Mannar Bishop leads call for int’l war crimes probe

Mannar Bishop and UNHRC

A group of Catholic priests and Rev. sisters from the Northern and eastern provinces has urged the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to adopt a strong and action oriented resolution on Sri Lanka.

The appeal was made by 205 persons on the eve of the inauguration of the UNHRC’s 25th sessions.

The move is led by the Bishop of Mannar, Rt. Rev. Dr. Rayappu Joseph, who has been in the forefront of local Tamils’ push for an international war crimes inquiry.

Well informed sources told The Island that the group had made its move in spite of last month’s controversy over the Mannar Bishop and Jaffna Bishop Rt. Rev. Dr. Thomas Saundranayagam calling for an international war crimes investigation during a meeting with US Ambassador-at-large at the State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice Stephen J. Rapp in the North and US Ambassador in Colombo Michele J. Sison. Sources alleged that the UK based Global Tamil Forum (GTF) was behind the latest project undertaken by the priests.

Asked whether the GTF had played a role in this project, Rev. Father S.J. Emmanuel, the leader of the GTF told The Island that it was an initiative taken by the victims and witnesses on the ground.

External Affairs Ministry sources alleged that the petition was meant to justify the US-led effort to move a resolution against Sri Lanka at the ongoing Geneva session. Sources said that the group of clergy was obviously working closely with the LTTE rump/Diaspora. In fact, the petition was most probably prepared in London or Washington and sent to Sri Lanka to collect signatures, sources said.

The priests, in their petition to the member states of the UNHRC alleged that the government had done nothing to address the grievances of those who suffered during the conflict. Alleging that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) as well as other domestic mechanisms had failed to achieve desired results, they emphasized the importance of international intervention in Sri Lanka.

They also accused the military of still interfering in civil affairs particularly in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

Following are the areas they have requested to be covered in army probe:

1. investigate allegations of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the war by all parties to the conflict, moving beyond existing findings, such as “credible allegations”, which have already been established by the UN Panel of Experts and others

2. identify clearly specific units and individuals responsible, with a focus on most responsible senior officials.

3. monitor ongoing human rights violations all over Sri Lanka

4. monitor progress, assist and advice on domestic accountability mechanisms for past allegations

5. consist of experts from different parts of the world, and supported by a well resourced secretariat with competent full time staff

6. receive input from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Special Procedures of the UN HRC

7. provide for victim and witness protection

8. have an initial mandate of one year, with an interim report being presented to the 27th session of the UNHRC and full report to the 28th session of the UNHRC, where an extension and enhancement of the mandate could be considered

9. recommend next steps at national and international level towards ensuring accountability

10. have unrestricted access to all relevant places, people and documents.

(Courtesy : The Island)