Sri Lanka Brief
FeaturesNewsUN-Sri LankaCrimes cannot be committed behind the façade of sovereignty: International investigation will go ahead – Dr.Nimalka Fernando

Crimes cannot be committed behind the façade of sovereignty: International investigation will go ahead – Dr.Nimalka Fernando

It is apparent, a former High Commissioner of Sri Lanka is of the view like some politicos of the government that the resolution passed by the Geneva Human rights council (HRC) should not be allowed to be implemented within Sri Lanka. This is a most strange stance. Five years have elapsed since the war ended. Still no independent investigation had been conducted into the human rights (HR) violations during the war. There are no signs too of such an investigation. In such circumstances , how can it be said an international investigation is not the right thing? If an investigation is not being conducted locally within the country, is it wrong to conduct an investigation from outside ?

 During the period of the war (2006), the government appointed commissions of inquiry due to international pressures. To assist the commission the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons,( IIGEP), a group of individuals nominated by international donor countries and the Rajapakse government itself was appointed (indeed, that too was somewhat a foreign intervention strictly speaking ). It was a former supreme court (SC) judge of India , P.N. Bhagawathi who headed that committee . 14 incidents were entrusted to the commission to decide on who are the wrongdoers. Finally without that intellectual committee being made full use of and placing obstacles to their work , were got rid of from the country. What happened to the report thereof is still not known, while the commission stopped dead in its tracks. Because I was associated with that commission very closely, I know what happened to most of the witnesses who came forward to give evidence – they had to confront a dangerous situation.
 The witnesses had to face threats. Those who were abroad and were giving evidence were made to disclose the country they were in, and if they failed to disclose it, their evidence was refused to be accepted. And the obtaining evidence form abroad was stapped.
 At that time it was announced that an enactment will be brought to protect the witnesses, a witness protection act. This enactment has still not seen the light of day.
 The unofficial chairman of the government human rights commission (NHRCSL), Dr. Prathiba Mahanama made a public announcement in February that the Right to Information Act and Witness Protection Act will be taken up within a month. Those gentlemen who were in Geneva for the 25th session of HRC and now gone back, yet the laws have still not been enacted. So, this is how the holding of investigation into the human rights violations during the war is being procrastinated. They make promises to not to implement but to cheat. This is an eternal festering sore without a cure.
 In Weliveriya those who were killed are Sinhala youths. There too it was the forces who did the shooting. Nobody knows what happened to the much hyped investigation that the Government HRC said it was going to conduct. Can this government which did not release the report on the killing by shooting of free trade zone worker Roshan Chanaka , its own Sinhala citizen at Katunayake , be expected to prepare a report on the crimes committed on the Tamil people?
 For example, in the north, hasn’t a mother the right to go before the international investigation and reveal the facts about those whom she knows who abducted her son, if that mother had still not been provided with redress to her grievance? In other words, a mother is being forbidden the right to give evidence under a so called sovereign government. Though the commission to investigate abductions nominally exists there are so many criticisms being levelled against that commission? If an international investigation is probing the mother’s woe about the abducted son, and our own commission too is seeking to find answers to the same question of the abducted son of the same mother how can there arise any issue?
 Among the 14 incidents that were entrusted to the Commission of Inquiry (2006) appointed by the President himself was the killing of 17 relief workers at Mutur . This was an incident which has an international impact, for those relief workers were attached to the ‘Action Against Hunger’ (ACF) of the NGO supported by the French government.
 ACF insisting on an international investigation because the SL government had not completed the investigation and meted out punishment to the murderers even after 5 years have elapsed. Now that NGO has publicized a lengthy report saying that the SL army is responsible for those murders.
 This is just an one example.
 The government’s unofficial and official spokespersons , the so called ‘blameless culprits’ are making a big din that due to an international commission the sovereignty of Sri Lanka is being destroyed. At the same time they say the 13th amendment pertaining to the provincial council system must be implemented . This is an undertaking that has been given to the UN too and is in the HRC Sri Lanka resolution of 2009. This 13th amendment was brought forth internationally, via India. Doesn’t that constitute an intervention by India? Then where is this so called sovereignty that is being bandied about within Sri Lanka?
 When Emperor Asoka’s son brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka, wasn’t the sovereignty dented? Those days, what was considered sovereign was Kings going for hunting games. It was Ven. Mihindu Thera who preached sermons and halted it. Does India have any special right to intervene in SL? Surely, they cannot have grounds to turn antagonistic to SL in one instance, as well as turn in favour of SL in another.
 In short this the real truth:
 Under the pretext of safeguarding the country’s sovereignty, the human rights cannot be devastated. Human rights are universal. Human rights are fundamental and inviolable. This is a right that holds good in every situation, every place and applies to all.
 When SL signed the UN covenants regarding human rights, part of its sovereignty was divested. It became fused with human rights. Related to human rights one can not refuse some rights and accept selected rights. There is no relativity in human rights.
 Some ask if human rights violations in Iraq and Afghanistan are not investigated, why an international investigation pertaining to Sri Lanka? Our view has been that in those countries too the crimes must be investigated. I have always subscribed to that view. We have worked with the human rights groups in those countries too, and have even staged protests. . By holding to the view, if in those countries there are no investigations into the crimes, there shouldn’t be an investigation in Sri Lanka as well, isn’t it impliedly saying that any country in the world can commit crimes as they fancy? Commit massacres as they liked? We are opposed to this point of view . Even if there are no investigations in those countries, in our view there should be an investigation in Sri Lanka.
