Jim Macdonald of AI boxed into corner by Mango in 2009

Mango

Pic of injured children from AI web site

Web Editor: This presentation isolates and recuperates a selected thread of discussion within postings on the Sri Lankan situation in 2009 provided by Jim Macdonald of Amnesty International, USA, in the official AI web site in September 2009. I requested “Mango” to extract his series of engagements with Macdonald on this site, excluding other entries and other cross-talk (some quite virulent). The reasons for this step are clarified in a separate post. Michael Roberts.

 Pic of Tamil people escaping from the LTTE’s last redoubt to western shores of Nandikadal lagoon

Summary: Amnesty International has been a vociferous and consistent critic human rights abuses committed by ‘both sides’ during Sri Lanka’s war against the LTTE. Yet opinions expressed by its ‘country specialist’, Jim McDonald in 2009 shows that AI’s real thinking correlated deeply with the ‘Righteous’ mindset. His beliefs can be summarised as follows:

–        Sri Lanka didn’t try anything other than a military solution to end the conflict.

–        Sri Lanka disregarded risks to civilians in the war zone.

–         The government never sought a political solution

–         Demands for autonomy were never met by the government

–         The government didn’t try to ‘undercut’ the LTTE’s support base

–         Refused to provide evidence that AI had not received funding from EU official bodies.

 Jim McDonald is the Country Specialist for Sri Lanka at Amnesty International USA.

 Notes to reading this document: comments and replies are in chronological order as they appeared on the AI USA blog. When I have quoted from Jim’s writing in my own replies, I have used the phrase [Jim says] or similar. Typos and other errors have been left as originally written. The most ‘interesting’ admissions and/or statements made by Jim McDonald have been highlighted in bold and blue text.  SEE  “Sri Lanka: Time for action by the UN” http://tinyurl.com/36rqtg5 as well as http://tinyurl.com/36rqtg5 and http://tinyurl.com/3s534vr and http://tinyurl.com/yhcrg5m.

Note from MANGO: “some temporal oddities are seen on this particular blog posting. I was being censored by AI, hence the double and repeat posts. All times and dates are visible on the originalALblog post.”

 Mango says

September 15th, 2009 at 8:01 am

 Will AI indemnify Sri Lanka if IDPs are sent back to their original homes in mine-uncleared areas? Perhaps AI could create a chart listing compensation for loss of life and limb due to mine injuries. How about $500 for a leg? Or is that too expensive? What is AI doing about returning Sri Lankans previously ‘ethnically cleansed’ out of their homes by the LTTE, who are still languishing in miserable IDP camps? Remember them?

Or is AI still going through the grieving process at the total annihilation of its favourite terror group, the LTTE?

One pedantic point: GOSL will argue this isn’t ‘arbitrary’ detention, but necessary to weed out the remaining hard-core LTTE cadres, who are amongst the refugees. There may be other hard-core cadres in the rest of the country, but major combat occured in the North East, so obviously, they’ll be in amongst this group of IDPs. So AI’s logic is faulty. No real suprise there.

 Jim McDonald Says: September 15th, 2009 at 7:15 pm

In response to Mango’s comments, I would say:1. AI is not asking that displaced civilians be returned to unsafe areas; if there’s any evidence to the contrary, please disclose it. We are asking that civilians not be confined against their will in the camps. Please see the following AI public statement for a full explanation of these issues: http://www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?id=ENGNAU2009091113076&lang=e.

2. AI has written about the Muslims displaced by the LTTE in 1990 from the north; see our 2006 report “Waiting to go home” (at http://www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?id=ENGASA370042006&lang=e). That report gives our position on those and other internally displaced civilians whose displacement occurred more than a year ago.

3. AI has over the years repeatedly condemned the human rights abuses committed by the LTTE. As one example, please see http://www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?id=ENGUSA20080606003&lang=e.

4. The government is detaining civilians, including entire families, on the basis of their being Tamil and coming from areas formerly controlled by the LTTE. The government has no further evidence that they were LTTE members or have broken any laws, but continues to detain them indefinitely. That constitutes discrimination and arbitrary detention, both prohibited by the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. The burden is on the government to justify detaining anyone; a person doesn’t have to prove his/her innocence to have freedom of movement.

5. As to whether AI receives any funds from theUKgovernment or the EU, I’m checking on that and will report back once I find out.

Mango Says:

September 15th, 2009 at 7:16 pm

Jim,

The arrogance of unelected people such as yourself to demand things from the democratically elected SL govt never fails to surprise me. AI and its lackeys were soundly slapped down at the last UNHCR meeting, but it seems you just don’t get the message. Ms Pillay’s proven partiality towards the LTTE is simply ignored in your commentary.

The most effective means of protecting the human rights (and lives) of all Sri Lankans was to annihilate the LTTE in battle. I’d be pleased if you would direct me to an AI statement congratulating the SL govt on having taken this vital step rather than having continued on an endless series of peace talks and of course endless war. Or would you (and AI) rather have had yet more pointless peace talks with the LTTE?

