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Anuradha Mittal Urges Human Rights Council to Focus on Establishing a Judicial Process for Rights Abuse in Sri Lanka

May 28, 2015
Tamil Diplomat

Anuradha Mittal, the Executive Director of the Oakland Institute and the author of  the report “The Long Shadow of War: The Struggle for Justice in Post-war Sri Lanka” released yesterday has urged the UN Human Rights Council to focus on establishing a judicial process under auspices of the UN to ensure justice is done to the Tamil people in Sri Lanka.

 She made this call during the international media conference call held today in California, to discuss the findings of her report, which details Human Rights abuses and property seizures in Sri Lanka.

“Given the past records of government inaction, international pressure is critical for any decisive action. Instead of pursuing their geostrategic interests, US, India and other countries should demand the release of the UN inquiry. The Human Rights Council should focus on establishing a judicial process under the auspices of the UN to ensure justice is done” Anuradha said.

In her statement Anuradha  also criticized the appointment of  Major General Dias as the Army Chief of Staff, despite the fact that under his command the 57th division was implicated in serious human rights abuses. His appointment, she said “casts doubts on government’s pledge to credibly investigate war crimes”.

She further said the following:

President Sirisena has promised a process of truth and reconciliation. Some initial gestures made are, however, minimal given the extent of the problems.  More important, our research and analysis raises serious questions about the government’s political will and political space to carry out a thorough investigation and prosecution of war crimes and its ability to ensure remedies that lead to justice.

First, “No Change in Security Status or Removal of Army Camps” is the déja vu position of Sirisena’s government. In February 2015, Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene confirmed the status quo stating that the government would not remove any army formations in the peninsula, nor does it plan to scale down security arrangements.

Second, the recent appointment of Major General Dias as the Army Chief of Staff, despite the fact that under his command the 57th division was implicated in serious human rights abuses, rebuffs current government pledges to ensure justice and reconciliation.

Third, a few political prisoners like Jayakumari Balendran have been released with conditions. But it remains unclear how many political prisoners are still languishing in jails and camps. Balendran’s written testimony to the Oakland Institute is a direct challenge to President Sirisena’s commitment.

Lastly, a few lands have been released in the North and the East. For instance, President Sirisena revoked an agreement giving some 800 acres of land in Sampur to the Board of Investment, while a navy camp is to be relocated in Sampur.

In case of Sampur, the new location for the Navy Camp is “literally just across the fence” from its old location. The challenges of resettlement when little to no infrastructure remains, lands are not ready for cultivation, and land titles are not clear given communities fled under heavy shelling without papers, is a huge problem. Also people will be resettled near the proposed Indian-funded Sampur Coal Power Plant, not affected by the release of these lands.