consists of minsters in the previous regime and the army commander during the civil war. A domestic investigation simply cannot be unbiased. UN need not wait for this process to proceed because the crucial finding has already been decided by the new government.

  • srivanamoth

    Another LLRC?! Don’t take the subject so lightly please. Some 100,000 Tamil civilians were butchered in cold blood or maimed or whatever in just the last 6 months of the internecine war in 2009. The entire Tamil population were seriously affected and damaged from 1983 onwards until 2009 leaving some 300,000 war ravaged refugees; many of them are still refugees 5 years after the end of war! The north and east are still under Snhala Only military occupation, the agricultural lands occupied and cultivated by the military and even beach fronts and fishing grounds occupied by transported Sinhala people from the south through ethnic cleansing and translocation by the State! As of now no real progress has been made to alleviate the misery for so long. Worse still is that these predatory activities by the state are yet in vogue although the new government is making some weak efforts at alleviation BUT the problem is systemic reminiscent of racism since independence itself. A new type of country is needed that is a win-win solution for ALL citizens under good governance. The UN Report is key!

  • srivanamoth

    Agree!

  • Justin1001

    You misunderstood what I wrote. What I said was the “investigation findings” will be made up by the Sri Lankan state and these would be the “findings”. For sure, it will blame the LTTE for everything and portray the Sinhala forces as angels.

  • Lord Shiva

    Sinhalese never understand pluralism and give respect to other communities. Sinhala Buddhist Apartheid and racism is responsible for the oppression, state terrorism and no reconciliation without justice delivered to the victims.