Finally, were you in favour of the creation of an ethnically pure Tamil enclave withinSri Lanka(as wished for by the LTTE) or for the maintenance of a unitary, mult-ethnic state?

Don’t be shy. Tell us. Time for action by AI.

Jim McDonald Says:

September 15th, 2009 at 8:05 pm

In response to Mango’s comment of 7:16 P.M. on Sept. 15, AI has not taken and does not take a position on whether there should be an independent state for the Tamil minority inSri Lanka, or on what form of governmentSri Lankashould have. AI works to oppose human rights abuses, whether by governments likeSri Lanka’s or by armed opposition groups like the LTTE.

With respect to Mango’s comment about annihilating the LTTE in battle, I note that the Sri Lankan Attorney-General’s statement today to the UN Human Rights Council inGenevacontained the following: “It is respectfully highlighted that with the dismantling of the LTTE in May 2009, there is not even a semblance of a conflict inSri Lanka.Sri Lankahas restored normalcy in all parts of the country…” And even so, roughly 264,000 people are being held indefinitely in camps because they’re Tamils from the former war zone, and 14 journalists and other media workers have been killed since 2006 with no one held accountable for their murders. I’m glad we don’t hear of civilians being caught in bombings by the LTTE or other attacks. But AI will keep campaigning against human rights abuses while they go on.

Mango Says:

September 16th, 2009 at 5:43 am

Dear Jim,

Thanks for taking the time to reply to my points. I appreciate it.

I’m still puzzled by this: If AI’s position is to reduce HR abuses (an unarguably laudable aim), these HR abuses will be quickly diminished by cessation of hostilities. That could only ever have happened by the total destruction of the LTTE’s military & terrorist capacity, by the state engaging in legitimate war.

Ergo, AI must be delighted that the SL Govt have crushed the LTTE, no?

AI have given their thoughts and positions on so many different moral quandries including the abortion, alleged anthropogenic global warming, Dignity in Poverty (whatever that means), arms control etc. Yet you’re unable to say whether the annihilation of the LTTE is a ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’ thing.

As for the IDPs, I’m surprised that you make such a basic error of fact by stating that approx 300k SL citizens are being held “indefinitely”. You must know that this is simply not true. They’re being held for a limited time (estimates ranging from 3-6 months) for the reasons mentioned earlier.

Or would you prefer them to be released back to their original homes before demining is complete?

In the interests of consistency (after all I presume AI treats Western bloc regimes without favour) what steps have AI taken to abolish indefinite detention in theUKandUSA? In theUK, (Mother of Parliaments ©, Home of Democracy ©, The Rule of Law etc ©, All-Round Moral Arbiters ©), suspected criminals (usually Islamic terror suspects) are now being held in indefinite detention. Just like apartheid eraSouth Africaor a banana republic.

I should also of course mentionGuantanamo.. owned by the world’s leading pace-setter of human rights adherence, best practice and Moral Example, the USA – notwithstanding Iraq and um…Afghanistan.

What steps have AI taken to impeach ex-President Bush, ex-PM Blair and the Heads of their respective Armed Services for their complicity in their blatant and undeniable HR abuses?

Murdered journalists: absolutely agree. This is a real scandal and I trust AI will maintain relentless pressure on SL govt for action in pursuing the murderers. In the interests of consistency, have AI pursued the USAF and US Army to find and punish those responsible murdering Al-Jazeera journalists inKabulandBaghdad. In professional armies, everything is written down. Attack orders, target selection & clearance etc. It shouldn’t be too difficult to get this info from your DoD. Pres Bush even admitted it, so AI doesn’t have to go very far to find the culprit.

Or are Western bloc countries exempt from the consequences of HR abuses?

Jim McDonald Says:

September 16th, 2009 at 8:38 am

In response to Mango’s comment of Sept. 15, 5:43 A.M., I would say:

1. The Sri Lankan government is indeed holding the IDPs “indefinitely.” It had told the Indian government in late May that 80% would be released in 180 days. This percentage was later revised to 60%. Later reports also said the “180 days” meant by the end of 2009, though 180 days from late May actually ends in late November. A Sri Lankan minister recently said publicly that a majority would be released by the end of next January. In President Rajapaksa’s recent interview in Le Figaro, he declined to specify a date by which the IDPs would be released, though at one point in the interview it appears that he’s saying it could take another 6 months or a year, which would mean September 2010 (it’s unclear whether he’s referring to the release of the IDPs or the ending of the state of emergency at that point in the interview). Other statements by other government officials have only stressed the need for screening of the IDPs before they can be released; there’s no timeframe given in most statements that I’ve seen.

2. As I’ve said earlier, releasing the IDPs from the camps is not the same as sending them to mined areas. I know of no one advocating that anyone should be sent to areas which haven’t been demined. But the IDPs should be free to live elsewhere in the country outside the camps.

