By Niklas Jakobsson
The Weekly Hubble looks at current discussions about the International Criminal Court or topics relating to International Justice.
Controversy is on the cards in Sri Lanka after presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena announced that he will not let President Mahinda Rajapaksa, his relatives or members of the military be taken before a war crimes tribunal. The controversial statement came just a few weeks after a UN report accused several high-ranking Sri Lankan officials of committing war crimes in 2009.
The initial reaction to the publication saw the government rejecting the claims of war crimes whilst the international community called for a further inquiry. But soon after, criticism died down and the situation fell out of the public eye. Sirisena’s statement added a truckload of fuel to the dying fire, and reactions and opinions were posted all over the internet.
With over 25 years of conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Talem Eelam during which a reported 80,000-100,000 people were killed, it is already a tough task for the UN investigators to find concrete evidence. A piece for LankaWeb – a platform for creating conversations and cultivating opinions on everything Sri Lankan – argues that there is no evidence, claiming the UN report is preposterous and unfounded.
“For any war crime allegations to hold water, there must first be bodies of dead to prove a crime has been committed. As things stand neither do we have bodies nor do we have names of the dead. What a preposterous situation when we have only allegations but nothing to substantiate them except experts from overseas spending colossal amounts of someone’s money to produce reports of ‘credible witnesses’ but none of them able to produce even a skeleton!”
Producing a skeleton or two might not be needed if the president admits to the crimes himself. Rajapkasa possibly challenged the world by saying he’s committed war crimes but doesn’t care – or at least that’s the argument of an author for The Colombo Telegraph.
“President Rajapaksa has dissed the international mechanisms attempting to bring justice to victims of war crimes, while admitting he is in fact guilty of the war crimes charges that are being levelled against him.”
Despite the overwhelming outcry against the alleged crimes, some commentators have fallen into President Rajapaksa’s party line without hesitation. An opinion piece on LankaWeb argues that the case is not that different from the situation in the Former Yugoslavia. The author tries to argue against a proven genocide – comparing it to the ongoing inquiry into potential crimes in Sri Lanka. Whether successful or not in the argument – the author shows a clear split in opinions in the debate.
“Sri Lanka is accused of killing 40,000 to 175,000. The stories of dead were invented for Kosovo liberation, the same is being done in Sri Lanka. None of those that accused Serbs of ‘murder’ apologized when only 3000 bodies were discovered and the same will probably happen in Sri Lanka’s case as well. Now the newest trend is to claim ‘eyewitnesses’ and then give ‘anonymity’ for 20 years, which is a perfect cover up to hide the lies!
Twitter users added their opinions to the debate, and Simon Adams noticed an interesting anomaly in a world where politics is usually a way to discredit your rivals and win votes.
- Will the Sri Lankan government cooperate with the inquiry?
- Is the situation in Sri Lanka comparable with that of the Former Yugoslavia?
- What would be the ideal mechanism to deal with a potential trial?
Lead image: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa at a SAARC summit in Nepal on November 28, 2014 (Photo: Narendra Shrestha/ANP)
The Weekly Hubble features the most popular or controversial international justice story of the past week and reactions on social media to the news.