Elimination of LTTE leadership justified by foreign experts

*C4 News allegations credible

*Previous govt delayed investigations

*P’karan legitimate military target like Osama

*Wiki Leaks can be used to defend GoSL

* No basis for genocide charge

by Shamindra Ferdinando

The Second Mandate of Paranagama Commission prepared after having obtained international legal and military opinion has strongly justified the killing or capturing of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran during the final phase of the Vanni offensive.

Troops recovered Prabhakaran’s body on the morning of May 19, 2009, on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon.

The Commission faulted UNSG Ban Ki-moon’s Panel of Expert (PoE) for failing to examine government military strategy to free civilian hostages and bring an immediate end to three decades long war.

The International Legal Advisory Council comprised Sir Desmond de Silva, QC (UK), Sir Geoffrey Nice, QC (UK) and Prof. David M. Crane (US). The Council had the support of a panel of international experts, including retd Maj. Gen. John Holmes, one-time commanding officer of UK’s elite Special Air Services (SAS) Regiment.

The Commission compared Sri Lanka targeting Prabhakaran to that of US-led Western powers targeting Al Qaeda leader Osama-bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Justifying the Sri Lankan project to target, capture or kill Prabhakaran, the Commission had emphasised that he was a legitimate military target like Osama-bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. The Commission has asserted that as far as the Sri Lankan effort to rescue hostages was concerned, Prabhakaran’s elimination could brought immediate relief to the trapped population in contrast to bin Laden’s death.

The US troops shot dead bin Laden on May 2, 2011.

The Commission cited absence of terrorist attacks since May 19, 2009 to justify previous government’s strategy. The Commission asserted that the LTTE used civilian shields in a bid to thwart the military from targeting Prabhakaran, hence creating a challenging task for the military, namely in rescuing civilians and either killing or capturing the LTTE leadership.

While strongly denying allegations that the government had deliberately targeted the Vanni civilian population in accordance with an overall plan to annihilate them, the Commission has asserted that the military acted decisively to save the people trapped on the war front. Maj. General Holmes has asserted that had the annihilation of over 290,000 been the advancing army’s objective, it could have been achieved within two or three days. The SAS veteran has said that Sri Lanka had the wherewithal to massacre the population in days.

However, the Commission has strongly recommended what it calls judge-led investigations to verify allegations made by various parties including the British media outfit the Channel 4 News. While criticizing C4 News for not providing original video footage of the alleged battlefield executions to enable the government to conduct investigations, the Commission asserted: "... despite some opinions to the contrary, the weight of independent analysis of the video footage suggests the images are unlikely to be faked. The Commission is mindful of the fact that forensic pathology and other corroborative expert evidence support the video footage as genuine."

The Commission stressed that individual cases highlighted by the British media outfit underscored the urgent need for a credible judge-led investigation by the Sri Lankan government. Declining to exclude the possibility of battlefield executions as claimed by the British media outfit, the Commission has warned that in case the accusations were proven, an accountability mechanism was required. The Commission has faulted the previous government and the army for failing to complete investigations into Channel 4 News allegations in spite of an assurance given during the 25th Geneva session in 2014.

The Commission has questioned the offensive being called a humanitarian mission in the wake of Channel 4 accusations. The Commission stressed that in fact the last phase of the campaign had been meant to eliminate the top LTTE leadership, which the expert body called a legitimate military target.

Referring to LTTE efforts to save its leadership at the expense of the civilian interests, the Commission has cited several US diplomatic cables leaked by Wiki Leaks to prove the US and ICRC awareness of ground realities, particularly efforts made by the army to minimize civilian casualties. Having studied a considerable number of disclosed Wiki Leaks cables pertaining to Sri Lanka, the Commission has pointed out that the UK court had upheld that the Wiki Leaks cables could be admissible in court. Hence, the assertion was that the Wiki Leaks cables could be brought before judge-led investigation to examine accountability issues. The Commission has pointed out that the US cleared Sri Lanka of crimes against humanity on the basis of information received from the ICRC as revealed by another leaked US diplomatic cable.

Commenting on the alleged execution of surrendering LTTE personnel a few days before the conclusion of the war, the Commission has called for a judge-led investigation. The investigation should examine all victims named in various Channel 4 News documentaries, disappearance of busloads of persons who had surrendered to the army as well as attacks on hospital and makeshift hospital facilities. However, in the case of last allegation, the investigation should take into consideration the LTTE positioning heavy weapons in close proximity to hospitals, the Commission has said.

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