Rajapakse accused of war-crimes in Melbourne Court filing

[TamilNet, Monday, 24 October 2011, 16:01 GMT]
Sri Lankan-born Australian Arunachalam Jegatheeswaran filed an indictment on war-crime charges against the Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapakse yesterday, declaring he was seeking justice for thousands who perished in a series of aerial bombardments and ground attacks on shelters, schools, hospitals, orphanages and community centres. Rajapakse was leading a delegation to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to be held in Perth.

The three charges included (1) crimes against humanity for shelling civilians in Vattakkachi (2)deprived Tamil civilians of their rights, and (3) intentionally attacking medical facilities in violation of Geneva conventions.

Full text of the article that appeared in The Age follows:

SRI Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa - who was due to arrive in Australia last night - has had a charge laid against him in a Melbourne court accusing him of war crimes in his country's civil war.

Sri Lankan-born Australian Arunachalam Jegatheeswaran filed an indictment against the President yesterday, declaring he was seeking justice for thousands who perished in a series of aerial bombardments and ground attacks on shelters, schools, hospitals, orphanages and community centres.

The court move coincides with this week's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, which the Sri Lankan President is attending. ''People are still suffering because of what he did and I think the world should know,'' Mr Jegatheeswaran told The Age. Advertisement: Story continues below Arunachalam Jegatheeswaran

''I've seen all of these things,'' he said, having been a volunteer aid worker in Sri Lanka from 2007 to 2009. ''I can't bear that the person who is responsible for all of this - who is the commander-in-chief - is coming to my country and getting off scot-free. I'm asking the highest court of justice in Australia to decide whether he is guilty or not guilty.''

The indictment had been filed under the Australian criminal code with the Melbourne Magistrates Court yesterday and set for hearing on November 29, his lawyer, Rob Stary, said.

For the case to proceed, the AFP would have to conclude there is enough material to compile a brief of evidence of criminality, which it would then refer to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for consideration. If a decision to prosecute is made, the Attorney-General's consent would be sought.

Mr Rajapaksa, who strenuously denies any wrongdoing, has already been cited in a brief of evidence compiled by the International Commission of Jurists' Australian section and handed to the AFP.

The brief recommends that the President be investigated for alleged war crimes, along with Sri Lanka's high commissioner to Australia, Thisara Samarasinghe, and other military and

political figures. Mr Samarasinghe has also denied committing war crimes and, in an interview with The Age last week, cast himself as a unifier of the Sinhalese and Tamil communities in Australia.

Mr Jegatheeswaran, 63, who arrived in Australia in 1987 and became an Australian citizen three years later, says he is still haunted by the killings and injuries he saw. ''I am living testimony to what happened. I'm trying to forget, but I just can't,'' he said.

Mr Stary said he had written to federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland last Thursday to alert him to the move and urge him to take up the case. He had also written to the Australian Federal Police yesterday asking them to serve the indictment on Mr Rajapaksa.

''The government will need to show a bit of backbone to investigate it, but there is absolutely no reason on the face of it why they should not pursue it. It's incontrovertible in our view that war crimes have been committed,'' Mr Stary said.

A spokesman for Mr McClelland said he had not been told about any criminal matter or charges relating to Mr Rajapaksa.

In a seven-page statement, Mr Jegatheeswaran describes how he returned to Sri Lanka early in 2007 to work as a volunteer and initially stayed with relatives in the Tamil stronghold of Kilinochchi.

When aid work was disrupted by the war, he volunteered to work in a camp for displaced people, before being forced to move and eventually becoming displaced himself. ''I saw Sri Lankan planes directing bombs into towns and open areas where displaced people were congregated, including areas declared as no-fire zones. I saw many hundreds of civilians killed and injured by these attacks.

''I also witnessed many civilian buildings and public facilities damaged or destroyed by aerial bombardments. I saw houses, shelters for displaced people, schools, hospitals, religious temples, orphanages and community centres shelled and bombed.''


External Links:
The Age: Sri Lankan President accused in Australian court

 

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