Brazil Cannot be a Safe Haven for War Crimes Suspects

by Juana Kweitel and Sylvia Helena Steiner, Nexo Journal, Sao Paulo, Brazil, October 24, 2017 (translated from the original Portugese by Google Translate)

Sri Lanka’s ambassador is suspected of having participated in the deaths of more than 70,000 people in his country. Itamaraty, however, gave him diplomatic immunity and did not publicly pronounce on denunciations against the general

For two years, Sri Lankan ambassador Jagath Jayasuriya lived among us, receiving decorations from Brazilian officials, attending the diplomatic circle of Brasilia and enjoying the country’s natural beauty as a tourist. Anyone who saw him swimming with Amazonian porpoises or taking photos on Brazilian beaches – photos posted on his personal Facebook profile – would never have imagined that this man was accused of committing war crimes and of having participated in the deaths of 40,000 to 70,000 people in their country, according to data of the organization International Truth and Justice Project .

The Spanish prosecutor Carlos Castresana, the same one who acted in the Pinochet case, denounced Jayasuriya to the Federal Public Ministry on August 28, 2017 for international crimes of war and against humanity committed during the civil conflict in Sri Lanka between 2008 and 2010.

The facts that are imputed to the general are of extreme gravity. In 2007, the Sri Lankan government decided to end the conflict with the so-called Tamil Tigers and planned a military offensive aimed at ending the territorial control of the armed group in the north and east of the country. According to the complaint, based on testimony from 270 UN victims and documents, Jayasuriya was directly involved in the idealization, planning and execution of the military operation.

The complaint alleges that the practice of torture by Sri Lankan security forces was systematic before, during and even after the ceasefire. Hospitals and schools were bombed, men were executed in scenes recorded and distributed over the internet. Children were killed and women raped and murdered. According to the UN report cited in the complaint, Camp Joseph, commanded at that time by General Jayasuriya, was one of the main interrogation and torture centers of the Sri Lankan Army.

Under international criminal law, the general is subject to prosecution and conviction for his responsibility as effective commander of the troops for the crimes committed by soldiers under his effective command and control because of his failure to properly control his troops and to take all necessary measures to prevent, suppress and punish the commission of crimes.

To the surprise of the international community, when the complaint was lodged, the Sri Lankan embassy reported that the ambassador had ceased his duties in Brazil and returned to his country precisely the day before. Jayasuriya simultaneously served as ambassador of Sri Lanka to the republics of Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Chile and Suriname.

If on the one hand Jayasuriya escaped diplomatic embarrassment, on the other hand the Brazilian State owes explanations to society. After all, the alleged involvement in war crimes and crimes against humanity should have rendered unfit any suspects who were appointed as ambassadors in Brazil or any other country.

However, the MRE (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) extended to General Jayasuriya, offering him diplomatic immunity. Was there any verification of the general’s involvement in the civil war in his country? Despite the enormous international repercussion of the case, the MRE did not take a public stand. The situation became more embarrassing when the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Brazil distributed a note to the international press stating that the Itamaraty had organized a farewell to Jayasuriya, in which the MRE would have praised Jayasuriya’s enormous contribution to strengthening bilateral relations between Brazil and Sri Lanka.

The Jayasuriya case seems to indicate that a thorough review of the Presidency’s and MRE’s criteria is required for the accreditation of diplomats. It is also necessary to create mechanisms to ensure transparency and publicity for this type of act, so that civil society can bring to light facts that impede the accreditation of diplomats.

There is now a profound estrangement from the international community in the face of the fact that Brazil, a signatory to the Rome Statute, has accepted and granted diplomatic immunity to a suspect in crimes against humanity and war crimes. The silence of the Itamaraty which followed the denunciation was constricted to all.

It now remains to be expected that the Federal Prosecutor’s Office will take forward the notitia criminis , and denounce the former ambassador criminal. The issuance of an international arrest warrant against the accused, even though he can not be prosecuted and tried in Brazil after his departure, will make it clear that there are no safe places for war criminals, and will increase international pressure for Sri Lanka to finally initiate a transitional justice process, and judge those responsible for the atrocities of the civil war that dominated that Asian country and left a trail of thousands of victims.

After all, and according to the Preamble of the Rome Statute, to which Brazil is a party, the most serious crimes affecting the international community can not remain unpunished, and the effective submission of the perpetrators to prosecution and prosecution must be ensured either by domestic law or international cooperation.

Juana Kweitel is the executive director of Conectas Human Rights.
Sylvia Helena Steiner is a former judge of the International Criminal Court.

Link para matéria: https://www.nexojornal.com.br/ensaio/2017/O-Brasil-n%C3%A3o-pode-ser-porto-seguro-para-suspeitos-de-crimes-de-guerra

Sri Lanka Must Step Up Progress on Transitional Justice, UN Expert Finds

Sri Lanka Must Step Up Progress on Transitional Justice, UN Expert Finds

by Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, October 23, 2017

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22274&LangID=E

GENEVA / COLOMBO (23 October 2017) – The Government of Sri Lanka has not made sufficient progress in fulfilling its commitments on transitional justice and related reform processes, a UN human rights expert has concluded after an official visit to the country.

Pablo de Greiff, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, said delays in the implementation of commitments undermined trust and raised questions about the Government’s determination to undertake a comprehensive transitional justice programme.

“These delays contribute to the further politicization of discussions on transitional justice,” he said in a statement at the end of his mission.

“Challenges remain and the slow progress, even on pre-conditions for transitional justice, seriously erodes trust in the Government’s capacity to decisively move forward with reforms,” noted the Special Rapporteur, urging the authorities to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act, demilitarise the North and East, resolve remaining land disputes, and cease harassment and surveillance by security and intelligence personnel of human rights defenders and social actors, especially women.

Mr. de Greiff noted the government’s positive progress on areas including constitutional reform, creating an Office of Missing Persons and a consultations task force, opening up space for public debate on transitional justice, the release of some lands, and initial efforts to strengthen the judiciary.

“All of these steps can contribute to a comprehensive transitional justice programme,” the expert said.

But the expert urged the Government to go further, and to create a plan setting out how truth, justice, reparation, and guarantees of non-recurrence would be delivered as a state policy.  He said this approach had the potential to contribute to social integration.

“Transitional justice benefits all Sri Lankans,” the Special Rapporteur stressed, urging the Government not to deprive its citizens of the benefits of a comprehensive transitional justice process, including accountability.

“Sri Lanka is at a critical juncture and has a unique opportunity to prevent further cycles of violence by determined action,” Mr. de Greiff said. “This is the Government’s duty, and the right of Sri Lanka’s society.”

During his 14-day mission, the Special Rapporteur met the President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, as well as officials from a number of government ministries and departments, political parties and independent institutions.  He also met victims of human rights abuses, as well as ethnic and religious communities and civil society groups.

Mr. de Greiff’s successor will present a detailed report on his mission to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2018.

ENDS

Mr.
 Pablo de Greiff (Colombia) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2012 as the first Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence. He has extensive professional and academic expertise on transitional justice issues, including on the four measures under this mandate. He is currently Director of the Project on Transitional Justice of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at the NYU School of Law. Mr. de Greiff has worked with different transitional justice bodies across the world and has provided advice to a number of Governments and multilateral institutions on international policy, transitional justice, and on the linkages between justice, security and development. He has also collaborated with numerous NGOs working with victims in many countries. He was the Director of Research at the International Center for Transitional Justice from 2001 to 2014

The Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.


UN Human RightsCountry Page: Sri Lanka


For further information and media enquiries, please contact:
During the mission
: Mr. Naveed Ahmed (+41 79 444 4537 / Nahmed@ohchr.org)
After the mission
: Mr. Naveed Ahmed (+41 22 9289477 / Nahmed@ohchr.org) and Ms. Brenda Vukovic (+41 22 917 9635 / Bvukovic@ohchr.org)


For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Bryan Wilson – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9826 / mediaconsultant2@ohchr.org)  

HRW: Submission to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child

Concerning Sri Lanka

by Human Rights Watch, New York, October 19, 2017

Concerning Sri Lanka

Joint Civil Society Submission to the UN UPR by Joint Civil Society, posted on Centre for Policy Analysis, March 2017

Joint Civil Society Submission to the UN UPR

by Joint Civil Society, posted on Centre for Policy Analysis, March 2017

Final-Sri-Lanka-JCS-UPR-submission-March-2017

Introduction

…The years 2012-2014 witnessed continued authoritarianism, weakening of the rule of law,
shrinking of space for human rights and dissent and the exacerbation of the culture of
impunity. With the regime change of January 2015 and the formation of a government by
the two main political parties on a platform of governance, some reforms took place2
but surveillance, intimidation and militarization persist. Two years into this government,
there is growing disillusionment regarding the slow rate of progress and the number of
unimplemented promises. Continued attacks against religious minorities and the inability
or unwillingness to hold perpetrators to account for rights violations have contributed to
apprehension about the prevailing culture of impunity. Thus, whilst certain improvements
are recorded in this document, attention is also drawn to the deep structural and
protection issues requiring immediate attention…

Transitional Justice
30. Sri Lanka‘s transitional justice (TJ) commitments stem from both the LLRC Report‘s
recommendations and the Human Rights Council Resolution 30/1 of 2015. Although
Sri Lanka undertook to expeditiously implement the National Action Plan on the LLRC
recommendations in the previous UPR cycle, many delays were evidenced, as with the
implementation of Resolution 30/1.

