Monday, 27 June 2016
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Tamil Guardian 27 June 2016
Tamil North-East leads island in taxes from intoxicants

The Sri Lankan government gains the most amount of tax from intoxicants from the Tamil North-East stated Maithripala Sirisena.

The Sri Lankan president said that the areas were the government collects the most tax was from Jaffna, Nuwara Eliya and Batticaloa respectively.

Alongside a rises in alcohol use, there has been an increase of illegal drug usage across the North-East, which civil society activists and politicians say has been contributing to the breakdown of the social fabric of the North-East.

[more]

Tamil Guardian 27 June 2016
'Unwarranted praise' will cause SL to further withdraw from commitments - TCSF

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid al Hussain should identify the "fundamental transgressions in the approach of the Government to the resolution", the Tamil Civil Society Forum said on Monday, days before the release of the high commissioner's oral report.

"The unwarranted praise and promotion that the Sri Lankan Government continues to receive from certain powerful sections of the International Community, which also ironically co-sponsored the resolution, will only encourage the Government to further withdraw from its obligations under the Geneva resolution and is unlikely to inspire them into honouring their commitments," a statement released by the group said.

The TCSF highlighted the government's pledges not to adhere to the resolution's call for foreign judges to be included in any accountability mechanism, the disregard shown to genuine consultations, progress in normalising civilian life in the North-East, including through demilitarisation and the denial that systemic crimes took place.

See full statement here.

Tamil Guardian 27 June 2016
Victim confidence in Sri Lanka's ability to deliver on accountability and justice fading - NGOs at UNHRC
More to follow
"Initial hopes for accountability and justice are fading fast in the Tamil population," said Mr. Mario Arulthas, Advocacy Director for People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (P.E.A.R.L.) during an informal event at the 32nd Human Rights Council on Friday June 24th. The panel moderated by David Whaley (a former UN Resident Coordinator), also featured Ms. Nimalka Fernando (IMADR), Mr. Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon (Campaign for Free and Fair Elections, CaFFE), and Mr. Ruki Fernando (INFORM).

Ms. Nimalka Fernando noted that while we now have the Resolution which provides guiding principles, it doesn't actually match up with the daily realities facing victims.

The panelists addressed the Sri Lankan government's failure to build confidence and trust in victims in Sri Lanka, and meaningfully implement Resolution 30/1. For example, speaking specifically on the Office of Missing Persons, Mr. Ruki Fernando stated that confidence of families of the disappeared and their supporters had been undermined by the government's secrecy around the process.

"Why hasn't the Sri Lankan government taken the OISL report to the South? They need to start laying the groundwork for future prosecutions," stated Mr. Arulthas. "Renewed positive engagement of the international community and muting of criticism of the state in light of failures contributes to victims' disillusionment," he added.
Tamil Guardian 26 June 2016
Sri Lanka Navy constructs and opens home science building in Jaffna
A new home science building constructed by the Sri Lanka Navy for the students of Nunasai Viyalayam in Madagal, Jaffna was opened last week.

The project was conducted under the supervision of the Commander of the Navy Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne with the aim of providing education infrastructure for children.

The Navy also donated kitchen utensils and stationery items for the students in the school, reports Sri Lanka’s defence ministry website.

See more here.
 
Tamil Guardian 26 June 2016
‘Blaming Rajapaksa demons for lack of progress is a false pretence’ – GTF spokesperson
The Sri Lankan government cannot continue to blame members of the former regime for the lack of progress in furthering accountability said the Global Tamil Forum’s spokesperson Suren Surendiran, in a piece published in Colombo Telegraph on Saturday.

“Barely four months since [the] Government of Sri Lanka internationally committing by co-sponsoring Resolution A/HRC/30/L.29 in Geneva, the U-turn came in spectacular fashion from the highest authority in the country, the President himself,” said Mr Surendiran.

“As if there wasn’t enough trust deficit between communities in Sri Lanka, this major let down, haemorrhaged the trust of Tamils in the new President and in his new coalition government.”

[more]

Tamil Guardian 25 June 2016
Sri Lankan military hands out milk packets to Tamil women
 

The Sri Lankan military reported that troops handed out milk packets to former LTTE cadres in Jaffna earlier this month, in what was labelled a series of “Socio Economic Welfare Coordinating Workshops”.

