Speaking in parliament, former Sri Lankan army commander, Sarath Fonseka accused UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet of harbouring LTTE sympathies and only listening to “one side of the story”.
His remarks come ahead of the 49th session of the UNHRC which is due to start on the 28th, where Sri Lanka is expected to face international scrutiny for its dire human rights record, failure to repeal the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act, and continued lack of accountability.
“Madam Bachelet you have heard one side of the story from those who are supporting LTTE or are sympathetic to LTTE. I’m requesting you do justice to us otherwise we’ll be disgracing the decorum of your office and I’m very humbled to ask you are you whether you are angry with us because we eradicated the terrorism from this country. We eliminated the LTTE”.
Fonseka served as Sri Lanka’s army commander during the final years of the wars, from 2005 to 2009, which oversaw a litany of war crimes including the indiscriminate shelling of hospitals, mass executions and sexual violence. During the final months, UN data suggests that over 70,000 Tamils were slaughtered whilst local census records indicate that at least 146,679 people are unaccounted for and are presumed to have been killed
Bachelet has released a scathing report detailing the increasing militarisation and raising concerns over “the continued lack of accountability for past human rights violations and recognition of victims’ rights in Sri Lanka, particularly those stemming from the conflict that ended in 2009”. In her report, she calls for universal jurisdictions and targeted sanctions against alleged perpetrators of human rights abuses.
Attacks on human rights defenders
His attack on Bachelet follows a similar attack by Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry on Sri Lanka’s former Human Rights Commissioner, Ambika Satkunanathan. Responding to her submission to the European Parliament, they accused Satkunanathan’s statement of being “reminiscent of LTTE propaganda”. Her statement decried the continued human rights violations on the island and detailed the failure to reform the PTA which has been used disproportionately against Tamils and Muslims.
Over 80 international human rights and civil society organisations decried the attack on Satkunanathan. In a joint statement 8 human rights organisations noted:
“Targeting her for providing accurate testimony about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka to the European Parliament is completely unacceptable, and sends a chilling message to all Sri Lankan civil society, especially those in the north and east, who are already operating under considerable duress under the current administration”.
View the full speech here.