31. In response to the LLRC‘s call for accountability, several partisan fact finding
entities147 were appointed in order to investigate allegations of atrocities during the last
stages of the armed conflict.  Subsequently, the GoSL appointed Paranagama
Commission formally rejected the allegation that any ‘system crimes‘ took place during
the last stages of Sri Lanka‘s war, albeit through gross misapplication of the law of armed
conflict.
. Within the justice system, lower level officers have occasionally been tried
for wartime atrocities under the regular criminal procedure, with several being
acquitted by predominantly Sinhalese speaking juries. Although an interim report of
the Commission‘s first mandate was submitted in August 2015, the Final Report remains
unavailable despite an extension of the deadline for submission.

32. In spite of Resolution 30/1 underscoring the importance of foreign participation in a
future judicial mechanism, government personnel have retreated from their early espousal
of a hybrid judicial mechanism.  They now back a complete exclusion of foreign
judges and the restriction of foreign participation technical assistance, only.

33. According to the 2016 interim report of the Consultation Task Force (CTF) on
Reconciliation Mechanisms, the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) Bill, which was
passed in August 2016 was preceded by inadequate public consultations, leading to a
dearth in public information about the OMP and its powers/functions. Measures to
operationalize the Office have failed to materialize, despite the appointment of a Special
Committee in September to monitor its formation and a clear promise to operationalize
it in January. Currently, the government is taking steps to repeal provisions that are
indispensible for the OMP‘s future success. Despite this general negative trend, the
submission of the Final CTF Report in January 2017, lends hope that
meaningful/widespread consultations have taken place in relation to the remaining
transitional justice mechanisms. However, the process of establishing even the less
controversial Truth Commission and Office for Reparations has been painstakingly
slow. 162 No timeframe for the establishment of the Office on Reparations has been
given163 nor is there any mention of a comprehensive reparations package and policy,
despite many past Commissions of Inquiry recommending compensation for victims of
human rights violations. Psychosocial support for victims continues to be a major issue
that requires attention.

34. Sri Lanka has also not adequately fulfilled its undertaking to introduce effective
security sector reforms. The government claims that the Ministry of Defense has issued
directions to security sector personnel that violations of human rights will be punished.
However, no public records of these directions exist.  Furthermore, despite the
enactment of a Victim and Witness Protection Act in March 2015, fatal flaws in the
substantive law and problems in the Act‘s implementation have hampered its overall
effectiveness. Finally, the GoSL is yet to publicly unveil a transitional justice strategy
with timelines indicating how they plan to proceed with implementing their
commitments

Militarization
35. Despite the GoSLs commitment to return land occupied by Military to their rightful
owners and take meaningful steps towards ending military involvement in civilian
activities, a heavy military presence and incessant military involvement in civiliancommercial
activities continues to hamper any return to normalcy in the country‘s North
and East. Significant tracts of land continue to be occupied across the area. As at March
2017, close to 8000 acres of private and State land, in the three districts of Jaffna,
Mullativu and Kilinochchi remain occupied by the security forces, though exact figures
of land occupation is unknown due to no comprehensive land mapping having taken
place. Senior civilian and military officials also remain highly defensive about
demilitarization and land release when questioned with reports indicating that
government entities are also a problem regarding land issues in the North and East.
At present, some lands are being released at a slow pace, albeit only due to continuous
protests. The slow pace is on account of ad-hoc orders of the Executive and
bureaucratic delays.

36. Military involvement in civilian-commercial activities continue unabated and on a large
scale. The Civil Security Department, which is organized and run by the Sri Lankan army
is involved in a number of civilian activities in the North such as agriculture, education,
running of poultry farms, garment factories, shops and canteens.180 The Sri Lankan army
is directly involved in agricultural activities in Palaly, whilst the military also has
shops, canteens and hotels in various locations in the North and East.

Internally Displaced Persons
37. The last four years have seen significant changes in the numbers of Internally Displaced
Persons (IDPs). Nonetheless, there continue to be serious obstacles, particularly relating
to omissions and failings by the State, that thwart the achievement of durable solutions
for those affected by displacement, currently living within the country and outside. The
GoSL recently adopted a new policy, setting out a framework for acknowledging the
problems relating to displacement and durable solutions but the lack of implementation of
this policy has raised fears that this merely a façade to impress the international
community rather than a real plan of action.

38. Accurate statistics on IDPs remains a contested issue.  One of the main obstacles
thwarting the return of IDPs is the occupation of land by the military. There is no
public process for verifying military occupation of private and public land. Northern
Muslims who were forcibly expelled by the LTTE in 1990 have attempted to return but
the process of return, reconstruction and reintegration has proved difficult. In addition
to the war displaced, there are other populations affected by displacement including
development induced particularly in Colombo…

Organizations
1. Centre for Peace Studies
2. Centre for Policy Alternatives (C.P.A)
3. Community Education Centre (C.E.C)
4. Deshodaya
5. Disability Organizations Joint Front (D.O.J.F)
6. Diversity and Solidarity Trust
7. Eastern United Women Organisation (E.U.W.O)
8. Equal Ground
9. Families of Disappearances
10. Family Rehabilitation Centre
11. Federation of Eastern Muslim Civil Organisation
12. Free Media Movement
13. Human Development Organisation (HDO)
14. Human Rights First Aid Centre, Gampaha.15. Human Rights First Aid Centre, Hambantota.
16. Human Rights First Aid Centre, Matara.
17. International Center for Ethnic Studies
18. International Movement Against All forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
19. Janawabodaya
20. Mannar Women’s Development Federation
21. Mother and Daughters of Lanka (MDL)
22. Muslim Women‘s Development Trust, Puttalam.
23. National Christian Council of Sri Lanka
24. National Christian Evangelical Alliance (NCEASL)
25. National Peace Council
26. Organization for Elankai Refugee Rehabilitation (OfERRCeylon)
27. Rights Now Collective for Democracy
28. Right to Life Human Rights Center
29. Rule of Law Forum
30. Rural Development Foundation
31. Rural Women‘s Front
32. Samadanam
33. Sarvodaya
34. Social Development Service Foundation (S.D.S.F)
35. South Asian Centre for Legal Studies (S.A.C.L.S)
36. United Religious Initiative (URI)
37. Uva Wellassa Women Organisation
38. Videeye Wirodaya
39. War Child Holland
40. Women’s Action Network
41. Women‘s Centre
42. Women‘s Political Academy (W.P.A)
43. Young Out Here

Individuals
1. Ameer M. Faaiz
2. Anthony Vinoth
3. B.A.H.Fernando
4. Barbara Peiris
5. Buddhika Mendis
6. Deega Herath
7. Deekshya Illangasinghe
8. Deshakeerthi Dr.Muhammed Muzzammil Cader
9. Dhanushka Rajaratnam
10. Dr. Joe William
11. Dr. Y.L.M.Yoosuff
12. Dr.S.L.Riyas
13. H.L. Achala Piyumantha
14. Jayalal Anthony
15. Jeganathan Thatparan
16. Dr. Jehan Perera
17. K.J. Brito Fernando
18. Kasunjith Satanarachchi
19. L.P.T.Chandrasiri
20. Lahiru Perera
21. M.A.C.Fathima Josinka
22. M.Robord
23. Maya Kalubowile
24. Medhaka Fernando
25. Mirak Raheem
26. Mujeebur Rahman
27. Nadeeshani Mahabandara
28. P. Logeswary
29. P.H.Hemalatha
30. Padmini Weerasuriya
31. Philip Dissanayake
32. Pradeepa Sudarshani
33. Prasanga Fernando
34. R.G.Podimenike
35. R.Rajkumar
36. Raga Alphonsus
37. Raja Senanayake
38. Ranmalee Anemelagoda
39. S.Yougendra
40. Seetha Ranjanee
41. Shantha D. Pathirana
42. Shreen Abdul Saroor
43. Sriyani Pathirage
44. Sudarshana Gunawardana
45. T.M. Imithiyar
46. Tharanga L Patabad
47. Thyagi Ruwanpathirana
48. Viviyar Perera

War Crimes & Command Responsibility

by Thambu Kanagasabai,, LLM [Lond.]
Former Lecturer in Law – University of Colombo Sri Lanka
President, The Tamil Canadian Elders for Human Rights Organization,
Toronto, Canada, September 26, 2017

The current hot topic which has generated fire and heat among the military’s high ups and dragging the Sri Lankan government also to answerability is the war of words with allegations and counter allegations hurled against each other by the former Army commanders Sarath Fonseka and Jagath Jayasuriya who left Brazil on July 28, 2017 where he served as Ambassador from August 2015.

The reasons for the incriminating statements made by Sarath Fonseka stemmed after Jagath Jayasuriya  was appointed by the former President Mahinda Rajapaksha on the advice of Gotabaya Rajapaksha [brother of then President and Defence Secretary at that time], after by-passing 14 other senior military commanders, despite objections by Sarath Fonseka. Another reason was the failure by the Government to inquire into allegations of various crimes committed in various Camps when he was serving as the Vanni Commander.

General Sarath Fonseka claims to possess evidences involving the various crimes committed and the identities of those who committed them. He further stated his readiness and willingness to give evidence if and when proper investigations are initiated in respect of the crimes committed during the war by the few military personnel. As expected, Jagath Jayasuriya has denied all the allegations of Sarath Fonseka and further went on to say that Sarath Fonseka in his capacity as the Army Commander should bear responsibility for any crime committed during the war.

