n November 15, 2017 the UN Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) Universal Periodic Review will once again be reviewing Sri Lanka’s human rights record. The major issue it will focus on will be the war crimes allegations against Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the LTTE.
Other than some extreme nationalists, Sri Lankans in general are not averse to trying those who had committed war crimes. Even the present government is not against charging and trying those accused of war crimes. The problem lies in the composition of the trial judges. A majority of Sri Lankans believe Sri Lanka’s legal system is capable of trying the case, but large sections of the Tamil community have no faith in local judges trying this particular case.
The UNHCR has called for an international panel of judges to try the case. Government on the other hand insists that imposing an international panel of judges infringes on the sovereignty of the country. And therein lies the problem.
In Sri Lanka’s case because the country is small, economically weak and dared to stand up in the face of opposition from the US, ex-colonial powers and India, now a US-aligned state which demanded the war be brought to an end through its mediation, it seeks to make the country an example of what happens to those who defy the neo-colonial diktat.
While this charade drags on we hope the human rights (HR )activists both at the UN, international HR organisations like Amnesty, Human rights Watch, etc., take note of the ongoing war crimes committed in Afghanistan, where the US continues to mete out collective punishment on a whole nation for a single crime committed by a single man -- Osama bin Laden, whom it has already killed.
"If the people of this world wait with bated breath, to see whether the persons responsible for the war crimes committed in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Yemen by the US and its allies are brought to justice, perhaps all wars will end, for we would all have died"
US intervention in Afghanistan from 2001 to the present, ‘according to The Cost of War project’ and published in the Huffington post estimates that the number who have died through indirect war-related causes may be as high as 360,000. The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 has led to some a half million war-related deaths in that country.
A research team from the University of Washington, Johns Hopkins University, Simon Fraser University and Mustansiriya University conducted the work on a volunteer basis using pooled internal resources instead of seeking outside funds. Researchers estimated there were an excess of 405,000 Iraqi deaths attributable to the war through mid-2011.
The US intervention in Syria’s civil war has according to the ‘World Report 2017’ led to a dire humanitarian crisis, with 6.1 million internally displaced people and 4.8 million seeking refuge abroad, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. By mid-2016, an estimated one million people were living in besieged areas and denied life-saving assistance and humanitarian aid.
The Syrian Network For Human Rights (SNHR) reports a total of 5,381 civilians have been killed from January 2017 to June 2017, including 1,159 children, 742 women and 93 from torture. The US-led wars in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq also led a mass exodus of refugees attempting to reach Europe by boat and seek asylum there. In 2015 over a million refugees crossed into Europe. More than 2,000 died making the perilous sea crossing.
In the aftermath of the Saudi-led invasion in Yemen, an outbreak of cholera took hold reportedly ten days after Sana’s sewer system stopped working in the aftermath of the Saudi-led bombing campaign. UNICEF pins the blame as being the direct consequence of two years of heavy conflict.
Collapsing health, water and sanitation systems have cut off 14.5 million people from regular access to clean water and sanitation. During May, 74,311 suspected cases, including 605 deaths, were reported. By 24 June 2017, UNICEF and WHO estimated the total number of cases in the country since the outbreak began in October had exceeded 200,000, with 1,300 fatalities, and that 5,000 new cases occurring daily.
If the people of this world wait with bated breath, to see whether the persons responsible for the war crimes committed in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Yemen by the US and its allies are brought to justice, perhaps all wars will end, for we would all have died.