Look it’s only Torture okay, Can we all Move on Now?
- Abbott praises Sri Lankan Government’s tactics for ending civil war
- Praise comes as Sri Lanka stands accused of war time atrocities against civilians
- Over 40,000 – 70,000 civilians killed, thousands more missing
- David Cameron demands investigation
In case you hadn’t noticed, our esteemed Prime Minister Tony Abbott has spent this weekend in Sri Lanka attending CHOGM; the annual Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting where the leaders of some of the world’s foremost developed nations get together to talk about important things like the global economy, poverty, war, and that sort of thing.
Unfortunately, whoever booked the venue this year forgot to remember that Sri Lanka doesn’t exactly have a stellar record when it comes to issues of human rights and equality.
You see, for the last thirty-odd years, Sri Lanka has been in state of civil war, which only finally ceased in 2009.
In the final months of the war, numerous reports of serious war crimes were made against the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers) and the Sri Lankan military.
The alleged war crimes include attacks against civilians and civilian buildings by both sides; executions of combatants and prisoners, enforced disappearances by the Sri Lankan military and associated paramilitary groups, acute shortages of food, medicine, and clean water for civilians trapped in the war zone, as well as child recruitment and attacks targeting civilians including suicide bombings.
The death toll for more than 25 years of conflict is estimated to be about 70,000.
However thousands more civilians were killed in the final stages of the war by the Sri Lankan military.
THOUSANDS OF CIVILIANS MURDERED
Human rights groups state that more than 40,000 civilians were killed in the final months of the war while a government estimate says only 9,000 people perished.
Part of the difficulty in ascertaining final figures lies in the fact that few claims could be independently verified. Journalists and most aid groups were barred from the region.
A report commissioned by the UN in 2011 says it believed tens of thousands of civilians were killed in the final stage, adding that most of them were caused by government shelling.
SRI LANKA DENIES ALLEGATIONS
The Sri Lankan government has consistently rejected such figures.
The 2011 UN report also made several other allegations against the government and the rebels.
It said hospitals, UN centres and ships belonging to the international aid group the Red Cross were deliberately targeted by the army.
The Sri Lankan government stands accused of shelling a government-designated “safe zone” for civilians.
The report also accused the Tamil Tigers of using civilians as human shields, saying the rebels shot those who tried to escape. It also said that the rebels positioned heavy weapons in hospital grounds.
Sri Lanka has slammed the UN report as “biased and fraudulent.”
Human rights groups have also made public accounts of humanitarian suffering and video has also emerged apparently showing extra-judicial killings – all dismissed by the government as false.
As recently as yesterday, Sri Lanka remained resolutely defiant against calls for an independent inquiry into the alleged atrocities.
However British Prime Minister lashed out at the Sri Lankan government, vowing to press the issue with the United Nations if no progress is made by March, setting the stage for an international showdown.
“Let me be very clear,” Mr Cameron said. “If that investigation is not completed by March then I will use our position on the UN human rights council to work with the UN Human Rights commission and call for a full, credible and independent international inquiry.”
TONY ABBOTT: “SHIT HAPPENS”
Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott was less forthcoming, stopping short of apologizing on behalf of Sri Lanka’s for its alleged war-time atrocities.
“We accept that sometimes in difficult circumstances, difficult things [like torture] happen” he said.
“The important thing is to act as quickly as you can to bind up the nation’s wounds.”
Mr Abbott also praised the Sri Lankan Government for the way it put an end to its three decade long civil war.
Three countries boycotted CHOGM this year because of Sri Lanka’s human rights record.
Canada, India and Mauritius all pulled out.