A concerned group of Sri Lankan foreign policy observers have referred to as upon President Maithripala Sirisena to right away table “Presidential Commission’s International Advisors Report” on the final phase of the conflict at the ongoing Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva.
We publish beneath the petition sent by a group of civil society members, retired diplomats, ex Parliamentarians and expatriates requesting the President of Sri Lanka to table the Report on the 2nd Mandate of the Presidential Commission on Missing Persons immediately at Human Rights Council.
His Excellency Maithripala Sirisena,
President of Sri Lanka
We the undersigned, are very concerned about the mechanisms proposed in the Report of the UN Higher Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Investigation on Sri Lanka, which was presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva by Prince Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, on the 16th of September.
We are certain perturbed that the UNHRC conclusions had no opportunity to consider the rigorous legal & military evaluation conducted by the international advisory council, that had on the 15th of August 2015 completed its process by issuing a report to the Government on the final phase of the war in Sri Lanka as stipulated in the 2nd Mandate of the Presidential Commission to Investigate into Complaints concerning Missing Persons, otherwise known as the “Paranagama Commission“.
Therefore, we would like to draw your consideration to two separate paragraphs in UNHCR report, which itself laments the reality that the UN Human Rights Council members and specially the OHCR group that undertook a complete investigation into alleged severe violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by each parties in Sri Lanka throughout the period covered by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), had been not privy to the report on the 2nd Mandate of the Paranagama Commission. The advanced unedited version of the report that was released on the 11th of September 2015 stated as follows:
“Following signals of engagement by the newly elected Government of Sri Lanka in January 2015, and the possibility that additional details might grow to be offered for the investigation, the Human Rights Council accepted the Higher Commissioner’s recommendation to defer consideration of the report until the 30th session.”
“At time of writing there had been indications that the Presidential Commission to Investigate into Complaints regarding Missing Persons appointed by the earlier Government had received a further extension to full its perform, despite widespread issues raised about its credibility and effectiveness. The International Advisory Council appointed by the preceding Government to assistance the Commission on the second, expanded mandate it had been provided to investigate alleged violations in the final stages of the conflict has not been extended but is believed to have submitted its report. In June 2015, two additional Commissioners were appointed to expedite the hearing of situations. In July 2015, the Government also announced the appointment of a particular investigation group to expedite investigation into some instances, despite the fact that its status is not recognized .”
It is clear from perusing the above paragraphs of the Geneva HRC’s Report, (please draw your attenton to the highlighted section) that the UN Human Rights Council was awaiting the release of the report carried out as per the 2nd mandate of the Paranagama Commission. It is also curious as to how the certain reference to the International Advisory Council, which was naturally referring to the professional panel assembled to carry out the 2nd mandate of teh Paranagama Commission, had been omitted in the final version of the HRC Reprot that was released to the public on the 16th of September. We would urge your Excellency to investigate this matter, and find out as to who from the Ministry of External Affairs had advised the UN HRC to drop this reference from their report.
As your Excellency knows, this Commission was established by the previous Government of Sri Lanka in response to the calls by the international community to have a credible domestic investigation process, and had its mandate expanded on the 15th of July 2014, to inquire into the matters of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and therefore secured the services of numerous leading internationally renowned legal and military experts like Sir Desmond De Silva Q.C. , Professor David Crane, Sir Geoffrey Good Q.C. and Major General John Holmes, the former commander of the SAS, to give help to the Commission with regard to international humanitarian law, international human rights law, customary international law and the laws of armed conflict usually.
The second mandate of the Paranagama Commission was as a result expected to inquire into the information and circumstances that resulted in the principle loss of civilian life in the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka and to issue a report on or before the 15th of August 2015. Sir Desmond De Silva Q.C. and Professor David Crane, were each chief prosecutors of an international criminal tribunal. They were both picked personally by the Secretary General of the United Nations to discharge these roles. In that part, they were both appointed at a level of an Beneath Secretary General of the United Nations. Sir Geoffrey Nice Q.C. was the lead prosecutor in the case against Slobodan Milosevic, the former President of Yugoslavia. In reality, all 3 of them, have every single prosecuted a head of state. Sir Desmond prosecuted the former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor, and had him arrested and prosecuted for war crimes, for which he is now serving 50 years in prison.
