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Friday, June 2, 2023

AI charge over LLRC composition countered

 UK, US examples of domestic mechanisms highlighted
Shamindra Ferdinando
 The government yesterday said those undermining the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) on the basis some of its members, including Chairman C.R. de Silva had held government appointments had forgotten similar appointments made by other UN member states, accused of human rights violations.

Responding to a 69 page report captioned WHEN WILL THEY GET JUSTICE? Issued by the London headquartered AI, the External Affairs Ministry sources told The Island that those critical of the composition of the LLRC hadn’t been vociferous in similar situations, as in the Sri Lanka’s alleged accountability issue.

The official said Sri Lanka didn’t want any special treatment, but wanted the international community to treat it like any other UN member state. The AI was echoing Human Rights Commission, International Crisis Group, Darusman Report and ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ on a campaign to have the country censured at the Human Rights Council sessions beginning in Geneva today (Sept 12), the official said.

Rohitha Bogollagama, who held the external affairs portfolio during eelam war IV said that a case in point was the appointment of British Intelligence Services Commissioner Sir Peter Gibson to head an investigation into the role played by British security services in CIA operations, including their complicity in torture. Bogollagama said that the same inquiry would now look into a statement attributed to new Libyan leader Abdel Hakim Belhaj that he was handed over to Libyan intelligence services following a joint US and UK operation in 2004. Belhaj is on record as having said that he was abducted in Bangkok.Bogollagama said that in spite of Sir Gibson being the Intelligence Services Commissioner since April 2006, those critical of Sri Lanka’s domestic mechanism never called for an international accountability mechanism to investigate UK rights abuses.

The former minister said that such appointments weren’t isolated but in line with UK policy. The Iraq war inquiry aka Chilcot probe was another example, Bogollagama said. The Iraq inquiry comprised Sir John Chilcot, a former staff counsellor for the security and intelligence agencies. He was also a key member of the Butler review into the abuse of intelligence in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

AI said it would be a mistake on the part of the international community to expect LLRC members, Dr. Rohan Perera (former legal advisor to the External Affairs Ministry), H.M.G.S. Palihakkara (former Foreign Secretary), Prof. Karunaratne Hangawatte (former Assistant Secretary to the Justice Ministry) and retired High Court judge, Maxwell Paranagama, to be impartial.

Minister Dew Gunasekera told The Island that the bottom line was that those disappointed with Sri Lanka’s domestic mechanism, too, ordered domestic investigations. US and UK probes on the Iraq invasion launched on the basis of misleading and manipulated intelligence reports were examples, the General Secretary of the Communist Party said. Both the US and UK commissions comprised serving and retired government officials and politicians, he said. Dismissing the latest AI missive as propaganda carried out at the behest of the LTTE, Minister Gunasekera alleged some NGO operatives were singing for their supper. Some of the biggest donors to these organizations were countries responsible for mass HR violations and other business groups based in western countries, the minister said.


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