‘Unfair to insist Sri Lanka to include foreign judges to probe alleged war crimes’ – Lord Naseby

When UK uses its own judges to inquire into Iraqi invasion



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By Sujeeva Nivunhella in London


 


Lord Naseby said it was unfair to demand the Sri Lanka government to have foreign judges to investigate alleged war crimes, while the United Kingdom was using its own judges to inquire into the Iraqi invasion by the British government.


Speaking at the House of Lords on the Chilcot report on the invasion of Iraq by the British government and the then British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, Lord Naseby said that he was surprised to see the UK and US governments endorsing the recommendation of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to include foreign judges in the Sri Lanka war crimes panel, which is against the Geneva Convention.


Continuing, he said: "I supported the action that was taken in going to war against Iraq. I did it because of the environment at the time. We forget too easily what the environment was: 9/11, other atrocities against the United States, considerable evidence of chemical warfare and of provisions for chemical warfare and the evidence that was given to Parliament.


"There is no way that Tony Blair is a war criminal or that he is guilty of war crimes. The action he took as Prime Minister was taken in the interests of our country. ?He was the democratically elected leader of our country, not a dictator. This maxim about democratically elected leaders must apply all over the world as far as leadership is concerned.


"Others have commented on military equipment. Whatever one says, it was an absolute shambles and a total disgrace. Post-war planning was poor. Post-Brexit planning is poor. That lies with the Prime Minister of the day and his Cabinet.


"Have we learned the lessons, or have we had to wait for Chilcot to learn them? As far as I can see, we have not. Why did we go into Libya? It is not at all clear to me. Why did we try to force democracy on Egypt? We must have known that the Muslim Brotherhood had been trying since 1921 to get "democratically elected". We supported elections there and what happened? It got elected, and then we discovered that it is almost as bad as Daesh, and the army in Egypt moved in again.


"Why did we not think twice about Syria? Why did those of us who know a little about that part of the world not realise that it is the fourth Sunni/Shia war. The only thing that is slightly different is that there are far more western-educated people on one side. That war had no real implications for the West. Why did we not check who the people supporting the new democracy in Syria were? Surely we should have been able to discover that the vast majority of them are jihadists.


"I urge my noble friends on the Front Bench to get a proper communications strategy and action plan geared solely against Daesh and to work with Assad to implement it. If that does not happen, we shall once again be in terrible turmoil.


"Action Aid and Christian Aid are right to raise the problem of the 3 million people—at least 3 million refugees, poor souls—with nowhere to live and no livelihood, wondering day after day what is going to happen to them. Have we in the West really got an action plan to deal with that? If we have, I hope that somebody is going to deploy it so that we can discuss it.


"This may surprise most though not all of your Lordships but I need to relate Chilcot to the situation in Sri Lanka today. A press release on 7 June from our High Commission in Colombo after the visit of no less a person than the head of the British Diplomatic Service, Sir Simon McDonald, concludes:


"The UK will continue its program of support for Sri Lanka to help the government fulfill its goals on reconciliation, human rights and strengthening democracy".


"That is fine, but there is a parallel with Iraq where the UK was, in effect, tackling terrorism in the form of weapons of mass destruction. A battle is undertaken.?


The Chilcot inquiry’s assessment was undertaken by British judges and members of the Privy Council. No foreign judges were called in to do this assessment. We see how well it has been done. In Sri Lanka, there was a war against the terrorists, the Tamil Tigers. However, instead of its being assessed against the Geneva convention, to which I have just referred, the UK and US Governments have endorsed investigation by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights with the addition of foreign judges.


"This is wrong and misconceived. After all, there is a reasonable number of fair-minded judges across the ethnic groups who could undertake the task of judging what happened against the principles of the Geneva convention.


"If the UK Government really want to help, they should release the full text of the dispatches of our military attaché there during the war, Lieutenant-Colonel Gash, containing his independent observations. The Ministers here will know that for two years I have been trying to obtain these under the Freedom of Information Act. However, so far I have received some 30 pages of those dispatches, provided reluctantly, some very heavily redacted.


"As I go to the next stage of the tribunal, I find the Foreign Office hiding behind policy that releasing these dispatches might undermine relationships with other countries such as Saudi Arabia, which is hardly a democracy. I ask the Foreign Office to reflect carefully on the full implications of Chilcot, namely that we should treat each situation separately and recognise that the truth will get out. It is better to publish evidence that is available than to hide it.


"If in future we, as a country, follow that in any engagements that we may have, we shall be a country that can be proud of what we achieve democratically. Parliament owes a huge debt to Chilcot for what he has done. It must be for Parliament to decide how to take it forward".


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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