Resolution against us
Posted on March 17th, 2019

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe Courtesy Ceylon Today

It was an unbelievable act when the Yahapalana Government co-sponsored the Resolution 30/1 in 2015. A Government to have accepted to have committed war crimes and therefore to co-sponsor a Resolution against its own country is unprecedented. Outraged, national movements predicted that history would never again witness such a treacherous act, meaning that the Yahapalana Government would not have any followers. However, the incumbent Government, which is really a residue of the Yahapalana Government, proved this prediction wrong by co-sponsoring the Resolution 34/1, at the ongoing 40th UNHRC Session.

This UNHRC Resolution 34/1 on ‘promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’ is submitted by UK, Canada, Germany, Northern Ireland, Montenegro and North Macedonia on 11 March presented to the UNHRC. Two days later, Leader of the House, Minister Lakshman Kiriella tabled in Parliament the full text of this Resolution. He pronounced that this Resolution is favourable for the country and therefore should not be amended.

The Sri Lankan Government is requested by this Resolution to implement fully the measures identified by the Council in its Resolution 30/1 that are outstanding.” It further encourages the continuation of that engagement in the promotion and protection of human rights and truth, justice, reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka”.

Resolution requires

The Resolution requests from the office of the High Commissioner and relevant special procedure mandate holders to continue to strengthen their advice and technical assistance on the promotion and protection of human rights and truth, justice, reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka”. The High Commissioner is also asked to assess progress on the implementation of its recommendations and other relevant processes related to reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka”.

The Office of the High Commissioner is expected to submit to the UNHRC a written update at its 43rd Session. This is to be followed with a comprehensive report and a discussion on the implementation of Resolution 30/1 at its 46th Session.

However, Lord Naseby refutes the very basis on which these Resolutions are formulated. Resolution 30/1 was based on the OISL Report. Interestingly, this OISL Report does not base its observation on its own independent findings or from legitimate sources, but on the contents made in the Darusman Report.

The Darusman Report, however, is an illegitimate document. In June 2010, the then UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon appointed Marzuki Darusman, Yasmin Sooka and Steven Ratner to advise him on the accountability with regard to the alleged human rights violations  during the final stages of the war against terrorism. To appoint consultants outside the UN is in direct contravention to the UN Charter. However, Moon claimed that it was for his personal knowledge. The contents of this report was, however, unaccountably leaked and was picked up by the OISL Report and adapted without crosschecking with other credible sources.

Without any basis or proof, it is noted in the Darusman Report that the Sri Lanka Security Forces are responsible for the death of 40,000 civilians. This figure is currently being projected as a genocide attempt by the then Sri Lanka Government. Most unfortunately, the Rajapaksa Government did not cohesively work to refute this baseless allegation.

What really happened?

Lord Naseby on the other hand had worked meticulously and persistently to find what really happened at this final stage of the battle. He was especially motivated to do so after a discussion he had had with Lt Col Anton Gash, who was the Defence attaché at the British High Commission in Sri Lanka during this period. After pursuing the Freedom of Information Act for nearly two and a half years, Lord Naseby managed to obtain the dispatches sent by Lt Col Gash.

Though much redacted, it was still obvious that the number of deaths that occurred during this final phase was about 7,000. However, about 25 per cent of this number was actually LTTE terrorists who either was never in uniform or discarded it for civilian attire to avoid distinguishability whilst engaging in fighting. (This is a war crime.) Therefore, the actual number of civilian deaths was about 5,200.

This number, Lord Naseby shows, corresponds to other independent observations as well, including that of the Sri Lanka Census Department that was compiled by teachers and other professionals belonging to Tamil ethnicity. According to the census, the number of civilians killed is between, 3,500 – 4,100.

Fall out of a war

When Lord Naseby first made his findings public at the House of Lords, the much embarrassed James Dauris tried to deflect the revelation by stating it is not the number that matters. However, as Lord Naseby observes, this hardly amounts to genocide but to the natural consequence of war.
It must be noted that the LTTE was a battle hardened terrorist group with a formidable land fighting force, a highly trained maritime fighting force and a fledging Air Force. Both their land and sea fighting forces were well equipped with artillery guns, heavy and medium mortars, rocket propelled grenades, recoilless guns, anti-aircraft guns, surface-to-surface missiles, surface-to-air missiles, small arms, anti-tank mines and anti-personnel mines.

In the ‘80s, at the inception, the LTTE had only small fishing boats: Smuggling and gun running. By the-‘90s, this was expanded to fast boats fitted with outboard motors to engage in ‘wolf pack’ attacks against the Sri Lanka Navy with machine guns, grenade launchers and other formidable weaponry. To this fleet, fibreglass dinghies loaded with high-powered explosives were added to function as suicide boats. By mid ‘90s, the Sea Tiger Wing also included suicide divers and semi-submersible craft. By 2000s, the LTTE had mini submarines. They also used sea mines and improvised explosive devices to target Security Forces and infrastructure.

The Black Tiger Wing comprised highly specialised terrorist cadres trained for suicide missions. LTTE is the only terrorist organisation to have assassinated a leader of a country (President Ranasinghe Premadasa) and that of another country (Rajiv Gandhi). Both these missions were carried out by suicide bombers. According to LTTE records, a total of 274 males and 204 females carried out suicide missions between 5 July 1987 and 20 November 2008. Until the very end of the war, the Black Tigers posed a huge danger and challenge to both the civilians and the Security Forces.

The focus of the Darusman Report, the OISL Report and all the Geneva Resolutions brought against Sri Lanka, is in the final phase of the war against terrorism. However, none of these pay any attention to the ground reality that prevailed during this period, that is, now under scrutiny.

LTTE’s deliberate war crimes

The LTTE leadership faced with imminent defeat kept hostage by extreme violent means thousands of civilians in an attempt to create a human shield. Given the track record of the LTTE’s atrocities, its scale and sophistication the Security Forces had to act proportionately. Six experts on the laws pertaining to warfare including Sir Desmond Silva and Sir Jeffry Nice have analysed the available records and have pronounced that the Sri Lankan Security Forces had acted well within the framework of the laws governing warfare. They, however, found that the LTTE had deliberately committed war crimes.

Therefore, Lord Naseby insists in his communications to Lord Collins of Highbury, Baroness Northway and Lord Ahmad that if there is to be true reconciliation plus possible War Crimes investigation, then it must be based on as true a picture of the genuine casualties as we can obtain”. He further writes, the 40,000 claim is now totally discredited and should be withdrawn by the UN and the UK Government.” He also notes that, The European Convention on Human Rights, upon which the British Human Rights Act is based, is wholly inappropriate for application in combat and battlefield conditions. The law that should operate in such circumstances is the law of armed conflict, otherwise known as International Humanitarian Law”.

The incumbent Government is comprised of those who never supported the war and in fact who ridiculed the war. For them, these ‘war crimes’ allegations are a face-saver. However, as citizens, we must insist to let the truth out and not be overlapped by fanciful figures pulled out of thin air. Nor must we allow politicians and other vested interest groups to tarnish the greatest achievement – winning of peace – of our lifetime.

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