A Sri Lankan military website reported on the workshops and published photos which were edited to cover the faces of the Tamil women, showing them receiving milk packets from uniformed soldiers.

The workshops were organised “with the sheer intention of establishing reliance within their society” said the website.

Tamil Guardian 25 June 2016
Sri Lankan army must release list of surrendees – Sri Lanka Campaign
The Sri Lankan armed forces must release the list it stated it had compiled of LTTE cadres who surrendered in 2009, said the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice.

One of the biggest questions that remain unanswered from the final brutal months of the armed conflict is “what happened to the many hundreds of LTTE ‘surrendees’, as well as the thousands of Tamil civilians, who were taken into the custody of the Sri Lankan army,” said the organisation, in a blog post released this week.

“For many of the families who are still searching for answers about what happened to them, it is often at this stage in the timeline that the trail runs cold.”

However, an admission by Major General Chanayaka Gunaratna (head of the Army’s 58th Division), “that the army is in possession of a list of people that surrendered during the final stages of the war is of enormous significance” it said.

“The army must disclose this information as a matter of urgency. It is now incumbent on the judiciary and political leadership in Sri Lanka – as well as the international community at the ongoing Human Rights Council session – to apply the pressure to ensure they do so.”

[more]

Tamil Guardian 25 June 2016
Sri Lankan FM pledges victims approval will be sought for international participation

Sri Lankan Foreign Minsiter Mangala Samaraweera pledged that his government “will and must have the approval” of victims who suffered during the armed conflict when deciding the degree of international participation in courts that will prosecute perpetrators of human rights abuses.

Addressing the Norwegian Institute for International Affairs in Oslo on Tuesday, Mr Samaraweera said “there’s a certain degree of controversy” when it came to the issue of international involvement in the setting up of a court to try perpetrators accused of committing violations of international humanitarian law.

However, he went on to add,

“That too will be decided after the consultations are over but all I can say now is whatever we decide upon, will and must have the approval, not only ourselves but of the victims those who suffered. This is not an exercise to please ourselves. So the final contours of the architecture of the courts we are hoping to set up will be in discussion. Especially with parties like the TNA and other groups which represent the victims.”

In his wide ranging speech, the minister went on to state that his government had “the intention of de militarizing the North and the East immediately after coming into power”.

“We are now in the process of even giving back the land which has been taken over for military purposes over the years,” he said.

He continued to say,

“In fact I know that during the course of this week another 700 acres will also be released. So far nearly 4000 acres but perhaps an equal amount of land remains to be released and that too we have told the military, that all must be released in a timeline going up to the end of 2018.”


[more]

Tamil Guardian 25 June 2016
NPC votes for army to withdraw from Vanni preschools

The Sri Lankan Army should leave the preschools it runs across Vanni and Kilinochchi, the Northern Provincial Council decided in a vote this week.

In a resolution passed at the NPC's 55th session, members called for army personnel to withdraw from preschools currently being run by the C.S.T army wing.

Over 18,000 children are reported to be studying in these army-run schools.

Tamil children should be able to learn their language and culture, and teachers should be able to teach free from army control, the resolution said.

Tamil Guardian 24 June 2016
Sri Lanka’s credit profile hinges on implementation of IMF reforms – Moody’s
Sri Lanka’s credit profile will depend on how effectively the government will be able to implement a series of reforms laid out by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Moody’s Investors Service.

In a new report entitled “Government of Sri Lanka: Reform Implementation Key to Lasting Fiscal, External Improvement from IMF Program”, Moody’s noted that Sri Lanka’s fall in foreign currency reserves and balance of payments crisis was what led to the government seeking IMF intervention.

“Therefore, in Moody’s view… a more durable improvement in the macro-economic and balance of payments pressures will depend on the extent to which authorities can durably reverse the ongoing fiscal deterioration,” reports Lanka Business Online.

The latest report comes as the Associate Director of Fitch APAC Sovereigns Sagarika Chandra said the challenge for Sri Lanka will be to meet criteria laid out before it by the IMF.
Tamil Guardian 24 June 2016
Sri Lanka’s credit profile hinges on implementation of IMF reforms – Moody’s
Sri Lanka’s credit profile will depend on how effectively the government will be able to implement a series of reforms laid out by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Moody’s Investors Service.

