Connect with us


Ex-UN Assistant General Secretary won’t comment on ‘confidentiality clause’ preventing verification of war crimes allegations



By Shamindra Ferdinando

AFormer UN Assistant Secretary General and the author of ‘the report of the Secretary-General’s Internal Review Panel on UN action in Sri Lanka’ Charles Petrie has declined to explain why the UN deliberately thwarted verification of unsubstantiated allegations against Sri Lanka by way of a controversial confidentiality clause. 

The Island raised the issue at a webinar titled ‘Sri Lanka: Quest for Justice, Rule of Law and Democratic Rights’ co-hosted by the Global Tamil Forum (GTF), Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice – New York University, Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice and the Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC). The webinar was part of a campaign against Sri Lanka undertaken by interested parties ahead of the 46th sessions of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) scheduled to commence on Feb 22. The sessions will continue till March 23.

Asked whether the panelists could explain why a UN confidentiality clause prevented verification of war crimes allegations till 2031 and why a UN report prepared with the support of ICRC and Vanni based NGOs in 2008-2009 hadn’t been considered, former British diplomat Petrie said: “Just…the confidentiality issue… I’m not very…I would not be able to address.

Having declined to respond to the query, Petrie said that he would like to follow up on what former US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice A said in response to The Island query. Rapp who first responded to the query posed to the panelists through moderator Melissa Dring of Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice conveniently refrained from at least referring to the UN confidentiality clause or UN report that placed the number of persons killed at 7,721 (August 2008-May 13, 2009)

Petrie said that there were a lot of documents pertaining to war crimes accusations, including those of the UN. Petrie, one-time investment banker alleged that the then Sri Lankan government exploited an incident involving a UN convoy to set up No Fire Zone in the Vanni east region.

The group of panelists included Pablo de Greiff, a former UN Special Rapporteur, M.A. Sumanthiran, PC, MP, attorey-at-lawBhavani Fonseka of the Center for Policy Alternatives (PTA), Ameer Faaiz, Director of International Affairs of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, Ambika Satkunanathan, a former Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and Shreen Saroor, a civil society activist.

Melissa Dring interpreted The Island query as denial of war crimes accusations, a strategy similar to that of the government of Sri Lanka.

According to the Panel of Experts’( Kangaroo court in any reasonable person’s rule book as Sri Lanka is prevented from, leave alone cross examining the accusers, but even to see their faces) Report released on March 31, 2011 even after the mandatory 20 year prohibition (2011-2031) on the releasing of material received of an assurance of absolute confidentiality, relevant information couldn’t be released without declassification review.

The following is the full text of the question forwarded to Dring: The alleged killing of 40,000 civilians (PoE report/137 paragraph/March 2011) remains the primary accusation against GoSL. The AI placed the number of deaths at 10,000 (a few months after PoE report), In between PoE report and the AI report, the UK Parliament was told 60,000 LTTE cadres and 40,000 civilians perished in the final phase of the assault ( Siobhain McDonagh, MP). In addition to those reports and various other claims, a UN study (Aug 2008-May 2009/POE/paragraph 134) estimated the number killed at 7,721 and wounded at 18,479. Can you please explain why UN failed to verify various reports/claims particularly against the backdrop of Lord Naseby’s disclosure in Oct 2017 (Lord Naseby’s claim was based on British HC diplomatic cables)

The following question addressed to Pablo de Greiff was not answered  at all: You addressed issues relating to monitoring of international action and accountability. Can you, please explain the status/outcome of UN fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict (Goldstone report) against the backdrop of the head of the mission contradicting his own report?

