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Growing calls for prosecution of Sri Lankan envoy to Australia

The International Commission of Jurists, Australia (ICJA), urged the Australian government to ensure accountability and justice, in a statement released on Monday,

The president of the ICJA, John Dowd QC, called for the suspension of Sri Lankan from the Commonwealth and the prosecution of former navy commander, and current Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Australia, Thisara Samarasinghe, for alleged war crimes.

Dowd said,

Those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity at the end of the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009 must not be allowed to go unpunished.”

“In continuing violation of international human rights law, there are thousands of former combatants and civilians in Sri Lankan detention camps still not identified or accounted for.”

“The International Commission of Jurists, Australia has furnished the Australian Federal Police with a brief of evidence that corroborates and substantiates the findings of the UN Secretary-General’s Expert Panel. Since October 2009, such evidence has been taken from witnesses in Australia and overseas."

It is clear that Australia has  an  obligation  to  investigate  and,  where  appropriate,  to  prosecute  those responsible."

“Australia owes this much to the Australian citizens and residents who are victims of the Sri Lankan civil war.”

"If the Commonwealth is to mean anything at all on issues like human rights, it has to look to the actions of its members. This is one of its members who's the putative next host in 2013,"

Former Sri Lankan navy admiral Samarasinghe was the North-East commander during 2009. Several eye witnesses statements state that naval ships fired on civilians as they fled the conflict.

Australia's shadow foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, has raised concerns over whether the government knew of Samarasinghe's highly questionable past before accepting him as Sri Lanka's High Commissioner.

Speaking to the Australian press, Bishop said,

"The allegations against the Sri Lankan high commissioner are extremely serious. Kevin Rudd should review whether the government was aware of the allegations prior to accepting his appointment as high commissioner, and whether the government undertook any inquiries or investigations into the appointment."

Samarasinghe has refuted all allegations: "I specifically reject, totally reject such allegations. Such allegations are baseless."

The Australian Federal Police is currently evaluating whether there is sufficient evidence for an investigation.

Samarasinghe is the latest in a string of Sri Lankan envoys facing scrutiny and possible investigation into war crimes allegations.

See Lawsuit filed against Shavendra Silva in US (Sept 2011)

Dias faces arrest if he returns (Sept 2011)

The ICJA's move comes shortly before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth next week.

Echoing increasing cross-party criticism of the Sri Lankan regime, Australian Greens Party senator, Lee Rhiannon, said,

"With a delegation from Sri Lanka, headed up by their President Mahinda Rajapaksa due to arrive shortly in Perth for (the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting), the Australia government can no longer refuse to take action."

See Australian campaign for Sri Lanka’s Commonwealth suspension (Sept 2011)

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