By Daya Gamage – Asian Tribune Media Note
At a time the current Sirisena-Wickremasinghe administration is planning to engage in yet another domestic investigation to ascertain the conduct of the GSL-LTTE military battle and related alleged human rights violations that many international spokespersons strongly believe that it would help the UN September report to be the basis for the human rights council to recommend how to hold perpetrators of the violations accountable, which could include calling for a referral to the International Criminal Court, it would be in the interest of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and territorial integrity to listen what President of the United States Barack Obama said last December.
In his first official remarks following December 9 US Senate Intelligence Committee Report on the torture program conducted by the CIA during the presidency of George W. Bush, President Barack Obama immediately responding said “no nation is perfect,” but argued that “one of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better.”
Backed by his interpretation of “American Exceptionalism,” Obama suggested that the release of the report—which his administration fought tirelessly to restrict—was all that was necessary in order for the nation to move forward.
“Rather than another reason to refight old arguments,” Obama continued, “I hope that today’s report can help us leave these techniques where they belong—in the past.”
The advice the Sirisena-Wickremasinghe administration could easily get from what President Obama said was: “Stick to the LLRC Report”, and “face imperfections, make changes, do better, and what was necessary for the nation to move forward and the (LLRC) report can help Sri Lanka leave these techniques where they belong – in the past”.
Instead, Sri Lanka is wittingly or unwittingly playing into the hands of the separatist operatives within the Tamil Diaspora to complete the ‘grand design’ of the LTTE: to bifurcate the nation. What the supremo of the Tamil Tigers Velupillai Prabhakaran failed to achieve with his military might for twenty six years, the activists within the Tamil Diaspora endeavor to achieve through global strategic diplomatic maneuvers.
President Obama, who was under immense pressure before his election and after to investigate and prosecute officials in the Bush-Chaney administration: two days after his inauguration in January 2009 Obama said that it is in the interest of the nation to “Look Forward and Not Backward.”
Four months later in April 2009, President Obama made diplomatic overtures to the Spanish government to drop the cases before its judiciary against Bush-Chaney administration officials for war crimes, torture and human rights violations, and if not, it could affect the relations between the two countries: Spain listened.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and the team appointed to compile the report after investigating the war in Sri Lanka, had recommended that the report be delayed. Making the decision based on Sri Lanka government’s pledge that it will conduct a domestic investigation to alleged war crimes and human rights abuses, Mr. Zeid expressed confidence that the September report will be a comprehensive one with more data arriving from the Sri Lanka domestic probe.
In March 2014, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) – a 47-member State body – adopted resolution 25/1 entitled ‘Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka’ which requested the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights “to undertake a comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka during the period covered by Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission” which examined the last years of the armed conflict. The HRC requested the UN Human Rights Office “to establish the facts and circumstances of such alleged violations, and of the crimes perpetrated, with a view to avoiding impunity and ensuring accountability,” with assistance from relevant experts. The resolution requested the Office to present a comprehensive report at its 28th session in March 2015.
Following Sri Lanka government’s undertaking that it will conduct a domestic probe to ascertain fresh evidence, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights deferred the release of the report to September this year.
Amnesty International Asia-Pacific Director Richard Bennett said a delay is only justifiable if more time will lead to a stronger document and to a concrete commitment by the new Sri Lankan authorities to actively pursue accountability.
A senior State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of diplomatic protocol, said the United States had agreed that “a temporary deferral is the best option and will allow space for the new government to demonstrate their willingness to cooperate.”
The United Nations report would be the basis for the human rights council to recommend how to hold perpetrators of the most serious crimes accountable, which could include calling for a referral to the International Criminal Court.
At the Nugegoda rally on 18 February, National Freedom Front leader and former Minister in the Rajapaksa administration Wimal Weerawansa said that ambiguous information from the domestic investigation report could reach the UNHRC to haul Sri Lankan officials to the ICC in The Hague, and even China and Russia may not be able to veto at the UN Security Council for a recommendation for ICC probe because of Sri Lanka’s domestic investigative report.
This was what the LTTE rump within the Tamil Diaspora was waiting for a long time, and the project to divide the nation will be on the fast track, Weerawansa declared.
“A delay is only justifiable if more time will lead to a stronger document and to a concrete commitment by the new Sri Lankan authorities to actively pursue accountability. This includes by co-operating with the UN to investigate conflict-era abuses and bring perpetrators to justice,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.
Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister Hugo Swire urged the Sri Lankan government to use the time gained by the deferral of the Sri Lanka inquiry report to work with the OHCHR to ensure the investigation is “thorough and consistent”.
The minister said additional evidence for the inquiry may be generated due to the deferral.
“We believe that the extra time will create an opportunity for the new Sri Lankan government to deliver on its commitment to engage with the UN investigation, potentially generating additional material to inform the High Commissioner’s report. And it will allow the Sri Lankan government to establish their own credible accountability processes.”
“Rather than another reason to refight old arguments,” Obama commenting on the 9 December- issued US Senate CIA torture report, “I hope that today’s report can help us leave these techniques where they belong—in the past.”
That report in Sri Lanka is Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), and Sri Lanka should have stick to that during the Rajapaksa administration, and so is the current regime. What could be done to appease the UNHRC is what President Obama said: that “no nation is perfect, and one of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better.”
– Asian Tribune –