HRW: governments should shun Sri Lanka’s whitewash of mass killings

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 24 May 2011, 01:50 GMT]
Governments should decline Sri Lanka’s invitation to attend a Sri Lankan military conference that seeks to legitimize the unlawful killing of thousands of civilians during the armed conflict with the LTTE, Human Rights Watch said Monday. "This conference is nothing more than a public relations exercise to whitewash abuses. No professional, law-abiding military should take part in this farce," said Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW. Sri Lanka’s army chief admitted several Western states and Japan had declined the invitation, but India was sending three Colonels whilst Pakistan and Bangladesh are each sending a General, and Russia is sending six officers. The seminar is being sponsored by two Chinese defence companies.

The Sri Lankan government has invited 54 countries to its "Seminar on Defeating Terrorism: The Sri Lankan Experience" from May 31 to June 2, 2011 in Colombo.

Sri Lanka is touted its "model" of counterinsurgency to other countries.

"Sri Lanka's self-proclaimed ‘model' of counterinsurgency included repeatedly shelling civilians, targeting hospitals, and trying to prevent the world from finding out about it," Adams said.

Last month UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a report by a panel of experts that concluded that both government forces and the LTTE conducted military operations "with flagrant disregard for the protection, rights, welfare and lives of civilians and failed to respect the norms of international law."

The panel found that the conduct of the war represented a "grave assault on the entire regime of international law designed to protect individual dignity during both war and peace."

It said that as many as 40,000 civilians were killed in the final months of the conflict, which ended in May 2009.

Human Rights Watch said that the first step toward learning lessons from Sri Lanka's war should be for UN member states to set up an independent international mechanism to conduct investigations in accordance with the panel's recommendations.

"There are important lessons to be learned from the defeat of the LTTE, a cruel and brutal insurgency," Adams said. "But these lessons will not be learned as long as the Sri Lankan government distorts the truth and tries to keep its atrocities hidden."

In a press conference Sri Lankan Army Commander Jagath Jayasuriya said Australia, France, Japan, Jordan, The Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Switzerland, Norway and United Kingdom, have written that they would not send delegations from their countries.

There has been no response from the United States, he added.

However, India will send three Colonels, The Hindu newspaper reported, adding that a Major General will represent Pakistan and a Lieutenant General will lead the Bangladesh delegation while Russia will send six officers.

Two Chinese companies, Chinese Poly technologies and China Electrical and Technologies Corporation, have underwritten much of the cost of the seminar, the paper reported. Both Chinese companies are into defence technologies.

“I cannot reveal how much sponsorship they have given,” said Lt. Gen. Jayasuriya, when asked about the amount of sponsorship.

Asked if the seminar will seek to counter the UN Expert Panel Report on Sri Lanka, Lt. Gen. Jayasuriya said there was nothing to counter in the report.

“I have read the report…There are no allegations in it; only hearsay,” he said.

External Links:
HRW: Sri Lanka: Military Conference to Whitewash War Crimes
Hindu: Indian representation in seminar on defeating terrorism


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