The emerging accusations have confirmed the commission of war crimes by Sri Lanka Security forces which need to be further investigated by independent bodies.

Under International Law, the principle of command responsibility for war crimes lies from the top to bottom covering the President, Minister of Defence, Defence Secretary and Commanders of various Battalions and Brigades. It is to be noted that under the constitution, the commander-in-charge of the Sri Lanka armed forces is the President of the Republic of Sri Lanka who only appoints the Army, Navy and Air Force Commanders, and Mahinda Rajapaksha was the Commander-in-Chief from November 2005 until December 2015.  He also held the Office of Minister of Defence who also appointed the Secretaries to Government Ministers. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksha appointed his brother Gotabaya Rajapaksha as the Secretary of Defence from November 24, 2005 which post he served until December 2015. The Secretary of Defence exercised supervision of Government Departments in the charge of Minister of Defence and was subject to the direction and control of the Minister of Defence, former President Mahinda.
The Army Commander reported directly to the Secretary of Defence, Gotabaya who was responsible to the President, [source ICEP 2014]

It is to be noted that the commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity etc. have already been highlighted in the various reports of United Nations, UNHRC and Independent Human Rights Groups.

Madam Jasmin Sooka of International Truth and Justice Project [ITJP] filed a lawsuit in Brazil on July 28, 2017 and charged Jagath Jayasuriya for committing the following war crimes by his subordinates while serving as the Vanni Commander during the war:
Sexual Assaults
Extrajudicial killings
Torture, Enforced Disappearances, all against the detainees in Vavuniya
Camps
Indiscriminate shelling of hospitals
Preventing Humanitarian Assistantance reaching civilians.

In denying these allegations, Jagath Jayasuriya made the following statements in an interview in Colombo [Ceylon Today, 09/03/17] |:
“I was never the fighting Commander  I was the Vanni Commander.  Orders to fight came from the Army Commander.  I looked after the internally displaced persons providing logistic supplies [about 300,000]  internally displaced people.”
“War crimes if at all had happened someone must specify it. I never know of any atrocities. About Joseph Camp, Air Force was using it. There were other camps in the same premises. If something happened there, I am not responsible.”
“How can I be responsible if someone else doing it? The entire camp was not under my command. I did not know what was going on in that part of the camp.”

Jagath Jayasuriya also stated the following in his interview among other matters:-
“I deny anyone carried white flags, we used to report or inform Gotabaya Rajapaksha, Defence Secretary also if something was happening.” “Sarath Fonseka used to call from China and verified reports when he was in China from May 11, 2009 to May 15, 2009.” [ICEP 2014- Page 202…full reference below in Sources]
“About war crimes allegations, President Rajapaksha’s Government was in the process of doing something about it, and also in their case they also did not take a concrete action.  That Government was sort of in denial not allowing anything to happen. This Government has a different approach, but nothing is happening.  All of them are answerable.  The Government must seriously attend to these issues”.
“I do not know of war crimes because I was near the Vavuniya Airport and Nandikadal was 100 kms away. How will I know what was going on there?”

It is to be noted that Defence Ministry’s communiqué in 2013 regarding Jayasuriya is confirmation of his role in Vanni:
“He has been the Commander of Security Forces in Vanni since August 2007, before he took over the mantle of the Army: To his credit, General Jagath Jayasuriya has been actively engaged in the overall military planning and operations in Vanni.”

In 2010, Jagath Jayasuriya is reported to have stated:
“As the Security Forces Commander Vanni, the entire Northern operations was conducted in the tactical area of responsibility that came under my command. I was actively involved in the ground operations executing the directives from Army Headquarters and the Ministry of Defence from the very inception of the humanitarian operations, starting from Mannar in 2007 right up to the very end, May 2009. Overall I was responsible.” [SP’s land forces 2010 – ICEP 2014]

General Sarath Fonseka on 1st September 2017 at a press conference in Colombo has come out with statements hurling various accusations of war crimes committed when Jagath Jayasuriya was the Vanni Commander. His statements appear to bare the falsehood of most of Jagath Jayasuriya’s press statements mentioned above.

Excerpts of General Sarath Fonseka’s statements are as follows:-
1. “Jagath Jayasuriya was not assigned to any front line military operations. He was involved in the logistical supply of goods to the war front and rehabilitation tasks.”
2. “Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam cadres and civilians were sent to the Vavuniya Camp which was under the command of Jegath Jayasuriya.”
3. “Information reached me as to the approval granted to kill Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam cadres and civilians by Jegath Jayasuriya in collusion with Gotapaya Rajapaksha [then Defence Secretary] besides allegations of torture of detainees in Jossoph Camp.”
“Jagath Jayasuriya did not compile the list of detainees in the Vavuniya camp, in order to facilitate the killings ordered by the top defence officials. This is totally illegal”.
“Jagath Jayasuriya  says he did not want to know what happened to the Tamils detained in the Joseph camp, at the same time he did not tell as to their ultimate fate in the camp”.
“I have sufficient information as to the persons who committed the crimes. I am prepared to furnish the details if a proper investigation is instigated on these matters”.
“I tried to initiate investigation against Jagath Jayasuriya after the war and arrested the assistant of Jegath Jayasuriya to commence the investigation. However I was not allowed to complete the investigation. Besides, I was removed from the position of Army commander”.
“It is possible to try those who committed crimes under the Military Laws”.
“President should be held responsible if Jagath had involved in such a cowardice act which affected the people when I was giving orders to an Army of 200,000. The Army Commander is responsible for lawful acts only”. [Courtesy Daily Mirror, 09/01/17]

The principle of command responsibility applies to all those involved in the war on the strength of evidence and facts presented.

Meaning of Command Responsibility:
The term broadly refers to the duty to supervise subordinates and liability for the failure to do both in Government and Military Law. This doctrine was established by the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907.
“Command responsibility is an omission mode of individual criminal liability. The superior is responsible for crimes committed by his subordinates and for failing to prevent or punish – as opposed to crimes he ordered”.

Commands include the following:
[a] Policy Command: – By Heads of State, High Government Officials.

[b] Operational and Tactical Command: Direct command over troops on the ground and military leadership. War crimes and crimes against humanity constitute the major offences which bring in the concept of command responsibility.

The modern doctrine of command responsibility can be defined as “the responsibility of Commanders for war crimes committed by subordinate member of their armed forces or persons subject to their control”

“Rule 153 of International Law deals with doctrine of commander or superior responsibility.  Commanders and other superiors are criminally responsible for war crimes committed by their subordinates if subordinates were about to commit or will be committing war crimes.”

War crimes include torture, extra-judicial killings, massacres, enforced disappearances, attacks on civilian buildings and civilians, execution of combatants and prisoners of war and rape.

Under Act 28[A] of Rome Statute of International Criminal Court
Military Commanders are imposed with individual responsibility for crimes committed by forces under their effective command and control if they
“either knew or, owing to the circumstances at the time, should have known that the forces were committing or about to commit such crimes”.

Regarding Sri Lanka, the war between the Sri Lankan Security Forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam [LTTE] from 2006 to 2009 ended with victory for the Government forces who are accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity as reported by the UN Panel of Experts, who found “credible allegations” for the commission of those crimes. The report also accused the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam [LTTE] of committing war crimes like conscription of child solders.

The crucial Commanders involved in the war between 2006 and 2009 were:

From December 6, 2005 to 13th July 2009 Lt. General Sarath Fonseka  served as the Army Commander being “responsible for operational decision making” from Army Headquarters in Colombo, and Major General Jagath Jayasuriya who served as Commander for Vavuniya District from August 6, 2007 to July 14, 2009. This district covered Puttalam, Mannar, Anuradhapura including Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu. Military operations in North-East were co-ordinated by Major General Jagath Jeyasuriya. Also involved were 57, 58 & 59 Divisional Commanders – Jagath Dias, Savendra de Silva and Prasenna Silva. Perpetrators of crimes and those coming under the chain of command responsibility can be tried by the International Criminal Court as stated by UN Rapporteur Ben Emmerson [on July 14, 2017] and also under the Universal Jurisdiction Clause as remarked by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights HE Al-Hussein in his report on September 11, 2017 at the UNHRC Council Session.

Universal Jurisdiction allows States or International Organizations to claim criminal Jurisdiction over an accused person regardless of where the alleged crime was committed and regardless of the accuser’s nationality, country of residence or any other relation with the Prosecuting entity”.

States have a logical and moral duty to prosecute an individual responsible and therefore no place should be a safe haven for those who have committed genocide, crimes against humanity, extra-judicial executions, war crimes, torture and enforced disappearances”.
Besides, all State parties to the Convention Against Torture are obliged whenever a person suspected of torture is found in their territory to prosecute or extradite that person”.

This principle is based on International Norms owed to the entire world community and States being bound by the International obligations to prosecute the accused who committed crimes which are too serious for toleration within a jurisdiction.

Since Sri Lanka has not signed the 2002 Rome Statute which created the International Criminal Court, only the Security Council can authorise the set-up of this Court to try Sri Lanka for the international crimes of genocide including war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In addition, under Article 99 of the UN Charter, the Security Council also has the authority to appoint an International Commission of Inquiry.

