Naam Tamilar America (NTA), have represented to the international community with the following opinion on LLRC report of the Government of Srilanka. This is to sensitize the world community on the truth about LLRC.
The recommendations of the Lessons Learn and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), described by the UN panel as ‘failing to satisfy key international standards of independence and impartiality’, have been given international accord only in so far as matters concerned with devolution, demilitarization of the North-East, release of illegally incarcerated Tamil youths, good governance, all of which the critics say, could have been implemented without the LLRC.
We have the following reasons to suspect strongly that the LLRC commission was formed for the sole purpose of bailing out the Sri Lankan government whose noose was tightened by the human rights groups of western governments to set up an independent commission of enquiry to investigate the allegations of state sponsored large scale war crimes:
1) There have been many commissions appointed by the Sri Lankan government during the past thirty‐five years to inquire into human rights violations, few of which are detailed here for brevity:
• One-man Sansoni Commission of 1977- to inquire into 10 civilian deaths at the Fourth Conference on International Association of Tamil Research in 1972 and 500 civilian deaths during state aided violence of 1977. No one was prosecuted.
• Kokkaddicholai Commission of 1991- to investigate 67 civilian deaths and disappearance of 56 civilians- all Tamils. Seventeen soldiers and one officer were charged for extra judicial killings. All acquitted and punished only for dereliction of duties.
• Presidential Truth Commission of Ethnic Violence 2001- to investigate 3000 Tamil civilian death in the 1983 ethnic violence by government agents (as in paragraph 30 of UN 3 panel Report). No one was prosecuted.
• Presidential Commission of Inquiry of 2006- to investigate 16 cases. The two principle cases were the killings of 5 students in Trincomalee and 16 workers of France Action Contre la Faim in Mutur. All victims are Tamils.
• International Independent Group of Eminent Person (IIGEP) appointed by president to ensure commission’s work met international standards left in protest for the following reasons:
(a) The dual role played by the Attorney General’s Office, defending and investigating the accused;
(b) Lack of witness protection, before, during, and after the testimony;
(c) The in‐camera proceedings and inadequate protection for whistle blowers;
(d) Lack of cooperation by the government entities to provide information; and
(e) The Commission’s lack of financial independence to carry out its duties.
The government neither extended the Commission’s mandate nor published its report thus denying justice to the victims. From the beginning International Human Rights groups were against a domestic investigation for the simple reason that the previous Presidential commissions on many other issues did not bear any positive outcomes for the victims.
2) The Chairman of the Commission C. R. De Silva was the Attorney General and the chief law officer of the present government. Silva was accused of interfering in a previous commission, the 2006-2009 Presidential Commission of Inquiry into allegations of serious human rights violations by the security forces. The International Independent Group of Eminent Persons, who had been invited by the President to oversee the Commission’s work, resigned in April 2008 citing De Silva’s behaviour as one of major reasons for doing so.
3) The LLRC in all made only 17 days of field visits and just 6 days to the war theatre in Vanni out of nearly 18 months, one wonders how they could come out with a credible report.
4) There was just one female commissioner out of eight. For Tamil women, especially for the 90,000 Tamil widows, this has given little attention to drawing out the significant violence and deprivation experienced by women as a result of the conflict (particularly that of a sexual nature). Instead it has been criticised for demonstrating a bias to (male) seniority and for spectacularly failing to address the emotional needs of victims, or ensure their physical security. Women have been chastised and disregarded for crying while testifying, received little help in negotiating the system, have been told to write their submissions rather than speak them – on forms only in Sinhalese and English, and have in various ways have been left profoundly frustrated, stigmatised and intimidated. Yet, sex discrimination runs deeper than a commission’s operation. As pointed out recently by experts, bias afflicts the very framing of truth, and the prioritising of certain violations and victims over others. Most of the women in Sri Lanka, as in many war torn countries, clamour to be accepted as mothers, sisters and daughters of victims – but rarely as victims in their own right. This leaves violations such as sexual or structural violence, unrecognised and underreported.
5) The activities of the LLCRC commission were not monitored by any Human right watchdog organizations.
6) The scale of civilian deaths in Sri Lanka could not have taken place without the knowledge of the most senior military officials. International law is uncompromising in this regard – responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide goes to the very top. In the case of Sri Lanka, the defence secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the then head of the army, General Sarath Fonseka, and the commander in chief – the president – Mahinda Rajapaksa are principally answerable. Lankanewsweb magazine carried a news item in December 2011 that The International media obtaining a statement under oath from a former Sri Lankan soldier and witnessed by a public official of the state of New York, that extra-judicial killings of surrendering or captured members of the Tamil Tigers were carried out as ‘standard practice’ and “white- vans,” were used by what he describes as “hit squads” of a few elite assassins hand-picked by the Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse.
According to a leaked cable of the former US ambassador to Sri Lanka, Robert Blake, a former MP, Mr. Mangala Samaraweera confirmed that the army commander Sarath Fonseka used a group called the Lion Cubs to engage in extrajudicial activities with the knowledge and approval of Defense Secretary Gothabaya Rajapakse to ‘dispose of the bodies of their victims at sea.”
It is most unlikely that the LLRC commission which operated mostly under the guidance and advice of Rajapakse regime will honestly bring out the crimes committed by government officials to light.
7) The commission has recommended dishing out compensation to victims only as a goodwill gesture rather than a right of the victim to get fairness or justice. It further does not speak of the economic losses sustained by the Tamils during the course of the war.
8) There are lot of contradictions between the findings of the three-member UN Panel (appointed in September 2010) and LLRC .
According to LLRC, while the LTTE deliberately targeted civilians, it appears that Sri Lanka’s military did not. That assertion goes against what most people seem to think, including the report produced by the United Nation’s Panel of Experts. In order to determine “questions of State responsibility,” the LLRC report goes on to note that an “international tribunal” would be unhelpful because there just is not enough evidence about what actually happened during the final phase of the conflict. Essentially, it would be nearly impossible to “re-create” what actually occurred in a court of law. The Commission found that it was just too challenging to give even an estimate of civilian casualties during the end of the war. The Commission also found it difficult to determine what happened regarding the shelling of hospitals. Although, it is clear to the Commission that Sri Lankan military personnel never intentionally went after civilians in the No Fire Zones (NFZs) either (contradicting UN Panel report).
9) LLRC report does not answer to questions raised by the Human Rights groups regarding the expulsion of INGOs and NGOs from the war zones in September 2008, the ban on private and independent media covering the war. The white van abductions of anti-war activists across the whole island, the killing of independent journalist across the island, the recruitment of child soldiers by pro-government Para-military groups etc.,
10) LLRC report does not account for non-judicial killings of LTTE cadres for which evidences are circulating in Channel 4 and on internet.
11) The LLRC report does not account for the disruption of education of children, the fate of orphans, the incarceration of 282,000 uprooted Tamils in ‘concentration-style’ barb-wired camps for more than a year, the restriction of movement of the Tamils.
12) The LLRC report does not address the economic embargo on the Tamil areas from the end of 2007, the starvation of civilians from June 2008, the continuous aerial bombings on civilian targets, using food, water and medicine as weapons of war.
13) White-van abductions, Land issues, minority rights and militarization in the North, the shoddy resettlement of Tamils are still and on-going problem in Sri Lanka. The LLRC does not provide a concrete recommendation to find solution for these problems.
14) The LLRC report fails to address the state of Tamil refugees around the world.
Thus, it is very clear that the LLRC report falls much short of International standards not only in addressing war crimes but also in the effort of finding a resolution to a conflict that existed for decades.