20 February, 2020

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Army Inquiry On ‘War Crimes’ No Longer Credible

By Laksiri Fernando

Dr Laksiri Fernando

Army spokesman Ruwan Wanigasooriya yesterday (5 November) told Xinhua newspaper that the army investigations into some incidents or alleged ‘war crimes’ still continuing. This is the first time for a long period that we heard about it after its so-called appointment in January this year. There must be a particular reason why the statement was made to the official press agency of the People’s Republic of China instead of local newspapers or any other. It appears that even China is watching what is happening in Sri Lanka, as it has to unfortunately defend Sri Lanka and that means the present government in the Security Council and other forums.

I browsed through the Ministry of Defence website seeking some information. It is full of political propaganda for the Defence Secretary and the President, two of the three brothers who apparently govern the country, apart from some items still glorifying the war and news about the three armed forces. The latter might be quite permissible for a defence website compared to the atrocious political propaganda.

Of course there was one portal titled “War Crimes” just above a bigger window on “LTTE Atrocities.” I was trying to find any news about the so-called army inquiry there, but none. It largely consisted of reports like “Humanitarian Operation: Factual Analysis,” “Sri Lanka’s Humanitarian Effort” or counter propaganda for the international accusations such as “Appalling Journalism – Jon Snow and Channel 4,” and “Lies Agreed Upon.” At last, there was an item called “Let’s Take Accountability Seriously,” and then I thought that might be the place to find some information. No, it consists of an article by The Nation newspaper dated 12 March 2012.

The situation is the same in the Army website, although it is more professional than the Defence Ministry one. The question is why the inquiries are so secretive given the public importance of the matter, nationally and internationally. There is no question that the army did the right thing by defeating the LTTE militarily. But it should have been done respecting the international humanitarian and human rights law and laws of the country. Torture or killing of the unarmed or any such thing is not permissible even under the domestic law. There are so many other norms that the armies should follow under the international law. The protection of civilians is of paramount importance. Deviations or atrocities in other countries, including the US, or the atrocities by the LTTE are not an excuse. That is why the government declared a ‘zero civilian casualty’ policy in the first place. Now it should inquire with credibility whether that policy was adhered to and whether other violations of the international law have occurred.

When the army inquiry was appointed in January, it was stated that the matters referred to in the LLRC report and accusations of the Channel 4 videos would be investigated. The UNHRC recommendations in March were much broader to investigate all accusations including what were highlighted in the UN Darusman report. But no new investigation mechanism has been set up outside the army inquiry. The government also has not shown any remorse on what happened or might have happened during the last stages of the war, as those are the direct responsibility of the present government.

Some of the revelations or alleged revelations as to what happened during the last stages of the war are extremely shocking to say the least. The naked body of Isaipriya among others with audio voices of army personnel, bullet ridden body of a child who is alleged to be Prabhakaran’s 12 years old son and the video footage of the questioning of the LTTE leader Ramesh after capture and then the pictures of his battered body are some clear examples. These cannot be condoned just because they were linked to the LTTE. In ordinary parlance these are called sahagahana aparada or ‘unforgivable crimes.’ Even if one may argue cynically that the videos are completely doctored; these are matters to be investigated. Anybody who supported the government in good faith in defeating the LTTE, like me, cannot condone these crimes. More profound matter is the credible allegations as to the shelling of the civilian areas (including hospitals) even when the demise of the LTTE was abundantly clear. The quoted numbers may be controversial (between 10,000 and 40,000) but the matters need to be impartially and transparently investigated.

The deeds of ‘Good Samaritan’ during the war perhaps by some of the soldiers are not excuses to hide the crimes committed even by a few. There is no reason to delay or not to investigate these allegations credibly unless the high command or the government is clearly responsible for these alleged crimes. The government’s credibility is becoming more and more suspicious because of the way the government is handing human rights and justice issues since the end of the war in the country. Development or even resettlement/rehabilitation is not enough fig leaves to hide them.