Setting up of an International Criminal Court case is possible if and when Russia and China support, which appears uncertain. As such, the only viable option is the exercise of Universal Jurisdiction by the 124 countries who have signed the Rome Statute and accepted the moral responsibility to indict war criminals. So far the South American States Mexico & Colombia have done their part by allowing law suits against Jagath Jayasuriya. However Jegath Jayasuriya and Major Generals Savendera Silva, Jagath Dias, Presanna de Siva avoided the lawsuits and left Brazil, USA, Switzerland & England respectively. It is to be noted that the command responsibility as well as individual responsibility rests on all the divisional commanders who operated the war in Vanni.

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksha bears the responsibility for war crimes in his capacity as the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and as the Minister of Defence. Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksha bears responsibility as the Official who supervised the war operations. The Army Commander directly made reports to Gotabaya and “there was some information that in relation to the surrender of senior Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam leaders, Gotabaya by passed regular command lines to convey orders directly to a Senior Field Commander Savendra de Silva. [ICEP 2014]  In corroboration,  Army Commander Sarath Fonseka  told the Sunday Leader on December 13 2009 that “Gota ordered them to be shot” [order given to Savendra de Silva to shoot the surrendees].  In an interview in 2012  Jagath Jayasuriya also stated that “I still remember President personally giving me a call instructing me to pursue the operations as planned.”

Sunday Leader on January 8, 2010 reported the statement of Gotabaya as follows.
“Gota ordered troops under his command to “kill them all’ when the troops on the ground asked him for direction for handling the surrendering Tamil combatants”.

After his return from China on May 17, 2009 Sarath Fonseka stated, “I led the operation until the victory on the 19th of May 2009.”

On the basis of above facts and admission of command responsibility for the entire war operations, Sarath Fonseka and Jagath Jeyasuriya are liable for the war crimes committed by the soldiers under their command as an omission of command responsibility. Gotabaya assumes liability for issuing orders to Army commanders including illegal orders “to kill all” which falls as a policy command of State. So also liability falls on Mahinda Rajapaksha as the Supreme Commander of the Security Forces at times personally directing the operations.

Recent statement of President Sirisena “granting protection to all members of Army including Jagath Jeyasuriya” has closed the doors for any International Investigation against security forces. This position has also closed doors of co-operation with outside investigating bodies or courts which is in fact a slap on the concept of Universal Jurisdiction.

The duty therefore lies on International Organizations like Human Rights Groups including States who signed the Rome Statute to invoke the Universal Jurisdiction Clause as endorsed by Human Rights High Commissioner against anyone involved in the commission of war crimes in Sri Lanka.

Unless and until an independent and impartial investigation is initiated to bring to light the actions of all commanders by word and or conduct including the orders issued by the Defence Secretary and President, accusing each other or passing the blame on others will not go to absolve the war commanders from command responsibility.

Liabilities of the commanders involve the following crimes of omissions and commissions.
[i] Actual or constructive knowledge of the crimes committed by the subordinates

[ii] Failure to prevent the commission of crimes which they ought to have known. [about to be committed or likely to be committed]

[iii] Failure to supervise the subordinates and failure to punish the perpetrators.

[iv] Issuing illegal orders to commit war crimes [like killing the surrendered and detainees]

Source: –
International Crimes Evidence Project February 2014 – Sydney Australia
Ceylon Daily News – Sri Lanka
Ceylon Today, 09/03/2017 – Sri Lanka
Daily Mirror, 09/01/2017– Sri Lanka
Sunday Leader – Sri Lanka

 

Tamil Diaspora’s continuing efforts is all the more important and crucial in this matter to pursue Universal Jurisdiction wherever possible.

 

FACTS GIVE RISE TO TRUTH AND IT NEVER FAILS.

 

IMADR: Enforced Disappearances in Sri Lanka

Statement submitted to the UN Human Rights Council by International Movement against all Forms of Racism & Discrimination, September 12, 2017

Enforced Disappearances in Sri Lanka

JMADRSri Lanka has endured consecutive periods of violent insurgency and a 26-year-long armed conflict between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam.[1] This conflict ended in 2009 and was characterised by the killing of civilians, arbitrary arrests and detention of Tamils, widespread torture, extrajudicial executions, and enforced disappearances.[2][3] It has had “devastating consequences at a human, social and institutional level”.[4] According to the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) Report, many of the violations committed between 2002-2011 would be classed as war crimes and crimes against humanity if established in a court of law.[5]

Sri Lanka transitioned to a coalition government in January 2015, purportedly bringing a new willingness to engage. In 2015 the Government co-sponsored the Human Rights Council (HRC) Resolution 30/1, detailing a framework for reconciliation, accountability and human rights. Despite their purported willingness to follow through, progress seems to have stalled.[6] An update on the implementation of Resolution 30/1 was reviewed in the 34th HRC session in March 2017 where the deadline was extended for another two years.

Enforced disappearances have been used to subdue political dissent and counter terrorist activities, both during and after the armed conflict.[7] The Special Rapporteur on torture has received credible information that the strategy has continued to be used.[8] In 2016 at least ten cases were reported between March 30th and June 30th.[9]Recent disappearances are usually attributed to antiterrorism operations, ransom, or economic extortion.[10] The most recent Commission of Inquiry received around 21,000 complaints and the Government stated that they have received over 65,000 since 1994.[11]

The Special Rapporteur on torture notes that most of the structures of a warring nation remain in place with citizens living without even minimal guarantees against the power of the State.[12] Before 2015 relatives, witnesses, and civil society were often intimidated, threatened and subject to reprisals for insisting on proper investigations. Sometimes families were forced into exile abroad.[13] No progress has been made on the vast majority of cases.[14] Since 2015 the democratic space has opened up considerably and although intimidations and harassment still occur they transpire much less frequently. Impunity for violations is still a core concern, as 22 key commitments promised by Resolution 30/1 remain unimplemented.[15]

We welcome Sri Lanka’s engagement with UN human rights mechanisms and the standing invitation to the special procedures. The Government ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED) in May 2016 and recognised the competence of the Committee Against Torture to consider individual communications.[16] We also note that the President gazetted the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) in July 2017, the “first independent and permanent mechanism to address missing persons and the issue of enforced disappearances”.[17]

Challenges and Concerns

In 34th Session of the HRC, the High Commissioner drew attention to the “slow rate of progress and the lack of transparency” in realizing Resolution 30/1.[18] Although Sri Lanka ratified the ICPPED, no domestic legislation exists to enforce it.[19] National law offences have insufficient scope to encompass enforced disappearances or the penalty is too lenient for the gravity of the crime.[20] Additionally, Sri Lanka has failed to recognize the competence of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances to receive and consider individual communications.

The international community commended the report by the government-appointed Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms (CTF), which undertook wide consultations throughout the country and provided detailed recommendations.[21] The Government, however, failed to welcome the report. Neither the President nor the Prime Minister attended its handover and its findings have been casually disregarded.[22] In a statement to the HRC in February 2017, the former Foreign Minister stated that he expected to see draft legislation on the truth-seeking commission within two months.[23] No public statement has mentioned it since.[24]

Families may be able to use the recently enacted Right to Information Act (RTI) to discover the fate of their loved ones. However, a leading lawyer believes that the legislation is unlikely to answer questions concerning the civil war, as it is silent on this kind of request. Several women from Batticaloa attempted to use the RTI for this purpose and filed a request regarding the whereabouts of disappeared friends and family members but were “met with a mixture of apathy and confusion” and even had to educate some officials on the Act.[25] Information relating to the war may be denied on the basis of national security but the Centre for Policy Alternatives urge people to nonetheless continue seeking the truth through these means.[26]

At the time of writing, the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) is still in force. A third draft of the Counter Terrorism Act (CTA), legislation meant to replace the PTA, was approved in May 2017.[27] A number of concerns have been raised about the CTA regarding prolonged detention without charge, the definition of terrorism, and procedural safeguards.[28] The Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights conducted a country visit to Sri Lanka in July 2017 and overall was discouraged by the lack of progress. The glacial pace of the CTA has delayed the delivery of transitional justice measures that were promised two years ago.[29] The Prime Minister assured the Special Rapporteur that upon completion of counter-terrorism reform the government would create a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and an Office of the Special Prosecutor, steps that should have been completed by now.[30]

President Sirisena signed the gazette on the OMP in July 2017 and assigned the office to the Minister of National Integration and Reconciliation where it will essentially be under his control as the Cabinet Minister of Reconciliation.[31] It must be noted that this is only the first step in operationalizing this office; a minister must also issue a gazette and call for nominees.[32] The OMP received significant criticism from civil society and the international community for failing to involve substantive consultation. The OMP Bill facilitates international involvement; however there has been an on-going resistance to any foreign involvement in the mechanisms themselves.[33]Worryingly the legislation specifically states that the findings will not give rise to criminal or civil liability.

Memorialisation is key to the reconciliation process and all communities have the right to construct memorials, regardless of their allegiance. Therefore, families must be allowed to participate in memorialisation activities and the State must guarantee their security. However, Reverend Fr. Elil Rajendran complained to the Human Rights Commission stating that police have summoned him multiple times to be interrogated about his memorialisation activity. Such repudiation of these rights will deepen ethnic divisions and hamper reconciliation efforts.[34]

The Government also committed to establishing an office for reparations.[35] The former Foreign Minister stated that the Government was finalizing the design for such an office, but no reparations policy has been established or appears to be in the process.[36] As Sri Lanka did not recognise the status of ‘missing’, families of missing persons were unable to apply for compensation, qualify for social welfare payments and pensions, access frozen assets or transfer property ownership. Upon presentation of a Certificate of Death, relatives of the disappeared can receive compensation of up to 100,000 rupees.[37] Relatives of the disappeared who allegedly had connections to terrorist organisations cannot claim this compensation. It must be noted that families are often under duress to accept these death certificate, which de facto ends the search for truth and justice.

