Monday, 20 October 2014
Home Tamil Affairs International Affairs Editorial Opinion Feature Culture & Community Interviews
Latest Entries:
No more excuses, it is time to act
Editorial Tamil Guardian 18 December 2011 Print ArticleE-mail ArticleFeedback On Article
   

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 to 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 inquiry 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. 

 
Share on Facebook Print ArticlePrint Article E-mail ArticleE-mail Article Feedback On ArticleFeedback On Article
 
 
HIGHLIGHTS
  Tamil Affairs
Tamil Guardian 20 October 2014
Travel restriction to North designed to prevent Tamils giving evidence to UN inquiry says TNPF
The Sri Lankan government's re-introduction of travel restrictions to the North, preventing all foreign citizens from entering the region without prior written permission from the Ministry of Defence, [more]

Tamil Guardian 20 October 2014
MoD collects details of Tamils in North for 'lost property search'
Sri Lanka's Ministry of Defence has requested Tamils in the North to register their name, address, email address, telephone phone number and other personal information, [more]

Tamil Guardian 20 October 2014
Sri Lanka to challenge EU court annulment of anti-terror measures on LTTE
Sri Lanka is to challenge the annulment of anti-terror measures against the LTTE by the General Court of the European Union on Thursday, by dispatching its ambassador to Strasbourg on Monday. [more]

Tamil Guardian 19 October 2014
Government appointed officials in NPC do not serve people says TNA MP
Government appointed officials in the Northern Provincial Council do not serve the people said a Tamil National Alliance MP on Sunday. Speaking to the Sunday Times on the government appointed NPC governor’s secretariat and chief secretary's failure to attend an event aimed at resolving problems related to land, [more]

Tamil Guardian 19 October 2014
EU will have to rethink 'flawed' proscription of LTTE says ECJ lawyer
The European Union decision to ban the LTTE in 2006 needs to be rethought after the recent European Court Justice (ECJ) ruling exposed “big mistakes” in the proscription outlined a lawyer representing LTTE at the ECJ. [more]

Tamil Guardian 19 October 2014
UK, Canada, Australia warn citizens of Sri Lanka's restrictions on travel to North
The UK, Canada and Australia warned their citizens of the Sri Lanka's new travel restrictions on visiting the North of the island, in updated travel advisories this week. [more]

Tamil Guardian 19 October 2014
UN official stopped from entering North by Defence Ministry travel restrictions
A United Nations official was stopped from entering the North on Wednesday, due to the Ministry of Defence's newly re-introduced travel restrictions, requiring all foreign citizens to seek prior permission from the Ministry to enter the Tamil region in the North of the island. Beth Crawford, [more]

Tamil Guardian 19 October 2014
Fears travel restrictions to North will affect tourism
Highlighting that at least 8.6% of tourists in Sri Lanka go to the north-east, Sri Lanka’s tourism board said it was caught unaware of the new travel restrictions placed on foreigners travelling to the North, reports the SundayTimes. [more]


Print Editions

 
 

Contact Tamil Guardian
www.tamilguardian.com