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Prof. Boyle: PCIJ precedent brings GoSL’s war-crimes within UN jurisdiction

[TamilNet, Sunday, 21 March 2010 08:05 No Comment]

 Quoting a landmark 1923 decision on rules governing international agreements by the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ), Professor Boyle, an expert in international law, referred to Colombo’s claim that UN is infringing on the sovereignty of a member state, and said, "I am not going to spend a lot of time here refuting this erroneous and disingenuous interpretation of international law and the requirements of the United Nations Charter by the GoSL (Government of Sri Lanka) and its Foreign Minister. There is one definitive answer to their objection. Namely, the GoSL Army undoubtedly inflicted numerous violations of the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949 upon the Tamils in Vanni a year ago, and in particular but not limited to gross violations of Common Article 3 thereof, which constituted war crimes. Sri Lanka is a contracting party to the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949."

The Government of Sri Lanka through its Foreign Minister government reiterated its position Thursday that the proposed move by the UN Secretary General to appoint a Panel of Experts to advise him on accountability issues relating to Sri Lanka is an infringement on the sovereignty of an independent Member State, without prejudice to the application of enforcement measures under Chapter VII.

Professor Boyle said, "according to the famous holding of the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ) in the Tunis-Morocco Nationality Decrees Case of 1923, the moment a state concludes an international agreement on any subject, that subject is no longer a matter of exclusively internal or domestic or sovereign concern but thereafter becomes a matter of international concern. Under the terms of the United Nations Charter, the Permanent Court of International Justice is the predecessor in law to the current International Court of Justice, the so-called World Court. Hence PCIJ decisions are still valid as a matter of public international law as of today.

"For these reasons, the GoSL’s gross violations of the Four Geneva Conventions inflicted upon the Tamils in Vanni do not fall within the domestic jurisdiction or sovereign concern of Sri Lanka alone, but also fall within the jurisdiction of international law and of the United Nations itself. For this reason alone, the U.N. Secretary General has the legal authority under the terms of the United Nations Charter to appoint a Committee of Experts to advise him upon all war crimes and crimes against humanity that were inflicted by the GOSL against the Tamils in Vanni a year ago. The sooner the better for the integrity of the U.N. Secretary General, the United Nations Organization, the Geneva Conventions, and International Law, Prof Boyle said.

Professor Boyle added, that "[t]he same arguments also apply pari passu to the GoSL’s violation of the 1948 Genocide Convention against the Tamils in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is a contracting party to the Genocide Convention. The U.N. Secretary General must give his proposed U.N. Committee of Experts terms of reference that would include the Geneva Conventions and Protocols, the Genocide Convention, as well as war crimes and crimes against humanity under customary international criminal law.

"The Statutes for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and/or for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and their respective U.N. investigations would be excellent models to apply to the GoSL: The International Criminal Tribunal for Sri Lanka (ICTSL)," Boyle said.

Meanwhile, Inner City Press reported that when asked of the war-crimes and NAM’s letter, UK Permanent Representative to the UN Mark Lyall Grant said "the Secretary General does have a mandate through the UN charter to uphold human rights and humanitarian international law, and therefore he is entirely within his rights to set up a group of experts who will advise him on taking forward his concerns about some of the allegations that have been made in the recent months in Sri Lanka."

Ambassador Grant added that "[UK has] made it very clear that we always want to see an end to impunity, that we want to see allegations of war crimes, human rights violations, human rights abuses, thoroughly investigated."

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