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Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulation 2020: Some UK lawmakers want CBK, Sarath, Shavendra et al categorized

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The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils of the House of Commons, UK has requested the government to designate former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Samagi Jana Balavegaya MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, Army Commander Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva et al in terms of the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulation 2020.

 The group consists of Elliot Colburn MP (Chair), Bob Blackman MP (Vice Chair), Feryal Clark MP(Vice Chair), Robert Halfon MP (Vice Chair), Kate Osamor MP (Vice Chair), Sam Tarry MP (Vice Chair) and John McDonnell MP.

 The following is the text of the letter sent by the group to Dominic Raab MP Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs: “We welcome the introduction of the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020 which reiterates the United Kingdom’s commitment to the rule of law. This new sanctions regime comes at a time when the world is seeking renewed leadership on human rights and justice and we believe that targeted sanctions have the power to promote and protect human rights in many countries that have been areas of priority for the UK.

“We are writing to you to kindly request you to consider applying the new regime in respect of Sri Lanka, in line with the UK’s longstanding commitment to accountability and reconciliation on the post-war island. Sri Lanka in many ways is a parallel situation to Myanmar where an ethnonationalist military dictates political direction and as evident in Myanmar, international accountability measures are the only way to advance transitional justice and prevent further atrocities.

“We feel that sanctions against certain individuals accused of atrocity crimes in Sri Lanka could, therefore, play a role similar to those that have been issued by the UK against two high-ranking military generals in Myanmar. In particular, we recommend the designation of two key military members who stand accused by the UN and rights organisations of heinous atrocity crimes that violate the right to life: Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva (Head of the Army) and Staff Sergeant Sunil Ratnayake.

“Sri Lanka emerged from a brutal 30-year armed conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which culminated in genocidal attacks killing an estimated 70,000 Tamil civilians in 2009. The war was characterised by horrific atrocity crimes which were documented in a report by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Investigation on Sri Lanka (‘OISL’).

(ii) The OISL was the culmination of a series of UN Human Rights Council resolutions which the United Kingdom played a key role in co-sponsoring and supporting.

Following the OISL report, Sri Lanka alongside countries including the UK, co-sponsored UN Human Rights Council Resolution 30/1 in 2015 in which they pledged to undertake a meaningful transitional justice process, including setting up a hybrid court with international judges, security sector reform and a political settlement that would address the root causes of the ethnic conflict on the island.

(iii) However, despite co-sponsoring the resolution, Sri Lanka’s then government failed to make sufficient progress on the central issue of accountability, quickly reneging on international justice commitments and instead pledging to protect the military. (iv) In recognition of this, as early as 2017, the former UN Human Rights Chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called on member states to explore avenues to exercise universal jurisdiction to bring perpetrators of atrocity crimes in Sri Lanka to account.

 (v) In November 2019, Sri Lanka elected the former Secretary of Defence and alleged war criminal, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, as their President. During Rajapaksa’s tenure as Secretary of Defence, both during and after the armed conflict, he is alleged to have overseen the abduction, torture and disappearance of several primarily Tamil journalists and human rights defenders.

(vi) The new government under Rajapaksa announced in February of this year that they would no longer be supporting UN Resolution 30/1, turning their backs on the international community and firmly rejecting any prospects of justice for victim communities.

 (vii) Instead of pursuing a path towards sustainable peace, over the past few months Sri Lanka has descended rapidly back into an ethnocratic authoritarian state with targeting of human rights defenders, increasing militarisation of traditional Tamil homelands and the promotion of individuals accused of serious human rights violations.

 (viii) These concerning developments were all recognised already by the UK in the statement of the core group of supporters to Resolution 30/1 at the 44th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in June.

 (ix) These developments significantly increase the risk of a recurrence of atrocity crimes, particularly against Tamil communities, and also Muslim communities who have increasingly come under attack over the past decade.

“It is evident that without accountability for atrocity crimes, Sri Lanka will continue to be trapped in recurrent cycles of ethnonationalist violence. As a core supporter of transitional justice efforts in Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom has a unique responsibility to send a strong message to Sri Lanka, that atrocity crimes will not go unpunished and thereby prevent future atrocity crimes from occurring.

 “As a first step to doing this, we would urge you to designate former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva and Staff Sergeant Sunil Ratnayake under the new Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime for their role in perpetrating atrocity crimes that violate the right to life.

 Kumaratunga served as president of Sri Lanka and Commander-in-Chief of the military forces from 1994 to 2005. A period marked by human rights abuses and mass bombings, including the bombing of Navaly Church that resulted in 140 civilian deaths and Nagarkovil School that resulted in 71 civilian deaths including 25 school children. Despite the atrocity crimes she committed whilst in power, Kumaratunga regularly visits the United Kingdom. For many torture victims of her regime who sought asylum and currently reside in the United Kingdom, her visits instil fear and acts as reminder of the impunity Sri Lankan war criminals enjoy at home and abroad.

