Third day running, media goes wild on SL war crimes

There are precedents for seeking Samarsinghe's recall. In September of this year General Jaghat Dias who was Sri Lanka's ambassador to Germany and Switzerland was recalled to Colombo after the Swiss government contacted the Sri Lankan government concerning accusations that General Dias ordered troops of the 57th division, which he commanded, to fire on civilian and hospital targets during the army's final offensive against the separatist Tamils in 2009.A report by the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights accused Dias of participating in acts of torture and the execution of rebel fighters.

In 1995 Australia rejected the nomination as ambassador of retired Indonesian General Herman Mantiri. His nomination was rejected on the basis of war crimes committed by Mantiri against the East Timorese. In 2005 and 2008 the Canadian government refused to accept nominations for the position of high commissioner put forward by the Sri Lankan government, for reasons associated with human rights abuses.

Don't-ask, don't-tell no longer works with war crimes. The international community has become increasingly intolerant of governments solving their internal problems with impunity.

Ethical considerations aside, a secure and orderly global framework requires that international laws and treaties be respected, even when responding to an insurgency.

Yet Sri Lanka's consistent response to allegations since the end of the war has been blanket denial. For years its envoys insisted their forces were not responsible for a single civilian death. As a result of pressure from emerging evidence, they now admit they may have been responsible for some civilian deaths, albeit unwittingly.

Australia has a duty, under our own laws and in accordance with our international legal obligations, to investigate credible allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity

Even china is reporting on this…

Liberals and Greens mount pressure on Australian Government

SHADOW foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop has demanded that Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd reveal whether the government knew about the allegations against Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe before it accepted him as Sri Lanka's high commissioner

Ms Bishop told The Age yesterday: ''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.''

An official from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet confirmed during a Senate hearing yesterday that the Prime Minister had been given ''advice'' about Mr Samarasinghe's appointment, but was unable to say what that advice was or when it was given.

A spokeswoman for Mr Rudd said it would be inappropriate to comment on the ICJA brief as it was being considered by the federal police.

She also said there was ''an expectation that Sri Lanka will be the subject of discussion by Commonwealth members'' at the CHOGM meeting next week...

The Greens called for Mr Rudd to push for members of the Sri Lankan government to be brought before the International Criminal Court - despite the fact Sri Lanka is not a signatory to the court - and for the federal government to ban Sri Lankans from CHOGM, which meets in Perth next week...

President of the ICJA and former attorney-general John Dowd said those responsible for war crimes should not be allowed to go unpunished.

International Commission of Jurists Australia submits evidence of war crimes to Australian police

SRI Lanka's high commissioner to Australia, former navy Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe, should be investigated for war crimes, a brief before the Australian Federal Police says.

The submission, from the International Commission of Jurists' Australian section, has compiled what a source has told The Age is direct and credible evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity...

The AFP has confirmed it is evaluating the allegations against Dr Kohona "with a view to determining any potential breaches of Australian law"

Admiral Samarasinghe resigned his commission in January to take up his diplomatic post in Canberra. At the time of his appointment, foreign affairs officials reportedly saw his nomination as "problematic", in light of his command role in a military accused of serious human rights violations. But his appointment was not opposed...

Yes the Australian Federal Police have capacity under the Commonwealth Crimes Act and related legislation giving effect to the Geneva conventions which would allow the AFP to conduct investigations into the commission of war crimes that occurred overseas including crimes against humanity by any person including non Australian citizens.

Australia's Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd would not immediately comment on the accusations as they were with police, but a spokeswoman said Australia had asked Sri Lanka to respond to the United Nations.

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights call on Australian Gov't, CHOGM to take action

30 September 2011

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights call on the Australian government and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth to do all reasonably within their power to convince the government of Sri Lanka to set up an independent, impartial, well-resourced and effective body to investigate allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity alleged to have been committed by both sides in the Sri Lankan civil war which concluded in May 2009.

A number of bodies including the International Crisis Group; Amnesty International and the UN Secretary-General's Panel of Experts have found the need for such a body to investigate what the Panel referred to as "credible allegations".

So far, the government of Sri Lanka seems to have done everything it can to avoid an investigation of the kind that it is needed.

The Commonwealth Heads of Government should consider what steps are available to them to encourage the government of Sri Lanka to carry out their responsibility in this matter.

Stephen Keim SC


President, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights

Sri Lanka should be suspended from the Councils of the Commonwealth, says roundtable

Posted on 20. Sep, 2011

A round table held at Federal Parliament today resolved to call for a suspension of Sri Lanka from the Councils of the Commonwealth pending an international independent investigation into war crimes (see backgrounder below). This is the first time that groups in Australia have publicly made this call.

Greens Senator for NSW Lee Rhiannon said: "Sri Lanka will continue to be the elephant in the room in Commonwealth forums until allegations of war crimes and discrimination are independently investigated and addressed.

"Last week Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper set the bar for Commonwealth leaders to follow in questioning whether Sri Lanka should continue to host the 2013 CHOGM meeting unless it can prove it has made progress on investigating alleged war crimes.

"With CHOGM shortly to be held in Perth the Australian government needs to add its voice and ensure that all Commonwealth nations uphold principles of human rights and the rule of law", said Senator Rhiannon.

The Hon John Dowd said: "It would be a disgrace to the whole Commonwealth if CHOGM were to be held in Sri Lanka prior to Sri Lanka dealing with the war crimes committed there.

"There will be no justice for the people of Sri Lanka or solution to the problems unless the crimes committed on both sides are dealt with.

"The Commonwealth must suspend Sri Lanka from its membership. Failure to do so will mean all members condone the recent history of Sri Lanka" said Mr Dowd.

Dr Sam Pari, spokesperson for the Australian Tamil Congress said: "The Sri Lankan regime needs to know that perpetrators of war crimes cannot simply continue to evade accountability with impunity, and deny justice to their victims.

"A tribunal for the Tamil killing field should be turned into a global symbol of deterrence for other authoritarian regimes willing to kill their own civilians. Without a tribunal, the Tamil killing field becomes a horrific precedent suggesting that in our era, states can escape unscathed for egregious violations of human rights law.

"Suspending Sri Lanka will send a strong unambiguous message to Sri Lanka: as long as you continue to obstruct an international independent inquiry into war crimes you will face consequences", said Dr Pari.

The roundtable resolved the following:

We call on the Australian Government and the Federal Opposition to:

1. Support calls for Sri Lanka to be suspended from the Councils of the Commonwealth until the government of Sri Lanka agrees to an international independent investigation into war crimes, restoration of human rights and the rule of law and the implementation of all of the recommendations of the UN Expert Panel Report on War Crimes in Sri Lanka. Failing that event occurring within a reasonable time that steps be instituted to suspend Sri Lanka from the Commonwealth.

2. Oppose Sri Lanka hosting CHOGM in 2013.

We call on the Prime Minister Julia Gillard to follow the lead of Canadian President Stephen Harper in saying he will not attend CHOGM in Sri Lanka in 2013 if there is no progress in Sri Lanka's human rights and the establishment of an independent investigation into war crimes.

The round table, hosted by Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, looked at furthering the call for an independent war crimes tribunal for Sri Lanka. Participants were: the Hon John Dowd AO QC (President of the International Commission of Jurists Australia); Dr Sam Pari (Australian Tamil Congress); Associate Professor Jake Lynch (Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Sydney University); Dr Ben Saul (Professor of International Law and Director of the Sydney Centre for International Law at Sydney University); Peter Arndt (Executive Officer of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission Brisbane); Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon.

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