Peace for the World

Peace for the World
First democratic leader of Justice the Godfather of the Sri Lankan Tamil Struggle: Honourable Samuel James Veluppillai Chelvanayakam

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

B B C-Sri Lankan government urged to say sorry for war years

Sri Lankan soldier Both the army and the Tamil Tigers are accused of human rights abuses
A business leader in Sri Lanka has called on the government to apologise for itself and on behalf of previous regimes for suffering during the war.
It was the latest in a series of submissions given to a government-appointed commission examining the final years of the conflict.
It has also emerged that witnesses in the north accused the armed forces of killing civilians in shell attacks.
The government says that defeated Tamil Tiger militants are to blame.
Former Ceylon Chamber of Commerce President Chandra Jayarathne said that after its victory celebrations last year the government should have undergone what he called a "process of atonement".
He said that he hoped the commission would lead to a "public expression of regret and apology on behalf of all the leaders and governments of the past, specifically to the war victims and to the nation at large".
Mr Jayarathne also said that, among other things, there was a perception that disappearances and arbitrary arrests were still continuing.
According to accounts emerging from the panel's visit to what was the Tamil Tigers' last stronghold earlier this week, a Tamil civilian who fled the war zone accused the navy of repeatedly shelling refugee boats as they crossed a lagoon to escape, even though they shouted that they were civilians.
Eight people were killed.
In separate testimony, a woman also described how her daughter and son-in-law were also killed by shells as they fled.
Witnesses accused the Tamil Tigers of violently trying to stop them from escaping.
The BBC was barred from the proceedings in the north - these accounts came from Tamil-language newspapers.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

B B C- Rights groups chastises Sri Lanka over rebel detentions

Tamil Tigers on a bicycle patrol (file photo) The ICJ says detention of nearly 8,000 former Tamil Tigers violates international conventions
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) says Sri Lanka has failed to adhere to international law in detaining suspected Tamil Tigers.
The watchdog says the detention of nearly 8,000 rebel suspects for months without a trial is perhaps "the largest mass detention in the world".
It urges Sri Lanka's donors and the UN to urge Colombo to improve its human rights situation.
It also questions the reasons for continuing the state of emergency.
The human rights watchdog says there is a "legal vacuum" over the detention of former Tamil Tiger "surrendees".
There has so far been no response to the report from the Sri Lankan government.
The ICJ says that the donor support for Sri Lanka "must be provided only on condition of compliance with international law and standards, or else risk complicity in a policy of systematic mass arbitrary detention".
The ICJ however recognised the progress made in terms of releasing displaced people from camps and in releasing 565 former child soldiers after rehabilitation.
The government argues that the threat posed by the Tamil Tigers still exists despite their military victory over them in May 2009.
It says it is important to keep the state of emergency until the process of vetting them is over.
Addressing the UN General Assembly last week, President Mahinda Rajapaksa called for a rethink of international rules governing the conduct of war.
But the watchdog questions the reasons for maintaining emergency regulations and the Preventing of Terrorism Act (PTA).
"Conditions on the ground cannot be considered to give rise to a threat to the life of the nation so far as to justify a state of emergency," the ICJ said.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

