War crimes charges filed against Lankan Prez

Last Updated: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - 09:21

Melbourne: Ahead of Commonwealth Heads of
Government Meeting in Perth, a Sri Lankan man, who migrated to
Australia, has filed war crimes charges against Sri Lankan
President Mahinda Rajapaksa in a city court here.

Rajapaksa is arriving today in Australia to participate
in the CHOGM to be held at Perth.

Jegan Waran, a retired engineer who migrated to Australia
from Sri Lanka, said before the Magistrate that he witnessed
and was still haunted by what he saw in the hospitals and
displaced persons camp at the end of civil war.
Waran, who returned to Sri Lanka in 2007 to volunteer in
Tamil hospitals, schools and displaced persons camps, alleged
that Sri Lankan forces had deliberately attacked
clearly-marked civilian infrastructure such as hospitals and
camps.

"Everybody who`s alive today, it`s a miracle that they
have escaped death or injury," Waran was quoted by ABC today.
Waran is an ethnic Tamil and sympathised with the Tamil
Tigers or LTTE, which fought for a Tamil nation for decades
until their defeat in 2009 by Sri Lanka`s military forces.

"Patients who were in the hospital were killed, and there
were other patients waiting for treatment, they were killed.
There was a medical store where they kept the medicines; those
were destroyed, scattered all over the place, you can see.
Ambulances were destroyed. So I have seen that personally,"
Waran said.

Waran, now an Australian citizen, said that on Christmas
Day of 2008, drones circled another hospital before Sri Lankan
Air Force planes attacked.

"The hospital, clearly a big Red Cross sign was marked on
the roof, and drones usually take surveillance, so I am very
positive that they know where the hospital is and they know it
will be damaged," he said.
This and other incidents have led him to issue summons
for three war crimes charges against Sri Lankan president.

He said, he wanted to bring these charges against the
president "because I feel that he`s the commander-in-chief and
nothing would have happened without his knowledge or his
directions, and ultimately, he should be answerable to what
was happening".

However, Sri Lankan government has repeatedly denied
allegations of war crimes.

Though accusations against Sri Lankan armed forces
deliberately attacked civilians are not new, but its the first
time charges have been brought by an Australian citizen in an
Australian court.

The federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland will need
to give final approval for the Australian indictments to
proceed.

Lawyers in the case have asked federal Attorney-General
to become involved, but a spokesman for McClelland said the
Attorney-General has not been informed of any criminal matter
or charges relating to Rajapaksa.

"We have written to the commissioner of the AFP and we
have written to the Commonwealth Attorney saying here`s your
opportunity, Rajapaksa will be in Australia, it`s appropriate
to conduct those investigations," Waran`s lawyer, Rob Stary
said.

Last week, Victoria`s chief magistrate authorised the
charges brought by Waran to proceed, noting that they
satisfied Victoria`s Criminal Procedure Act.

"These are not frivolous or vexatious complaints; they
are bona fide credible complaints," Stary said.

ABC report said the Sri Lankan government refused to
offer of an on-camera interview but issued a statement.

"The issue of the proceedings which are apparently to be
the subject of your story are plainly a violation of
Australia`s obligations under public international law," the
statement said.

Furthermore, the purported proceedings are incompetent
under Australian law.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - 08:57

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