3. Those interested in AI’s statements and documents about human rights violations by other governments, such as theU.S.and theU.K., can find them on the AIUSA website.

Mango Says:

September 16th, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Jim,

Again thanks for the reply. The time frame for releasing the IDPs from the final war against the LTTE was a movable feast (2 months to six months or more), but NOT indefinite detention. So I hope you’ll amend your copy to reflect that.

Indiaand other close neighbours rather than AI will be able to influence the SL govt. AI had better get used to the fact that its’ voice, power and influence has been fatally and possibly permanently undermined in SL. Recent attacks on SL, especially during the recent failed attempt to censure SL at the UN, literally days after victory, will not be forgotten or forgiven. If AI had engaged less in the fishwife style hectoring and more in quiet diplomacy and worked with the govt, it might have achieved more for the IDPs.

The govt is still operating under a heavy security environment, just three months after the end of a 30-year war. Some IDPs may have relatives in other parts of SL, but many do not. The majority want to return to their homes, in villages and town heavily damaged during the fighting. So, should these people be dispersed throughout the island to stay in hostels and shacks if they don’t have friends and relatives with spare rooms?

If you have time, I’d be grateful for any answers to my original questions about sources of AI funding and also whether you and AI are pleased that the LTTE have been destroyed.

Jim McDonald Says:

September 16th, 2009 at 5:55 pm

In response to Mango’s comment of Sept. 15, 5:27 P.M., I have three points:

1. For someone’s detention to be “definite,” there would be a known date by which the government would be obligated to release them. The Sri Lankan government has not, to my knowledge, publicly disclosed any such date; rather, the statements made by the government emphasize a precondition set by the government (not set, I would note, pursuant to any law) which is dependent on the government’s own action to be fulfilled. The IDPs detention is indefinite and arbitrary.

2. Asking for the civilians to be released from the camps is not saying that they must be removed from the camps. If any civilians have no other safe place to stay until their home villages, of course they should be allowed to remain in the camps, but would have the freedom to come and go from them.

3. As I said earlier, I’m checking on the question about UK/EU funding; when I know the answer, I’ll report back.

Mango Says:

September 17th, 2009 at 6:10 am

Hi Jim,

Since we’re arguing about the definition of ‘indefinite detention’ in the Sri Lankan context, I’d argue that we’re only improving on from ‘indefinite detention best practice’ already achieved so brilliantly and effectively by the Human Rights Gold Standards, the USA and UK. These countries have shown the world how to implement indefinite detention (Guantanamo & UK terror suspects at Belmarsh), whilst the SL govt has committed itself to allowing the IDPs to return to their original homes as soon as practicable.

In the SL case, this is ‘definite’ detention as there are targets to achieve for the release of the IDP population. You appear not to recognise the higher duty the SL govt has to the entire population, to ensure that LTTE’s terror infrastructure is completely destroyed beyond resurrection. That can only be done by screening etc.

So the IDPs are not being ‘arbitarily’ detained, but rather, as a consequence of having arrived from an area of major combat. Whilst the overwhelming majority are undoubtedly innocent of sedition and insurrection against the legitimate govt of SL, a significant minority were involved in violence against the state.

Digressing slightly, it appears that Australian Indefinite Detention law and practice is even ‘better’ than theUSorUK. Some poor bloke was detained without trial for over seven years. It seems that SL has quite a way to go before we catch up with best-practice Western bloc indefinite detention.

Jim McDonald Says:

September 17th, 2009 at 8:34 am

In response to Mango’s comment of Sept. 17, 6:10 A.M., I have nothing further to add to what I’ve already said on the issue of indefinite and arbitrary detention. If there are new arguments or information or points to be addressed, I would be happy to respond.

In response to Bharatha’s comment of Sept. 16, 6:56 P.M., I would have the following points:

1. I appreciate the link to the OCHA report; I’d seen that report last night as well. It appears from the report that it’s just dealing with those IDPs displaced after April 2009 when counting the number of IDPs. Is it clear that that’s the same population being referred to in the report’s statistics on returning IDPs? In any event, the main point shouldn’t be lost: the vast majority of the IDPs are still being held in the camps.

2. I didn’t understand the reference in Bharatha’s comment to “trying to pressurize the GOSL economically” as there was nothing in my blog post about trying to exert economic pressure on the Sri Lankan government.

3. With respect to generalizations, my blog post had no reference to a “Sinhalese government” so I don’t know what the comment is referring to there. I did refer to “Tamils” in the camps. My understanding is that the IDPs who were displaced in the last stages of the fighting and are now being held in the internment camps are all Tamils. Is there evidence to the contrary? I am aware that the majority of the Tamil population inSri Lankais outside the camps. I wasn’t trying to address any issues concerning the Tamil population outside the camps in my blog post, and I’m not sure I see the relevance of issues concerning that population to the current discussion.