UNROW Calls for Establishment of War Crimes Tribunal for Sri Lanka

September 23, 2010 By UNROW Staff

Tamil refugees in Sri Lanka, September 2008.
In 2009 the multi-decade conflict between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government ended in a devastating battle. The Sri Lanka government had pushed the rebel group, as well as Tamil civilians who were not affiliated with the group, into a small region in northeastern Sri Lanka. Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group reported thousands of civilian deaths, as the government indiscriminately bombed the region, and the rebel group did not allow civilians to leave for safer areas. Although there is international concern about the crimes committed by the rebel group, less attention is being paid to those perpetrated by the Sri Lankan government.
On September 22, 2010, the UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic, based out of the American University Washington College of Law, released a new report calling for the establishment of a new international tribunal to prosecute those most responsible for the crimes committed during the conflict. A press release and link to the report is below.
Human Rights Group Calls on the United Nations to Establish War Crimes Tribunal for Sri Lanka
September 22, 2010—The U.N. panel appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should promptly recommend the establishment of an international tribunal for war crimes committed by Sri Lankan security forces against Tamil civilians, states a white paper released today by the UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic (UNROW) at American University Washington College of Law.
On behalf of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam, which is represented by UNROW, UNROW demands that justice be given to the Tamil population victimized by the Sri Lankan government.
Evidence indisputably shows that Sri Lankan security forces committed grave violations of human rights and humanitarian law against the Tamil civilian population during the civil war, notes the paper. Sri Lankan security forces willfully and deliberately bombed or attacked Tamil civilian hospitals, schools, and other non-military buildings, as well as “safety” or “no-fire” zones. There is ample evidence demonstrating that the Sri Lankan government targeted Tamil civilians in an effort to destroy their culture and population. Nearly 7,000 civilians were reportedly killed in the five-month period from January to April 2009 alone. Such attacks on civilians are prohibited by international humanitarian law.
The Sri Lankan government has denied any responsibility for civilian deaths. In June 2010, the Secretary-General established a three-member panel to advise him on the Sri Lankan government’s efforts to implement accountability measures for alleged human rights violations. But the Sri Lankan government has prevented the panel from being admitted into the country. During the summer, government officials led chaotic protests against the panel.
The panel’s work is now officially under way. The open hostility of the Sri Lankan government toward accountability, however, shows that Sri Lanka is unlikely to implement any forthcoming recommendations from the United Nations, noted UNROW’s paper.
“The U.N. Security Council has an opportunity to reaffirm its intolerance of serious human rights and humanitarian law violations by establishing a temporary international tribunal to investigate and try alleged Sri Lankan war criminals,” states the paper. Moreover, UNROW stressed that the U.N. Security Council has the authority and a wealth of precedents to establish a tribunal pursuant to its mandate to maintain and restore international peace and security.
The accountability process must not be entrusted, in any measure, to the Sri Lankan government. Only an international tribunal—bringing with it impartiality, independence, and expertise—can provide the justice that the Tamils need and deserve. The paper calls attention to the features that are necessary for such a tribunal.
Contact UNROW by phone at 202-274-4088, email at, or mail at UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic, American University Washington College of Law, 4801 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, D.C. 20016 to obtain copies of the white paper.
An electronic copy of the report is available here (.PDF).

Friday, September 24, 2010

B B C-Tamil language disserves due recognition

Tamil language disserves due recognition
 Ven. Dr.Bellanwila Wimalaratana
Ven. Dr.Bellanwila Wimalaratana
A leading Buddhist monk has claimed that Tamils have had to face numerous difficulties as they have not been able to use their mother tongue as desired.

The Ven. Dr.Bellanwila Wimalaratana Nayaka thera said that it is high time that the Tamil language be given due recognition.

The Venerable Dr Bellanwila Wimalaratana thera, the Viharadhipathi of the Bellanwila Raja MahaVihara who is also the Vice chancellor of the Sri Jayawardanapura University was giving evidence at the Commission on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation.


“We must sincerely admit that Tamils have been unjustly treated on language issue” said Dr Wimalaratna thera.

The prelate said that although Tamil is accepted as an official language even today many Tamils are deprived of using Tamil when conducting business.

The Ven.Wimalaratna pointed out that fair language use would help promote the concept of Sri Lanka citizenship among Tamils.

Referring to the past, the prelate said that it is not correct to blame the Language policy of 1956 which promoted Sinhala, for the current lapse of giving due recognition to the Tamil Language.

“Accepting Sinhala as the state language is not the issue, that was a necessity, but Tamil should have been given due recognition” said Venerable Dr Bellanwila Wimalaratana

Tamils intimidated

Mavi Senathi Raja
Mavi Senathi Raja

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP Mavai Senathiraja has complained that those Tamils who gave evidence at the Commission had been intimidated by comments made subsequently by the army.

Parliamentarian Mavai Senathiraja said that it was unfair for the military to comment on evidence through media. He pointed out that if necessary the military could also give evidence at the Commission.