“Fonseka was the commander of the Sri Lankan Army from 2005 until the end of the armed conflict in May 2009. Sri Lankan forces under his command have been implicated in numerous instances of unlawful shelling of civilians and hospitals, rape and other sexual violence, and the summary execution of prisoners.

“Silva was head of the 58th Division of the Sri Lankan army during the last phase of the war, which is named in the OISL report as having committed the most egregious crimes. Instead of holding Silva accountable, the Sri Lankan government promoted Silva to Head of the Army in August 2019, demonstrating their unwillingness to hold those accused of even the most heinous atrocity crimes accountable.

 (x) In February 2020, the United States Secretary of State designated Silva under the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programmes Appropriations Act, banning him and his family from entering the country “due to credible information of his involvement, through command responsibility, in gross violations of human rights, namely extrajudicial killings, by the 58th Division of the Sri Lanka Army during the final phase of Sri Lanka’s Civil War in 2009.”

 (xi) The Foreign Office’s 2019 Human Rights and Democracy report also highlights Silva’s appointment as an area of concern, stating “this appointment called into question Sri Lanka’s commitments made to the HRC on justice and accountability. In response to the appointment, the UN Department of Peace Operations announced in September that it would suspend future deployments of Sri Lankan peacekeepers, except where suspension would expose UN operations to serious operational risk.”

(xii) Until earlier this year, Ratnayake was a rare example of accountability for atrocity crimes committed by the Sri Lankan forces. The soldier was convicted of murdering eight unarmed Tamil civilians including three children after a 13-year trial in 2000. The conviction was upheld and confirmed by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka in April 2019 and was a rare moment of accountability for atrocity crimes perpetrated during the war. However, in March 2020, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa issued a presidential pardon to Ratnayake, absolving him of all charges, reinforcing the government’s rejection of any attempt to hold the military accountable for human rights violations.

 (xiii) The UK as part of the core group of states co-sponsoring Resolution 30/1 has already criticised the pardon of Ratnayake.

 (xiv) Kumaratunga, Fonseka, Silva and Ratnayake are only four of a long list of individuals from the Sri Lankan military against whom there is credible evidence of grave human rights violations, including violating the right to life and the right to be free from torture, but their designation will have the symbolic effect of sending a strong message to the Sri Lankan government that the UK will not let go of the need for accountability for war crimes and thereby contribute towards preventing further atrocity crimes. Accordingly, we ask respectfully that you consider our request to designate Kumaratunga, Fonseka, Silva and Ratnayake under the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulation 2020.

 

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Athaulla: Those responsible for MR’s defeat had a hand in Easter Sunday attacks

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MP A.L.M. Athaulla displays a copy of a letter he sent to the then President Maithripala Sirisena and PM Wickremesinghe underscoring the need to do away with the 19th Amendment(Pic courtesy National Congress)

… assures support for 20 A

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Those who had a hand in engineering President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s defeat at the 2015 presidential election were behind the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks, National Congress MP A. L. M. Athaulla, told a media briefing at his Thalakotuwa Gardens road residence, Narahenpita yesterday (20).

Digamadulla District MP blamed 2014 organised attacks on Muslims in Aluthgama, Beruwela and Darga Town also on the same group hell bent destabilising the country. Instigating ethnic violence was part of their strategy, a one-time UPFA Minister said, urging all communities to be vigilant of despicable efforts to undermine political stability.

Athaulla said so when The Island asked him whether he subscribed to SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem’s recent declaration that the Easter Sunday attacks had been carried out by another force and not the National Thowheed Jamaat or its leader Zahran Hashim.

One-time Justice Minister Attorney-at-law Haleem alleged that the NTJ had been hired to carry out the operation.

SLMC leader Hakeem made the aforesaid claim on September 7 before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (P CoI) probing Easter Sunday attacks.

Athaulla said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa would ensure a thorough investigation into Easter Sunday attacks. The MP also expressed confidence in the progress made by the PCoI which the National Congress leader said could reveal the truth.

When The Island pointed out that former Deputy Inspector General (DIG) in charge of the Eastern Range Edison Gunatilleke had recently accused Athaulla, former UPFA politician M H M Hisbullah et al of their involvement with extremists and terrorists, a smiling Athaulla said that there was absolutely no basis for such claims. He challenged Gunatilleke to prove his accusations. Athaulla said he didn’t even know Gunatilleke or even remember calling over the phone.

Lawmaker Athaulla questioned why Gunatilleke had waited so long to complain of political interference in police investigations. Declaring that he was among those politicians who received top level security, including bullet proof vehicles due to serious threats to his life, Athaulla denied ever working against the interests of the country.

Asked whether the unsubstantiated accusations had been levelled against him in a bid to deprive him of a possible cabinet portfolio, the National Congress leader replied in the negative.