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Sri Lanka: international investigation still needed http://tinyurl.com/367t6ab

 

Mango Says:

September 17th, 2009 at 11:06 am

Jim,

GOSL reply should be very short: “after you, old chap”.

FirstUSAandUKare investigated by the UN for causing huge civilian deaths in their little wars.

Here’s my rough reckoning of civilians killed due to Western bloc military action.

Gulf War 1: 50,000+ civilian deaths? (4k from direct action and 45k+ from post-war sanctions.)

Gulf War 2: another 50,000+ civilian deaths?

Afghanistan: 10,000+ dead civilians?

Approx total = 110,000+ civilian deaths, plus inIraq’s case, the near complete destruction of previously functioning country. Hmmmm.

Let’s see if AI and HRW have got the balls to go after the Western Bloc nations beforeSri Lanka.

 

# Jim McDonald Says:

September 17th, 2009 at 6:03 pm

 

In response to Mango’s comment, as I’ve said elsewhere, those interested in AI’s documents on human rights violations in other countries, such as Iraq or Afghanistan, should review the pages on those countries in the AIUSA website. In general, I do not find persuasive any argument that attempts to change the subject from human rights abuses in Sri Lanka to abuses in some other country. Changing the subject doesn’t address the violations in Sri Lanka; it seems to be saying for some reason not related to Sri Lanka, it’s okay for the violations in Sri Lanka to occur.

Mango Says:

September 18th, 2009 at 3:52 am

Jim,

Only a fool would deny that there have not been HR abuses in SL. The best example is the necessary but brutal quelling of the 2nd JVP insurrection in the 1980s. This exclusively Singhalese Pol-Pot style organisation was only crushed with 60,000+ deaths. The HR abuses committed during this period saved SL from becoming a secondCambodia.

My point is simple. The scale of Western bloc HR abuses (measured by unnecessary civilians deaths in illegal wars, abductions, death squads etc) is so huge, they dwarf the HR abuses in SL.

Being lectured to about HR abuses by the West and Western HR organisations is a bit like King Herod being put in charge of ante-natal care. So, unless and until the West puts itself in the dock and shows that its’ leaders answer for their own massive and continuing HR abuses, the idea of SL being made to answer for its own abuses is a non-starter.

We both know that HR is simply the latest stick with which to beat recalcitrant (poor) countries to accept Western geopolitical & realpolitik objectives.

Comparison and equity are perfectly proper. Let’s see the UN and UNHCR apply the same standards to the West. I’ve got better odds of winning the lottery than that happening.

Mango Says:

September 18th, 2009 at 8:56 am

Jim,

By all means carry on your sterling work exposing HR abuses from across the world. I have no argument with that and I’m sure AI’s activities are invaluable in many cases. And to be fair to AI, it has often highlighted the worst HR abuses of the now-defunct LTTE.

My point in not that AI shouldn’t actively highlight HR abuses in SL – it must and should continue to do this – but only that the generally accepted principle of equity be applied to SL HR abuses.

In the last decade, the West’s HR abuses, in pursuit of its’ own commercial, strategic and defence interests are demonstrably worse thanSri Lanka’s by almost any measure you care to name.

So let the Western bloc countries currently engaged in anti-terror campagins (for ease of comparison withSri Lanka) subject themselves to the same committees of enquiry thatSri Lankais threatened with.

I would be bitterly disappointed if AI, HRW, UNHCR and the rest were not straining every sinew to expedite this process.

Jim McDonald Says:

September 18th, 2009 at 6:12 pm

 

In response to Mango’s comment of Sept. 18, 8:56 A.M., I would say:

1. The comment refers to a “generally accepted principle of equity” – I’m not aware of such a principle. The implication, again, seems to be that one cannot carry out human rights work on a particular country unless one has also undertaken a certain amount of human rights work on certain other countries. AI has never, to my knowledge, accepted any precondition as to how it does its work.

2. Those interested in AI’s work on other countries are encouraged to visit the relevant country pages on the AIUSA website.

 

Mango Says:

October 2nd, 2009 at 11:42 am

Dear Jim,

It’d be good to have a discussion without Eelamists carpet bombing this page with a zillion news stories.

[quote from Jim McDonald] “The question has been raised repeatedly as to “how else could the LTTE have been crushed?” I won’t respond to that question. It assumes that I agree that anyone should be “crushed.”

AI’s refusal or inability to answer the question ‘how else could the LTTE have been crushed?’ and not even wishing to have the LTTE crushed, annihilated, obliterated and atomised but always pushing for ‘ceasefires’ could only have produced two logical outcome.

1. Unending war in SL with at least another 2-3,00 violent deaths per annum and,

2. An ethnically cleansed North & East fit only for Tamils to inhabit, ruled by a perfectly formed, non-democratic LTTE.

I’m delighted that this SL govt (regardless of their other faults) placed a higher value on the lives and futures of SL citizens than have HR organisations like AI, by crushing the military power of the LTTE.