According to what the former Attorney-General Mohan Peiris told Xinhua newsagency on the same day (5 November), the Army Court of Inquiry has had only 50 sittings for the whole of last ten months. That is little more than one sitting per week. It has only recorded statements from only 20 witnesses. These statistics speak very poorly of the so-called investigations now going on or claimed to be going on. It is not clear how many cases or incidents that they have been investigating. All these are kept as guarded secrets. That is why these investigations are considered like ‘asking evidence from robber’s mother’ (horage ammagen sakki aheema). It should be kept in mind that these are only preliminary inquiries. For any military prosecution, the cases have to be filed before the General Court Martial.

It is possible that some cases may be filed before the General Court Martial in view of the next UNHRC sessions in March 2013 as a show case. But this is not what the UNHRC Resolution expected from Sri Lanka on the issues of accountability. By the time of the resolution, the UNHRC knew about the army inquiries and what they wanted was not selective inquiries. The resolution ‘called upon’ the government “to take all necessary additional steps to fulfil its relevant legal obligations” including accountability and ‘requested’ the government to “address alleged violations of international law.” The diplomatic language in the resolution would not be an excuse for Sri Lanka to take the recommendations leniently.

The UN itself is ‘soul-searching’ on what happened in Sri Lanka and its own mistakes during the crucial days and a report on the subject by Charles Petrie will be submitted to the Secretary General next month. Marzuki Darusman is still heading an expert panel on Sri Lanka advising the SG and has recently said that accountability in the case of Sri Lanka primarily means “what happened to the 40,000 civilians” (Daily Mirror, 5 November 2012).

I was one who initially questioned the need for an ‘international inquiry’ on alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka in view of the army appointed court of investigation (Asian Tribune, 20 February 2012), but at present it is abundantly clear that the army inquiry is no longer credible given the above explained reasons. While it is primarily the responsibility of a credible government to investigate what happens within its jurisdiction in respect of war crimes and/or violations of human rights, if that government fails to do so within a reasonable period of time with credibility and impartiality, it rests upon the international system (UN, ICC and other bodies) to do so or otherwise justice would not be done to the victims, the perpetrators would go scot-free and the necessary lessons would not be learnt.

Related posts;

WikiLeaks: Gota Softens Tone On War Crimes

WikiLeaks: Gota Has Been Punishing Army For Rape And Murder

New Evidence:The Death Of Colonel Ramesh – Warning Disturbing Images

Sri Lanka Can’t Deny: Colombo Telegraph Revelation Turns Sri Lanka’s War Crime In To A New Chapter

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Latest comments

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    The so called inquiry by the SL army will be a whitewash like the previous inquiries relating to the numerous massacres of tamil civilians, LTTE combatants in custody and the murders of prominent defenders of Tamil rights by the state military forces over the last 30 years. It is mind boggling how the Sri Lankan government has managed to pull the wool over the eyes of the UN, foreign governments and others time and again on this very issue. International organisations such as the HRW, AI, ICJ and the ICG keep reminding the international community of the Sri Lankan government’s real intent to deceive them but these appear to be falling on deaf ears of those who are able to take Sri Lanka to task over this. However, the fact that 99 countries showed interest on this matter at the UNHRC meet in Geneva shows that the government of Sri Lanka cannot shirk off these allegations easily.

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      “It is mind boggling how the Sri Lankan government has managed to pull the wool over the eyes of the UN, foreign governments and others time and again on this very issue. International organisations such as the HRW, AI, ICJ and the ICG keep reminding the international community of the Sri Lankan government’s real intent to deceive them but these appear to be falling on deaf ears of those who are able to take Sri Lanka to task over this”

      @Piranha
      All because of India, which has summersaulted at Geneva today.
      Stupid India as they are afraid of China, they will not let down SL.

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    I agree with you Laksiri that the only way to get out of the mess we have got ourselves into by non-credible denial is greater transparency on this issue. At least let us do what the LLRC recommended.

    I applaud your courage in going public so directly. its time for more people like you to follow your lead.