 On the other hand if the government wishes to have its sovereignty without any compromise, what it should do is resign from the UN organization, and carry on a savage internationally discarded reign. But there is no room for that today. In today’s world the very foundation and bedrock of civilization is human rights.
 Today nowhere in the world it is possible for a mother to give orders to put her child in a jar and be pounded . Neither can anybody give orders to carry out a death sentence by trample of an elephant. (There are countries where killing by stoning is allowed, but that is amidst world resentment)
 Today, such a situation does not prevail in Sri Lanka .When the Indian forces went into Bangladesh to save the Bangladeshi people it was not considered as a invetion. When Vietnam forces went to save the people of Cambodia from Polpot , it was too not branded as a invasion. When Pinochet , former the army leader and the dictator of Chile t was arrested in England for violating human rights in that country it was not an attack on the sovereignty of the country. Didn’t the United Nations come to the rescue of East Timore ? The UNHRC appointed its special representatives to investigate for many years the human rights violations of the Myanmar military regime. Were they also a violation of sovereignty? Definitely not. That was an intervention on behalf of the people to safeguard their legitimate rights when that country could not.
 Hence, to allege that the appointment of an international human rights investigation into charges of monumental human rights violations is destroying the sovereignty is a stupid and senseless accusation. The ex diplomat to Geneva (political appointee) of Sri Lanka who is uttering these nonsensical statements gave complete protection through the UNHRC when the war was ongoing . The statistics of the civilians who were killed during the war are in their hands. They must also to some extent be held responsible for those murders.
 If the SL government does not permit room to haul up the criminals before the court of trial, economic sanctions can possibly be imposed .The investigation of the UNHRC does not take into its embrace only the crimes committed by one section rather those committed by all sections. It is also an comprehensive investigation . If the Sri Lanka government is incapable of conducting such a probe , why object to such an international investigation ? Doesn’t the government claim this investigation is aimed against Sri Lanka simply by clinging on to the misconception of sovereignty in order to defend its accusation against the UNHRC ? This is like a drowning man clinging on even to a straw in desperation to save his life.
 The crucial question is , whether the investigation is to be conducted by the UN High commissioner ‘s office or by a separate independent commission .
 Similarly, to say that the transparency of UN high Commissioner general’s office is questionable is also equally foolish. Even on the occasion when this resolution was adopted, the officer in charge of finance of the UN High Commissioner ‘s office was present . He was asked among other questions , whether funds were available or not and whether the finds are made available by only the countries that brought forward the resolution? Besides , this investigation is being conducted based on the powers vested in the office of the UN high Commissioner general via the resolution , and the probe is conducted by the intellectuals or by the recognized investigators of that office.
 When compared with the investigations conducted in relation to other countries, this investigation is much more transparent and duly organized .This is not a secretive investigation.
 This investigation is very much different from that appointed by Ban Ki Moon himself. This is an investigation that is being carried out officially by the UN organization. This is why it is supremely important. That is also the reason to state, by averting this investigation SL will be driving itself into despair.
 Unlike the investigation into the crimes of the past in Sri Lanka , in countries like Syria , the investigation was carried out at the same time as those crimes were being committed. Even in North Korea it was so.
 This is why; there is a lot of time allowed for this investigation. Sometimes the one year time limit may not be adequate. The sub headings under which the investigation will be carried out is important. In such circumstances, there is a likelihood for a number of sub headings being included like International human rights law ; carnage havoc ; war crimes etc.
 Accordingly, the investigation can possibly be classified. Like how a case is duly adjudged, the surrounding circumstances when the crime occurred, was the crime an accident? Or deliberate? Was it a planned crime? Was it a crime in self defence ? Will be reckoned .
 I think primarily in this investigation into the crimes during the war, these classifications may be made. Without confining to the recommendations in the LLRC , the investigation can be conducted. It is significant to note , the LLRC recommendations have still not been implemented by the government . Those who are making grandiose sermons on sovereignty had not been able even to advise the government and get that done.
 The story concocted that this investigation is going to lead the President to the electric chair is most ridiculous and ludicrous. In the International war crime court there is no death sentence. How are the results of this investigation going to be carried forward based on the powers of the international war crime court will be the next step that will be decided.
 Sometimes, action may be taken against the individuals who are found responsible for the crimes .The United Nations has the power to ban the travel of those individuals abroad. Their bank accounts can be frozen.
 Frankly speaking it is not the entire country that is liable for punishment . So all these crazy, deceitful utterances and claptraps are being indulged in within Sri Lanka only to save a few. But ofcourse , if those individuals who are found guilty are not permitted to be brought before court for trial , the chances are economic sanctions can be imposed .
 The international investigation will surely be conducted. Neither the government licensed goons nor the pretenders of ‘clean slate’ can stop it.”

-LeN - Translated form the original Sinhala article by Jeff

Back to Top