Responding to a spate of media queries regarding the SLPP not accommodating him in the cabinet, Athaulla emphasized that he never asked for a cabinet portfolio nor would ever request for one.

MP Athaulla said that their responsibility would be to ensure required consensus in parliament to pave the way for the 20th Amendment in place of the 19th Amendment enacted at the onset of the treacherous yahapalana administration in 2015.

At the commencement of the media briefing, MP Athaulla said that the National Congress had backed the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa three conditions. “We asked for the eradication of terrorism. We also sought the demerger of the Eastern Province from the North during President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidency and those demands were met.”

Athaulla said that the only request yet to be fulfilled was a Constitution that met aspirations of all Sri Lankans.

He said that the National Congress believed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who had been the Defence Secretary during the war and the war winning President Mahinda Rahapaksa, now the Prime Minister, would succeed in introducing a new Constitution. Referring to the 19th Amendment, MP Athaulla pointed out that the controversial piece of legislation caused chaos with political parties having to seek intervention of the Supreme Court to ascertain how powers were shared.

When The Island pointed out that even the SLPP hadn’t been able to settle differences among various sections as regards the 19th Amendment, lawmaker Athaulla said that he was confident the Rajapaksas wouldn’t do anything to harm the country. He denied any ambiguity over his party’s support for the 20th Amendment.

The country couldn’t afford to have the President and the Prime Minister from different political parties under any circumstances, the former minister said, warning of dire consequences in foreign interventions in the making of the new constitution.

Referring to the high profile Oslo peace bid in 2002-2003 during Ranil Wickremesinghe’s tenure as the Prime Minister, Athaulla insisted that constitutional reforms introduced at the behest of foreign powers wouldn’t address local issues. The former minister said that the country’s strategic location attracted foreign interests therefore the country needed to be cautious.

Reiterating his backing for the 20th Amendment, MP Athaulla urged the government to take tangible measures to introduce a new Constitution. Underscoring the importance of the proposed new Constitution being a Sri Lankan effort, Athaulla recalled how the TNA and the SLMC had facilitated foreign intervention.

The former minister dismissed the Opposition’s claims as regards SLPP bid to do away with independent commissions. Independent commissions weren’t certainly independent, the MP alleged, pointing out that they didn’t do their job.

Athaulla however side-stepped a query regarding the 20th Amendment proposing to abolish restrictions on dual citizens contesting parliamentary polls.

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Five-storey building collapses on house, killing baby, his parents

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By Cyril Wimalaurendre Kandy –

A 45-day-old baby boy and his parents were killed yesterday when a five-storey building collapsed on their house at Sangamitta Mawatha, Kandy.

Brigadier Sarada Samarakoon, Commander of the 11 Brigade, told the media that the building had collapsed on the house around 5 am yesterday. There were five people in the house. Residents of the area were able to save two women and the baby. The baby passed away after being admitted to the Kandy National Hospital.

The army was able to recover the bodies of the baby’s parents after a search operation, which lasted nearly seven hours. The deceased were Chamila Prasad (35) his wife Achala Ekanayake (32) who is a lecturer of the University of Uva.

The two survivors Jayanthi Kumarihamay and Lakshika Jayamini, mother and niece of Achala Ekanayake respectively, said that they had heard a thundering sound around 4.30 am and noticed that pieces of rock and earth were falling into the house and shortly thereafter saw the roof of the house cave in. They added that the room where they were has been only partially damaged. The collapsed building is said to belong to a retired senior police officer.

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Sirisena didn’t want immediate action against Muslim extremists for political expediency

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– Former defence secretary

by Rathindra Kuruwita

Former President Maithripala Sirisena has not allowed immediate action against the Sri Lankans who had returned after fighting for the Islamic State (IS) and extremist foreign preachers because he feared upsetting Muslim politicians, former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, on Friday, told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.

Fernando told the PCoI that he had informed Sirisena of the Sri Lankans who had returned after receiving weapons training from terrorist organisations such as the IS and Al Qaeda, and extremist foreign preachers operating in Sri Lanka.

“President Sirisena told me that taking action on those issues would cause problems with Muslim politicians and asked me not to be impatient.”

The witness said in the previous government, Muslim politicians had frequently intervened to prevent the arrest of a number of criminals. Fernando alleged that perhaps the National Thowheed Jamaat leader Zahran Hashim could have been arrested prior to Easter Sunday attacks if not for such political pressure.

Answering a question by the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) who led the evidence, Fernando said that Zahran had supported former President Sirisena during the 2015 presidential election.

Zahran had contested a local government election too and further details could be given after examining the reports, the ex- Defence Secretary added.

Asked by a commissioner on whether there had been adequate provisions for taking legal action against extremists, Fernando said that legal action was possible but political pressures had prevented that.

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