Colombo, August 31: The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid, had recommended the application of the principle of Universal Legal Jurisdiction in the case of credible violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by the Sri Lankan security forces during the 2006-2009 Eelam War IV against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). And this recommendation has not been nullified or disowned till date, writes P.K.Balachandran in Daily Express.
Therein lies the danger for Sri Lanka, points out former Sri Lankan Ambassador Dr.Dayan Jayatilleka.
To compound the threat, the UNHRC resolution which was passed with Sri Lanka as a co-sponsor, welcomes the High Commissioner’s report containing the recommendation for the application of universal jurisdiction, Jayatilleka points out. “Therefore, the witch hunt is on,” he warns.
In a recommendation to the UN and its member countries dated September 28, 2015, Zeid says: “ Wherever possible, in particular under universal jurisdiction, investigate and prosecute those responsible for such violations as torture, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
This was reiterated by him at the February-March session of 2017 thus: “Wherever possible, in particular under universal jurisdiction, investigate and prosecute those allegedly responsible for such violations as torture, enforced disappearance, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
And the Sri Lankan government had taken note of this in the resolution which Sri Lanka co-sponsored in March 2017.
The co-sponsored resolution says that it takes note “with appreciation” the comprehensive report presented by the United Nations High Commissioner to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-fourth session, as requested by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 30/1, and requests the Government of Sri Lanka to fully implement the measures identified in Human Rights Council resolution 30/1 that are outstanding; (updated OP1 from HRC/30/1).
It is against this background that Dr.Jayatilleka feels that the danger of Sri Lankan security forces personnel getting pulled up before courts or being arrested abroad is very real and that the case filed against Gen.Jagath Jayasuriya cannot be treated in a cavalier fashion.
Jayatilleka calls for a re-negotiated resolution.
Case Against Gen.Jayasuriya
Human rights groups in South America filed war crimes lawsuits against former Sri Lankan General Jagath Jayasuriya who was till the other day his country’s ambassador to Brazil.
The lawsuits against Jayasuriya allege he oversaw military units that attacked hospitals and killed, disappeared and tortured thousands of people in the final phase of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009.
Jayasuriya has diplomatic immunity in Brazil and five other countries where he is ambassador – Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Suriname..
But the groups pursuing the suits hope they will compel regional governments to open investigations of Jayasuriya, remove his immunity and expel him.
Carlos Castresana Fernandez, the lawyer coordinating the effort, told the Associated Press news agency that suits have been filed on Monday in Brazil and Colombia..
Petitions will be filed in Argentina, Chile and Peru in the coming days, he said, adding that authorities in 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.”
Jayasuriya fled Brazil, news reports said, but the Sri Lankan government said that he left Brazil on completion of his two year tenure.
The criminal suits were spearheaded by the human rights group International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP), an evidence-gathering organization based in South Africa.
According to the suits, Jayasuriya oversaw an offensive from Joseph Camp in the northern town of Vavuniya. The UN estimates between 40,000 and 70,000 died in the final phase alone when Sri Lanka’s military defeated the separatist armed group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
ITJP said it interviewed 14 people who survived torture or sexual violence at the camp.
“There is no way General Jagath Jayasuriya can claim not to have known that torture routinely occurred in his camp; there were purpose built underground torture chambers, equipped with manacles, chains and pulleys for hoisting victims upside down,” Yasmin Sooka, the ITJP’s executive director, said in March.
“If the detainees could hear each other screaming at night from adjacent buildings, so could he.”
Human rights groups have long been after Jayasuriya, but the Sri Lankan government has refused to try him or others allegedly involved in war abuses.
A few years after the war ended, he retired from the military. Jayasuriya was appointed ambassador to Brazil in 2015 and the other countries were added to his purview over the following two years.
The Sri Lankan army has denied committing war crimes.
Fernandez, the lawyer coordinating the lawsuits against Jayasuriya, has worked on international cases against war criminals in Guatemala, Argentina and Chile.x
In the case of Chilean General Augusto Pinochet, he ended up being arrested and held for a time in England because of international lawsuits filed against him.
(The picture at the top shows Gen.Jagath Jayasuriya)