US report violates Sri Lanka’s rights and sovereignty
Posted on September 25th, 2009

Courtesy Daily News Sri Lanka

AƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  U.S. State Department report on the war in Sri Lanka was presented to the US Congress on Monday, without giving Sri Lanka the right of being heard on the report, prior to being presented.

Sri LankaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s Ambassador to the US had reportedly been kept informed of the presentation, though it appears Sri LankaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s comments and observations if any had not been obtained by the US executive before making the report to its legislature.

Content is vague

The contents of the report are not clear. But what is clear is that, no US official had visited the warfront during the last and concluding stages nor were anyone else able to visit in view of the dangers of being caught in the cross – fire. It would not be difficult to surmise that the report would be based invariably on hearsay material, third party reports of pro-LTTE outfits and media hypes such as the London Times report in May 2009 of 2,000 civilians being killed daily, without its reporter having had any access to the war zone.

The right to be heard is recognized universally as a fundamental human right. It is surprising that a report said to deal with alleged violations of human rights and humanitarian laws has been concluded by the State Department and tabled in the US Congress in violation of Sri LankaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s rights and its sovereignty based substantially on the proscribed terror networks of pro-LTTE versions without extending the diplomatic courtesy of calling for the comments of a legitimate Government with which the US Government has the highest level of Ambassadorial level relationship.

Damage to integrity

The US. Government cannot be heard to say that these are only preliminary steps with no guarantee of consequences. A report of this nature should not have gone before the US legislature without the observations if any of the main stake-holder – the Sri Lankan Government. Even if the US congress rejects the report, the damage to Sri LankaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s integrity would be an unacceptable infringement of the countryƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s sovereignty. It is also an improper and wrongful interference in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka.

It may be that the whole exercise is to embarrass the Sri Lankan Government with a calculated politically motivated initiative. The reasons are obvious and may also be, because President Mahinda Rajapaksa is not willing to pawn the State as a puppet regime of foreign powers.

It may also be motivated as a counter strategy to silence ongoing investigations following the arrest of persons closely linked to the LTTE revealing the international terror links and alleged foreign involvements in support of Tiger terrorism. It might even be an attempt to circumvent the UN Security Council, where the prospects of a veto by China and may be Russia are strong and support the creation of a special court as in the case of former Yugoslavia or Rwanda or even provide material for the International Criminal Court, which the Obama administration has said it would cooperate with.

Whatever that be, the US had been closely involved in providing support services for Sri LankaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s Armed Forces on preventing the violation of human rights by our forces for quite some time.

US training

Former Bush administrationƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s South Asian Affairs Chief Richard Boucher who led a US observer mission to the SAARC Summit held in Colombo said as recently as in August 2008 that ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-we are working with the Sri Lankan Government, with the people of Sri Lanka to try to ensure that human rights are respectedƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚.

Military law professionals from the US Pacific Command Judge Advocate Office, in partnership with the US Embassy in Colombo hosted the second training program in August 2008 for operational commanders, investigators and law enforcement officers on preventing and investigating human rights violations. The program was opened by the then US Ambassador to Colombo Robert Blake, who succeeded Richard Boucher in Washington.

It would be no exaggeration to state that Sri LankaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s top service commanders were understandably inspired by their US colleagues to follow the strategy of US Forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, circumscribed by techniques of precision attacks on terror targets, minimum casualties of civilians notwithstanding greater danger to the forces, quick end to terrorism and early restoration of democracy.

It is to the credit of Sri LankaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s Armed Forces that civilian casualties had been negligible compared to the wide spread occurrences of civilian causalities and alleged violations of humanitarian laws elsewhere. The bottom line is that our Forces were trained and inspired by the US professionals for zero tolerance of civilian casualties, an achievement which delayed the destruction of the LTTE originally targeted for end 2008 to mid – May 2009. Sri Lanka is certainly in a position to demonstrate that its performance in observing human rights and humanitarian laws is excellent compared to many other international operations! The US has a share in achieving that credit in Sri Lanka. But then, it is all about a thief accused in an original court of law negativing evidence of guilt and demonstrating his innocence. He cannot escape by trying to prove that the prosecuting Inspector is the bigger thief! To do so would be proving oneƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s guilt!

An accused

The US is not even a signatory to the Rome Statute adopted on July 17, 1998 creating the International Criminal Court, whereas Sri Lanka is a signatory. The Rome Stature came into force on July 1, 2002 after ratification by 60 countries.

The ICC tries only those accused of the gravest crimes. What constitutes ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-gravest-crimesƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ is a matter of interpretation by international courtsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ chief prosecutor, then accused by the US as an ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-unaccountableƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ prosecutor of a Court with ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”unacceptable powers of interpretation that are essentially political and legislative in natureƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢.

The ICC will not act if allegations are investigated or prosecuted by a national judicial system, unless the proceedings are considered by the ICC as not being genuine.

Violators

The US supported the creation of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda under the American Service-MembersƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ Protection Act nicknamed the Hague Invasion Act, passed by US congress in 2002, which prohibited the US cooperating with the ICC in many areas (in respect of its citizens) but provided for US authorities cooperating to bring to trial (foreign) violators of human rights and humanitarian laws. Former Chief prosecutor for the Special Court for Sierra Leone Stephen Rapp, now U.S. Ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues under President Obama has in an interview to the Time Magazine of September 14, 2009, refers to some of these matters.

Terrorism in Sri Lanka had affected many in the region, including our giant neighbour India and also the Maldives. LTTEƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s key strategy of suicide missions had spread to other regional terror groups. Sri Lanka had successfully eliminated terrorism in this country. Any investigations of the nature contemplated by the US State Department would necessarily reactivate the dormant cells and pro-LTTE groups in other countries. This would be counter productive to the war on terrorism that the US launched following 9/11.

The US must make available allegations against the State authorities if any to the Sri Lanka Government, which may advise itself on investigating and responding to such allegations. Sri Lanka has the capacity to investigate on its own, any such complaint and deal with them within its jurisdiction.

An attempt to mislead

But to present a partisan and incomplete report to the US congress would be an attempt to mislead the Congress. The Congress should rightly reject any such attempt.

Here in Sri Lanka, this is an issue on which the country must stand together. Opposition political parties in Sri Lanka, seeking to exploit foreign missiles aimed at the countryƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s Armed Forces for their petty advantage would lose their political clout amongst the people if they think of regime change here through foreign manoeuvres!

One good reason for the grand old party, the UNP being reduced to eat humble pie in the opposition for the last 15 years, has been attributed to the party pandering to foreign elements, even when the country was threatened to be divided.

If the party is to rise again from the ashes, it must stand with the Government when national interests are threatened. That alone will enhance its image in the electorate, naturally sensitive to foreign dictation.

The UNP must seriously consider re-energizing the MoU it entered into with the SLFP on October 23, 2006 to cooperate on key issues vital for the nationƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s well-being.

It was then agreed, in both capacities as the leaders of their respective parties as well as in their official positions of President of the country and the Leader of the Opposition to cooperate with each other on matters relating to the conflict in the North and East, electoral reforms, good governance and social development.

The UNP must ride on the strength of the major party which is at the zenith of its popularity instead of allowing parties smaller than the UNP to ride on its back at the expense of the UNP!

Freedom Watch is a voluntary group of Sri Lankans seeking to participate in promoting greater political awareness on current issues of interest in the country.

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