By following your position of ‘no-one should be crushed’, to its logical conclusion, you must be distraught that in 1979 the truly genocidal Khmer Rouge regime (at the time supported by theUS&UKfor geopolitical reasons), was ‘crushed’ by the armed might of the North Vietnamese Army?

The darkest and bloodiest period in modern Cambodian history was ended by the hard military power of the NVA and not by ‘conflict resolution paradigms’, ‘equality workshops’ and NGO activists holding ’sustainable peace-building’ seminars.

IfCambodiahad followed HR mantras prescribed to SL on how to deal with the LTTE, there wouldn’t have been many Cambodians left alive to attend ‘Good Governance’ seminars.

[quote from Jim McDonald] “We don’t say that the way to end human rights abuses by any particular group of people is to kill all those people or to dismantle that organization.”

It seems that your theory is, yet again, found wanting. In some instances, the answer (as unpalatable it is to HR organisations) is to kill people and destroy their organization’s ability to cause mayhem, murder and destruction.

Killing the right people improves HR: InSierra Leonein 2000, the British Army within a few months ‘crushed’ the arm-chopping rebels and brought peace to that benighted country. i.e. they killed enough ‘rebels’ to destroy the movement. A peace which the UN forces had been unable to achieve for over a decade, because they weren’t allowed to kill the right people. HR abuses inSierra Leonehave declined to virtually nothing from a level of unimaginable barbarity.

In the Eelam Wars, the continued existence of an intransigent LTTE, unwilling to brook any deviation from its’ maximalist position of an ethnically defined separate state, was the greatest causative factor in human rights abuses. How exactly was the LTTE to be humanised or tamed?

The brutal quelling of the almost exclusively Sinhalese JVP in the 1980s, prevented the emergence of a Pol-Pot style regime in SL. Would you like to speculate on the state of HR rights in SL if the JVP had been allowed to take over the State, through violent means?

Again, the position taken by AI has the effect of causing maximum death and destruction in SL, by facilitating the continued existence of the LTTE; i.e. by hindering the destruction and crushing of the LTTE.

[quote from Jim McDonald] “We don’t take positions on what form of government a country should have, or whether any part of any country should or should not be a separate or autonomous state.” Excellent. So, in this instance, AI cannot have any disagreement with the fact that the mandate given by the people of SL to the legitimately elected SL govt was: ‘crush the LTTE’. If as you say, you agree with democracy, well, here’s democracy in action. A govt following the will of the majority of the peoples of the island.

[quote from Jim McDonald] “AI did say earlier this year that the temporary ceasefire should be extended in Sri Lanka, as we thought the alternative would cause many civilian casualties (and the extent of how many civilians were ultimately killed is the topic I started this discussion with).”

Based purely on the LTTE’s past performance as a guide, how exactly would a temporary ceasefire have helped to anyone other than the LTTE? Snakes bite, Scorpions sting, the LTTE breaks ceasefires. Its an immutable law of nature.

Ceasefire talks with the LTTE have been proven to be totally worthless for this reason:

the LTTE always (and I mean always) used ceasefire periods to recruit, train and re-arm to re-start the conflict. Defecting senior LTTE cadres have repeatedly and unequivocally stated that this was VP’s standard position; straight from the Tigers’ mouth, so to speak.

By its’ very nature, a temporary ceasefire would eventually turn into semi-permanent war.

If this is what AI wished to happen, you should have to courage of your convictions to say it openly.

I now see even more clearly why this SL govt decided to politely decline advice from the HR industry, during its successful campaign to crush the military capability and leadership of the LTTE.

Jim McDonald Says:

October 5th, 2009 at 11:02 pm

 

In response to Mango’s comment of Oct. 5, 1:13 P.M., I’d make the following points:

1. The argument in the comment rests on the assumption that if the government’s course of action in conducting the war as it did had not been followed, there were only two other possible outcomes: an LTTE victory or unending war.

2. Personally, I don’t accept that assumption.

3. AI was calling on the government to observe the laws of war as it fought the LTTE. We insisted that the government’s argument, that the laws of war could be ignored in the interests of obtaining victory, could not be accepted. International law requires that the government find another way of fighting, one that did not involve violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes.

4. I don’t believe the future is as pre-determined as the argument in Mango’s comment suggests it is. The government didn’t try any other way than its military strategy which disregarded the risks to civilians caught in the war zone.

5. If the assumption in the argument is not accepted, the rest of the argument does not hold.

Mango Says:

October 7th, 2009 at 9:39 am

Dear Jim,

I’m glad that you agree with my well proven assertion that in certain instances terrorist organisations must be crushed. Further, sometimes the overall HR situation in a country can only be improved by killing the relevant people.Cambodia,Sierra Leoneand now,Sri Lankaare good examples the above.