In a new report entitled “Government of Sri Lanka: Reform Implementation Key to Lasting Fiscal, External Improvement from IMF Program”, Moody’s noted that Sri Lanka’s fall in foreign currency reserves and balance of payments crisis was what led to the government seeking IMF intervention.

“Therefore, in Moody’s view… a more durable improvement in the macro-economic and balance of payments pressures will depend on the extent to which authorities can durably reverse the ongoing fiscal deterioration,” reports Lanka Business Online.

The latest report comes as the Associate Director of Fitch APAC Sovereigns Sagarika Chandra said the challenge for Sri Lanka will be to meet criteria laid out before it by the IMF.
Tamil Guardian 23 June 2016
Sri Lankan government to ‘interview’ stranded Tamil asylum seekers
The Sri Lankan government announced it will be sending a team to Indonesia to “interview” a group of stranded Tamil asylum seekers, who were attempting to flee the island.

Sri Lanka’s Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Harsha de Silva said on Thursday that a “three-member team” would be dispatched to Indonesia, where the 44 Tamil asylum seekers are currently stranded.

He added that though the refugees claim to have fled from Sri Lanka, the boat came from South India.

"First thing tomorrow morning a three member team will be leaving to the location where they are now housed 250 km away from where their rickety boat which is no longer sea worthy was beached,” he
said. “They will interview everyone to establish their identity."

[more]

Tamil Guardian 23 June 2016
More denials from Sri Lankan government over cluster bomb use
Another senior Sri Lankan minister has come forward to deny reports that the armed forces deployed cluster bombs during the armed conflict, after reports that remnants of the munitions had been discovered across the Tamil North-East.

Sri Lanka’s Deputy Minister of Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media Karunarathna Paranawithana denied reports that cluster munitions were used and instead slammed demining organisations for allowing the findings to become public.

A former official employed by the demining organisations active in the North-East leaked photographic evidence of the cluster bombs to non-governmental organisation Together Against Genocide, with the story being published in Guardian earlier this week

“The organizations carrying out the demining work have no moral obligation to reveal the information to media,” said Mr Paranawithana. Demining is a separate profession and they have no right to talk about it outside.” 

“We see this as something done to put the government in a difficult situation at a time when the topic of Sri Lanka will be discussed in Geneva once again,” he added before reiterating “similar allegations have been made against Sri Lanka in the past but Sri Lanka’s army is not an army that has used cluster bombs”.

[more]

Tamil Guardian 23 June 2016
Geneva Press Club event hears perspectives on accountability for Tamils at the UNHRC

A discussion at the Geneva Press Club saw participants provide their perspectives on the future of Tamil accountability under the current government.

Speakers included the TNPF president Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, human rights activist Sinnamany Kokilavany, South African rights activist Govender Kisten and International Council of Eelam Tamil representative Thirukulasingam Thiruchchoti.

See full video of the event below:

 

Also see our live Twitter coverage here.
Tamil Guardian 23 June 2016
Sri Lanka cabinet spokesperson rejects allegations of cluster bomb usage
Sri Lanka’s Cabinet Co-Spokesman Dr Rajitha Senaratne categorically rejected allegations that Sri Lanka’s military forces had used cluster bombs during their campaign against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam that saw mass atrocities committed against Tamil civilians.

Mr Senaratne stressed that Sri Lanka similar photographs of cluster ammunition had been put forward before, and asked for verification if the photographs had been taken in Sri Lanka, reports Adaderena.lk.

Mr Senaratne added that there was no proof that the cluster bomb was used b the Sri Lankan army, suggesting that it could have been used by the LTTE.

Questioning the timing of the reports that emerged in the Guardian newspaper, he said,

“It has been around 6 years since demining was carried out. Why are they saying this now. “Such photos have been shown all the time, especially when Geneva is in session. How many photographs had been shown all these while? Did they show anywhere that these belonged to the Sri Lankan army? The LTTE also could have used it.”

Dr Varatharajah, a doctor that worked in the No Fire Zone where the Sri Lankan government allegedly dropped cluster bombs, said he had seen first-hand unexploded cluster bombs, and wounds inflicted due to cluster bombs in his patients. 