In June 2016 an amendment to the Registration of Deaths (Temporary Provisions) Act[38] enabled the Government to issue a certificates of absence (COA). The COA is valid for two years or if information surfaces about the missing person. If, after two years, no information has been found relatives may extend the COA, apply for a Certificate of Death or cancel the COA. This may give rise to abuse, as families have often been pressured to accept a death certificate.[39] The former Minister of Foreign Affairs referenced these certificates in a speech made to the HRC but it is unclear whether this process is being utilised, or is even functioning.[40]

Recommendations to the Government of Sri Lanka

  • Implement the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance into national law.
  • Ensure the full investigation of enforced disappearances regardless of victims’ ethnicity, religion, or other status.
  • Fulfil the promises laid out in Resolution 30/1.
  • Investigate the cases of attacks, threats, intimidation, and harassment of journalists, human rights defenders, and families of the disappeared.
  • Ensure that the Right to Information Act can be used to facilitate the discovery of the fate the disappeared.
  • Acknowledge and adopt the recommendations made by the Consultation Task Force.
  • Repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act and ensure the replacement legislation complies with international standards.
  • Operationalize and ensure the independence of the Office of Missing Persons, providing it with sufficient funding and resources to fulfil its mandate.
  • Allow for the memorialisation of those killed in the war, regardless of their allegiance.
  • Devise a transitional justice process by which the country will address the reformation of the justice system and the security sector, establish an independent truth seeking mechanism and design a comprehensive reparations scheme.
  • Adopt the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the Protocols additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949.

                      

[1] Sri Lanka: Making the Rights Choices. Amnesty International. 8 Nov 2016. https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa37/4902/2016/en/

[2] Preliminary Observations of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism on the conclusion of its visit to Sri Lanka. 14 Jul 2017. http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21883&LangID=E

[3] Sri Lanka: Making the Rights Choices.

[4] Joint Alternative Report from the Sri Lanka NGO Collective to the Committee Against Torture. 13 Oct 2016.

[5] Broken Promise: an overview of progress by the government of Sri Lanka in implementing its commitments to achieving justice and reconciliation under the UN Human Rights Council Resolution 30/1. Sri Lanka Campaign. February 2017. https://www.srilankacampaign.org/take-action/keep-the-promise/

[6] Preliminary Observations of the Special Rapporteur on countering terrorism. 14 July 2017. http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21883&LangID=E

[7] Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on its mission to Sri Lanka. 8 July 2016. A/HRC/33/51/Add.2 (hereafter Report of the WGEID on its mission to Sri Lanka)

[8] Preliminary observations and recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment on the Official joint visit to Sri Lanka. 7 May 2016. http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=19943

[9] Human Rights Situation in Sri Lanka Aug 17, 2016 – Aug 17, 2016. 2016. Inform – Human Rights Documentation Centre. https://ihrdc.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/human-rights-in-sl-one-year-after-parliamentary-elections-inform-18aug20161.pdf

[10] Report of the WGEID on its mission to Sri Lanka.

[11] News Line TV 1 Interview with Bhavani Fonseka. 28 July 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qxlw5lCFnHw&app=desktopSri Lanka: Making the Rights Choices.

[12] Preliminary observations and recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on torture.

[13] Report of the WGEID on its mission to Sri Lanka.Sri Lanka: Making the Rights Choices.

[14] Broken Promise.

[15] Sri Lanka: Making the Rights ChoicesBroken Promise.

[16] Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Sri Lanka.10 Feb 2017. A/HRC/34/20

[17] News Line TV 1 Interview with Bhavani Fonseka.

[18] Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Sri Lanka.

[19] The Bill to enforce this Convention was gazetted in February 2017 but subsequently tabled by Parliament. Basic Guide to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Centre for Policy Alternatives. 27 Jun 2017. http://www.cpalanka.org/basic-guide-to-the-international-convention-for-the-protection-of-all-persons-from-enforced-disappearance/

[20] Report of the WGEID on its mission to Sri Lanka.

[21] Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Sri Lanka.

[22] Sri Lanka: Consultation Task Force report must lead to justice. Amnesty International. 11 Jan 2017.  https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/01/sri-lanka-consultation-task-force-report-must-lead-to-justice/

[23] Draft of Sri Lanka truth seeking commission within 2 months. Lanka Business Online. 28 Feb 2017. http://www.lankabusinessonline.com/draft-of-sri-lanka-truth-seeking-commission-within-2-months-fm-to-unhrc/

[24] Sri Lanka: Consultations Lacking on Missing Persons’ Office. Human Rights Watch. 27 May 2016. https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/05/27/sri-lanka-consultations-lacking-missing-persons-office

[25] Launching Right to Information in Sri Lanka. Your Commonwealth. 23 Feb 2017. http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/social-development/democracy-participation/launching-right-to-information-in-sri-lanka/

[26] Sri Lankan lawmakers approve freedom of information law. Mail Online. 24 Jun 2016. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-3658012/Sri-Lanka-close-approving-freedom-information-law.html

[27] No Parliamentary vote has yet been set on the CTA. Note to Cabinet Policy and Legal Framework relating to the Proposed Counter Terrorism Act of Sri Lanka. 24 Apr 2017. http://www.sundaytimes.lk/170430/Policy_Legal_Framework.pdf

[28] The definition of terrorism is also likely to lead to abuse due to its ambiguity and may even include acts of peaceful activity or protest, as it criminalises any activities that threaten the “unity” of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka: Anti-Terror Bill Revives Concerns of Abuse. Human Rights Watch. 18 May 2017. https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/05/18/sri-lanka-anti-terror-bill-revives-concerns-abuse

Sri Lanka’s draft Counter Terrorism Act. Sri Lanka Campaign. 4 May 2017. https://www.srilankacampaign.org/sri-lankas-draft-counter-terrorism-act-license-continued-state-oppression-intimidation-torture/

[29] The government will engage with the Special Rapporteur to improve the draft legislation before it is placed before parliament.

[30] Preliminary Observations of the Special Rapporteur on countering terrorism. 14 July 2017.

[31] Sri Lanka: Establish Office on Missing Persons immediately. Amnesty International. 23 Jun 2017. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/06/sri-lanka-establish-office-on-missing-persons-immediately/

[32] News Line TV 1 Interview with Bhavani Fonseka.

[33] Key Elements for a follow-up resolution on Sri Lanka. Human Rights Watch. 24 Feb 2017. https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/02/24/key-elements-follow-resolution-sri-lanka

[34] Letter to President Sirisena from the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka. 7 Jun 2017. http://hrcsl.lk/english/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Letter-to-H.E.-President-Memorialization-and-Reconciliation-E.pdf

[35] Including the All Island Commission of Inquiry into Involuntary Removal and Disappearance of Certain Persons of 1998 and the Lessons Learnt Reconciliation Commission. The Need for a Comprehensive Reparations Policy and Package. Centre for Policy Alternatives. April 2015. https://www.cpalanka.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/The-Need-for-a-Comprehensive-Reparations-Policy-and-Package2.pdf

[36] Broken Promise.

[37] Relatives of civil servants who are deceased receive up to 200,000 rupees. This provision is included in legislation dating back to1988 and the amounts have not been updated since 2009.

[38] No. 19 of 2010

[39] Per Clause 13(1)(a)(i) of the OMP Bill. An interim report from the OMP can enable the Registrar General to issue a COA. If the investigation finds that the interim report was erroneous then the relatives and the Registrar General will be notified. It remains to be seen how this will work in practice.

[40] Broken Promise.

Gen. Jayasuriya Involved in Misdeeds:Field Marshal Fonseka

by ‘Daily News,’ Colombo, September 2, 2017

Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka yesterday, said that he was aware that former Army Commander Jagath Jayasuriya was allegedly involved in wrongdoings.

“I was determined to take action against him after the war on terrorism was over,” Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka added.

Fonseka added that he received many complaints at that point that Jayasuriya had allegedly committed various offences.

If a proper mechanism was established to inquire into the alleged offences committed by Jayasuriya, I will provide my evidence against him, he said.

Fonseka added that he had informed former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to avoid appointing Jagath Jayasuriya as the Commander of Army.

“I have never admitted that he was capable of commanding the Sri Lanka Army after my tenure in the Army ended,” he added.

Fonseka said that the former ruler singled out Jayasuriya as the next Commander of the Sri Lanka Army at a time when there were around 15 officers above him in terms of seniority.

Addressing the media in Colombo yesterday, Fonseka said that former Army Commander Jayasuriya was dancing to the whims and fancies of the former Defence Secretary. “He led the Army to drag me into Prison,” Fonseka said.

Fonseka further said that there were several divisions in the battle field and they were brought under his direct command.

“The divisions in the battle field were not brought under Jayasuriya. He was the Vanni Security Forces Commander overseeing the front line bunker line in Vavuniya. He was only entrusted with providing logistic facilities to Army personnel in the battle field and evacuating of casualties. We are disappointed to hear the Sri Lanka Army being criticized at a time when it deserves accolades and proper recognition.

“Many crimes had taken place at some places and they should be inquired into and those responsible, should be punished so that the dignity of the Sri Lanka Army could be protected.

If any person has committed an offence, he should be punished according to the law of the country, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka said.