    • 0
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      Thanks!

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      Bradman W says “…. its time for more people like you to follow your lead…”
      Oh! BW, what a non sense? Follow Laksiri ?
      To follow One of the extremely biased Sri lankan hater?
      You must be kidding BW ..

      Look at the ‘crimes’ committed by the army and government according to DOCTOR Laksiri Fernando.

      ‘Crime 1’ . News about army investigation into war crimes in the CHINESE paper instead in local papers … 

      He thinks some big hidden agenda behind that without speculating … 

      ‘Crime 2’ – Laksiri tried so hard to find in army and Defence websites about this investigation and could not find …  

      ‘Crime 3’ –  Above investigation had only 50 sittings in ten months and only 20 witnesses called … 

      What a crime not having 1000sittings in ten months and not having called at least 300,000 people?

      ‘Crime 4’ – Not looking into ‘The naked body of Isaipriya among others with audio voices of army personnel, bullet ridden body of a child who is alleged to be Prabhakaran’s 12 years old son and the video footage of the questioning of the LTTE leader Ramesh after capture and then the pictures of his battered body ‘

      Dr was very sure these cases are not looked into in above 50 sitings even though he could not find anything about the investigation? 

      ‘Crime 5′-  Even there is investigation, they are considered like ‘asking evidence from robber’s mother’

      With this learned Dr, there is no way to escape .. Now he is questioning the sincerity of the investigation ..

      ‘Crime 6’ –  Not fulfilling the the UNHRC resolution to the full ( “to take all necessary additional steps to fulfil its relevant legal obligations” including accountability and ‘requested’ the government to “address alleged violations of international law.”)

      Dr thinks that the government had no other responsibilities except to fulfill the biased UNHRC agenda … 

      ‘Crime 7’ – Whole investigation is a fraud that  some cases may be filed before the General Court Martial in view of the next UNHRC sessions in March 2013 as a show case ..

      With this DR, there is no escape at all … First he was not sure about the investigation… Then number of sittings is pathetic … Then, the investigation is like ‘horage ammagen sakki aheema’ … Then, any possible court martial fillings are only to deceive UNHRC …

      The accusations keep getting more and more absurd. It’s surely just a mater of a few more lengths of rope until the accusers hang themselves in their delirium.
       

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    Piranha,
    You are entirely correct.

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    While the transparency aspect is a characteristic of mature democracies, there is also the issue of concealing misdeeds of influential people.

    You see, if several such people call for transparency, then their own misdeeds are under threat of exposure. Whistle blowers are generally not tolerated or protected in pseudo-democracies.

    The hubris which accompanies power has no limits. Ordinary law and the legal framework are often thought of with contempt, although for purposes of decorum, a pretence of justice is portrayed for public observation.

    Therefore, most institutions set up for the purpose of appeasing public sentiment do not function within the framework they claim to operate in, whereas time usually erases memories and the intensity of feeling in burning issues, eventually dissipating into thin air.

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    These investigations lack transparency and hence are not credible. Compare with the ongoing trial of a US soldier over killings in Afghanistan

    http://www.aljazeera.com/news/americas/2012/11/201211625046258346.html

    No one seems to know anything about these army investigations and no civilian or international wittnesses are invited to give evidence. Compare with the court martial of General Sarath Fonseka and later determination by the Judiciary that the verdict of Military Court is acceptable in civlian circumstances. Why not vice versa where the majority of deaths are civilians not terrorist. These should be before a Civilian Court.

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    People like Laksiri will be the downfall of the sinhala . Instead of talking facts and figures he is expressing his opinion . Thinking that a Dr infront of his name will carry a lot of weight . Wrong , people are not fools to be carried away by letters after a name .

