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Thursday, 23 October 2014
 
 
War crimes case decision upsets Tamils - AGs decision politically motivated PDF Print E-mail

The Australian Tamil community says it feels betrayed by the Federal Government's decision to stop a war crimes case against the Sri Lankan president proceeding in Australia.Tamil man Jegan Waran, 63, has filed charges in the Melbourne Magistrates Court against Mahinda Rajapakse, who is in Perth for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).Attorney-General Robert McClelland's permission is required for the proceedings to go ahead, but he has ruled it out. Mr McClelland says the president is legally entitled to diplomatic immunity.

Australian Tamil Congress national spokeswoman Sam Pari says the decision is disappointing.

"We actually have a magistrate who has set a date for the hearing and to think that the Australian legal system will allow this to take place but for a politician to then say that these proceedings can't go forward is very, very disappointing," she said.

"We also feel quite betrayed as well. We have an eyewitness who has found the courage to step forward."

 Photo: The Attorney-General's consent was needed for the case against Mahinda Rajapaksa to proceed. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds, file photo: Reuters)
Former Australian diplomat Bruce Haigh says Mr McClelland is wrong to claim he would have breached international law if he allowed a war crimes case against the Sri Lankan president to proceed in Australia.

Mr Haigh says it is clear Mr McClelland's decision has been purely based on politics.

"He doesn't want to do anything that would upset the apple cart as far as CHOGM's concerned," he said.

"But in terms of international law and in terms of Australian law, no, he would not be in breach.

"He hasn't looked at the law but he's reacted politically to the situation because it's CHOGM."

He says CHOGM should be a time to discuss human rights issues.

Harrowing claims
Jegan Waran, who lives in Sydney, was working as a volunteer in Tamil-held areas, and says Sri Lankan armed forces deliberately attacked clearly marked civilian infrastructure such as hospitals.

"Patients were killed, and patients who were in the hospital were killed, and there were other patients waiting for treatment - they were killed," he told Lateline on Monday night.

"There was a medical store where they kept the medicines. Those were destroyed - scattered all over the place you can see. Ambulances were destroyed. So I have seen that personally."

Sri Lanka's government has repeatedly denied allegations of war crimes.

The Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Australia, Thisara Samarasinghe, declined Lateline's request for an interview, but told 7.30 last week when he was accused of war crimes the allegations are completely without substance.

"I would categorically say it is not the learning of Sri Lankan military to fire at a hospital. That has never happened in our military," he said.

He says by defeating the Tamil Tigers, or LTTE, the Sri Lankan military in fact saved Tamil civilians.

"My most important achievement in the military was saving these civilians who were under the clutches of terrorists. So there is no base logic to target civilians. I reject that," he said.

Fraser weighs in
Former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser is attending CHOGM in Perth, and believes the Federal Government has failed to take a strong enough stance against alleged human rights abuses on both sides of the conflict in Sri Lanka.

"To this point I think we've got one leg each side of a barbed wire fence. That's a rather uncomfortable position to be in you've ever tried it," he said.

When he was prime minister, Malcolm Fraser used CHOGM to push for Rhodesia's independence as Zimbabwe.

"If I single out Robert Mugabe for a particularly warm welcome, it's because his presence here is a tangible reminder of the effectiveness of the modern Commonwealth," Mr Fraser said at the time.

Some things do not work out as planned, but Mr Fraser still believes the Commonwealth forum can and must be used for change.

"People forget that at the time it was hailed as a success; for over 10 years Mugabe governed reasonably, and it was only after that that there has been a steady and terrible decline with atrocities and brutality and thuggery taking over," he said.

"So the Commonwealth has, in the past, done substantial things, and it can do it again.

"I do believe there needs to be a fuller and better inquiry into actions of the government and of the Tamils, because the reports that have come out from not only the UN Human Rights Commission but also from the International Crisis Group suggests that there have been major atrocities by both sides in this conflict."

Mr Fraser says stronger action needs to be taken, but he doesn't think suspending Sri Lanka from the Commonwealth is the answer.

"Under current circumstances, holding the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka in two years' time is quite inappropriate," he said.

"I wouldn't rub Sri Lanka out. I'd say postpone it if other business has to be cleared up first. And we might need more time to do that."

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-10-26/tamil-community-upset-at-sri-lanka-decision/3600588?section=world

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