Atrocities committed by srilankan government against Tamils

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sri Lanka bans BBC from covering civil war hearings

Tamil civilians in Kilinochchi (July 2010) during a visit by President Rajapaksa The public hearings are due to hear from Tamil civilians displaced by the civil war
The BBC has been blocked from covering public hearings about Sri Lanka's civil war in former rebel-held territory.
For three days, civilians will have the chance to give evidence on life under the Tamil Tigers or LTTE.
The government says the Commission on Lessons Learned and Reconciliation is working to prevent a repeat of the conflict.
A senior defence ministry official said he could not allow the BBC to attend the sittings, due to start on Saturday.
An important part of the commission's work is to meet ordinary Tamil civilians who were displaced by the war and suffered severe trauma, injury or the loss of close family members.
This weekend the panel will travel to Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu - a former Tamil Tiger heartland in the north of the country.
The panel will travel to the lagoon which was the scene of some of the last fighting and across which many people fled from the guerrilla-controlled zone.
Many of the hearings on this trip will be held in public but the defence ministry has rejected an application by BBC News to witness the panel's activities on this leg of their mission.
The military liaison officer declined to give any reasons.
In August, the BBC attended panel hearings in an unrestricted part of the north but was not allowed to attend its meetings in camps with refugees and suspected former rebels.
Sri Lankan government officials regularly accuse journalists, both foreign and domestic, of bias against the administration.
On Monday, a newspaper editor told the commission that he believed such perceptions were made worse by the systematic restrictions on reporters wishing to travel in the north.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

UN Happy Talk from Ban & Spokesman, No Sudan, No Sri Lanka or Congo Accountability

Inner City Press

UN Happy Talk from Ban & Spokesman, No Sudan, No Sri Lanka or Congo Accountability

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 13 -- Ban Ki-moon and his team, trying to manipulate the media, will attempt to use the upcoming UN General Debate to nail down a second term for “Mister Ban,” UN

UN Happy Talk from Ban & Spokesman, No Sudan, No Sri Lanka or Congo Accountability

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Rajapaksa’s new powers are unnecessary and dangerous,

Sri Lanka's constitutional amendment

Sri Lanka's constitutional amendment

Eighteenth time unlucky

Mahinda Rajapaksa’s new powers are unnecessary and dangerous

NATIONAL constitutions come in two main types. Some are prescriptive, enshrining freedoms, curtailing the powers of the state and generally hampering would-be dictators. Others, however, tend to the descriptive, and are often revised to catch up with changes that have already happened. Into this class can be put Sri Lanka’s 1978 constitution, this week amended for the 18th time, with unseemly haste.
The Sri Lanka described in the revised charter is not a pretty place. It is one where the forms of parliamentary democracy are preserved but the substance has become subordinated to almost untrammelled presidential power. With the opposition divided, his rival in the presidential election in January in detention and his popularity still high, President Mahinda Rajapaksa already seems monarch of all he surveys.
The amendment changes the constitution in two main ways. The first is to remove the bar on the president’s serving more than two six-year terms. First elected president in 2005, and then re-elected with a thumping majority in January, Mr Rajapaksa has in fact not even started his second term. But he seems to be settling in for the long haul.
As government spokesmen have pointed out, however, Sri Lanka’s voters will at least have the chance to turf him out in six years’ time. That is why it is the second change that is more pernicious. It is (such is the way of descriptive constitutions) to overturn the 17th amendment. This was an admittedly muddled attempt to curb the powers of the “executive presidency”, partly through a “constitutional council”. After the latest change, the constitution will both grant the president immunity and also give him final authority over all appointments to the civil service, the judiciary and the police. He is also commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Almost the only formal constraint on him—electoral considerations aside—is an obligation to show up in parliament once a quarter.
Sri Lanka, goes the argument of Mr Rajapaksa’s cheerleaders, needs a strong executive to seize the chances of peaceful development offered by last year’s victory in the 26-year civil war with the Tamil Tigers. But confusingly they also point to that victory—grasped with a ruthlessness that shocked many of Sri Lanka’s foreign friends—as evidence of the virtues of a powerful presidency. Indeed, whatever problems Sri Lanka’s political system suffers from, the weakness of the presidency, which is already directly responsible for over 90 institutions, is not one of them. Quite the contrary: Mr Rajapaksa himself, before he tasted its benefits first-hand, used to campaign for the abolition of the executive presidency.
His new vision of further strengthening the president’s powers has been greeted with an outcry from Sri Lanka’s liberals, but few mass protests. The public must feel bewildered by it all. The change was pushed through as an “urgent” parliamentary bill in under two weeks from the draft’s first appearance, thanks to Mr Rajapaksa’s recent acquisition of the requisite two-thirds majority. Such important changes should have been put to a referendum. Mr Rajapaksa might well have won one. But a campaign would at least have thrown the issues open to public debate and scrutiny.
Because he can
The only urgent compulsions facing Mr Rajapaksa and his brothers (two have senior jobs in his government and a third is the parliament’s speaker) are those of parliamentary arithmetic and personal popularity. Still basking in the glow of military and electoral triumphs, the president has done in haste what he knows he can get away with. That he has preferred to put the consolidation of his family’s power ahead of a sorely needed national reconciliation with an aggrieved Tamil minority is a decision Sri Lanka will repent at leisure.

