Sri Lanka's announcement of the appointment of yet another commission to investigate human rights abuses should come as no surprise. Following the release of report by the UN expert panel, calls for an international, independent inquiry into the final stages of the conflict are gaining momentum on a global level.
This new commission, like its predecessors, including the infamously impotent Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) is a farce. Its announcement is a insolent retort at the UN report and all those advocating accountability, as well as another of Sri Lanka's habitual ploys to buy time for international attention to fade.
This new body, a group of government-appointed judges to serve as a revived Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, is just like those before it. Its conclusions are clear even before the commission is begun. Priyantha Perera, a retired Supreme Court Judge who has been instructed to lead, has already described those criticising Sri Lanka's human rights record as 'detractors' that he was able to put the 'correct picture of Sri Lanka' before.
Sri Lanka's inability and unwillingness to carry out any independent investigations is now widely recognised truth. It has been highlighted repeatedly by international rights organisations including Humans Rights Watch, Amnesty International and International Crisis Group. Moreover, the absence of the rule of law, exemplified by both political interference in the Supreme Court, and the latter’s servitude to the regime of the day utterly negates any possibility of genuine justice for victims of state violence, especially Tamil ones.
So far, the international community has played along with Sri Lanka’s theatrics. Even the LLRC, although having been categorically rejected by international rights groups as a farce, is still discussed by the US, for example, as if it has merit. This duplicity cannot continue. Two years since the mass killings of 40,000, the essential facts of 2009 have been laid bare by the UN expert panel. The Sri Lankan state’s military campaign, the panel made clear, constituted 'persecution' of the Tamil population of Vanni. The ‘systematic shelling’ of hospitals and civilian concentrations, and the deliberate blocking of food, medicine and humanitarian supplies, are not wayward acts of a few soldiers, but constituted an organised onslaught by a state against those, it tells the world, are its citizens.
Sri Lanka's domestic processes are unwilling to address the state’s own complicity or culpability in crimes against its citizens. This glaringly obvious truth is not new, but it was conveniently avoided by the international community. As leaked US embassy cables point out, the international community knows well that internal investigations into crimes of this sort have never been accurately investigated by those who committed them.
This cannot be allowed to continue. The deliberate slaughter of tens of thousands civilians makes international apathy inexcusable. It is time that the world put an end to Sri Lanka's games. The gravity and scale of these crimes requires an international, independent investigation - tolerance of anything less would be an indefensible sham, one complicit in a 21st century genocide.
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