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Sunday, May 28, 2023

Sri Lanka to probe human rights violations by its army personnel ( later retracted, see at the end)

Over two years after Sri Lanka’s war against the LTTE, the Mahinda Rajapakse government has for the first time indirectly admitted that some of its army personnel may have indulged in human rights violations in the final phase of the war.
They add that these army personnel may therefore be indicted in coming months. According to Rajiva Wijesinha, Adviser on Reconciliation to the Lankan President, some of these army personnel have been found guilty of killing civilians during the final phase of the war against the LTTE, and accordingly action will be taken against them

The Sri Lankan government has been under tremendous pressure from the international community for some time now for the alleged killing of killing of several thousand civilians during the civil war. According to Wijesinha, the government is dealing with this by setting up the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) which is going to recommend changes to the government. He says the LLRC has already made some reports which calls for potential indictment of some army personnel. The final report is expected in November.

But Wijesinha also makes it clear the LLRC will not be a witchhunt. “We are not going to run around asking everyone did you indulge in war crimes? If we have prima facie evidence that would be investigated.”

He adds, “I think the white flag incident needs to be investigated. I hope very much that the LLRC would recommend it. In the eastern province where there is impunity someone has been indicted. But we are not going to make the trial public. We are not going to make a song and dance of it.”

The white flag incident refers to an incident with Sri Lankan army troops allegedly gunned down LTTE forces who were surrendering, towards the end of the civil war. The incident attracted international condemnation, and is seen as one of the major reasons for the setting up of the government probe today.

Rajiva clarification of NDTV interview 
Adviser on Reconciliation to the President Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha refuted claims today that he had admitted to there being Army personnel involved in war crimes and that these persons would be investigated.

“I did not say anyone was found guilty of killing civilians during the final phase of the war. In fact I pointed out that the general allegations about indiscriminate attacks on civilians were easily shown to be exaggerated if not false,” he said.

India’s NDTV reported that according to Wijesinha “Some of these army personnel have been found guilty of killing civilians during the final phase of the war against the LTTE, and accordingly action will be taken against them.”

The report, by the Indian channel, goes on to talk of the LLRC already having made reports which call for the indictment of the some army personnel. However Wijesinha claims otherwise.

“I said nothing categorical about LLRC decisions because these are not in the public domain except for the initial recommendations. I said that I thought it likely they would recommend charges (not changes) where there was a prima facie case. I believe they may already have made recommendations for indictment but the case in which I have noted specifics that could be looked into, the White Flag case, does not seem to have been considered as yet. That is why I talk of my hopes for further investigation being mandated. The LLRC cannot of course find anyone guilty since they are not a judicial body,” Wijesinha told the Daily Mirror.

Finally he denied admitting to the fact that there was impunity in the East. “I obviously did not say there was impunity in the Eastern Province, I said there were allegations that there had been impunity, and said those allegations were wrong for the reason I then gave. There was a case in which someone has not just been indicted, but had gone through a judicial process, and I believe been given a suspended sentence. But I said very clearly that this was not for a war crime as far as I knew, it was for something much less grave,” he said. (Dianne Silva)



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