Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse touches down in Perth today to attend the commonwealth heads of government meeting to face the charges against him for crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Mr. Arunachalam Jegatheeswaran, an Australian citizen has instituted proceedings against the President for war crimes and crimes against humanity which he says he was an eyewitness too.
“I am a living testimony of the massacre that happened to the Tamil people in the final days of the war in Sri Lanka. Mahinda Rajapakse is the commander in chief of the Sri Lankan armed forces, this alleged war criminal is coming to my country, Australia and I want to make sure he is held accountable for the massacre of thousands of Tamils in 2009.”
In the final weeks of the war against the separatist Tamil Tigers nearly 40,000 civilians were killed in acts of atrocities that included government troops ignoring no fire zones and institute bombing raids against hospitals and food supply lines.
As commander in chief of the Sri Lankan forces, Mahinda Rajapakse should be held ultimately responsible for the actions of the government troops.
Sam Pari, representative for the Australian Tamil congress says, “Mahinda Rajapakse is among a small circle of men who have committed the worst crimes in the 20 century: Hitler, Idi Amin, Milosevic, Pol Pot, Al-Bashir. The Australian Tamil congress has been repeatedly calling for an international independent investigation into war crimes in Sri Lanka. In the absence of ethical leadership by governments, it falls upon courageous civilians to pursue justice for the victims. We applaud these efforts and hope that more such individuals will find the courage to seek the justice they deserve.”
War crimes are forbidden by the Geneva Convention which Sri Lanka is a signatory of, it is not however a signatory of the International Criminal Court created in 2002 to prosecute individuals for serious crimes such as war crimes. It would only be possible to investigate and prosecute war crimes in Sri Lanka if the UN Security Council referred Sri Lanka to the ICC.
However, under the Rome Statute, which is the treaty that established the ICC, the ICC can investigate and prosecute crimes like genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes when countries are not capable or disinclined to do so themselves.
Individual countries can investigate and prosecute war crimes by applying universal jurisdiction that allows them to prosecute irrespective of the nationality of the culprits their victims and where the crime was committed.
Last week the International Commission of Jurists submitted a dossier of evidence, including eyewitness testimonies of war crimes committed in Sri Lanka to the Australian Federal police, an indictment was filed with the Melbourne magistrate’s court under the Australian criminal code, the charges have been issued and a date fixed to hear them.
A former Australian diplomat Bruce Haigh said, “The Commonwealth Heads of Governments meeting must consider the issue of Sri Lankan war crimes. More importantly however the issue of the ongoing genocide of the Tamil people by the Government of Sri Lanka needs to be considered urgently and the CHOGM is the forum in which to do it.”