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      I am sure Dr Laksiri can defend himself very well but my view of people like you is that you can’t or refuse to see what predicament the country has been put in which is entirely due to the moronic decisions of this terrible Rajapaksa regime that will cause the downfall of the Sinhala people among the decent civilised people of the world. You are a disgrace to your own race. Shame on you fol your blind defence of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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        For what Rhyme or Reason does Kundumani say that the downfall of the Sinhalese is due to Laksiri stating reality, without resorting to facts and figures cooked up by their ilk? Whatever shortcoming Laksiri may have committed by supporting MR then, at least now he has begun to identify the short falls in practise. I support him in that cause, which I now feel that he is making a genuine effort. Let everyone of us put our might towards such end and rid this country of the vile.

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      @ KIMUDUNEE.
      WHY DONT YOU PUT DUBBLE DR IN FRONT OF YOUR NAME,
      YOUR BOSSES ARE SELLING DEGREES AND DOCTORATES IN WHOLESALE TO STOOGES.

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    Trotskyite Laksiri now pandering to dollar farms… What a shame and this guy is a another SL educated moron selling his soul to interested parties.[Edited out]
    Question is who is going to answer for ltte tamils 30 yr war crimes? Ch4 video was rubbished by experts so why should a govt answer for fake stories.
    ltte booby trap bodies and Army carefully remove all clothing before photographing for identity purpose, so what wrong with that?
    Some journalist sold the photographs against all the rules so why blame the army?
    Laksiri, my advise is get a life and also explain why you are writing the falsehood here?
    One thing is sure, your next visit to SL will not happen and will be deported immediately…. Powers to be now got your name on Immigration blacklist and at least you have place your name on a database called stooges.

    Part of this comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy
    http://colombotelegraph.com/comments-policy/

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    “These cannot be condoned just because they were linked to the LTTE. In ordinary parlance these are called sahagahana aparada or ‘unforgivable crimes.’”

    Justified in their opinion or not, the SL public doesn’t see the occasional killing of terrorist prisoners (many of whom were themselves responsible for atrocities) as “unforgivable”. And neither, frankly, does the international community. No one is arguing that these are not war crimes. They most certainly are. But they are viewed as forgivable crimes in the context of the defeat of the Tigers and war in general. Anyone serious about changing public opinion must come up with evidence of atrocities against large numbers of civilians. So far there isn’t any. No one is really going to shed tears over some dead Tigers, or topple a government over it.

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      David the apologist, the five students and the seventeen Aid workers and the countless number of bodies tied with their hands at the back is evidence enough for opening a War Crimes Case against the perpetrators. Your howling will not be taken notice of.

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        There will be occasional unpalatable crimes such as the ACF killing and the Trinco 5, but in the context of the larger war, these appear insignificant amongst the thousands killed in terrorist attacks. People will accept these things for the greater good.

        If you’re calling me an apologist, you clearly don’t understand the meaning of that epithet. I am merely explaining how the author is mistaken in calling these crimes unforgivable — the SL public has already forgiven them. If they had not, they would be demanding an inquiry, and they are not doing that. Facts are often inconvenient to theory, but still unavoidable.

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          David please do not talk on behalf of the majority who wants Justice to the said crimes where you state that the SL public has already forgiven them. Which Public? May be your kind. There is enough evidence as to who the perpetrators are. Why is the MR regime frightend to take action?

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          Where is this justice-wanting majority you speak of? Why is there no demand from this majority for justice? When the SL public demands, the regime gives in. Have you forgotten the EPF/ETF bill that GoSL attempted to pass? The public opposed it and took to the streets. People were shot, but the state gave in.

          You ask why the regime is frightened to take action, but who are they frightened OF? Don’t you think it is a simple matter, if there is evidence, to find a few soldiers guilty of murder and convict them as was done in the Krishanthy Kumaraswamy case? The regime itself would have no fear in such an event. Why the regime cannot do it is because the SL public will not stand to see its military crucified. The public outcry AGAINST a conviction would be too high, and the regime would fall BECAUSE it took action. THAT is what the regime fears.

          If this regime is the dictatorship you claim it to be it can act and sacrifice a few dozen soldiers with impunity. But it cannot because it bends to the will of the public, and the public on the whole doesn’t really care about this issue.

