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Australia’s bids to lend legitimacy to Sri Lanka’s war-crime regime condemned

[TamilNet, Sunday, 2 October 2011 23:04 No Comment]

Vehemently condemning Australia’s envoy for Sri Lanka, Kathy Klugman, for partaking in a high-profile propaganda ceremony at the Sri Lankan Presidential residence in Colombo, head of the International Commission of Jurists in Australia, John Dowd, has accused the Australian government of trying to legitimise the actions of Rajapaksa regime, which is credibly accused to have committed wide-spread war crimes during the final months of the war, a media report by The Age said. Australia’s high commissioner to Sri Lanka, Kathy Klugman, took part in a ceremony in Colombo on Friday to release 1,800 ex-members of the LTTE after what the Sri Lankan military called “a two-year rehabilitation program”. She also handed out certificates to alleged ‘rehabilitated’ Tamils, who were later detained and prevented from reuniting with their families.

According to The Age newspaper, John Dowd, who was formerly the Attoney-General of the New South Wales, has condemned the program in the Sri Lankan military camps as “re-education and not rehabilitation”.

“He warned that Australia was lending legitimacy to a regime that refuses to allow an investigation of alleged war crimes during the country’s vicious civil war,” the Age said, adding that more than 11,000 people who were captured in the dying days of the conflict that ended in May 2009, had been held without charge in at least 24 military-run camps.

Ms Klugman – who last month congratulated the “effectiveness” of Sri Lanka’s ‘security services’ for stopping a boat carrying 44 Tamils fleeing to Australia – was one of a number of foreign envoys, including from the US, at the ceremony.

Local media and even the SL Ministry of Defence gave wide publicity and carried images of the Australian envoy handing out certificates to the ex-LTTE members.

Although the members of the international community were made to believe that the former Tiger members were rehabilitated and handed over to their parents and next of kin, the parents have said that their loved ones were continued to be detained by the military and were not allowed to reunite with their families as promised in public.

Of the 44 Tamils stopped on September 11 on the boat to Australia, six have reportedly been accused of being ex-LTTE members and sent to a camp in the country’s south.

The Greens in Australia are demanding Sri Lanka be suspended from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to be held in Perth this month – a move Professor Dowd has backed.

Australia, though appeared to be adopting a cautious approach on Sri Lanka in international forums, commended last week the establishment of a Sri Lankan reconciliation commission in a statement to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

According to the media report, a Foreign Affairs Department (Australia) spokesman has said Australia had not provided any funding for Sri Lanka’s rehabilitation programs.

“Nor has Australia supported activities relating to ex-combatants in detention. Australia has urged the Sri Lankan government to charge or release ex-combatants,” the Age has quoted the Australia’s Foreign Affairs Spokesman as saying.

[Full Coverage]

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