 

[quote from Jim McDonald] “In response to Mango’s comment of Oct. 5, 1:13 P.M., I’d make the following points:

1. The argument in the comment rests on the assumption that if the government’s course of action in conducting the war as it did had not been followed, there were only two other possible outcomes: an LTTE victory or unending war.

2. Personally, I don’t accept that assumption.

OK. Tell me what would’ve happened had the LTTE been allowed to remain as a viable entity with its’ arms and cadres intact? ‘Not accepting it’ simply isn’t good enough, from AI, who after all, allegedly has HR concerns as its very reason for being.

3. AI was calling on the government to observe the laws of war as it fought the LTTE. We insisted that the government’s argument, that the laws of war could be ignored in the interests of obtaining victory, could not be accepted. International law requires that the government find another way of fighting, one that did not involve violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes.

I don’t recall the SL govt ever saying that they were ignoring the Laws of War. Do you mean civilian deaths in the last stage of combat, when the LTTE was using the civilians as hostages?

Key principles when facing civilian casualties during a military assault/conflict.

1. A military target remains a legitimate military target, even if it is located in a civilian area. The LTTE hid their mortars and heavy artillery amongst civilians to prevent the SL govt from legitimately destroying these units.

2. The use of civilians as shields to try to prevent attacks on military targets is prohibited. Further comment on this aspect of the LTTE’s strategy is futile.

3. “The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.”

4th Geneva Convention, Article 28.

4. The armed forces are not liable where injury to civilians results from unavoidable collateral damage, provided it is proportionate to the military gain expected of the attack.

5. “Civilians do not enjoy absolute immunity. Their presence will not render military objects immune from attack for the mere reason that it is impossible to bombard them without causing injury to the non-combatants.” Oppenheim’s ‘International Law’

Fact 1: The LTTE used the Wanni civilians as a shield to prevent attacks on their forces by SL govt forces. Yes or No? Yes.

Fact 2: The LTTE intermingled their fighting positions amongst the civilians in the ‘No Fire Zone’. Yes or No? Yes..

All of the above conditions existed during the last phase of combat. And the SL govt did what they could to minimise civilians casualties during the final assault, but they were acting entirely within legal limits noted above.

Hell, there’s even UAV footage of LTTE cadres shooting at civilians trying to escape ‘Eelam-by-the-Sea’ in Puthumathalan!

[quote from Jim McDonald] “4. I don’t believe the future is as pre-determined as the argument in Mango’s comment suggests it is. The government didn’t try any other way than its military strategy which disregarded the risks to civilians caught in the war zone.

For a ‘Sri Lanka’ specialist within AI, are you unaware of the many, many peace talks and peace traps laid by the LTTE in the intervening 30 years? This govt and all previous ones bent over backwards to meet the LTTE’s demands half-way. These are matters of fact and not opinion. If you deny this, I can only conclude that anything AI have to say on the SL situation should be disregarded.

I have made my assertions on the basis of proven factual evidence of the LTTE always breaking ceasefires to re-start the war, after it had replensihsed its’ arms and re-strenghtned its’ cadres. Eelam War IV was no exception other than they got more than they bargained for!

Based on the evidence and the LTTE’s own pronouncements (’Final Battle, 2006 is Year of War, massive fundraising etc), they were not willing to countenance anything other than a separate state, carved out of SL through violent, non-democratic means. I’m highly amused that AI try to pretend otherwise when Eelamists themselves admit that that was the LTTE’s stated and open strategy.

[quote from Jim McDonald] “5. If the assumption in the argument is not accepted, the rest of the argument does not hold.”

Disprove my argument rather than merely saying you don’t accept it. I’ve already disproved your assertions about why the LTTE had to be crushed and that futile ceasefires would only result in more combat deaths and further degradation of SL society & polity.

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AI Expels UN Official http://tinyurl.com/3s534vr

 

Over the weekend, it was reported  thatSri Lankahad cancelled the visa of James Elder, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) spokesperson inSri Lanka, for comments he had made earlier this year during the goverment’s war with the opposition Tamil Tigers.  Mr. Elder had regularly expressed concern about civilians caught in the conflict and more recently about issues such as malnutrition among children in the camps for displaced civilians.  UNICEF  defended Mr. Elder’s earlier comments and said it was very concerned about the Sri Lankan government’s decision.  U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement  today through his spokesperson expressing regret for the government’s decision and saying that he would personally raise the issue with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.  Yesterday, the Sri Lankan government said  that it was reviewing its decision in Mr. Elder’s case.

Amnesty International has reported how freedom of expression has been under severe restriction inSri Lanka.  I hope the Sri Lankan government reconsiders its decision in Mr. Elder’s case, so he doesn’t become one more example of the dangers of speaking out inSri Lanka.

