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Sri Lanka’s Ex-Navy diplomat accused of war-crimes

[TamilNet, Monday, 17 October 2011 07:20 No Comment]

Citing evidence from Australian Tamil witnesses, the International Commission of Jurists, an international NGO dedicated to ensuring respect for international human rights standards through the law, has submitted a brief before the Australian Federal Police (AFP), to investigate Sri Lanka’s high commissioner to Australia, former navy Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe, for committing possible war-crimes, The Age and Sydney Morning Herald reported Sunday. Samarasinghe was the commander of the Sri Lankan navy’s eastern and then northern areas, as well as naval chief of staff, during the final years of Sri Lanka’s civil war.

pdf: ICJ: Press release on Sri Lanka war crimes

"Separate and independent allegations have been made, to the jurists’ commission and other investigators, that naval ships fired directly on unarmed civilians as they fled the conflict.

Ex-Navy Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe "There has been no evidence Admiral Samarasinghe was involved in shelling, or gave direct orders to that effect, but the submission before the AFP states military superiors hold a responsibility for the actions of those under their command," the article said.

”[T]he AFP is currently evaluating the submission. Therefore it is not appropriate to comment further,” The Age quoted an AFP spokesperson as saying.

The submission has been sent to the AFP and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, as well as to the offices of the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. It calls for investigations into Admiral Samarasinghe and other key military and political figures, including President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is commander-in-chief of Sri Lanka’s armed forces, with a view to issuing arrest warrants against those responsible, the paper said.

Responding to ICJ’s submission, Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon urged Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd to add his voice to the growing international call for an independent investigation into the final stages of the Sri Lankan civil war.

“In May 2010, my colleague Adam Bandt said the Australian Government would not be wise to accept ex-military officers for diplomatic positions. This appointment should once again be revisited in light of the ICJ submission to the Australian Federal Police and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions,” Senator Rhiannon said.

An earlier filing with the International Criminal Court (ICC) accused dual Australian-Sri Lankan citizen Palitha Kohona, who was an Australian diplomat in the 1980s, and is now Sri Lanka’s representative to the UN, of war crimes for complicity of sending, via intermediaries, text messages to defeated Tamil Tigers and civilians, telling them they could surrender, unarmed and under a white flag, to government troops.

The AFP has confirmed it is evaluating the allegations against Dr Kohona ”with a view to determining any potential breaches of Australian law,” the paper said.

The President of the Australian section of the ICJ is former NSW Supreme Court justice and attorney-general John Dowd.

The International Commission of Jurists is an independent international law body, based in Geneva. It holds consultative status with UNESCO, the Council of Europe, and the African Union.

The circulation of the papers The Age, and the Sydney Morning Herald, cover Victoria and New South Wales, the two most populous states in Australia.

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