Australian Government Must Continue to Pressure Sri Lanka on War Crimes Accountability and Reconciliation
Friday 2 March 2012
Following the release of its response to the Sri Lankan Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission report, the Australian Government must continue to put strong pressure on the Sri Lankan Government to ensure that there is justice for all those whose lives were affected by the war. We urge the Australian Government to do three things in particular:
- Pressure Sri Lanka to agree to and cooperate fully with an independent, international investigation of allegations of serious war crimes and human rights violations committed by both the Sri Lankan Government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) during the country’s bloody conflict which ended in May 2009;
- Support this demand at the United Nations Human Rights Council when it meets to consider the matter in March; and
- Ensure that the Sri Lankan Government publishes a timetable for implementation of the LLRC’s recommendations concerning restitution and political reconciliation and fully implements each of these recommendations.
This call is made by the Sri Lanka Justice Forum Brisbane, a coalition of organisations and individuals committed to promoting justice and peace in Sri Lanka.
In making this call, the Sri Lanka Justice Forum notes the following:
- Three leading international human rights organisations, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group, all refused to participate in the LLRC hearings as they considered the establishment of the Commission as a whitewash by the Sri Lankan Government;
- Amnesty International, in particular, produced a detailed report in September 2011, When Will They Get Justice?’, which demonstrated the serious flaws in the structure, terms of reference and operation of the LLRC;
- The LLRC’s finding that the Government forces did not deliberately target and kill Tamil civilians is at odds with the findings of the United Nations Secretary-General’s expert panel report on war crimes and human rights violations committed in the last stages of the Sri Lankan civil war;
- The USA and other major Western powers insist that a credible independent investigation of war crimes and human rights violations must take place;
- The Tamil National Authority (TNA) tabled a detailed report in the Sri Lankan Parliament in October 2011 showing the continuing, systematic militarisation of the north and east of the country and the further marginalisation of Tamil people in their homelands;
- It is doubtful that the LLRC report recommendations will be implemented as the Sri Lankan Government has a track record of establishing flawed commissions and never implementing their recommendations;
- Sri Lankan Government representatives have been meeting with TNA parliamentarians for a prolonged period to address Tamil grievances, but commitments made have not been honoured and no progress towards a political solution has been made.
The Sri Lanka Justice Forum Brisbane expects the Australian Government to join with other nations in demanding a credible and independent investigation of war crimes and human rights violations at the UN Human Rights Council. There can be no durable peace in Sri Lanka without action to ensure that those responsible for terrible war crimes and human rights violations are held fully accountable.
Given the repeated failure of the Sri Lankan Government to keep its promises and to respect internationally accepted human rights standards and the clear evidence of the increasing political, economic and social marginalisation of Tamils following the war, the Australian Government cannot simply make a statement that it expects the Sri Lankan Government to set down a timetable for implementing the LLRC’s recommendations and implement them. Australia must actively monitor progress closely and hold the Sri Lankan Government to account for its actions.
The Sri Lankan Government must not be allowed to resolve its conflict with the Tamil people by depriving them of their cultural identity, their attachment to land and their social, economic and political rights.
The many thousands of Tamils who have suffered so much at the hands of both the Government and LTTE forces have a right to dignity. Their immense pain and suffering cannot be ignored and dismissed as irrelevant to the future of Sri Lanka. Those who have inflicted such grievous physical and psychological harm and distress on them must be held to account for their actions if the dignity of Tamil people is to be respected and Sri Lanka is to move forward to a peaceful and prosperous future.
Australia must play its part to ensure that justice is done so that a genuine and lasting peace is possible in Sri Lanka.
For further information or comment, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.