UK’s soft policy towards Rajapaksa, despots criticized by British journalist
“Appearing at events such as the jubilee is a PR gift to heads of state with poor human rights records, giving the impression that they’re just like any world leader. It also encourages a sense of impunity,” writes British journalist Joan Smith, criticizing the presence of Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations last week. In an article published on The Independent on Sunday, Mr. Smith notes how a soft policy of Western governments in general, UK in particular, towards despots and war crimes accused leaders like Rajapaksa encouraged blood baths in countries like Syria. Emphasizing the need to send a strong message to rogue states, he stressed the need for UK to announce a boycott for the proposed CHOGM meeting in Sri Lanka in 2013 and to call for an independent inquiry into Sri Lanka’s war crimes.
Referring to the continued appeasement of undemocratic regimes, he writes: “Last month, ministers did nothing as the Queen unwisely lunched with the King of Bahrain at Windsor Castle. Last week at a lunch in London she met the President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa. He is accused of presiding over grotesque human rights abuses by government forces in the final days of Sri Lanka’s civil war, including the discovery of bound and stripped female bodies, almost certainly rape victims. Protesters jeered Rajapaksa’s car as it arrived in Pall Mall, and he was forced to cancel a keynote speech in the City of London for which guests had paid £795.”
“Downing Street swiftly released an account of Cameron’s conversation with Rajapaksa, insisting that the Prime Minister had raised the question of human rights abuses, but the damage was done. Appearing at events such as the jubilee is a PR gift to heads of state with poor human rights records, giving the impression that they’re just like any world leader. It also encourages a sense of impunity, as Fred Carver, director of the Sri Lanka campaign, pointed out last week. "It is likely Assad learnt some lessons from the way the international community tolerated civilian casualties in Sri Lanka," he said. "What lessons will Assad learn from seeing how quickly the international community rehabilitates those responsible?"”
“There’s now a powerful argument for heads of government with poor human rights records to be ostracised, instead of invited to grand lunches and dinners. It’s good news that British ministers will not attend the initial stages of Euro 2012 because of Ukraine’s treatment of the jailed opposition leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, but the Government should announce a boycott of the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Sri Lanka unless President Rajapaksa cooperates with an independent investigation into alleged war crimes in the country. Future leaders should be identified and helped to build an effective opposition inside or outside despotic regimes.”
“Western governments have spent too much time appeasing nasty governments. Assad plans to kill as many opponents as possible, and the best hope may be that China and Russia realise he’s fuelling a sectarian conflict and ditch him. But the choice may come down to international military intervention or civil war.”