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    Blackler wrote ” But they are viewed as forgivable crimes in the context of the defeat of the Tigers and war in general. Unquote..

    This is absolute rubbish from a foot soldier of the SLA, who spent a few months in Elephant Pass before the poor boy hurt himself.

    War Crimes is War Crimes, and there are no war crimes that are viewed as forgivable war crimes.. When there is a credible, independent international investigations of war crimes in Sri Lanka, there would be evidence, eyewitnesses all ready, willing and able to testify.

    This army inquiry, is similar to allowing the Nazis to inquire into their own war crimes. What a bloody joke??

    The noose is slowly but surely getting tighter on Sri Lanka.. We saw how Sri Lanka was groveling in Geneva trying to fool the IC, about reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation. The IC is well briefed now and do not buy into BS from the GOSL. International investigations on war crimes will eventually occur despite all the protest from the racist-chauvinist and the GOSL.

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      Dear Gnanakone

      Mark my words ! There won’t be any investigations in to war crimes

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        Hope if Modi wins he gives the desperate/dying of Lanka a life with dignity.
        12 suicide attacks in India not one investigation so ask yourself why and what is Congress how does it retain power? The grease devils of India Congress.Read the letters of racist Nehru to daughter Indira.

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        Dear Brian,

        You are abosolutely right,there will be no investigations in Srilanka…

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          Hey Jegath,
          There’s be no investigations as long as the calls for those investigations are led by the dregs of the defeated LTTE.

          Give it another 30 years or so and you’ll see a few investigations and reports. If that sort of timescale for investigating war crimes is good enough for the ‘civilised’ West, it’s certainly good enough for us.

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        Brian de Bois Guilbert aka Robert of Locksley aka David Blacker. Their may not be any investigations in SL, but one day there will be international investigations.

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          I am not Robert or Brian. I have no fear of using my real name and my picture with my comments. One must be retarded to think I would post in the same thread under multiple names :D

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      Dear Donald,
      You say “there are no war crimes that are viewed as forgivable war crimes.” Of course there are!

      Three recent Western examples refresh your memory.
      • Bin Laden’s execution and disposal without attempting to take him alive
      • The execution without trial of Anwar Awlaki, a US citizen, on mere suspicion of s surrender.
      • Gaddafi’s rape and execution by the Western-controlled Libyan rebel rabble.

      Remember Losers don’t get to try the Winners for War Crimes.

      I do however feel sorry for Col Ramesh’s plight. From having being a powerful area commander able to dispense death at a moment’s notice….. to this.

      The soldiers responsible for Col Ramesh’s demise must be prosecuted by the Army for allowing footage of that incident to leak.

      The West-based IC has always known about SL’s dirty war. Do you think they rely on Eelamist diaspora for their information? International investigations can occur at any time, but who’s going to enforce them? Amnesty International?

      p.s you seem obsessed with Blacker’s service record. Are you jealous? :)

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      Firstly, my name is not Blackler.

      Secondly, what has my military service got to do with the topic?

      Thirdly, if you had bothered to read the above article, you would have understood that the author isn’t talking about forgiveness in legal terms but in the context of public perception. The SL public has indeed forgiven the isolated crimes such as those mentioned by “Gamini”.

      Regardless of the reason for a lack of evidence, there remains a lack of evidence, and no indication of any evidence being uncovered in the foreseeable future.

      The crimes of the Nazis were crimes against humanity. No such crimes have been committed by the state in the war against the Tigers, though the latter did commit these when the Jaffna Peninsula was ethnically cleansed of Muslims.

      Though you talk of nooses and groveling, there is no sign whatsoever of the international committee changing their method of engagement in SL. So far the GoSL has cruised through every international forum without any penalties or castigations, and there’s no sign of any of that changing. You can predict investigations ’til you’re blue in the face, in the hope of squeezing a few more dollars into your pockets from the diaspora, but for now you have failed to bring any prospect of an investigation closer. With every passing year it is becoming less likely.