Speaking to Ceylon News he said,

““Then we have several evidences of Sri Lankan forces using the cluster bombs and phosphorous bombs especially on the no-fire-zone during the war time. A lot of people were killed by cluster bombs and phosphorous bombs and we received several people with injuries due to cluster bomb.”

Leaked photos confirm cluster bomb use in Sri Lanka (20 Jun 2016)
Tamil Guardian 22 June 2016
International community must ensure UN resolution is implemented – GTF

The international community must stay “fully engaged” on Sri Lanka to ensure all aspects of a UN resolution are fully implemented said the Global Tamil Forum, in a statement released on Wednesday.

“Sri Lanka has time and time again shown it is both unwilling and unable to investigate allegations of war crimes against its own forces or hold perpetrators of grave abuses to account,” said the statement.

Noting that Sri Lanka had agreed to a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council in September last year, the GTF stated that “it appears the government is now trying to back away from this commitment”.

“Given the history of failures of Government Commissions and judicial processes, international participation as specified in the resolution is a must to guarantee the credibility and effectiveness of the Special Court,” it added. “GTF therefore calls upon the Council Members and the High Commissioner of the UNHRC to urge the Sri Lankan government not to renege on this all important commitment to the UN.”

[more]

Tamil Guardian 22 June 2016
Sri Lanka's missing persons commission requests yet another extension
The Chairman of Sri Lanka’s Presidential Commission into Missing Persons has requested yet another extension to the mandate of the office, just days after the government announced it was to be disbanded.

Maxwell Paranagama reportedly submitted a request to extend the term of the commission by one year, reports news24.lk.

The Sri Lankan government had announced that the current mandate of the Paranagama Commission to end on the 15th of July 2016.

[more]

Kumaravadivel Guruparan Tamil Guardian 22 June 2016
Normalising the Abnormalcy – Reflections on Self-Determination, Justice and Peace in Post-War Sri Lanka

"I believe that the issue of confronting and resisting demilitarisation for the Tamil community has to start from home. We need to keep reminding ourselves that we are actually living in a state of abnormalcy. This may sound strange but this is absolutely essential and key to any resistance. It is important to learn not to live with militarisation and to internalise oppression. The easiest path to breaking the inherent collectivity of a community is for it to internalise oppression and accept it as a way of life. We need to educate our children that what they see around them is not normal and that they should not accept it as normal. The most difficult need that has no alternative is a process of political consciencitisation. I truly believe that this is necessary both in the homeland and the diaspora,"

Lecturer in Law, University of Jaffna and Co-Spokesperson of the Tamil Civil Society Forum, Kumaravadivel Guruparan, at the Mamanithar Late Prof C.J. Eliezer AM Memorial Lecture, Monash University, Melbourne, 12 June 2016.


[more]

 
 International Affairs
Tamil Guardian 27 June 2016
UK to retain access to EU single market, immigration not a major issue says Boris Johnson

The lead campaigner of Britain’s EU exit campaign Boris Johnson, said that the UK would continue to seek have access to the European Union’s single market despite voting to leave the body.

In a statement made on Sunday, Mr Johnson said Britain could now forge a relationship based on free trade and partnership rather than a federal system, whilst also fostering free trade deals with growing economies outside the EU.

Mr Johnson added that immigration was not a key factor of Britain’s desire to exit the EU, arguing that the necessity of greater sovereignty was the biggest reason.  

Mr Johnson added that all EU citizens in the UK would have their rights protected, while British people would continue to seek to work, live and travel in the EU.

See more here.


Tamil Guardian 24 June 2016
Scotland to hold independence referendum before UK leaves EU

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has indicated that Scotland will hold an independence referendum before the UK leaves the European Union, reports The Times

The first minister ordered her staff to start drawing up legislation for a new independence vote for Scotland, adding that it was “unacceptable” that Scotland would be forced to leave the EU despite having 62% of the Scottish population voting to remain in the EU.

IN a press conference with the EU flag and Scottish Saltire behind her, Ms Sturgeon said the Scots would get a second vote in independence within the next two years despite agreeing during the last independence referendum that issue would be settled for a generation.

Arguing a “material change in circumstances”  that were “democratically unacceptable,” Ms Sturgeon said, that a referendum would have to take place quickly due to the need to keep Scotland in the EU before the UK withdraws.