If all those who were involved in criminal activities were to be punished, the Sri Lanka Army would regain its lost dignity.

Interview with Gen. Jayasuriya

I didn’t know what was happening on the war front – Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya

by  Sulochana Ramiah Mohan, ‘Ceylon Today,’ September 3, 2017

Tall and well-built, retired Army General, Jagath Jayasuriya, who was posted in Brazil as the Sri Lankan Ambassador, is back in town with mounted allegations against him related to his posts as a military man and an ambassador. He said that although he was the Vanni Commander, he was not on the frontlines and it was Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka who conducted the operations.

“I don’t know of war crimes because I was near the Vavuniya airport, and Nandikadal was 100km away. How will I know what was going on there?” he queried.

Born on 3 January 1959, he joined the military at the age of 19, and to date he has been a sober and media shy guy. “I am a guy who can adjust to any situation and place, but now I am being hunted over something I am not responsible for.”

Excerpts of the interview:

? Tell us what exactly happened when you were in Brazil because reports said you had fled Brazil when there was a complaint against you on alleged war crimes?

A: I took over duties in Brazil on 5 August 2015. When I left Sri Lanka I signed a contract for a two-year tenure in Brazil as Ambassador, and the tenure was completed in August 2017. In June 2017, I wrote personally to the Foreign Secretary that I was due to complete my two years and that I would like to get back home or to get me a post in an Asian country so that I can be closer to Sri Lanka.

Then on 10 July, I received a letter signed by the then Secretary Esala Weerakoon that completion of my tour of duty was approved and to return to Sri Lanka before 31 August. I was happy that I was coming back after two years. So, I made all arrangements, including my travel plans. My flight bookings were done ahead of time, to leave Brasilia on 27 August. I came in an Emirate flight through Dubai to Colombo and reached here on 28th morning. My heavy luggage was loaded on 7 August through a shipping company. I lived in an official residence rented by the Foreign Ministry and then returned the house on 8 August and moved to a hotel apartment till my flight to Sri Lanka. The Foreign Ministry of Brazil arranged a farewell lunch in my honour that was held on 24 August, attended by persons in the Department of Asian Oceana. A few ambassadors were also invited. I was awarded a souvenir too. On Sunday, I left Brazil and there was no issue whatsoever about me till I left. On the next day I received a text message about a Sri Lankan daily paper highlighting war crimes and a report published by the BBC UK. Immediately thereafter, I received a call from Charge de Affairs Mr. Jayakody from Brazil who told me several articles about me had appeared in Brazilian newspapers and various websites and TV channels were calling him asking for my whereabouts. He was asking for my instructions. Jayakody was appointed as Charge de Affairs on 28 August. I told him to tell the truth that my term of duty ended and I had left. I told him if it’s anything related to war crimes allegations, to inform persons who called him to contact the Foreign Ministry in Colombo. Later I read a BBC news article where the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) an NGP of Yasmin Sooka has made references to me.

? Where did the ITJP lodge the complaint?

A: I hear it was not a lawsuit against me but a complaint. I was in fact accredited to three countries. The ITJP came up with allegations that I am not fit to hold the ambassador post and I have committed war crimes. All of this was on the website giving a full account of crimes, like the video by Channel 4, but now the narration is Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya had committed war crimes. Earlier it was the former President of Sri Lanka and now specifically saying Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya committed war crimes and apparently I had seen to everything as if I was physically doing all the crimes. They also claimed that I was in a particular camp in the Vanni. They have posted the operational command chart and a few details of the Vanni Camp too. Sooka has never been to the Vanni camp and not been to Sri Lanka either. But, they sound so realistic. Of course, I know lawyers are supposed to be that. I read all these on the website and subsequently, I also received a Portuguese document what was sent to me from the ITJP. That was emailed to me by Jayakody from Brazil. The document about me had been submitted to the Ministry of the Federal Reserve Brazil and not to a Court.

? What was mentioned in the document the ITJP had submitted?

A: It’s a 49-page document and had three requests by the lawyer. They were: investigate the Ambassador over war crimes, sexual assaults and torture, the indiscriminate shelling of a hospital and preventing humanitarian assistance reaching the civilians. These were mentioned in a manner implying that I have committed all these. These were mentioned in the UN report too and there was nothing new. The ITJP had urged three actions on me: To initiate criminal investigations against Ambassador Jayasuriya, secondly, request Sri Lanka to do away with his diplomatic immunity and thirdly, if they are not going to do it, declare him persona non grata (foreign person whose entering or remaining in a particular country is prohibited).

? Did the Brazil Government accept it?

A: I don’t know but Yasmin Sooka has lied to the media. I also did not flee the country as she claimed. I can say what happened was mere coincidence. I did not even get a tip-off about them and so I was shocked to read about it after leaving Brazil. It’s the first time since the war ended that allegations of this nature came upon me on the whole war operation. I was never the fighting commander.

? What were you then?

A: I was the Vanni Commander. I looked after the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) providing logistics but I never commanded troops on the front issuing orders to fight here and fire there.

? Who did that particular job?

A: It came from the Army Commander directly to the divisional commanders.

? Who was the Army Commander?

A: General Sarath Fonseka. In the last eight years this is the first time my name propped up.

? But your name was mentioned many times before too?

A: Of course in the UN report my name was mentioned as Vanni Commander but no allegations against me. In fact, Radhika Coomaraswamy, who was the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict until 13 July 2012, told me that there is ‘nothing against you’.

? What happened to your visa to go to the USA?

A: It’s my personal complaint again. When the war ended there were heroes mentioned under a photo of Mahinda Rajapaksa. There were 50 such photos of Forces published in many newspapers in Sri Lanka. In that list, I was also there. In my personal opinion, the US Government is using these photos as the source for alleged war criminals now.

? A few lines on being one of those war heroes of Sri Lanka responsible for defeating the LTTE?

A: I am proud to be one of the main team players in the entire operation and as the Vanni Commander. The operation was a successful one. There were lots of things besides the war that I was involved in. We finally had about 300,000 IDPs and many surrendees. It was not an easy task with limited resources to put things in place. It was a mess.

? Are you implying there were absolutely no civilian casualties in the war?

A: It was a hard fought win. I don’t consider we fought against a terrorist outfit because it was an all-out war. They had artillery and aircraft too. They may be small in numbers but they matched us all the time. It was not ordinary warfare.

? People in the North and East are continuously urging the government to address the issues of missing persons and war crimes. Are there missing persons and did the alleged war crimes really take place?

A: The problem is there were so many families who did not know that their family members were in the LTTE as they were forcibly taken by the LTTE. Thereafter, during the conflict some perished and disappeared too. What I mean is that some escaped using boats. Even after the end of the war, from the Manik Farm many escaped because from there, Mannar is close by. Even before I left the Army, there were no unaccounted people. Either they are in prison or rehabilitated. The shelling and killing allegations are all false.

? Did war crimes occur?

A: War crimes, if at all had happened, someone must specify it. You can’t just say it without indicating a specific person. Somebody should say this person did this at this time and if that evidence is shown, then that can be investigated. But I cannot accept anything said in general because anyone can claim so.

? So, were there any specific war crimes committed?

A: On the ground, whether something like that had happened or not, I don’t know because I was not on the frontline warring. I was in the Vanni Camp.

What every individual did, I don’t know. At the highest level we don’t know. At the lower level, they may be knowing whether it happened or not. A General will not know what a solider is doing on the frontline.

? You never came to know of any of these atrocities?

A: No. At that time our military was well experienced and over a period they had learnt lessons. They were more into helping people.

You may have seen photographs taken during the war about how the military were carrying the IDPs and the injured. It was amazing.

? Many charge that there was a Joint Services Special Operations Headquarters or the JOSSOPH Camp in the Vanni functioning as a torture chamber. It was right under your command, isnt it?

A: Yes. In the late ’80s it was there. I cannot remember the Commander at that time. It was a small camp that was established as a complex for joint operations over a period of time. It was the only Army establishment at that time near our Vavuniya Airport.

Otherwise, it was the Air Force that was using it. When there was a requirement for Army presence there, it was the Army Brigade that later made it into a camp and my Security Forces Headquarters was installed in that complex.

It was one of the bases in the whole complex. But, there were so many other Special Forces including intelligence, artillery, armoury and their camps, and the Air Force runway all inside the complex.

? Was there a torture camp inside there?

A: That allegations came up since intelligence were there and may be they held interrogations inside. That is why it is interpreted that way. The allegations pointed to me because I had my headquarters inside the same complex which I was responsible for. But there were Commanders at various levels in other camps in the same premises. So, if something had happened in those camps I am not responsible.

?Overall, werent you in charge of this camp?

A: Overall in charge was the Vavuniya Brigade Commander who was responsible for the security.

? So it was not under you?

A: No. I was not the one in charge of security. There was one security guy to look after the whole thing. We looked after the other small establishments. What many say is when torture was allegedly taking place there, I should have heard somebody shouting and screaming through the walls. They think I was staying next door.

? So youre saying you were not responsible for any torture?

A: How can I be responsible if somebody else was doing it? The entire complex was not under my command.

? So basically you did not know what was going on in that part of the camp?

A: No.

? You told the BBC Sinhala that the UN has not officially mentioned names pertaining to Sri Lankas war crimes? Is that what you want to know?

A: The government is saying they had found a joint solution and that there is no ‘electric chair’, no Special Court and that we have won the hearts of the international community.