Mango Says:

September 16th, 2009 at 5:50 pm

“…Mr Elder had offended and embarrassed Sri Lanka and, in the process, breached the UN mandate by suggesting children locked up in the country’s refugee camps were dying of malnutrition,” Dr Kohona said. Mr Elder’s statement was solely based on unauthenticated stories furnished by propaganda units of pro-LTTE front organizations and websites…”

So did he or he did not breach the UN mandate about its officials not interfering in the internal affairs of their host country? It appears that he did breach the mandate. Since AI clearly supports the rule of law, I expect a statement from AI supporting the SL govt’s decision to expel Mr Elder.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,26041546-2703,00.html

Jim McDonald Says:

September 16th, 2009 at 6:21 pm

 

In response to Mango’s comment of Sept. 16, 5:50 P.M., I would make the following points:

1. The comment asserts that there is a “UN mandate about its officials not interfering in the internal affairs of their host country.” It appears from the comment that the evidence in support of the existence of this “mandate” is a quote from a Sri Lankan government official (who had once been a UN official) as reported in The Australian.

2. The comment also asserts that Mr. Elder breached this “mandate” in his statements on Sri Lanka. Again, it appears from the comment that the evidence in support of this conclusion is statements made by the Sri Lankan government official as reported in The Australian.

3. My blog post above provides links to statements made by the head of UNICEF and by a spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, both of which are supportive of the statements which Mr. Elder had made.

4. Accordingly, it appears that the head of UNICEF and the UN Secretary-General are not in agreement with the conclusions reached by the Sri Lankan government official or Mango’s comment; otherwise, I do not see how they could have made the statements they did.

5. I have not independently researched whether there is such a “mandate” as described in Mango’s comment, nor whether (assuming there is such a “mandate”) Mr. Elder’s statements breached such “mandate.” Given the statements made by the head of UNICEF and the UN Secretary-General, I find it unlikely that any such research would lead to the conclusions suggested by Mango’s comment.

6. I note that a UN official is currently visiting Sri Lanka according to reports, and that one of the topics for discussion with the Sri Lankan government is the expulsion of Mr. Elder. I hope that we may soon hear that the Sri Lankan government has reconsidered its decision in Mr. Elder’s case.

 

Mango Says:

September 17th, 2009 at 6:49 am

Hi Jim,

Thanks for your considered reply. It repeats my point precisely. Under what conditions are UN officials posted to countries and do they have a duty to not interfere in the internal affairs of that country? My guess is that they must be under certain strictures.

In Elder’s case, his assertion about ‘malnutrition’ in camps was countered by the simple fact that (as sad as it is) the level of malnutrition is no worse than that prevailing in certain poorer parts of the country. This was supported by the WHO.

The utterings of UN officials do not, yet, conform to the doctrine of infallibility. Until they do, and due to proven instances of some UN staffers supporting the LTTE, James Elder has to obey SL’s laws. A kind of ‘my house, my rules’.

If he doesn’t like it, he can resign and join the ‘Provisional Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam’ of whatever they currently call themselves.

p.s. If Elder really cared about the children, he should be using the UN’s moral authority, to press for the immediate extradition of Adele Balasingham from theUKto SL. I’m sure you know, ‘Aunty Adele’ (the female Pied Piper of LTTE child soldiers) was seen garlanding LTTE child combatants with cyanide capsules during their induction ceremonies and assisted with their recruitment into the LTTE.

Jim McDonald Says:

September 17th, 2009 at 8:40 am

 

In response to Mango’s comment of Sept. 17, 6:49 A.M., I’m sorry if I hadn’t made myself clear earlier. I do not accept as true the assertions made by the Sri Lankan government with respect to Mr. Elder’s comments. It is to be expected that anyone being criticized would not welcome such criticism. The Sri Lankan government has the power to expel UN officials working in their country. Given that Mr. Elder’s superiors at the UN have publicly supported him in response to the Sri Lankan government’s expulsion, I think those arguing in favor of the Sri Lankan government’s position (i.e., that Mr. Elder has acted in a way meriting expulsion) still have the burden of proving their point. Simply guessing or relying on the Sri Lankan government’s statements is not persuasive, at least to me.

Mango Says:

September 17th, 2009 at 10:02 am

Hi Jim,

But your position is that the utterances of UN officials are to be believed and those of SL govt, dismissed. Now, I grant you, both organisations have a proven record of duplicity. So why favour one over the other?

For the UN’s support of James Elder to be credible, they would have to show the following:

1. The terms of this post-holder’s tenure in SL.

2. His ability to criticise the actions of the host government.

3. Criticism to be fact-based rather than re-hashing accusations generated by pro-LTTE organisations.

If the UN & Elder are so certain of their case, let this information be placed in the public domain. After all, they have nothing to hide, do they?

Jim McDonald Says:

September 17th, 2009 at 6:12 pm

 

In response to Mango’s comment of Sept. 17, 10:02 A.M., I would note:

1. I don’t agree that the UN has a “proven record of duplicity.” That charge should be supported by evidence if it’s to be believed.

