Australia Foreign Affairs Committee discusses ICC war-crimes filing

[TamilNet, Thursday, 10 March 2011, 03:02 GMT]
Deputy Chair of Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (FAD&T) Legislation Committee, Russell Trood (Liberal, Queensland) during deliberations last week of February raised with David Stuart, First Assistant Secretary, South and West Asia and Middle East Division and Peter Rowe, First Assistant Secretary, North Asia Division, the potential International Criminal Court (ICC) investigations on war-crimes against Australian-Sri Lankan dual national Palitha Kohona and the appointment of ex-Navy commander Admiral Samarasinghe, who has been accused of war crimes, as the next High Commissioner for Sri Lanka to Australia, the official publication Hansard said.

Senator Trood asked if Mr Stuart was aware of the war-crimes allegations against nominee High Commissioner Admiral Samarasinghe, and if the Australian Foreign Minister has been informed of these concerns of the Tamil community in Australia, and Mr Stuart replied in the affirmative.

Australia Senator Russell Trood
Australia Senator Russell Trood
Mr Stuart added that he believed the High Commissioner position is currently vacant, and that the [Australian] government’s practice is not to talk about nominations, whether they have been made or the substance of the nominations.

Senator Trood, while saying that he understood Mr Stuart's reticence to make any observations on possible nomination of Mr Samarasinghe, cautioned Mr Stuart, "...I have received considerable representation about this and it reflects a deep degree of concern within parts of the Sri Lankan and particularly the Tamil community, and that we should be very careful about any appointment that we consider in the light of those concerns."

When Mr Rowe was asked if he was familiar with "several Tamil organisations having made some allegations of war crimes to the International Criminal Court concerning an Australian citizen, Dr Kohona," Mr Rowe demonstrated his knowledge of the subject matter by detailing the procedure within the ICC.

Rowe said: "The International Criminal Court will deal with this communication in the sense that it will consider whether there is sufficient information to warrant the opening of an investigation, which would be determined by the Office of the Prosecutor. The matter is in the hands of that office. I would comment that, of course, that office receives many hundreds of communications with assertions of various crimes having been committed by individuals, but the onus is on the office at the moment to make a determination whether or not the situation that has been referred warrants an investigation in terms of the statute."

Rowe was aware that Dr Kohona is a dual national and said that Australia would monitor the matter as it progresses through the ICC.


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