My question is, if so, these allegations should not come now. The politicians are saying everything is sorted out and cleared for Sri Lanka. They may be saying for their own advantage but at the United Nations, nothing has been sorted out as yet. I think there is a long process.

? How do you think Sri Lanka can clear its name?

A: I think the government should do it.

? How will your name be cleared?

A: I cannot clear it. I don’t attend UN sessions.

? Are you willing to testify?

A: If somebody holds an inquiry or if something against me is proved, that should be investigated. Then I have to give evidence and the person who complains also must give his evidence. I know my side of the story. This has not been done and various allegations are levelled against us by other countries.

I may also ask what evidence do they have against me? Just because someone has charges against me, it does not mean that I have to accept it. Until I am found guilty, I am innocent.

? This is where the Special Court comes into play. You would like a Court hearing?

A: Whatever. If the country has accepted a mechanism to sort it out, we have to face it. If we are summoned, we cannot say we cannot go for that inquiry. All must be lined up and inquired.

? Why do you think there is an agitation for a special court, which is meant to clear everything, related to war crimes?

A: I don’t know what you mean by a Special Court, but whatever the Court is, then they should do that. No problem. What we want is, to have a Court or whatever name it goes by (or anything else) and finish it off.

? As to allegations of torture, disappearances and rape and sexual violence – did you condone them; are you aware that such crimes happened? For instance, the Defence Ministry recorded that Isaipriya was killed in combat, but there are video footage that prove otherwise that she and other women were captured alive, sexually assaulted, their private parts mutilated and were finally executed?

A: I have seen those videos, but I am not aware of these incident. Those things may have had happened on the frontline at the last minute I think. I am not personally aware of these things.

? When you saw the video clips how did you react?

A: I am not sure of the genuineness of the video. The same video is now on my news too.

? Why didnt you at least investigate to know whether it was true or false?

A: No. I don’t think we have done that.

? Even if you claim it was a war on terror and categorically deny any involvement in war crimes, the OISL report points to the fact that you played a major role?

A: Well, I played a major role by finally looking after the IDPs and the remnants of the war. The operation was led by the Army Commander who gave directives on how to progress.

In the whole war operation there were the offensive division and the defensive division. Initially, I was the Vanni Commander of the Defensive Division. Then there were new divisions that were created. Those were: 57, 58 and 59 Task Forces. They were directly given instructions by the Army Commander. So, I had to look after the Defence. The Army Commander told me ‘if something happens you are responsible’.

? Have you seen the Paranagama report?

A: No

? In the Parangama report, number 46 says, Under the international law doctrine of command or superior responsibility, military and civilian superiors can be held responsible for the crimes committed by their subordinates if they knew or had reason to know that the subordinates were about to commit or had committed war crimes, and the superior failed to prevent or punish such crimes. What does this mean?

A: Every military organization has a chain of command. At various levels there are Commanders. But, a private solider answers to his Commander, whether that Commander has one stripe or two stripes, that is a section. Likewise, when three sections get together it’s a platoon with a Second Lieutenant or a Sergeant. If the section has 10 people, the Corporal is responsible. You cannot expect his Commanding Officer, who is the Lt. Colonel, who is commanding about 800 persons, to know what a private soldier has done. Of course, it can be reported. But, I don’t know if that had happened.

? So, no such reports reached anyone on crimes?

A: No.

? Number 47 of the Paranagama report states It is clear to the Commission that this doctrine may be engaged as it concerns the allegations relating to the white flag killings of LTTE leaders and the images of executions that have formed the subject matter of a series of Channel 4 television broadcasts. The Commission is of the view, as found by the LLRC, that there are matters to be investigated in terms of specific instances of deliberate attacks on civilians. These matters must be the subject of an independent judicial inquiry. There are credible allegations, which if proved to the required standard, may show that some members of the Armed Forces committed acts during the final phase of the war that amounted to war crimes giving rise to individual criminal responsibility.

A: Now, who is saying that he or she carried a white flag?

? Isnt it in the report of the UN? They say it is alleged people came with white flags. Also, I think Eric Solheim had told civilians and the LTTE members to carry flags and surrender. Didnt you know?

A: There is nobody saying that she or he came with a white flag, if they do, we can investigate it. Eric Solheim was not there. Can a person come forward and say I carried a white flag and we beat them?

? The story is that persons who carried white flags and surrendered were allegedly killed. Dont you think its possible?

A: So, who is going to believe that? If there are evidence, well we can probe.

? Did you as the Vanni Commander also received orders directly from Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Mullaithivu during the final battle, not reporting to General Sarath Fonseka as he was sent abroad at the final moments?

A: No. Army Commander Sarath Fonseka went to China with his mobile phone and the map of the Vanni. I don’t think Gotabaya interfered in the conduct of the operational part. But, we used to report or tell Gotabaya also if something was happening. If there were special requirements, we reported to Gotabaya. But, Fonseka was contactable on telephone. Fonseka’s wife used to tell us ‘his entire bed was taken up for the map’. I worked with him so, I also know he does that.

? So, did he give orders from China using his phone?

A: He used to call and verify reports. I can say categorically he had given me in writing that I have no operational command of troops in the Vanni and that I will only do logistics. So, I was not giving orders. That is why I said, he wanted me to do the defensive part and not the offensive part, but now I am accused of all these events.

? In an interview in SPs Land Forces Magazine in February 2010, you claimed: “As the Security Forces Commander Vanni, the entire northern operation was conducted in the tactical area of responsibility that came under my command. I was actively involved in the ground operations executing the directives from Army Headquarters and the Ministry of Defence.” Do you stand by that statement?

A: Yes, up to that particular date I was referring to, I was in charge.

? Which date was that?

A: At the final stages of the war, I got instruction from the Army Commander that I hold no responsibility of an Operational Commander.

? Which date was that?

A: I think it was February or March.

? How do you explain the many videos showing the execution of prisoners in the custody of identifiable Sri Lankan soldiers?

A: That is the question. You are talking about Channel 4 right? Yes, we tried to find out exactly what it was. It’s quite difficult to identify. Whatever I have seen on various websites, it’s difficult to make it out whether it was made up or not. I don’t know because I never heard of such things happening and what was happening on the frontline, I don’t know.

? Is it possible to identify the soldiers in the videos and stills with prisoners and question them about how the prisoners were later found to be dead?

A: You mean the LTTEers?

? The LTTE and the Sri Lankan military personnel. Can you identify them?

A: If all to be identified it has to be by the intelligence. Personally, I can’t. A General Commander cannot identify. It’s the intelligence who does all that.

? Do you know what happened to Isaipriya who was a newsreader on LTTE TV Channel or Prabhakarans 12-year-old son Balachandran, Pulidevan and others who surrendered to the Army?

A: I have not followed it. Of course, a few days after that I became the Army Commander. I was too busy with other things. Only when the reports came from the Ministry of Defence, there was sort of an investigation to find out about those claims.

But, as the Army Commander I ordered an inquiry into the shelling of the hospital. That was in the report. There were artillery and the radar that technically confirmed they had fired, but it was later alleged to have been into the no fire zone.

? So, as a responsible officer, dont you want to know the truth as to what happened to the surrendees?

A: That was investigated at the highest level. So, we did not want to interfere. It was a Ministry of Defence level probe.

? What did they tell you?

A: I don’t know.

? Did you not want to know about it? Have you ever told yourself I should have checked on these before it becomes an issue?

A: We were all in doubt in what circumstances all these things happened. To find out what exactly happened and to get the details of it, the Army was not involved.

? What happened to the surrendees after the war ended?

A: Those 12,000 persons? Oh yes. I don’t know the exact figure.

? Was it only 12,000?

A: I guess little over that, I don’t know the exact figure. I am the one who started the rehabilitation camp initially.

? Were there some with white flags reaching the Army?

A: No. some surrendered before 16 May and the war ended on 18 May. From what I know from the people who were coming in telling us, that Prabhakaran had given orders to them not to leave till the 16th. They were waiting for international assistance. But, most of the people escaped. Then we were announcing that if anyone had anything to do with the LTTE please identify yourself so, you can be treated separately; so, that you will not have problems later on if you don’t declare. Then people surrendered in many thousands. We kept them in few camps – females and males separately and they were looked after by us. It was a new experience for us too, when the rehabilitation process started. We also learnt how to conduct it with the help of international organizations. The process started and I think almost all were released and reunited with their families now.

? But what about the people who say many who surrendered have gone missing?

A: I don’t think so. All those names we had were there. At the Omanthai checkpoint we were registering everybody. We have taken photographs also. So, they were registered and taken. Every individual was registered. So, how can somebody go missing thereafter?

? So, what is the list of missing persons coming in after surrendering to the Army? Didnt such thing take place?

A: No. I think they are asking for persons in prison. They are thinking still there are non declared people.

? For instance, Northern Province Minister Ananthy Sasitharan claims her husband, LTTE Trincomalee Commander surrendered to the military and she personally witnessed him go. Today she is searching for him. Do you know what happened to him?

A: Who is that guy? Pulithevan? He never surrendered. He is dead. Nadesan is also dead and I think their bodies were identified.

? Its Elilan. Where is he?

A: If she was with him, she should know his whereabouts. I am not aware of the details now. Sorry. She claimed he came with a white flag, I think. All those surrendees are in the list of who were rehabilitated.

? What do you think of the missing persons list people are showing to the media in the North?

A: There is no list as such now. Military does not have another list. They would have given evidence before the commission about such persons.

