|Norway should seek international support to appoint an ICT for Sri Lanka - Peter Skovholt Gitmark|
| [27.03.2012, 09:37am, Tue. GMT]|
|It is now almost three years since the brutal conflict in Sri Lanka ended. While there is every reason to rejoice that the war is finished, the way it happened is morally objectionable and in violation of numerous international laws and several of Sri Lanka's own laws. Sri Lanka is now a country that can be described as post-war, but not post-conflict. There is every reason to ask the question of whether the country is a functioning democracy – or not. I think Norway should seek international support to appoint an International Criminal Tribunal for Sri Lanka said Peter Skovholt Gitmark, a Norwegian politician representing the Conservative Party.|
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It is now almost three years since the brutal conflict in Sri Lanka ended. While there is every reason to rejoice that the war is finished, the way it happened is morally objectionable and in violation of numerous international laws and several of Sri Lanka's own laws. Sri Lanka is now a country that can be described as post-war, but not post-conflict. The responsibility rests with the government in Colombo almost exclusively.
Let me briefly illustrate how ruthless the warfare was. According to the UN Panel of Experts 40,000 people were killed in the war's final phase and 300,000 Tamils were interned behind barbed wire after the war.
Parliament debated Sri Lanka just under a year ago. There was also an interpellation debate initiated by me, but at that time the Norwegian follow-up theme of the UN report was, "Accountability in Sri Lanka."
An important part of the follow-up was the meeting that took place in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva only days ago. It adopted a resolution, which requires increased efforts for reconciliation between the majority of the island, lankeserne, and the island's minority Tamils. In addition, the resolution requires that allegations of human rights violations be investigated in a credible manner.
First, some words about the resolution. It is important. Let me use the words of an Indian newspaper. "The right's abusers resolution is proof that the international community disapproves the manner in which the Rajapaksa government is addressing the fallout of its Armageddon moment of mid-May 2009." And again, "The resolution is the first sign that the World will no more let itself be guided solely by Sri Lankan claims. That it has the will to carry out its own probe. It also means that gentle prodding and quiet diplomacy will not be the main means the world adopts as goodwill towards the island nation. "
The resolution states that there is also an international concern that Sri Lanka relates to international laws and obligations and prosecutes, on both sides, those who have committed war crimes and human rights violations. But, as we discussed a year ago, the difference between the two sides is striking. On the Tamil side, almost all the leaders have died, many of them probably liquidated. The government’s side is the people who ran the war are still in prominent positions as President, Defense, etc. It shows how difficult it is to get the government in Colombo to carry out an impartial investigation of what actually took place of war crimes and human rights abuses during the civil war and then after the military victory.
Sri Lanka has a history of democracy, but the way the country stirred up the mood under Decree treatment bears little resemblance to it. The strong promotion of ICT (a NO to the resolution) put Sri Lanka in a position that was not afraid to attack both human rights activists and journalists for their work. This is not a worthy democracy, so there is every reason to ask the question whether the country is even functioning as a democracy. Here too the government has the primary responsibility Rajapaksa.
Voting in the UN Human Rights Council must be interpreted as a body grown tired of endless promises by Rajapaksa and action to the contrary. Most gratifying was India's contribution to the adopted resolution.
Let me also say that I love Norway's clear voice both during the vote itself, but more importantly in the work ahead. The Foreign Minister should be commended. I think it goes without saying, but we will speak praise, nonetheless.
An important part of my interpellation (of this Parliamentary debate) is the government in Colombo's own documents both the "Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC)" and "National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights 2011-2016."
I choose to start with the positive aspects. Both documents have key points on local and regional self-government (not to be interpreted as independence for individual regions or equivalent), land rights, compensation for victims / survivors and of militarization. These are all important contributions that must be implemented. And our answer in this debate must be that Norway follows up with what is being done and will hold Sri Lanka responsible for following their own promises and international obligations.
The list of errors and problems with the two reports are, unfortunately, far longer. I therefore choose to concentrate on a few areas.
I see both documents were written primarily for an international audience and with the desire to show that Sri Lanka does not need help or interference in what they see as mere domestic political considerations.
It maintained that Sri Lanka does not tolerate torture. This is in stark contrast to a wealth of different evidence to the contrary, including the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) evidence.
Together, the seal of the National Action Plan was a pure bluff. Several prominent members from academia, independent and civil society participated in the eight-man committee for the great preparation. They put forward a draft, and after that, they had no effect on the rest of the document including the final document.
In LLRC the military was completely cleared of any wrongdoing during the war and during the time after the military victory. It remains in stark contrast to the evidence.
Now after the debate a year ago, there are two different tracks that must be followed. The short term is that Sri Lanka must stop violating human rights. Both Amnesty and Human Rights Watch state that the situation has gotten worse over the past year - not better. And only a few days ago, people were ordered to the streets to protest against the decree proceedings in the Human Rights Council.
UN ekspertpanels report must be followed up concretely and not just with words and promises. (Panel of Experts)
There must be full disclosure of prosecution of war crimes and violations of human rights for supporters and soldiers of the LTTE. It includes an immediate disclosure of the names of those imprisoned. Here is the great question of criminal prosecution on the government’s side. I have no faith at all that Rajapaksa and his government will do anything to actually examine themselves and their loved ones and then punish those who have made serious violations. For this reason, I think Norway should seek international support to appoint an international criminal tribunal for Sri Lanka.
Most importantly is the political process for peace and reconciliation. I began by saying that Sri Lanka's war record (Sri Lanka is post war), but not post-conflict. Without political negotiation, compromise and agreement, the conflict persists. The responsibility is the president’s and his government. It needs international pressure and last week's resolution was an important signal. There is also a recognition that Norway can contribute in the forums that we are presenting.
I hope it will be remembered from this debate that only reconciliation and political solutions that can lead to lasting peace. That's why negotiations must be (on top of the agenda) on the agenda.