 “There are many people who voted against independence in 2014 who are today reassessing their decision,” she added, concluding that she would take “all possible steps” to ensure that Scotland remains in the EU and the single market.

Tamil Guardian 24 June 2016
UK votes to leave EU, Prime Minister resigns, Scottish independence referendum 'highly likely'
The British public have voted in favor of leaving the European Union, in a referendum election that saw the highest voter turnout in decades.

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation shortly after the British European results were confirmed which saw 52% vote in favor of leaving the EU.

In response to the referendum decision, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was

“absolutely determined” to keep Scotland in the European union, adding “I’m proud of Scotland and how we voted yesterday. We said clearly we don’t want to leave the European Union”

Ms Sturgeon added that it was “democratically unacceptable” that Scotland faced the prospect of leaving the EU against the will of its voters, and said a second Scottish independence referendum was “highly likely.”

The President of the European commission, Jean Claude Juncker, continued to reject suggestions that Britain’s exit would cause the other nations to withdraw from the EU. Speaking to press shortly after the referendum results, he said,

“I expect France and Germany to take a very clear position, as it is clear and obvious to everyone that its situation of uncertainty that we are in now cannot last too long. We have to speed things up. This is an unprecedented situation but we are united in our response. We will stand strong and uphold the EU’s core values of promoting peace and the well-being of its peoples.” 

Acknowledging Britain’s decision to leave, he added,

“The British people have expressed their wish to leave. We regret this decision but respect it.”

The presidents of the European council, commission and parliament – Donald Tusk, Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz said any delay to Britain’s exit would “unnecessarily prolong uncertainty”.

Following a set of emergency talks in Brussels, the EU leaders said they regretted, but respected Britain’s decision.


See more here, here and here.
Tamil Guardian 24 June 2016
Appeasement is no answer to brutal suppression of civil liberties – FT on Bahrain
The United States and United Kingdom should take “tougher measures” against Bahrain argued the Financial Times View this week, following the decision to strip the country’s most prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim of his citizenship.

In a piece entitled “Bahrain crackdown fans the sectarian flames”, the Financial Times stated the move, alongside preventing activists from attending the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, “together constitute the most significant assault on civil society and the moderate opposition since Saudi troops crossed into Bahrain in 2011 to help crush protests inspired by the Arab spring”.

“Since then, the regime has at times launched attempts at a peaceful solution and made promises of political reform,” it added. “But Bahrain’s allies in London and Washington cannot with honesty speak now of progress. To do so smacks of appeasement.”

See more extracts from the piece below. See the full piece here.

“Bahrain, which hosts the US fifth fleet, is a decadent autocracy that Philip Hammond, Britain’s foreign secretary, this year said was “travelling in the right direction” on human rights and political reforms. That was not true then. It looks even less so now.”

“The disturbing turn of events threaten Bahrain’s long-term stability. That should worry Washington and London. The UK wants to avoid jeopardising a recent deal for the expansion of an existing naval base that is being financed by the Bahraini government. American officials have also long argued that a policy of engagement tempers hardliners within the regime and encourages reform. Clearly this is not the case.”

“Washington should reimpose the ban on arms sales to Bahrain lifted last year. The UK should follow suit. Mere statements of concern are deeply unconvincing. The time has come for tougher measures.”
Tamil Guardian 24 June 2016
Farc and Colombia sign historic ceasefire agreement
The Colombian government and Farc rebels have sighed a historic ceasefire deal in Havana which includes UN monitors to oversee the disarmament of rebels after a political peace deal is signed.

Speaking shortly after the announcement of the ceasefire the leader of the Farc militant group Rodrigo Londono TimoChenko said,

“Let this be the last day of the war.”

Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos said,

“We have reached the end of 50 years of death, attacks and pain. This sit h end of the armed conflict with Farc.”

Mr Santos added that he hoped to signed a peace deal with the Farc by the end of July reports the BBC.

The United Nations Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon was also present at the ceremony announcing the ceasefire.

Colombia and Farc request UN to monitor any ceasefire
(20 Jan 2016)

Agreement between Colombia and Farc risks impunity - HRW (29 Mar 2016)
Tamil Guardian 23 June 2016
McDonalds receives $3 billion worth of local bids to expand in China
The McDonald’s Corporation has received several bids for its plans to open up stores in China and Hong Kong, which could amount to a total sum of $3 billion reports Reuters.

