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GL frowns on UNP stand on accountability, refers to US ‘attack’ on ICC

(Courtesy of The Island)

Former External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris, yesterday, said that the unprecedented US reaction to International Criminal Court (ICC) over possible inquiry into war crimes allegedly committed by US and its allies in Afghanistan again reminded the world of the duplicitous Western policy with regard to accountability in Sri Lanka.

Prof. Peiris, who is also the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), was commenting on the US threatening to revoke the entry visa for ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

Peiris pointed out that the US secretary of state Mike Pompeo had warned the US might refuse or revoke visas to any ICC staff involved in such probes.

Responding to a query, Prof. Peiris told The Island that Western powers seemed to be only interested in prosecuting Sri Lankans responsible for bringing the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009.

Prof. Peiris acknowledged that the US couldn’t be faulted for standing by its forces and those of its allies involved in the invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001. US and the UK led the offensive in the wake of September 2001 Al Qaeda attacks on the US.

Recalling the circumstances under which the US quit the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in June last year, Prof. Peiris said that the UN body seemed obsessed with post-war Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka brought the war with LTTE Tamil terrorists to a successful conclusion in May 2009.

“The US policy is clear. Whatever critics say, the US, regardless of change of administrations will stand by its armed forces. The US and its allies are protecting their forces in foreign theatres whereas Sri Lanka does quite the opposite,” Prof. Peiris said.

Prof. Peiris pointed out that the Sri Lankan military had been faulted for eradicating terrorists in own territory. Referring to various post-World War II situations in which governments battled terrorism, Prof. Peiris said that no elected government had been investigated for war crimes or dealt in a humiliating manner the way Sri Lanka was treated.

Referring to Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera countering Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana, PC over the stand the latter took at the 40th Geneva session, Prof. Peiris said a section of the government was continuing to defend the controversial Geneva Resolution 30/1 co-sponsored by Sri Lanka on Oct 2015.

Those working with Minister Samaraweera recently targeted former Attorney General Marapana over his defence of Avant Garde Maritime Services, Prof. Peiris said, adding that the yahapalana government should have raised Lord Naseby’s disclosure pertaining to Sri Lanka before March 2018 session. Unfortunately, the government delayed using Lord Naseby’s ‘ammunition’ till March 2019, the SLPP Chairman said, adding that even that exercise was futile as the government reiterated commitment to the original resolution during the same UNHRC sessions.

Prof. Peiris said that recently UK Minister for Asia and Pacific Mark Field in the House of Commons called for much faster progress in the implementation of Geneva Resolution. Minister Field also reiterated UK call for full implementation of Geneva Resolution 30/1 and 34/1. Minister Field was among several UK members critical of handling of the post-war issues. Did the UK responded responsibly to war crimes allegations directed at its forces during the Iraq campaign? Prof. Peiris asked. The ICC which angered the US recently, in Dec 2017 alleged that there was ‘reasonable basis’ to believe the UK committed war crimes in Iraq. The ICC dealt with the UK in a 74-page report, the former External Affairs Minister said. The invasion was launched on the basis of deliberate lie propagated by the UK claiming that Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) threatened them.

In spite of serious human rights allegations against the UK, the British government had been accommodated in the UNHRC where the UK spearheaded the latest resolution targeting Sri Lanka in the absence of the US which handled the 2015 resolution, Prof. Peiris said. The former law professor said that he was actually surprised by Sri Lanka being regularly preached by those responsible for heinous crimes in various theatres, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

Prof. Peiris said that the situation had been made worse by the current local dispensation’s readiness to appease Western powers even at the expense of national interests.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

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