U.S. says Sri Lanka amendment undermines democracy

Sat Sep 11, 10:25 am ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Saturday condemned Sri Lanka's passage of a constitutional amendment granting the president vast new powers, saying it undermined democracy.
Sri Lanka's parliament on Wednesday voted for the measure sought by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, which removes a presidential two-term limit and grants him more power over appointments to the police, judiciary, public service and electoral commissions.
"The United States is concerned that this constitutional amendment weakens checks and balances and thus undermines the principles of constitutional democracy," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in a statement.
Crowley called on Rajapaksa's government to take steps to strengthen independent institutions, increase transparency and promote national reconciliation in the Indian Ocean nation, which is recovering from a long civil war.
The government argued the constitutional change was justified to give Rajapaksa, whose second term ends in 2017, time to build Sri Lanka's $42 billion economy after victory over the Tamil Tiger separatists last year.
Opposition and rights groups criticized the measure as a blow to democracy and a step toward dictatorship by Rajapaksa, who parlayed last year's victory over the rebels into a re-election to a second term in January and a landslide for his United Peoples Freedom Alliance party in parliament in April.
However, critics accuse him of stifling dissent, jailing opponents and disregarding the rule of law as he holds an office with almost unchecked control of the government.
Sri Lanka's relationship with Western nations was strained earlier this year after it objected to a decision by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to appoint an independent panel to assess whether crimes were committed during the final months of Sri Lanka's war against the Tamil rebels in May 2009.
Rights groups said the U.N. panel was necessary because Sri Lanka appeared unwilling to seriously investigate possible abuses itself.
The government denies any war crimes took place, but rights groups say that both the government and the Tamil Tigers were guilty of human rights violations that resulted in large numbers of civilian deaths.
(Reporting by Andrew Quinn; editing by Vicki Allen)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sri Lanka urged to ensure safety of detained former asylum-seekers

Sri Lanka urged to ensure safety of detained former asylum-seekers

© Robyn Stevenson">Two of the men were detained on Christmas Island before their forced return to Sri Lanka

Two of the men were detained on Christmas Island before their forced return to Sri Lanka

© Robyn Stevenson

3 September 2010

Amnesty International has called on the Sri Lankan government to ensure the safety of three men who have been tortured and jailed following their forced return from Australia in 2009.

Two of the men, Sumith Mendis and Lasantha Wijeratne, were transferred to a hospital to be examined by a judicial medical officer on 1 September amid claims that they were beaten and tortured following an alleged new attempt to migrate to Australia. It is not clear if they are still in hospital or have returned to prison.

All three are at risk of further abuse from guards and prisoners when they are returned to prison where Sumith's brother, Indika, is already being held.

"This is an appalling situation that calls into question the actions of both the Sri Lankan and Australian governments," said Madhu Malhotra, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for Asia.

"Both governments are culpable in the forced return and mistreatment these men have endured, and both must bear responsibility for the results of their policies and procedures."

Sumith Mendis and Indika Mendis were detained in 2009 at the Christmas Island detention centre after the boat they were crew members on was stopped by Australian authorities and found to be carrying Sri Lankan asylum-seekers.

They were deported to Sri Lanka and promptly arrested and handed over to the Central Investigative Department (CID).

Sumith Mendis was released, but Indika Mendis was tortured in CID custody, sustaining severe ear injuries before being transferred to the notorious Negombo prison where he was held for eight months.

On 14 August 2010, the brothers were arrested again, apparently on suspicion that they were again planning to migrate to Australia. Sumith Mendis was then tortured by the CID for six days, experiencing beatings and psychological abuse.

On 22 August, the brothers were taken to Negombo prison, along with Lasantha Wijeratne, another Sri Lankan who had also been deported from Australia and tortured in custody.