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        Mr Blacker,

        In respect of crimes that you have agreed upon, I was not talking about ‘public perception’ but primarily international humanitarian and human rights law. This is in addition to domestic law. CFA and Trinco 5 that Gamini has correctly raised can even be tried under domestic law. Of course if there is political will. You have twice misinterpreted what I was saying. The following was in my paragraph 4.

        “There is no question that the army did the right thing by defeating the LTTE militarily. But it should have been done respecting the international humanitarian and human rights law and laws of the country. Torture or killing of the unarmed or any such thing is not permissible even under the domestic law. There are so many other norms that the armies should follow under the international law. The protection of civilians is of paramount importance.”

        Only in paragraph 6, I tried to raise public awareness on moral aspects of these crimes saying that these are ‘sahagahane aperada.’ But in your or few other cases it is of no avail. Perhaps morals don’t matter to some people today. LTTE atrocities are not an excuse. This is what you have said: “No one is arguing that these are not war crimes. They most certainly are. But they are viewed as forgivable crimes in the context of the defeat of the Tigers and war in general.”

        There are of course possibilities that some actions may be forgiven. But those should be investigated first with credibility and also transparency. That is the issue that I am raising. To me the army investigation is no longer credible. What is your stand?

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          Laksiri, no war crimes are forgivable under IHL anymore than any crime is forgivable under domestic law. One is either guilty or not. One can plead mitigating circumstances, and these circumstances may be considered and leniency may then play a part. But as far as I know, there is no concept of forgiveness within the law. It was for this reason, and your aside in the vernacular, that led me to understand that you were talking about public perception rather than the law itself. Your suggestion that these crimes cannot be condoned, added to this impression. Condoned by whom, if not the public? I was unaware that any legal system was condoning these crimes (if indeed they are crimes). And it was in reference to your paragraph 6 on “unforgivable crimes” that I commented initially as well as to Gamini.

          If you were referring to the context of IHL, could you go on to explain what sort of war crimes you consider forgivable under the law, unlike the three you have mentioned. An investigation will not result in forgiveness under the law, only in guilt or innocence.

          In terms of absolute morality, there is no ambiguity regarding a crime, but I am not an absolutist. I am a realist. Perhaps one day there will be a war that will be fought within the law; but so far there has never been such a war. War crimes will always be a part of war. You punish the worst to set an example and discourage potential war criminals, but you do so within a realistic framework.

          I believe war crimes must be investigated and the guilty punished, ideally. But this is not an ideal world. As long as the motive for investigations remains that of revenge against the government and people of SL for defeating the Tigers and destroying Tamil nationalism, I will remain firmly against external investigations.

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    The chain of command is clear and heading directly towards the president and the minister of defence. The order was to get the rid off the LTTE without any compuction for civilian losses. It has even been studied as a case: the political will to go all the way against internal insurgecy, not bothering about civilian casualties. The persons responsible for the misconduct are in the first place the Rajapaksa’s brothers and this the reason while you won’t see any investigation from the army. Simple as that.

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      Hi CE,
      If your thesis is correct why were there no huge civilian casualties in the Easter Campaign?

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    No army in any democracy “investigates itself”.
    It will be a travesty of justice.
    The UK and USA have appointed legal entities to inquire into unlawful killings of civilians during the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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    Justice,

    You’re wrong.

    British soldiers are tried under court martial in a military court. A similar situation exists in the US and most other countries.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Payne_(British_Army_soldier)

    The US has a wonderful system to prevent senior officers and govt officials from getting the blame for any torture, executions etc. It’s called giving an “administrative reprimand”.

    http://thecarthaginiansolution.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/saying-sorry-is-the-hardest-thing-to-do/
    I highly recommend GoSL adopt a similar system.