It is imperative, that this 1st official report from the Government of Sri Lanka, prepared with help from independent international legal and military pros, is tabled forthwith to the ongoing Human Rights Council in Geneva, so that it tends to make a meaningful impact. It is only correct that the 47 voting member nations of the Human Rights Council have an opportunity to read and digest Sri Lanka’s personal independent report in order that they may make an informed judgement prior to the conclusions of the final deliberations on Sri Lanka by the HRC.
We are deeply concerned to learn from media reports and the statements issued by the Minister of External Affairs, that this vital report dealing with the 2nd mandate of the Paranagama Commission, which has been produced offered to your workplace more than a month ago, has not as yet been presented to the members of the UN Human Rights Council, which commenced its sessions on the 14th September 2015.
It has been recommended that the present Government has been influenced by a some lobbies to delay the release of this report till following the Geneva sessions are successfully over, so that the unverified allegations of up to 40,000 civilian deaths in the final months of the war contained in the Darusman Report remains unchallenged and intact.
The announcement created in Geneva by the Minister of External Affairs, Hon. Mangala Samaraweera, that the Paranagama Report would be presented to the Sri Lankan Parliament later this month suggests that the Government of Sri Lanka has been misled into keeping this report from becoming regarded as by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. It is critical that your Excellency is appropriately briefed on the Geneva method, and we would like to take the liberty to bring to your attention that though the OHCHR had given the Government of Sri Lanka five days to respond, and that deadline has already expired, the Government nevertheless has the correct to table this report at the UNHRC, as the final resolution draft is nonetheless in circulation, and would only get finalized on the 24th of September 2015, and only be taken in for consideration on the 30th of September.
Consequently, in the interest of transparency and excellent governance, we are incredibly concerned that this critical Paranagama Report, prepared with the help of the aforementioned distinguished experts, that was expected to delve into the allegations created by the Darusman Panel, which the OHCHR was expecting has not been presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva this week.
As Your Excellency is also conscious, certain lobbies produced an attempt to influence you against Sir Desmond De Silva, QC and the international advisory council that ready this crucial report for the Paranagama Commission, by submitting a petition to you on the 4th of August 2015, imploring on you to rescind his appointment and discontinue the panel just ten days before they have been anticipated to release their report!
Your Excellency would have noticed that the petition was also copied to Prince Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Mr. Pablo de Grieff, the United Nations Unique Rapporteur on Truth, Justice, Reparations and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence, in a deliberate try to discredit the Paranagama Report in advance of its release. The petition based its request on a complaint to the Bar Requirements Board in England against Sir Desmond.
What was hidden from everyone’s eyes, was that the organization creating the complaint in the UK was the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace & Justice, which has listed the co-author of the Darusman Report, Ms Yasmin Sooka, as its Executive Director!
The TNA M.P. Mr. M.A. Sumanthiran, led the campaign against Sir Desmond and the international panel in Sri Lanka, raising the matter in Parliament on the 17th of March 2015 and urged the government itself to forward a complaint against Sir Desmond de Silva to the Bar Requirements Board in England. Thankfully better sense prevailed, and we commend your Government for ignoring Mr. Sumanthiran’s request.
Possessing failed in his try to convince your Government to do this, Mr. Sumanthiran seemed to have secured Yasmin Sooka’s help to lodge the complaint in the UK. That complaint was utilised by many neighborhood civil society groups as the basis to send you a petition, in a last minute try to sabotage the 2nd Mandate Report of the Paranagama Commission.
There seems to be a nexus in between numerous men and women and groups, some of them separatist groups, based on their determination to tarnish the image of Sri Lanka with in specific the false allegation of “genocide” against Sri Lanka. Consequently, they are anxious to avoid the release of the aforementioned Paranagama Report to the UN Human Rights Council, as that has been ready with inputs from an extremely credible and eminent panel of advisers.
Maintaining reports unavailable to the public and international stakeholders is not constant with the great governance principles. Transparency is vital, and it is the duty and obligation of the Government to hold the UN Human Rights Council fully informed at the earliest chance feasible, as the reconciliation process in our nation can only succeed if all communities are satisfied that our elected Government is acting impartially and with credibility.