The US fast food corporation announced that it planned to reorganise its operations in Asia by seeking joint ventures with local partners who would own restaurants within a franchise business.

The McDonald’s cooperation recently hired Morgan Stanley to run the sale of approximately 2,600 restaurants in China, Hong-Kong and South Korea.
Tamil Guardian 22 June 2016
Former Bosnian Serb soldiers arrested under suspicion of mass killings and torture

Bosnian police arrested six former Bosnian Serb soldiers under suspicion of being involved in the killings of 27 Muslim Bosnians during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.

The arrested men allegedly separated 27 men from their families, tortured them and made them dig their own mass grave before killing and burying them. Following the end of the war, the suspects are thought to have uncovered the remains they could find and dispose of them into the river to avoid being caught in the future.

A statement from the prosecution office released on Tuesday said the men were arrested in northwest Bosnia on suspicion of participating in the expulsion, torture and killings of the Muslim Bosniak population in the area.

 See more here.

Tamil Guardian 22 June 2016
Eritrean refugees call for European action against government

Around 2000 asylum seekers from Eritrea protested in Israel on Tuesday, calling for senior members of the Eritrean government to be tried for crimes against humanity.

The protest, held outside the European Union office in Ramat Gan, follows the EU's decision to give economic support to Eritrea in order to prevent African refugees from arriving in Europe.

A UN inquiry report last year found the Eritrean government responsible for systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations, some of which could amount to crimes against humanity.

The report also urged continued international protection for Eritrean refugees.

Read more on Haaretz.

Tamil Guardian 22 June 2016
Bemba sentenced to 18 years for crimes against humanity

The former vice-president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has become the highest level political leader to be sentenced by the International Criminal Court, after he was jailed for 18 years for committing crimes against humanity.

Jean-Pierre Bemba was found guilty in March of five charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, a landmark ruling that marked the first time the court had found rape as a crime against humanity and that held commanders responsible for the actions of their troops.

Judge Sylvia Steiner said Mr Bemba’s troops had carried out "sadistic" crimes of "particular cruelty". Prosecutors had called for a minimum 25 year sentence.

ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told AFP,

“I believe this is a very important day for international criminal justice, especially when it comes to sexual and gender-based crimes.”

The sentencing was hailed by the ICC, with spokesperson Fadi El Abdallah saying the ruling shows "justice may take time but ends by being done".

Geraldine Mattioli-Zeltner, international justice advocacy director at Human Rights Watch said the sentence offered "a measure of justice" for the victims.

"Other commanders should take notice that they, too, can be held accountable for rapes and other serious abuses committed by troops under their control," she said.

[more]

Tamil Guardian 20 June 2016
Former Congolese politician to be sentenced at The Hague
The International Criminal Court is due to sentence Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba on Tuesday, after a landmark case that focussed on rape committed by troops under his command as a crime against humanity.

Prosecutors have called for a minimum 25 year sentence to be handed down after a three-judge panel convicted Mr Bemba in March of this year. He was found guilty of five charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, with the court ruling he had "failed to take all necessary and reasonable measures to prevent" troops under his command from committing murder and rape.

Carrie Comer from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) told AFP,
"It's really important that the court recognise the command responsibility... and there's an opportunity here to provide a deterrent."

"If you knew, or you should have known, that these things were going on and you execute effective control over your troops then, yes, you're absolutely responsible for ... not preventing or punishing these crimes."

See more here.
Tamil Guardian 20 June 2016
UN report finds Rohingya may be subject to crimes against humanity

A newly released United Nations report on Rohingya Muslims and other ethnic groups in Myanmar found that they may have been subject to crimes against humanity.

The report, released by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday found that the Rohingya are suffering from “arbitrary deprivation of nationality, severe restrictions on freedom of movement, threats to life and security, denial of rights to health and education, forced labour, sexual violence, and limitations to their political rights”.

Following a spate of anti-Rohingya violence in 2012 in the Rakhine State, some 120,000 Rohingya and Kaman Muslims remain displaced living in camps for internally displaced people. The report also highlighted abuses faced by other ethnic groups, some of whom were in armed conflict with the government.

