US's war crimes report, a canary in coalmine - Rapp

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 15 September 2009, 11:44 GMT]
With United Nations remaining impotent to act carry out investigations into the conduct of Sri Lanka military during the last several months of the war, a report to be released by the United States State Department on September 21, remains, perhaps the last credible instrument in the hands of the West to begin to find the truth on the allegations of war-crimes by the Sri Lanka Government and the Liberation Tigers, a spokesperson for a US-based activist group said. Stephen Rapp, US's ambassdor at large for War Crimes Issues (WCI) told Time that his office is responsible "to collect information on ongoing atrocities... [and] give a signal [when] something serious is occuring."

Responding to Time's question on what his office's focus is, Rapp said, "There are situations that have already been handed to us. There is a report from the Department of State on the war in Sri Lanka due in Congress [on Sept. 21]. Additionally the office, together with the Secretary for Global Affairs and the Secretary of State, has the responsibility to collect information on ongoing atrocities and it is then the responsibility of the President to determine what steps might be taken towards justice. Like the canary in the coalmine, we give the signal that something very serious is occurring."

The Guardian, in a damaging article on Sri Lanka's conduct after the war, faulted Colombo's approach arguing as follows: "[instead of giving political and civil rights to the Tamils in the areas where they are majority], president Mahinda Rajapaksa offers Tamils a bargain based on amnesia, not justice: forget the past and your future will be assured. The offer carries the latent threat: reject it and face the consequences of being an enemy of the state."

Responding to a similar issue, when Time asked Ambassador Rapp "if the requirements of peace get in the way of justice?" the Ambassador responded "I think we've learned that contrary to fears, holding people accountable for atrocities does not make the problem worse, it makes it better. When Milosevic was indicted for ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, people were convinced that they would never have peace and he would be worse than ever. Within a short time he was charged and jailed in his own country.

"Justice is a necessary ingredient to the establishment of peace. There's always an argument that justifies doing nothing, but you can't defer it forever," Rapp said.

In the amendment 1169 to H.R. 2346, an Act making supplemental appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2009, U.S. Senators had earlier proposed to "prohibit certain forms of financial support to Sri Lanka," unless certification is made by the Secretary of State that "Sri Lanka has taken certain steps to address the humanitarian situation in areas affected by the conflict in Sri Lanka."

The forthcoming war-crimes report from the US State Department is mandated by the above Act.


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External Links:
Time: Stephen Rapp: Obama's Point Man on War Crimes

 

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