We the undersigned, consequently, call upon Your Excellency to give instructions to the Minister of External Affairs of Sri Lanka to immediately table the report dealing with the 2nd mandate of the Paranagama Commission at the UN Human Rights Council and also the Udalagama Report and to make the very best efforts to distribute copies of this report widely to not just the 47 members states of the HRC, but to all 193 member states of the UN represented in Geneva, and to all the NGO’s and other international bodies attending the UN HRC sessions in Geneva, such as members of the international media and feel tank institutions.
We also urge Your Excellency to present this report yourself to the Secretary Common of the United Nations, when you check out New York later this month to attend the UN General Assembly Sessions. Please also use that opportunity to distribute the report widely to all member countries of the UN, as the choices in Geneva are influenced by the political policy decision taken at their respective capitals.
The citizens of Sri Lanka and the expatriate Sri Lankan community are awaiting a credible response from the Government of Sri Lanka in the wake of the Geneva OHCHR report. It is the citizens of Sri Lanka who are the ones who will be most affected by the choices taken in Geneva, and therefore to have an informed view of our contemporary history in their journey towards reconciliation is essential.
Given the feasible impact on the people of Sri Lanka of choices that will be taken in Geneva, the release of these reports must be carried out right away, and not soon after choices are taken by the UN Human Rights Council.
Your Excellency, thank you for your consideration of our request.
Signatories to this petition
Hon. Veerasingham Anandasangaree, Sri Lanka
Former member of Parliament of Sri Lanka, and present Leader, Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF)
Prof Rajiva Wijesingha, Colombo Sri Lanka
(Former member of Parliament of Sri Lanka and Head of the Peace Secretariat and delegate to UNHRC)
Dr. Dayan Jayetilleka, Colombo, Sri Lanka
(Former Ambassador/Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Former Vice- President of UNHRC former Ambassador to France and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO)
Tamara Kunanayagam, Paris, France
(Former Ambassador/Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva)
Chris Dharmakirti, Colombo, Sri Lanka
(Former head of National Council for Economic Improvement (NCED) and Strategic Enterprise Management Agency (SEMA), and delegate to UNCLOS in New York)
Dr. Ranil Senanayake, Colombo, Sri Lanka
(Systems Ecologist, and delegate to UNEP)
Dr. N.P. Wijayananda
(Former Chairman of the Geological Survey & Mines Bureau and delegate to UNCLOS in New York)
Dr. Kumar Rupesinghe, Colombo Sri Lanka
(Human Rights Activist & Specialist on Conflict Resolution)
Dr. T.L. Gunuruwan
(Former secretary to the Ministry of Transport & University Academic)
Manohara Silva, Colombo, Sri Lanka
(Constitutional Law Expert)
Key General Lalin Fernando, Colombo, Sri Lanka
(Retired Officer of the Army)
Col. Anil Amarasuriya, Homagama, Sri Lanka
(Retired Officer of the Army)
Chanaka Ellawala, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Dr. Ivan Amarasinghe, UK
Dr. Anula Wijesundera , Colombo, Sri Lanka
Sanja Jayatilleka, Colombo Sri Lanka
Hasina Leelarathna, Los Angeles, USA
H.L.D. Mahindapala, Australia
Asoka Weerasinghe, Ottawa, Canada
Ajantha Premarathna, Sri Lanka
L Wanasundera, Sri Lanka
Mal Munasinha, Ontario, Canada
Ranjith Soysa, Victoria, Australia
Mahinda Gunasekera, Toronto, Canada
Surein Raghvan, Toronto, Canada
Gamini Gunewardena, Sri Lanka
Mal Munasinha, Ontario, Canada
Charles Perera, Sri Lanka
David Blacker, Sri Lanka
Hon. Prime Minister Of Sri Lanka
Hon. Minister of External Affairs of Sri Lanka
Mr. Maxwell Paranagama, Chairman of the Presidential Commission on Missing Persons
Mr. Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Mr. Pablo de Grieff – United Nations Special Rapporteur on Truth, Justice, Reparations and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence
Yasmin Sooka, Executive Director, International Truth & Justice Project Sri Lanka
M.P. M Sumanthiran, Tamil National Alliance
47 members of the UN Human Rights Council:
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