Arbour to campaign for independent war-crimes inquiry in Sri Lanka

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 11 May 2010, 23:29 GMT]
Louise Arbour, president of the NGO International Crisis Group (ICG) and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, "will examine these allegations [of war crimes in Sri Lanka] and make the case for an independent international inquiry as a necessary step in making Sri Lanka's tenuous and bitter peace more just and sustainable," said a note sent to the invitees for a conference on "War Crimes in Sri Lanka" to be held Monday at the premises of the event's joint sponsor, Chatham House, London.

17th May falls on the first anniversary of the end of fighting in Sri Lanka when the Liberation Tigers' military leadership fought to death in the battle fields in Mullaitheevu shores.

Nearly 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed during the last 5 months of fighting, according to a former UN spokesperson.

Louis Arbour, President of ICG
Louis Arbour, President of ICG
"The Sri Lankan security forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) repeatedly violated international humanitarian law during the last five months of their 30-year civil war. Although both sides committed atrocities throughout the conflict, there are credible accusations that the scale and nature of violations grew much worse from January 2009 to the government's declaration of victory in May," the note to the invitees further said.

Arbour is intimately familiar with Sri Lanka's history, war and the human rights situation that has been deteriorating for several years.

"Weakness of the rule of law and prevalence of impunity is alarming in Sri Lanka where critical elements for the protection of Human Rights have been undermined or compromised despite the existence of much of the necessary human rights institutional infrastructure," Arbour said in concluding her five-day mission to Sri Lanka in October 2007.

During the same visit, highlighting the reluctance of Sri Lanka in ratifying the Rome Treaty, Arbour said, "[i]n light of the documented violations of international humanitarian law, Sri Lanka should seriously consider joining the 105 countries which have ratified the Rome Treaty creating the International Crime Court."

A day before the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement in Sri Lanka was terminated by Colombo on the 16th January 2008, Louise Arbour, reminded the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) of their obligations under international law to respect human rights. She warned that rights abuses “by any party could entail individual criminal responsibility under international criminal law, including by those in positions of command.”

Sri Lanka's diplomatic mission to the UN, rejected Arbour’s comments as “pathetically unenforceable threats,” and added that Sri Lanka “will not be deterred by thinly veiled threats attempting to undermine the morale of its military, deter its military campaigns and save separatist terrorism from elimination.”

Timed to coincide with the anniversary of the end of Sri Lanka's war, and the conclusion of parliamentary elections in Britain, ICG's conference comes in the wake of an announcement in Sri Lanka that Rajapakse is appointing a "Commission on Lessons Learned and Reconciliation," an attempt widely believed to be a ruse to deflect pressure from the international community for an independent investigation.


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External Links:
ICG: International Crisis Group
Wiki: Louise Arbour
ICG: The Limits of State Sovereignty Neelan Tiruchelvam lecture by Gareth Evans
CH: Chatham House, UK


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