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    If a Nazi General told the Nuremburg trials “I will remain firmly against external investigations” the Court, looking into extreme War Crimes against Humanity and Genocide charges, would certainly not have been impressed. In an atmosphere where the Law and Order machinery is in shambles as it is and has been for decades here
    Tamils involved cannot get justice from its legal framework within.
    The massacre of the French Aid workers and the slaughter of the Trinco Five are added reasons why, in the Lankan environment, only external investigations will provide justice to the nearly 300,000 of our own citizens who were forcibly and illegally incarcerated in Concentration Camps for a long time – with some of them being confined there to the day. There might be a day when some of them, now citizens in other countries, who might come here and testify in a free court they escaped only because they bribed their way out of these camps.

    And today we have the CJ telling the world she is looking for justice and fairplay in this Miracle of Asia. Come on, David, out of your obstinacy. You are well endowed to pronounce honestly than to hold on blindly to your loyalty to your earlier outfit. After all, even the former Chief of the outfit is now coughing out – little by little.

    Senguttuvan

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      Hi! Senguttuan ,
      Read David’s comment again … especially the part given below …

      “I believe war crimes must be investigated and the guilty punished, ideally. But this is not an ideal world. As long as the motive for investigations remains that of revenge against the government and people of SL for defeating the Tigers and destroying Tamil nationalism, I will remain firmly against external investigations.”

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        Bruno, why do you believe David’s word is the Gospel? David’s deduction that War Crimes need not be investigated as we do not live in an ‘Ideal World’. What convoluted Logic is that? For what and why are the established Legal Systems in countries for? If requests for Investigation can be dispensed that easily, claiming they are nothing but motivated for revenge, could there be recourse ever for the Oppressed?

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          And what recourse is/was there for the oppressed of Germany, Japan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Pakistan, and any other nation invaded and oppressed by the democratic west? Shouldn’t those oppressed have the same justice as our oppressed?

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      Senguttuvan, what a Nazi general’s opinion was is irrelevant because he would have had no choice in the matter of investigation. He had lost the war, and was a prisoner, standing accused with evidence in hand. Laksiri asked me what my stand is and I have frankly given it. I am not a war criminal, and I am not standing accused as one. So far there is no evidence of major war crimes committed by the SL military, and it is not standing before any court on any charge. So the circumstances are quite different.

      You say Tamils cannot get justice within the SL legal framework. Justice for what? They were caught in a war started by the Tigers — the self proclaimed defenders of the Tamils who were aided and abetted by Tamils both in SL and overseas. The war was one of aggression by the Tigers. They were offered very reasonable terms by the UNP government and opted instead for war. Tamils must seek justice by bringing the focus on the remnants of the Tiger leadership, not the GoSL which ended the war.

      If the justice you seek is for the incarceration in the IDP camps, which you absurdly call concentration camps, why is there no external pressure to seek justice on this particular issue? There is no lack of information on these now defunct camps. The actual pressure is to investigate war crimes. The IDPs were housed, clothed, and fed at a time when they were in desperate need thanks to the Tigers. What would you have done, left them in the jungle to die of exposure and landmines?

      You say there are people who have escaped and are willing to testify in free court. So why aren’t they doing so?

      Your ad hominem attack in your last paragraph indicates the instability of your arguments. I can’t speak for any chief you mention, but only for myself, and my experiences. The fact of the matter is that there isn’t sufficient evidence for an external investigation to be justified, and the brutality of the Tigers and the diaspora’s blind support of them in 2009 has emasculated any change of convincing the world that your cause is in fact justice and not revenge.

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    David,

    Are you arguing against my ‘words’ or against what I say about war crimes? It cannot be just a slip that you were focusing on my ‘sahagahana aperada’ just ignoring what I said about international humanitarian and human rights law. It can be a convenient slip for your mindset. I am very familiar with IHL and also the difference between political ‘realism’ and ‘idealism.’

    When I was using the term ‘forgiveness’ I was thinking in terms of the South African Truth Commission. But I am more inclined, if you agree, not to forgive anyone but to punish, if you are so obsessed with legal terms!

    You say, “I believe war crimes must be investigated and the guilty punished, ideally.” Then “but this is not an ideal world.” This is a very dangerous excuse or deviation. At the same time it is not clear whether you are trying to predict a reality (i.e. investigations will not happen) or expressing your preference (i.e. investigations should not happen).