UK based Amal Abeywardena asked the panel about Sri Lanka not having confidence in the UN inquiring into LTTE atrocities and how could the international community probe violations on all sides, including those committed during JVP uprisings as well as the IPKF period and investigating the role of the supporters of the LTTE who supplied material resources to the Tigers when Human Rights violations were committed. Rapp who responded to the query conveniently side-stepped the accountability issues pertaining to the deployment of the Indian Army in Sri Lanka (1987-1990). A full recording of the live webinar can be found in this link:



Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


SC: Anti-Terrorism Bill needs approval at referendum and 2/3 majority to become law



Certain sections inconsistent with Constitution

By Saman Indrajith

Deputy Speaker Ajith Rajapaksa informed Parliament yesterday that the Supreme Court (SC) has determined that some sections of the Anti-Terrorism Bill were inconsistent with the Constitution and, therefore, the Bill had to be passed by Parliament with a two-thirds majority and approved by the people at a referendum.

Rajapaksa said that the Supreme Court had determined that the Sections 3, 4, 40, 53, 70, 72 (1), 72 (2), 75 (3) and 83 (7) of the draft Bill were inconsistent with the Constitution.

The SC has determined that sections 3, 40, 53, 70, 72 (1), 75 (3) should be passed by Parliament with a two-thirds majority and approved by the people at a referendum if they are to become law.

Sections 4 and 72 (2) of the Bill have to be amended as per the SC determination.

Section 83 (7) requires passage by a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

However, the SC had stated that it could be passed by a simple majority if the recommended amendments are accommodated, Rajapaksa said.

Opposition MPs say the Anti-Terrorism Bill is being introduced in an election year to repress Opposition parties.They said the proposed law is a threat to democracy itself.

“This Bill is being presented not at a time of terrorism prevailing in the country but during an election period. The Bill has not defined nor analysed what a terrorist is. Anyone can be arrested,” SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara said.

The MP said both the Anti-Terrorism Bill and the controversial Online Safety law were meant to quell democracy.

Continue Reading


Harin’s claim that SL is part of India: Govt. says it is his personal opinion



Manusha accuses Wimal of having taken parts of Fernando’s speech out of context

By Saman Indrajith

Labour and Foreign Employment Minister Manusha Nanayakkara told NFF leader Wimal Weerawansa in Parliament to refrain from taking chunks of others’ speeches out of context and misinterpreting them for political mileage.

The Minister said so following concerns raised by Weerawansa over a recent statement by Tourism Minister Harin Fernando on India-Sri Lanka relationships.

Weerawansa said that Minister Fernando had recently stated that Sri Lanka was a part of India. “Was it Minister Fernando’s personal opinion or the government’s official standpoint? Was it the opinion of the Cabinet?”

Chief Government Whip Minister Prasanna Ranatunga said what Minister Fernando had stated was the latter’s personal opinion.

Minister Nanayakkara: “If anyone has read the entire statement made by Minister Fernando this type of question would not have arisen. The Tourism Minister was referring to historical relationships between India and Sri Lanka to ask Indians to visit Sri Lanka.

A distorted version of the speech by Minister Fernando is being circulated on social media. Certain parts have been removed while some words have been introduced to this edited version. Ones should read the statement in its entirety to understand it. We have not discussed this in the Cabinet meeting” Minister Nanayakkara said.

Continue Reading


US backs Lankan journalists vis-a-vis Online Safety law



Kumar Nadesan, Chairman Board of Directors of the Sri Lanka Press Institute (left) Elizabeth Allen ( Centre) and US Ambassador Chung (pic courtesy US embassy)

Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Elizabeth Allen on Monday (19) declared US support for journalists here against the backdrop of enactment of ‘Online Safety Bill’

She spokes about press freedom and related issues at the Sri Lanka Press Institute Press Club.

A statement issued by the US Embassy quoted Allen as having said the U.S. Embassy is all in on supporting your incredible work. Sure, we might bump heads over a story now and then, but above all, we’re your biggest fans. We’re all in on programmes that hone your skills because we believe in your right to pursue journalism freely and fearlessly.

I want to thank you for protecting the rights and freedoms of journalists here in Sri Lanka and around the world, ensuring all citizens enjoy the right to express their ideas and opinions openly and freely. Even in difficult times, you continue to press forward and ask difficult questions. Your commitment to seeking out the truth and shouting it from the rooftops remains a democratic staple, and I truly appreciate what you do.