? Do you want to see a conclusion to these claims of missing persons?

A: During my time everybody was declared. They were either rehabilitated or in prison. There was no other undeclared location where people were held. There was an allegation that we were using undeclared places and the UN experts went right around looking for those places.

? What do you think of the war and the war crimes allegations overall?

A: It was an unwanted war. We have served the country and the government. We defeated the LTTE and brought peace. But, unfortunately having done all that, we have been harassed with all these inquiries and persons tarnishing our names without concrete evidence. That is unacceptable. It affects us. I am affected when I want to travel overseas.

? Do you think the reconciliation process, the Office of the Missing Persons, Special Court and reparation process will sort out these problems for the military?

A: I don’t think those are the requirements now. Politicians, including the Tamil politicians, have to play a major role. Of course, it would take time to heal. We said after the war, for the next 10 years we should not relax that the war had ended. The distance or the gap between the North and South should be reduced. I personally told former President Rajapaksa, the travel time of 8 hours to Jaffna should be reduced and within one hour we should be able to get there and people should not feel they are in a different part of the world. Of course, people’s concerns must be addressed. If someone is missing, give a death certificate or compensate them soon. Sort out their problems.

?What about probing those allegations before issuing death certificates? Do you agree to that?

A: If there is evidence, definitely it should be proved. I think all Army Commanders have categorically stated if there is something against an individual it can be investigated. There are procedures too. Within the military we have probed cases with evidence and some have been convicted too. There is no problem in that. At the moment what is happening is that a few names known at that time are being alleged to have committed crimes. If something had happened, there could be someone else responsible too.

? Is it because you were the Vanni Commander they are pointing at you?

A: What can I do? I mean when I am in a particular place and things are happening 100km away how can I know about it? As the Vanni Commander, I was in Vanni near the airport and the fighting took place in Nandikadal, which is over 100 km away.

? Do you think many things could have happened behind your back?

A: If something had happened and there is evidence, it can be investigated. Nobody would say don’t investigate.

? What is your message to the people out there who level war crimes and disappearance allegations against the Army? They are crying over their loved ones showing their photographs?

A: They have come with this problem, but somebody must give a definite word whether they are missing or dead. The law is that if you are not around for seven years, the person is declared dead. So, majority of the people who went missing may have been in LTTE custody and they should accept it and believe they are no more. The government should compensate them and settle once and for all not keep pestering all the time about it.

? Do you think the government is not attending to the matter?

A: I don’t think so. Even in the UN resolution they said various things about it, but nothing is coming out of it. Every six months we are going to the UN. Probably this allegation against me came up because the next UN session is nearing.

?What did President Rajapaksa do about war crimes allegations?

A: They were in the process of doing something about it and also in their case they also did not take a concrete action. That government was sort of in denial not allowing anything to happen. This government has a different approach, but nothing is happening. All of them are answerable. The Government must seriously attend to these issues.

(Pic by Kelum Chamara)

Sri Lankan Ambassador, Accused of War Crimes, Leaves Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO — A former Sri Lankan general accused of war crimes by human rights groups has left Brazil, where until recently he was his country’s ambassador to six nations in South America, an embassy official said Tuesday.

Jagath Jayasuriya left Brazil on Sunday to return to Sri Lanka after completing his two-year tour of service, acting head of mission Premaphilake Jayakody told The Associated Press.

“He is no longer ambassador,” Jayakody said.

He declined to comment on allegations in criminal suits that rights groups began filing the previous day in the six countries where Jayasuriya represented Sri Lanka.

The suits are based on Jayasuriya’s role as a commander in the final phase of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009. They allege he oversaw military units that attacked hospitals and killed, disappeared and tortured thousands of people.

Jayasuriya had diplomatic immunity in the countries where he was ambassador, and the groups pursuing the suits had hoped to compel governments to expel him. With the apparent end of his ambassadorship, he would no longer enjoy that diplomatic protection if he were to return.

On Monday, Carlos Castresana Fernandez, the lawyer coordinating the effort, said suits had been filed in Brazil and Colombia and more were coming soon for Argentina, Chile and Peru. He said Suriname had refused to accept the petition.

“This is one genocide that has been forgotten, but this will force democratic countries to do something,” Fernandez said. “This is just the beginning of the fight.”

The criminal suits, reviewed by the AP, were spearheaded by the human rights group International Truth and Justice Project, an evidence-gathering organization based in South Africa. They had three central aims: push local authorities to open investigations of Jayasuriya, remove his diplomatic immunity and expel him.

With Jayasuriya out of the country, the petitions can be amended to ask for arrest warrants in the case he returns, Fernandez said.

Speaking to reporters in London, Yasmin Sooka, executive director of the International Truth and Justice Project, said they believed that Jayasuriya had been tipped off about plans for the suits and fled.

“We discovered by tracking him that in fact by 10:00 last night he had reached Dubai,” said Sooka. “That means that he took a direct flight from Brazil to Dubai and he made sure that he didn’t cross any of the other countries like the U.S., the U.K. or Europe where he could potentially have been picked up.”

The nations where Jayasuriya was ambassador have their own dark histories of violence, including military dictatorships, torture and the killing or disappearance of thousands.

Fernandez, the coordinating lawyer, was one of the attorneys who worked on international cases against former dictators Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla of Argentina and Gen. Augusto Pinochet of Chile. He has also helped win indictments in war crimes and organized crime cases in Guatemala, including one against ex-President Alfonso Portillo.

The civil war in Sri Lanka, an island off the southern tip of India, raged intermittently between 1983 and 2009. Fueled in part by ethnic tensions between Sinhalese and Tamil citizens, an insurgency against the government was led by a group called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. They fought to establish a separate Tamil state in the northeastern part of the island.

The suits say Jayasuriya was commander of the Vanni Security Force from 2007 to 2009, one of the bloodiest periods in a war estimated to have killed more than 100,000 people. The U.N. estimates between 40,000 and 70,000 died in the final phase alone.

According to the suits, Jayasuriya oversaw an offensive from Joseph Camp, also known as Vanni, which the papers claim was a notorious torture site.

The International Truth and Justice Project said it interviewed 14 survivors of torture or sexual violence at the camp. According to the group, victims described hearing the howls of detainees at night, which the suits contend Jayasuriya would have been able to hear.

A few years after the war ended, Jayasuriya retired from the military. He was appointed ambassador to Brazil in 2015, and the other countries were added to his purview over the following two years.

Human rights groups have long been after Jayasuriya, but the Sri Lankan government has refused to try him or others allegedly involved in war crimes.

___

Associated Press video journalist Kevin Scott in London contributed to this report.

Sri Lankan Leader Will Protect General Accused of War Crimes by The Associated Press in ‘The New York Times,’ September 3, 2017

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka’s president on Sunday vowed to protect his former ambassador to six South American nations, an ex-army chief accused of crimes in the bloody final phase of the country’s civil war.

“I state very clearly that I will not allow anyone in the world to touch Jagath Jayasuriya or any other military chief or any war hero in this country,” President Maithripala Sirisena said on Sunday, addressing a convention of his Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

Sept 2 2017

Sirisena’s statement came a week after rights groups filed criminal lawsuits in South America against Jayasuriya, who until last week served as the country’s envoy to Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Suriname.

The suits are based on Jayasuriya’s role as a commander in the final phase of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009. They allege he oversaw military units that attacked hospitals and killed, disappeared and tortured thousands of people.

The suits had been filed in Brazil and Colombia and more were to come in Argentina, Chile and Peru. Suriname had refused to accept the petition.

Sri Lanka’s military has also denied the allegations against Jayasuriya.

Sirisena’s comments are seen as an attempt to woo majority ethnic Sinhalese, most of whom oppose action against military personnel accused of crimes in the fight against minority Tamil rebels. Sirisena is being painted as anti-Sinhalese by hard-line sections of the community.

More than 100,000 people are believed to have been killed in Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war, including 40,000 to 70,000 in the final phase alone.

In a joint resolution in 2015 at the U.N. Human Rights Council, Sri Lanka promised among other things a truth-seeking mechanism, a judicial mechanism to prosecute those accused of human rights abuses, and a new constitution that covers the island nation’s varied ethnicities and religions. However, little progress has been made.

Sri Lanka had agreed to allow foreign judges but backtracked later, insisting that only local courts could investigate the allegations.

The criminal suits, reviewed by the AP, were spearheaded by the human rights group International Truth and Justice Project, an evidence-gathering organization based in South Africa. They had three central aims: push local authorities to open investigations of Jayasuriya, remove his diplomatic immunity and expel him.

However, Jayasuriya left Brazil last week to return to Sri Lanka after completing his two-year tour of service. The petitions can be amended to ask for arrest warrants in case he returns, according to the lawyer who filed the suit.

The civil war in Sri Lanka, an island off the southern tip of India, raged intermittently between 1983 and 2009. Fueled in part by ethnic tensions between ethnic majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils, an insurgency against the government was led by a group called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. They fought to establish a separate Tamil state in the northeastern part of the island.

Both sides are accused of war crimes.

The suits say Jayasuriya was commander of the Vanni Security Force from 2007 to 2009, and oversaw an offensive from Joseph Camp, also known as Vanni, which the papers claim was a notorious torture site.

Just after the war’s end, Jayasuriya was promoted as chief of the army and in 2015, he retired from the military. He was appointed ambassador to Brazil in 2015, and the other countries were added to his purview over the following two years.