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UK lawmakers for Tamils seek punitive measures against Sri Lanka

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British barrister elected as the next Chief Prosecutor at the ICC

Elliot Colburn (Conservative Party) on behalf of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils (APPGT) has requested the UK government to take tangible measures to establish an evidence gathering mechanism, inquire into the suitability of international accountability mechanisms in respect of Sri Lanka and push for the appointment of a Special Rapporteur.

The UK heads the six-member Sri Lanka Core Group. APPGT has intervened on behalf of the pro-LTTE Tamil Diaspora in the wake of Lord Naseby, President All Party British-Sri Lanka Parliamentary Group sought to set the record straight as regards war crimes accusations. Lord Naseby made representations to the UNHRC.

The following is the text of letter dated Feb 22 written by Colburn to Dominic Raab MP:

Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs: “I write with reference to the draft UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution on Sri Lanka published by the United Kingdom on behalf of the Core Group on Sri Lanka.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group, for Tamils (APPGT) is concerned that the draft resolution does not sufficiently support the important recommendations by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that are critical for ensuring progress towards accountability in Sri Lanka.

The UK has always been at the forefront of promoting human rights and international justice around the world, including in Sri Lanka. In 2014 the UK-led international efforts that successfully passed a key resolution in the UN Human Rights Council to promote accountability, justice, and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. That resolution authorised the landmark investigation by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the OHCHR  Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL), into human rights abuses in the period 21 February 2002 to 15 November 2011.

The OISL’s report documented mass atrocities and human rights abuses of unspeakable brutality and on an extraordinary scale. Yet, despite repeatedly pledging to ensure accountability, and repeated extensions by UNHRC members of their deadline for doing so, successive Sri Lankan governments have delayed and obfuscated at every turn.

Six years after the OISL report, and 11 years after the end of war in Sri Lanka, it is now time for the UK and the UNHRC member states to put the victims, the so many people who lost their lives, lost loved ones, and were put through unimaginable suffering, at the forefront of international efforts to ensure justice is delivered to them, and without any further delay.

It is therefore crucial that the resolution being tabled by the United Kingdom on behalf of the Core Group on Sri Lanka, provides for concrete steps towards international accountability, in particular ensuring the collection and preserving evidence of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law perpetrated in Sri Lanka, evidence that can facilitate criminal prosecutions via an international judicial process.

To these ends, we urge you to ensure the Resolution when presented to the Council includes:

1. Evidence gathering for the purpose of criminal prosecutions

Establish an ongoing independent mechanism to collect, consolidate, preserve, and analyse evidence of the most serious international crimes and violations of international law committed in Sri Lanka between 21 February 2002 until 15 November 2011, and to prepare files in order to facilitate and expedite fair and independent criminal proceedings, in accordance with international law standards, in national, regional or international courts or tribunals that have or may in the future have jurisdiction over these crimes.

2. International Mechanism

Provide a mandate the Office of the High Commissioner to consider and report on the feasibility and appropriateness of international mechanisms for accountability, in recognition of the fact that Sri Lankan authorities have failed to prosecute alleged perpetrators of serious abuses, which may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. The international mechanisms considered should include the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The ICC was established precisely so as to ensure that perpetrators of such heinous crimes do not enjoy impunity because the State in question is unwilling or unable to prosecute them, and the UK can be justifiably proud that a leading British barrister, Karim Khan, has been elected as the next Chief Prosecutor at the ICC.

3. Special Rapporteur

Urge the Council to appoint an individual of recognized international standing and expertise in human rights as Special Rapporteur to investigate and report on human rights situation in Sri Lanka, and on the Sri Lankan Government’s compliance with its obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law. It is not only past violations and the lack of accountability for those that are concerning for us, but ongoing ones also. The UN High Commissioner’s latest report describes the deterioration in human rights protection in Sri Lanka as alarming and given the Sri Lankan government’s appalling track record, we believe international scrutiny of the situation in the coming months and years should be continuous and ongoing.

We believe the above are essential steps for ensuring accountability for the well-documented heinous international crimes that have taken place, and ongoing human rights abuses, in Sri Lanka. After over a decade of promised yet ultimately denied justice for the victims, we also believe these are the minimal steps that the UK should pursue, if our commitment to human rights, international rule of law, and justice is not to appear hollow, to both the victims and the perpetrators.”



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President Ranil Wickremasinghe calls upon chief prelates of Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters

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(pic courtsey Divaina)

President Ranil Wickremasinghe called upon the chief prelates of the Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters on Thursday (02) morning to seek their blessings ahead of the 75th Independence day celebrations.

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US secures deal on bases to complete arc around China

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (R) was in the Philippines to finalise the deal (picture BBC)

BBC reported that the United States has secured access to four additional military bases in the Philippines – a key bit of real estate which would offer a front seat to monitor the Chinese in the South China Sea and around Taiwan.

With this deal, Washington has stitched the gap in the arc of US alliances stretching from South Korea and Japan in the north to Australia in the south.

The missing link had been the Philippines, which borders two of the biggest potential flashpoints, Taiwan and the South China Sea, or the West Philippine Sea as Manila insists on calling it.

The US already had limited access to five sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) – the new additions and expanded access, according to a statement from Washington, will “allow more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, and respond to other shared challenges”, likely a veiled reference to countering China in the region.

The statement came after Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr in Manila on Thursday.

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Nuland accuses China of failing to help SL with ‘credible and specific assurances’ acceptable to IMF

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Nuland addressing the media in Colombo (pic by Thushara Atapattu)

US hopes LG polls will be held in March

By Saman Indrajith

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, yesterday said China had not provided credible and specific assurances to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for Sri Lanka to overcome the current economic crisis.

Addressing the media in Colombo, Nuland said: “What China has offered so far is not enough. We need to see credible and specific assurances that they will meet the IMF standard of debt relief. We, the United States, are prepared to do our part. Our Paris Club partners are prepared to do their part. India has made strong commitments that it will provide the credible assurances the IMF is looking for.”

Nuland said that India and the Paris Club had given strong assurances to the IMF to help Sri Lanka to obtain a $2.9 billion bailout.

“We want to see an IMF program as quickly as possible. That is what Sri Lanka deserves; that is what Sri Lanka needs,” Nuland said.

Nuland said the US would give Sri Lanka an additional USD 30 million to provide 96,000 schoolchildren with food.

She said Sri Lankans had taken to the streets, last year, demanding cleaner, accountable and inclusive governance, with transparency, and the government was expected to hold the elections to enable people to enjoy their democratic rights.

Nuland said that the US was glad to see that consultation between the government and other parties towards reconciliation had commenced. She said that she had met with members of the Tamil political parties, earlier yesterday. “We hope that the dialogue will continue to achieve real results such as return of the lands to their rightful owners.”

Nuland said that the US hoped that local elections would be held in March, the dialogue commenced for reconciliation would continue, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act would be reformed to meet international standards.

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