“There has also been an alarming increase in incitement to hatred and religious intolerance by ultra-nationalist Buddhist organisations,” the report added, with a press release noting that the “pattern of violations against the Rohingya may amount to crimes against humanity”.

[more]

Tamil Guardian 20 June 2016
State Department officials protest White House policy on Syria
Dozens of US State Department officials have signed an internal memo protesting against the White House’s policy on Syria and called for military strikes against President Bashar al-Assad, reports the BBC.

A State Department official confirmed to the BBC that it has received the memo, reportedly signed by “51 mid-to-high level officials”, but declined to comment on its contents.

An anonymous official however said that it was sent "because the status quo is not sustainable".

Robert Ford, a former US ambassador to Syria who stepped down 2014 due to perceived inaction on Syria told the BBC that the memo was "indictment of the policy from the people who are trying to implement it".

"What they're saying is we cannot achieve our objectives" for a sustainable ceasefire or a negotiated peace deal, he said. "People are very frustrated with the barrel bombs in Aleppo, the targeting of hospitals, the flow of refugees."

See more here.
Tamil Guardian 20 June 2016
Israel announces $15 million additional settlement budget for West Bank
Israel’s government has approved an $18 million budged for further settlements in the West Bank, reports The Guardian. 

The latest addition to Israel’s existing $88 million budget for new settlement projects in the West Bank, comes amidst calls from the US and European Union to halt all settlement building.

The Israeli government said the increase in settlements was needed to address security concerns, citing alleged recent knife attacks by Palestinians.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting, Israel’s prime minister, Netanyahu said the extra funding allocation was “an assistance to plan to strengthen communities” in the West Bank.
Tamil Guardian 19 June 2016
Aid agencies warn of looming humanitarian crisis in Fallujah

Tens of thousands of civilians have fled the besieged Iraqi city of Fallujah as government troops and militias continue their offensive against Islamic State fighters, sparking warnings of a humanitarian crisis from aid agencies.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, stated that more than 80,000 people have fled the city since the government offensive began more than 4 weeks ago.

"Agencies are scrambling to respond to the rapidly evolving situation and we are bracing ourselves for another large exodus in the next few days as we estimate that thousands more people remain trapped in Fallujah," said the UNHCR.

Karl Schembri of the Norwegian Refugee Council told Al Jazeera that in the last three days alone, some 30,000 people have fled the city. "This comes after months of besiegement," he added.

[more]

Tamil Guardian 17 June 2016
Ongoing genocide of Yazidis in Syria and Iraq finds UN
Islamic State fighters are committing genocide against the Yazidi community in Syria and Iraq through murder, sexual slavery gang rape, torture and humiliation concluded a UN report into the Islamic State crimes against the Yazidis.

Speaking at the UN Security Council, the chairman of the Commission of Inquiry Paulo Pinheiro, stressed,

“The finding of genocide must trigger much more assertive action at the political level, including at the UN Security Council.”

Lamenting the lack of action on the ongoing issue, he said,

“The genocide of Yazidis is ongoing. Almost two years since the attack on Mount  Sinjar, nothing has been done to save those people.”

The UN report, entitled “They Came to Destroy: ISIS Crimes against the Yazidis” which was partially based on interviews with dozens of survivors, found that Islamic state actions against the Yazidis to “erase their identity” met the definition of the crime as defined under the 1948 Genocide Convention.

Stressing the need for prosecutions, the UN officials added that if the path to the International Criminal Court (ICC) was blocked by vetoes at the Security Council, foreign judges would have to be used in a domestic based court.

A member of the commission Vitit Muntarbhorn said that the investigators had information on place, violations and the names of perpetrators and had started sharing information confidentially with national authorities to aid in the prosecution of those responsible.

 The report found that “The scale of atrocities committed, their general nature, and the fact of deliberately and systematically targeting victims on account of their membership in a particular group, while excluding members of other groups, were other factors from which the commission was able to infer genocidal intent.”

See more here and here.
Tamil Guardian 16 June 2016
British MP, Jo Cox, killed in fatal shooting

A British MP has died after being shot and stabbed in West Yorkshire on Thursday afternoon.

Jo Cox, Labour MP for Batley and Spen was fatally shot and stabbed while leaving her constituency surgery earlier today.

A 52-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the attack.

