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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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Lawyers request CJ to decide if political victimisation PCoI report amounts to contempt of court

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by A. J. A. Abeynayake

Four lawyers yesterday complained to Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, requesting an investigation to determine whether the recommendations of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry, which probed political victimisation under the previous government, amount to contempt of court.

The four petitioners, Senaka Perera, Achala Seneviratne, Namal Rajapaksa and Thambiah Jeyaratnaraja have, in their complaint, stated they are of the view that the final recommendations of the Commission, which probed the period from January 8, 2015 to November 19, 2019, amounted to contempt of court and were inimical to the judicial system.

The lawyers have also requested that the Chief Justice pay attention to the recommendation by the commission that R. Duminda Silva be exonerated from all charges against him and the recommendation that Attorney General request that a full bench of the Supreme Court conduct a judicial review of the death sentence passed on Silva.

The lawyers pointed out that if an accused is not satisfied with a judgement delivered against him, he could request for a fuller bench to hear his case, but a third party cannot request a review of the verdict. The petitioners have also said that the Commission with its recommendations has caused an affront to the dignity of the court, its independence and the trust of the people.

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Amaraweera plans to ban certain types of plastic, polythene

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Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera examining some eco-friendly products that can be used in place of polythene and plastic.  Picture shows some such products.

Been there, heard that – environmentalists

By Ifham Nizam

The Environment Ministry yesterday reiterated that steps would be taken to ban the use of several types of plastic and polythene in the country from the end of this month.

Contacted for comment, environmentalists said that they had heard similar pledges to ban those products by previous Environment Ministers, but there had been no bans.

Previous Environment Minister Maithripala Sirisena, who even promised to ban asbestos besides harmful types of plastic and polythene had done absolutely nothing, they said adding that “He as the President of the country failed to ship back even the toxic garbage containers dumped here by the UK”.

Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera yesterday said the items to be banned would include disposable polythene and plastic, PET bottles (Poly Ethylene Terephthalate), lunch sheets thinner than 20 microns, sachets, excluding Food and Drug packaging, cotton buds, and inflatable plastic toys.

Amaraweera said that the focus of businesses on new alternatives to plastics and polythene was seen as a way to protect the environment.

The release of excessive amounts of plastics and polythene materials into the environment caused environmental degradation, the Minister said.

The Environment Ministry is having discussions with various stakeholders to introduce eco-friendly alternative products.

Amaraweera last week had a meeting with several private sector entrepreneurs.

Some industrialists also presented to the Minister some of the eco-friendly products they were using.

Plans are afoot to prepare a list of several plastic and polythene products, to be banned from March 31. About 350 products would be banned before the end of the current year, the Minister said.

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Fishing cats victims of mistaken identify 

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Villagers kill them as they resemble leopard cubs

By Ifham Nizam

The killing of fishing cats (Prionailurus viverrinus) is on the rise countrywide mainly because they resemble leopard cubs. They also end up as road kill.

The Sinhala term for fishing cats–– ‘Handun Diviya’––gives the jitters to many villagers who fear that the animals are leopards and a threat to them, according to researcher cum conservationist Chaminda Jayasekara.

Following the death of a farmer in a leopard attack recently, fishing cats are also being increasingly targeted and killed especially in some parts of the hill country.

“In some parts of Nawalapitiya, children fear to go out when word gets around that ‘Handun Diviyas’ were lurking in the vicinity,” Jayasekera said.

The killing of fishing cats happen primarily because some people assume that they could harm them as the animals are often misidentified as leopard cubs. This happens especially in the tea plantation areas due to the lack of knowledge of the species, Jayasekera stressed.

A large number of reptiles, small mammals and birds continue to perish on roads because when highways and other roads are built, only the safety of humans is taken into consideration, according to Jayasekera.

Naturalist cum author, Rajika Gamage yesterday told The Island that when highways were constructed here unlike in other parts of the world green highway concept was ignored. “There should be tunnels to give safe passage for small animals,” he said.

More than dozens of fishing cats were being killed recently in road accidents or in attacks by villagers, he too said.

A dead fishing cat had been found last week near the Log Hill tea estate belonging to the Mayfield estate in Kotagala, Hatton, Dimbula Police said.

Police believe the animal may have died in a road mishap.

 

 

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