This was only a matter of time. I’m hearing that growing numbers of civil society groups inside Sri Lanka will continue pushing for accountability of Colombo’s vile aggression.
The Sri Lankan army ordered extra-judicial killings and assassinations during the final days of the country’s civil war, according to allegations made by a former member of the army. The source made the statements in an affidavit, obtained by The International as a part of an investigative report on the civil war, published today. The allegations were also accompanied by statements made by a witness who claims that he saw a number of serious war crimes being committed against civilians.
The assertions of the first source, who held a very senior position in the armed forces during the final period of the war, are perhaps the most significant. Having access to the flow of orders and strategy and holding a high level security clearance, his testimony appears to corroborate many claims made by the United Nations, prominent human rights organizations and a series of reports made by Channel 4 news regarding abuses carried out by the army.
The source alleges that extra-judicial killings of surrendering or captured members of the rebel Tamil Tiger group were committed as “standard operating procedure” during the last months of the war.
Furthermore, the source told the lawyer taking his deposition, which was witnessed by a public official of the state of New York, that the killings had been ordered by the Defence Secretary of Sri Lanka, Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The source claims that he was informed that the Defence Secretary had passed on “some instructions to a field commander to get rid of those LTTE cadres who are surrendering.”
In a crucial exchange recorded in the source’s testimony, he was asked: “Who would have given the order…that this is the way to handle the hardcore LTTE cadres?” The source replied: “It should come from either the secretary of the defense [sic], with the knowledge of the president involved. He also has to be kept informed. The commanders could not undertake such decisions.”
Such a view appears to agree with statements made by American diplomat Patricia Butenis in a memo released by Wikileaks last year, in which she suggests that the responsibility for the alleged crimes rests with the country’s senior civilian leadership. In a cable dated 15 January 2010, she wrote: “responsibility for many of the alleged crimes [during the war] rests with the country’s senior civilian and military leadership, including President (Rajapaksa) and his brothers and opposition candidate General Fonseka.”
In his testimony, the source also alleges that a former member of the LTTE who had been involved in extra-judicial killings was given “a freehand” to do so by the Sri Lankan military. This figure, known by the Nom de Guerre of Colonel Karuna, and also by the name of Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan, now holds the position of “Minister for National Integration” in the Sri Lankan government. The Karuna group broke away from the LTTE after an internal dispute in 2004, and shortly afterwards started fighting their former comrades in co-operation with government forces.
A Wikileaks-released US State department memo, dated May 17th 2007, referring to the Karuna group, records what appears to be the opinion of a US diplomat that they helped the army “fight the LTTE, to kidnap suspected LTTE collaborators, and to give the GoSL a measure of deniability.” She writes that similar reports had been made by a “number of trusted Embassy contacts, often at personal risk” who “have described in detail the extent of the GoSL’s involvement with paramilitary groups.”
Such statements, again, corroborate the allegations made by the source.