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Call for Sri Lankan war atrocities investigation

[MISC, Thursday, 20 October 2011 07:20 No Comment]

(The Catholic Leader)

By: Paul Dobbyn

RECONCILIATION in post-civil war Sri Lanka is impossible if the country’s Government fails to adequately investigate allegations of war crimes committed by its army (SLA) in 2009.

Brisbane archdiocese’s Catholic Social Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC) executive officer Peter Arndt made the claim in a talk, A Call for Justice in Sri Lanka, presented in Sydney last week.

Mr Arndt raised this and other issues at an international human rights conference held by the Australian Tamil Congress and the Global Tamil Forum on Thursday (October 20).

The conference was attended by a number of MPs and Ministers from several countries including South Africa and Malaysia as well as leading academics and human rights defenders from various countries including India, Sri Lanka, Germany and New Zealand.

"During the height of the civil war in Sri Lanka in 2009, I was in contact with a number of Tamils in Australia," Mr Arndt told those gathered.

"All of them had family members caught up in the brutal battles between the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE).

"They were desperate, traumatised people tortured by the fear that their loved ones faced being ‘disappeared’, injured or killed."

Mr Arndt said "the civil war had its genesis in long-standing Tamil grievances about land, language and political and economic marginalisation".

"None of these grievances has been addressed by the GOSL (Government of Sri Lanka) since the war and, in fact, in many cases, the problems have worsened significantly," he said.

"There is no hope for reconciliation if the GOSL does not agree, in the first instance, to an independent war crimes and human rights violations investigation."

Mr Arndt listed a number of areas of Tamil concern in Sri Lanka’s current political situation.

These included:

- An on-going massive military presence in traditional Tamil lands in the north and east of Sri Lanka

- Allegations of on-going military violence and rape including the assault of Tamil MPs in June 2011

- The on-going presence of armed militias in the north and east

- Evidence of on-going restrictions on the activities of journalists and human rights defenders and intimidation of critics of the GOSL

- The acquisition of land for military facilities and housing for soldiers and their families.

Mr Arndt was critical of the GOSL’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and said it "does not fit the bill".

"In the first instance, the LLRC has not been commissioned to investigate the root causes of the conflict nor the atrocities committed during the war," he said.

"Furthermore the LLRC cannot be seen as impartial as some of its members were prominent in prosecuting the GOSL’s public defence when claims of atrocities began to emerge."

The Sri Lankan Civil War ended in May 2009 when, after a 26-year military campaign, the Sri Lankan military

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