    You also say that “As long as the motive for investigations remains that for revenge against the government and people of SL defeating the Tigers and destroying Tamil nationalism, I will remain firmly against external investigations.” These are very subjective feelings, and in my view, don’t go along with political realism. If you try to interpret political realism through your own views and feelings that is dangerous terrain. But do you think that there should be domestic investigations? – credible ones of course.

    I normally don’t like to question personal motives, but in this case, why do you want to ‘destroy Tamil nationalism? I take your remark as your wish or preference rather than a reality.

    My view is different and I am sure you would appreciate that. If the government fails to set up credible war crime investigations in the foreseeable future, there should be international investigations. Of course there can be something in between. This is a logical position also for you since you have already agreed that there have been war crimes. I will mark your name as a person who agrees that that there had been war crimes but hesitant for investigations for political reasons.

    On my part I will close this debate. Of course you have your right to answer me.

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      Laksiri, I thought I had explained my reasoning. Your ‘sahagahana aparadha’ phrase led me to believe your context was public opinion. Now that you have said that you were also talking within the context of IHL, I have addressed that as well. If you prefer to believe that I was dishonest, that is up to you. I see no point in being dishonest in a discussion.

      The SA Truth Commission wasn’t simply an instrument of justice. It was a negotiated settlement between the white Apartheid regime and the black rebels. It was a concession offered by the blacks because the white regime feared its officers would face trial, and would therefore hold out stubbornly. Once the whites knew that there was a way out, they gave in. Despite this, you must know that not all crimes were forgiven by the commission, and many of those who appeared before it went on to stand trial. The point however was that forgiveness came not out of the law, but out of political expediency, based on what was acceptable to both sets of the public — white and black — ie forgiveness came from the public. This leads me back to my original point that the SL population doesn’t believe that the crimes you mention are unforgivable. If they did, they would be calling for justice.

      I am not at all obsessed with legal terms, and as you yourself concede, I didn’t even talk about the law. I referred to the law only when you commented saying that your phrase was couched in the legal context.

      My point on the world being unideal is neither an excuse nor a deviation; it is simply an observation. I am surprised at your confusion about whether I am making a prediction or expressing a desire, since you had asked me the question I was responding to. Did you ask me to predict, or did you ask me to express my desires? You ask me what my stand was; ie my position or viewpoint. I have clearly answered you, and told you why I am against investigations at this present time. The reason for that opposition need not be a permanent one.

      As for subjectiveness, I don’t think any Sri Lankan can be objective on this war; not even you. I like to think of myself as being more balanced and less subjective than the average Sri Lankan. I think there should be domestic investigations, but their credibility will depend on public demand. Right now there is no public demand for such investigations, so they remain a show to keep the international community at bay, and therefore only as credible as necessary. When the SL public demands transparency and credibility from their government, they will have it, one way or another.

      My view of Tamil nationalism is more or less identical to my view of Sinhalese nationalism. I don’t think ethnicity should be a basis for a national model. In the case of Tamil nationalism it took the form of an armed separatism which threatened the nation and brought great suffering on everyone. It needed to be destroyed.

      I do not think this administration will credibly investigate war crime allegations, but I do not think that that alone is sufficient grounds for an international investigation. I think both forms must be spurred by public opinion in SL. If the SL population demands an investigation, and the GoSL doesn’t give them that, there must be an international investigation. But as long as the push for investigations comes with the motive of revenge against SL, the population will never support it. It’s very similar to what happened in the world capitals in 2008 and 2009. The diaspora protested the SL military offensive in the name of VP and the Tigers. This made it impossible for the international community to intervene on those protestors’ behalf. It is the same now. If your cause is justice, ditch the politics.

      Of course there have been war crimes. One has to be deluded to think that there has ever been a war without war crimes. But if a country has fought for its freedom, it is not going to have it taken away again in the name of justice.

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