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Australia soft on prosecuting Kohona’s alleged war-crimes – paper

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 5 April 2011 11:43 No Comment]

Palitha_T_B_Kohona Professor Gideon Boas of Monash University School of Law, in an article appearing in Sydney Morning Herald, criticized the Australian Government for its reluctance to prosecute war criminals, and pointed to the recent filing by two Tamil organizations of war-crime charges in the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Dr Palitha Kohona who is an Australian citizen and formerly a senior official with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. While Prof Boas said the factual case has problems and complexities, the Tamil organizations that filed the case said that new key witnesses to the Kohona’s alleged crimes have come forward and that a "superceding complaint" will likely be filed with ICC once a legally admissible deposition is obtained from the new witness.

Palitha Kohona has been accused of assisting in organising the alleged murders of three surrendering Tamil Tigers in 2009. In January, two Tamil organisations operating outside Sri Lanka — the Swiss Council of Eelam Tamils and a US group called Tamils Against Genocide — submitted a request to investigate Kohona for the murder of three surrendering Tamil Tigers to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Kohuna is said to have been prominent in negotiating the surrender of the victims while serving in the Sri Lankan government, but has denied any involvement in the alleged event. He is now Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the United Nations, Prof. Boas noted.

Prof.Gideon_Boas_01 Prof. Gideon Boas, Monash University

"Kohona is not just an Australian citizen; he was also employed, according to Hansard, as a senior official with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The allegations of his involvement in war crimes, therefore, come as an added embarrassment to the Australian government," Prof. Boas said.

On the filing, Prof Boas commented that the case presents certain kinds of criminal participation that is untested, and therefore, presents question marks even if the prosecutor is prepared to investigate and seek Kohona’s prosecution.

On Australia’s reluctance to prosecute war criminals, Prof Boas commented, "we have been prepared to facilitate extradition but never to prosecute ourselves. While our legislative framework certainly renders some of these cases complex, the reluctance goes far beyond purely legal considerations. We have a great anxiety about the resources involved in such prosecutions and an even greater anxiety that the Australian public does not really support prosecuting people who committed crimes — even war crimes — in other countries."

PDF: ICC-Kohona complaint reference

Meanwhile, Lathan Suntharalingam of the Swiss Council of Eelam Tamils (SCET), the organization together with Tamils Against Genocide (TAG) submitted the ICC complaint said, "after we filed the complaint giving due safeguard to protect the identity of a witness, two new witnesses who were physically present in the area during the alleged execution of the surrendees have expressed willingness to help us record new evidence. We plan to submit a modified complaint soon."

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