It’s only fitting that I begin my remarks this afternoon by telling a story that I think is relevant in light of today’s topic about the media’s role in a democracy.

Over a century ago, American media coined the term “muckraker” for journalists who delved into societal issues, exposing corruption.

Although the term carried a somewhat negative connotation, labeling these journalists as mere “gossip mongers,” today, we honor them as the pioneers of investigative journalism.

These muckrakers played a pivotal role in ushering in the Progressive Era, a time of significant social and political reform in American history.

Even President Theodore Roosevelt referred to them as “muckrakers,” criticizing their focus on society’s flaws through figures like Lincoln Steffens, whose work shed light on corruption and spurred a nationwide call for accountability and reform.

Steffens’ book ‘The Shame of the Cities,’ published in 1904, made him renowned for uncovering corruption within American cities, highlighting the nefarious links between political leaders, businesses, and organized crime.

His fearless journalism raised critical awareness about the urgent need for governmental and corporate accountability. Steffens wasn’t acting as a public relations officer for the government; his role was to uncover the truth; however unpleasant it might be.

Faced with the stark realities Steffens presented, American officials and the public were compelled to confront a pivotal question: ‘Is this the kind of country we aspire to be?’ The resounding answer was no.

Steffens’ work didn’t just expose wrongdoing; it sparked a nationwide demand for reform and played a crucial role in fostering a dialogue about the essential role of investigative journalism in ensuring power remains accountable.

This story showcases how freedom of the press and freedom of expression are not just fundamental human rights, they are also vital contributors to a country’s development and growth.

This brings me to my main point: how the global media space supports democracy and fosters peaceful, just, and inclusive societies.

In my mind, the correlation is obvious: When a government constricts the rights and freedoms of its citizens, the future and the development of the country will naturally suffer.

Globally, we’re witnessing serious and escalating challenges to media freedom. The United States stands firmly for the freedom of expression, advocating for press freedom both online and offline, and ensuring the safety of journalists and media workers worldwide. Unfortunately, these essential freedoms are under threat globally, including concerns raised here in Sri Lanka.

When governments intensify efforts to withhold information from the public by restricting internet access and censoring content, we must speak up. Notably, when Sri Lanka’s Parliament passed the Online Safety Bill in January, the United States voiced concerns over its potential effects on freedom of expression, innovation, and privacy.

It’s common to hear arguments against unfettered freedom of expression. Critics claim the media is biased, aiming to embarrass governments and undermine public trust. Others worry that without checks, freedom of expression may fuel the spread of misinformation. Some argue that an unchecked press can incite tension and compromise security. And there’s concern that continuous reports on corruption, violence, and political strife can tarnish a nation’s image, deterring investment and hampering development.

However, the media’s bias should lean towards the public’s interest, acting as a guardian to ensure that leaders fulfill their duties. This principle holds in Sri Lanka, the United States, and globally.

The challenge of negative press, often labeled as “fake news” or “biased journalism,” is not new. For generations, governments and the media have navigated a complex, sometimes adversarial relationship. This dynamic isn’t unique to any one nation; in the United States, for instance, presidents from both major political parties have experienced their share of friction with the press. This tension, a hallmark of democratic societies, plays a crucial role in fostering transparency and encouraging effective governance. It’s a familiar scene: politicians and journalists engage in heated exchanges, especially when leaders feel their actions are misrepresented, leading to accusations of inaccuracies and biased reporting.

The press’s duty is to deliver facts as they stand, shedding light on the government’s achievements as well as spotlighting areas where policies or programs fall short. This transparency not only informs the public but also strengthens the nation as it encourages constructive action and improvement.

And suppressing voices only complicates matters further. Attempting to conceal issues rather than addressing them is akin to hiding a broken tool rather than fixing it. True progress comes from collaborative dialogue, even if it means embracing the messiness of public discourse.”

Continue Reading