According to The Guardian, police are investigating claims that the suspect had shouted 'Britain First' before shooting, referencing the far-right nationalist group.
[more]

Tamil Guardian 16 June 2016
Kurdish political parties press ahead with plans to form autonomous federal region of Rojava in Syria

Syrian Kurdish parties have pressed ahead with plans to set up an autonomous federal system of government in the northern Syria, as US backed militants continue to regain territory from the Islamic State.

The autonomous federation is being formulated by political parties aligned to the Kurdish YPG militants who spearhead most of the attacks against Islamic State advances, and will comprise of three self-autonomous regions that were reclaimed from Islamic State militants.

Despite being classified by the Turkish government as a terrorist organisation, the YPG has been the West’s closest ally in the battle against Islamic State advances.

The newly planned ‘Democratic Federal System for Rojava’ will seek to finalise a constitution within the next three months and follow up with elections, a Kurdish official told Reuters.

The autonomous region of Rojava, which is a Kurdish term used for Northern Syria, will encapsulate three self-ruled regions which have been carved out by Kurdish YPG militants from the control of the Islamic State.

The co-chair of the assembly overseeing the project, Hadiya Yusef, told Reuters that meetings had been held in the US, Russia, UN and Europe to explain the plan and assure them that the aim was not to establish an independent state.

“We expect acceptance of this plan and we are working to win international, domestic and regional support,” said Ms Yousef.

Speaking to Reuters, Ms Yousef said that a constitution known as ‘the social contract’ was almost complete and any regions wishing to join the federal system would do so by agreeing to the contract, which places explicit guarantees on equal joint leadership for women of all administrative bodies.

Ms Yousef added that pending issues included the design of the new flag to represent the federal region.

The plans come as Kurdish militants launch another offensive to recapture the Islamic State held city of Manbij.

Discussions of joining the new ‘Democratic Federal System of Rojava’ have already commenced amidst the besieged politicians of Manbij. An official within the Manbij city council, told Reuters that they were expecting the Rojava proposals to be tabled to them and would allow the council to make a formal decision on the matter.

Tamil Guardian 09 June 2016
Victims' families demand hybrid court in South Sudan as leaders call for 'truth not trials'
Families of the victims reiterated their demand for a hybrid court to be established over alleged war crimes perpetrated during the civil war in South Sudan, after the country's president, Salva Kiir and his former opponent, the vice-president, Riek Machar, co-authored a piece in the New York Times yesterday stating South Sudan "needs truth, not trials."

“We intend to create a national truth and reconciliation commission modelled on those of South Africa and Northern Ireland,” the leaders wrote adding, “disciplinary justice – even if delivered under international law – would destabilise efforts to unite our nation by keeping alive anger and hatred among the people of South Sudan."

See full opinion piece here .

The article came as the country faced increasing international pressure to establish a hybrid court, backed by the African Union, which was a central part of a peace accord signed by Mr Machar and Mr Kiir in August 2015.

Criticising the views of the leaders, Elise Keppler, the associate director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch, was quoted by Voice of America as saying:

“The article drafted by Riek Machar and Salve Kiir really represents a self-serving effort to escape accountability. These leaders themselves are implicated in horrific crimes committed in South Sudan. They themselves agreed, as part of the 2015 peace agreement to have justice advance, and they took to the pages of the New York Times to attempt to sidestep the justice issue, pushing instead for a proposal for a truth and reconciliation."

“To my eyes, this announcement by Machar is very significant and one does need to question how this piece [article] really came about because it is quite a kind of audacious, bracing proposal to say let’s forget the trials that we agreed to as part of the peace process; let’s just go with evading accountability,” she said.

 
HIGHLIGHTS
  Editorial
Enduring resistance
Accountability is imperative for peace
No turning back
  Opinion
‘Blaming Rajapaksa demons for lack of progress is a false pretence’ – GTF spokesperson
Sri Lanka: Broken Promises again at the UN? - JS Tissainayagam
UN Human Rights Council should press Sri Lanka on international participation – Alan Keenan
  Feature
Leaked photos confirm cluster bomb use in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has made little progress conclude UK parliamentary groups
Exiled Tamil victims call for international judges – ITJP
  Culture & Community
A poet's fearless death
American Tamils raise awareness of breast cancer in community
London Tamil Market showcases very best of British Tamil business success



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