Following examination by a judicial medical officer, Sumith Mendis and Lasantha Wijeratne were transferred to the hospital.

They now face the risk of abuse by both prisoners and guards when they are again taken to Negombo prison unless authorities take the necessary steps to ensure their safety.

"The Sri Lankan Authorities must ensure that all three men are not subject to any more torture or ill-treatment, either at the hands of the CID or prisoners or guards in Negombo prison," said Madhu Malhotra.

"The Australian government must re-examine its claims that asylum-seekers returned to countries they are fleeing from are not subjected to torture and mistreatment."

Read More

Australia asylum suspension could harm world's most vulnerable (News, 9 April 2010)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sri Lanka is still denying civilian deaths

All attempts to investigate atrocities in the Tamil Tiger conflict have been stifled, despite promises made to Ban Ki-moon
During the Vietnam conflict, the US military developed some creative ways to increase the numbers of Viet Cong insurgents it claimed to have killed. "If they're dead, they're Viet Cong," meant that any Vietnamese killed by American soldiers would automatically count as enemy fighters.
Sri Lanka's defence secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, has taken such creative accounting to new heights. The United Nations reported that at least 7,000 civilians were killed and tens of thousands wounded during the final months of the brutal conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which ended in May 2009. But Gotabhaya has repeatedly cast aspersions on the idea that there were any civilian casualties.
In his recent statement before a Sri Lankan commission looking at lessons learned from the war, Gotabhaya claimed that injured Tigers "changed their uniforms into civilian clothes" and that the Tigers must have suffered at least 6,000 dead and 30,000 injured – suggesting those counted as civilian casualties were really just Tamil Tiger fighters who had shed their uniforms.
As for the widespread war crimes and human rights abuses by both sides reported both during and after the conflict by various UN agencies, the US state department and human rights organisations, the defence secretary seems to be suffering from severe amnesia. He told the Lessons Learned Commission: "No complaints about human rights violations or abuses by the army were brought to my notice. None at all."
Despite the promises made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon in June 2009 to investigate wartime atrocities, as well as Sri Lanka's international legal obligations to investigate alleged laws of war violations, the president and his brothers in power have not lifted a finger to do so. The president often appears stunned when other governments both praise the government's victory yet insist on accountability for laws of war violations.
Gotabhaya also proclaimed that the military operation was a really a "humanitarian intervention" in which "we took great care to avoid [endangering] civilians … our military had to stop operations and give protection to people, food convoys." In practice, however, rather than protecting civilians, the government blocked access by humanitarian organisations. The International Committee of the Red Cross complained publicly that it was unable to reach those most in need.
There are genuine concerns that the Lessons Learned Commission will serve only to whitewash allegations of serious abuses, and that its conclusions will be used to brush off calls for an international investigation. The panel's mandate is deliberately limited: its main responsibility is to understand the reasons for the collapse of the 2002 ceasefire agreement, and there is no express mandate to investigate laws of war violations.
The government clearly wants to avoid an honest attempt to find the truth. During a BBC interview in June, Gotabhaya threatened to have the commander behind the final military offensive, Gen Sarath Fonseka, executed after he promised to co-operate with investigations into wartime violations. The government took Fonseka – who earlier this year unsuccessfully ran against the president – to court martial, where he was convicted, essentially cutting him off from any capacity to challenge the Rajapaksa version of events.
The government announced in June that it will deny visas to the members of a UN expert panel established to advise Secretary General Ban on mechanisms for accountability. For those who didn't get the message, protests against the panel led by a government minister outside the UN compound in Colombo should have: this government has no interest in investigating abuses and providing victims a measure of justice.
Add to this the continued suppression of government critics, civil society, and media, the restricted access for independent monitors to the northern and eastern parts of the country where the fighting occurred, the lack of information about an estimated 8,000 suspected Tamil Tiger fighters currently detained in "rehabilitation camps," and the conditions are ripe for a complete rewrite of history.
What the Lessons Learned Commission makes of the testimony it receives remains to be seen. One would hope that it would see the government's version of events for what it is: a cynical fabrication designed to avoid scrutiny. Unfortunately, there is every reason to fear that the panel will believe the story that is being spun by the Rajapaksa brothers, which basically runs to the formula from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland: "Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn't."