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

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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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0muPVjyF7E8

 

 



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Geneva HR vote:

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UK, Canada seek to influence member states against Lanka

The Sri Lanka Core group members, Canada and the UK, are campaigning hard to muster support for their resolution against Sri Lanka at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council. Sri Lanka Core group consists of Canada, Germany, the UK, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Malawi.

Canada High Commissioner David McKinnon met the Bangladesh High Commissioner Tareq Ariful Islam, at the Canada House, Colombo 07.

Sources said that meetings between diplomats of those countries were rare. Bangladesh is a member o the f UNHRC. The meeting at the Canada House took place close on the heels of the UK HC Sarah Hulton meeting South Korean Ambassador Woonjin Jeong. South Korea is also a member of the UNHRC.

The 47-member UNHRC is divided into five groups on regional basis. The Asia-Pacific Group consists of Bahrain, Bangladesh, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Marshall Islands, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea and Uzbekistan; Western Europe and Other States consists of Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and UK; Eastern European States consists of Armenia, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Russia and Ukraine; Latin American and Caribbean States group consists of Argentina, Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, Uruguay and Venezuela and African States group consists of Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Gabon, Libya, Malawi, Mauritania, Namibia, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan and Togo. (SF)

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CEB Chairman: Country would have been facing daily power cuts if not for MR’s initiative

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by Ifham Nizam

The country would have been facing a daily power cut of eight hours if not for the initiative taken by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, when he was the President, to commence the first coal fired power plant complex at Norochcholai, said Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) Chairman Engineer Vijitha Herath at yesterday’s inauguration of the first Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) power plant in Sri Lanka.

PM Rajapaksa was the Chief Guest at the event. The CEB head stressed that if not for the Norochchoali plant the country would have lost more than Rs. 100 billion annually.

Power Minister Dullas Alahaperuma said that since the construction of the Norochcholai power plant in 2013, no large scale power plant had been built.

“Today, we are paying for this. Only small hydro power plants and solar power plants have been added to the national grid,” Alahaperuma said.

The power minister said that the LNG plant was coming up at an important time and would bring great relief to the economy which was heavily dependent on fossil fuels.

“Let there be a power sector that is not dependent on fossil fuels. The new power plant has been constructed at Kerawalapitiya, Wattala. This has been designed in accordance with international standards with minimal environmental damage. This power plant will have the highest efficiency F class gas turbine installed. The Kerawalapitiya Power Plant is a dual cycle power plant and will be completed in two phases. The installation of the first phase, or gas turbine, will generate 220 MW, which will be completed within 21 months and added to the national grid.”

Alhaperuma said that the second phase would add another 130 megawatts to the national grid via a steam turbine, which was expected to be completed in 12 months. With a total capacity of 300 MW over the next three years, the plant was expected to meet the country’s growing electricity demand, he said.

Speaking at the event Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa stressed that the government wanted to provide electricity at affordable prices using the most advanced technology. There had been many delays in building power plants under the Yahapalana regime; but the current government would fast-track power projects, he added.

Minister Alahapperuma also said: “The LNG power plant will be a great relief to the economy. Renewable energy is the future. It was clearly mentioned in the President’s vision of prosperity as well as in the Mahinda Chinthana. Our goal is an economy fully armed with renewable energy.”

State Ministers Duminda Dissanayake, Susil Premajayantha, Nimal Lansa, Secretary to the Ministry of Power and Energy Wasantha Perera, LTL CEO of Lakdanavi Affiliates U.D. Jayawardena, and a large number of people’s representatives and government officials were present.

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US Secretary of State names Lankan for International Women of Courage (IWOC) award

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Lankan Human Rights Activist and Attorney-At-Law Ranitha Gnanarajah is among the recipients of this year’s International Women of Courage (IWOC) award presented by the United States Secretary of State.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will host the annual International Women of Courage (IWOC) Awards virtual ceremony to honour a group of extraordinary women from around the world on Monday, March 8, at 10:00 am, the U.S. State Department announced.

The First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden will deliver remarks to recognize the courageous accomplishments of these women.

Now in its 15th year, the Secretary of State’s IWOC Award recognizes women from around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment – often at great personal risk and sacrifice, the US State Department says.

According to the biographies of the finalists for the 2012 IWOC Awards, Sri Lanka’s Ranitha Gnanarajah, a lawyer, and Head of the Legal Department of the Center for Human Rights and Development (CHRD) Sri Lanka continues to fight for and defend the rights of the marginalized and vulnerable communities in the country, despite threats and challenges by the state.

“Ranitha has dedicated her career to accountability and justice for victims of enforced disappearances and prisoners detained often for years without charge under Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act by providing free legal aid and related services. As an individual personally affected by the conflict and based on her extensive experience working with victims and their families, Ranitha has demonstrated tremendous passion and dedication to justice and accountability, especially for Sri Lanka’s most vulnerable populations.”

From the inception of this award in March 2007, the Department of State has recognized more than 155 awardees from over 75 countries.

U.S. diplomatic missions overseas nominate one woman of courage from their respective host countries, and finalists are selected and approved by senior Department officials.

Following the virtual IWOC ceremony, the awardees will participate in an International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP) virtual exchange and connect with their American counterparts.

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