Palitha Kohona deserves prosecution by Australia: Professor of Law

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 08 December 2009, 12:10 GMT]
In light of accusations laid out by a US State Department report to Congress on possible war crimes carried out by the Sri Lankan armed forces, diplomatic immunity should be wavered and investigations carried out on the role played by Australian dual citizen and former Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona in the execution of LTTE Political heads B. Nadesan and the Director of LTTE's Peace Secretariat S. Puleedevan, says Don Rothwell, professor of international law at the Australian National University.

Dr. Palitha T. B. Kohona
Palitha Kohona
Professor Rothwell highlighted growing concern in international courts over immunity enjoyed by diplomats, and told ABC News that enough material existed for initial investigations to begin, a responsibility held by the Australian Government.

"Dr Kohona is a dual Australian-Sri Lankan citizen. The fact that he is an Australian citizen automatically activates obligations for Australia to investigate this matter at the legal level, but the fact that he was a former high-profile official for the Australian Government representing Australia in international negotiations, I think perhaps places an even stronger responsibility on Australia to at least conduct the initial investigations into this matter," he told the ABC.

Don Rothwell, Professor of Law at the National University of Australia
Citing the principle of “command authority”, which holds that a person in a position of power who is aware of war crimes being committed can be held liable, Rothwell made the remarks in response to allegations made by the U.S report that Kohona was involved in orchestrating the killing of the two LTTE political figures after they had negotiated to surrender.

The report stated that: "the leaders, Nadesan and Puleedevan, spoke to international and domestic figures, who acted as intermediaries with the then foreign secretary, Dr Palitha Kohona, to negotiate surrender. Nadesan requested a UN witness but was told he had the Sri Lankan President's guarantee of safety".

Kohona responded to the report by labelling the claims “ silly accusations based on innuendo and unsubstantiated facts”, before reiterating comments made earlier this year that only countries that loose wars are tried for war crimes.


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