2. The burden should be on the Sri Lankan government to prove that Mr. Elder has merited expulsion; it shouldn’t be on the UN or Mr. Elder to prove the converse. I assume the Sri Lankan government has the power to expel Mr. Elder without having to prove anything to anyone; if my assumption is correct, the fact that they can expel him does not mean that he has actually done anything inappropriate in keeping with the responsibilities of his position.

 

Mango Says:

September 18th, 2009 at 3:06 am

Jim,

A quick glance at your in-house library should provide you with plenty of evidence of UN duplicity. For those with short attention spans, here are a few examples of UN duplicity.

How about the Iraq ‘Oil for Food’ affair, Rwanda, UNRWA Hamas employees and Holocaust Denial, Gordon Weiss and Navi Pillay using LTTE sourced casualty figures as ‘UN authorised’ figures, Vijay Nambiar’s calls to KP (an Interpol-wanted terrorist) from CMB, Srebrenica (you’ll remember the French UN General’s love-in with Mladic), UNIFIL assisting Hezbollah during the recent Lebanon war and finally, “…UN Resident Coordinator admitted, when he acknowledged that UN awareness that the LTTE was recruiting one person per family was not expressed publicly in 2007 – and when it was raised to 2 in 2008, there was an even more deafening silence”.

My particular favourite is in 2007 when UN officers inColombomisled Kofi Annan to issue a condolence message when an LTTE area leader called Kaushalyan was killed. Shall I continue?

A reasonable person can now agree that the UN has a proven record of duplicity.

The burden of proof should be on both parties prove that each did the correct thing (or not) by expelling Elder. If the UN disagreed with the grounds for his expulsion, they should show reasons, rather than simply saying that they support his position. Perhaps you could ask the UN for a statement indicating the terms of reference under which Elder was posted to SL?

Are senior UN civil servants posted to countries allowed to criticise the host government or get involved with that country’s internal politics?

Jim McDonald Says:

September 18th, 2009 at 7:28 am

 

In response to Mango’s comment of Sept. 18, 3:06 A.M., I do not agree that the burden of proof is on both parties. Only if the Sri Lankan government first makes a case in support of its position, then the UN would be expected to justify its position in support of Mr. Elder. Anyone can make a charge at any time against anyone; that doesn’t require the person being charged to have to prove their innocence.

Mango Says:

September 18th, 2009 at 12:23 pm

Hi Jim,

So we agree that the UN is a proven duplicitous entity; as bad as if not worse than the SL govt. Excellent.

The SL govt appears to have made their case that Elder had exceeded his brief, broke agreements and MOUs etc about how senior UN staffers should act in their host countries.

Surely it is for the UN to show that he did not exceed his brief, break agreements, MOUs etc.

Are you sure you meant to write “Anyone can make a charge at any time against anyone; that doesn’t require the person being charged to have to prove their innocence.”

Well, I trust the SL govt will use your excellent logic to reject all and any charges made by AI regarding all and any aspects of HR abuses in SL, whether legitimate or not.

Hmmm… Perhaps you may need to re-evaluate your contention.

Jim McDonald Says:

September 18th, 2009 at 6:45 pm

 

In response to Mango’s comment of Sept. 18, 12:23 P.M., I would say:

1. I’m sorry if my earlier response was misconstrued. I don’t agree that the UN has a “proven record of duplicity.” Many of your examples appear to be charges made by the Sri Lankan government; if so, it appears to be a curious source to be using.

 

2. I’m not withdrawing my earlier comment about the burden of proof. The Sri Lankan government should prove its case against Mr. Elder. As for AI’s human rights work, read our reports. We don’t publicly disclose our research sources for obvious reasons. If our work was shown to be without substance, our reputation would reflect that and our reports would be ignored. But they’re not, as evidenced in part by all these blog discussions. As for the Sri Lankan government rejecting our reports because of my comment, I’m sure you know that the Sri Lankan government has not needed my comment to reject our reports in the past. It’s to be expected that governments violating human rights would try to conceal what they’re doing, including rejecting our reports.

Mango Says:

September 19th, 2009 at 3:42 am

Dear Jim,

I only used a few examples of UN duplicity inSri Lanka. The non-Sri Lankan examples are far more impressive and proven beyond reasonable doubt. Are you seriously going to deny UN duplicity in the ‘Oil for Food’ scheme orBosniaorRwanda?

Either Annan sent condolences on Kaushalyan’s death or he didn’t. We know that he did. Absolutely no room for debate. Even Tamilnut mentions it 🙂 And Kaushalyan was the LTTE commander for the East and not some obscure LTTE pen-pusher working for the Eelam Agricultural Team.

I recall another case: Tamil Centre for Human Rights (TCHR), an LTTE front, was accorded UN recognition as an NGO.

Are you still going to maintain your stance that the UN is not a duplicitous organisation?

On the ‘burden of proof’ issue, I’m only asking that you be consistent. Since both parties are duplicitous, we cannot accept the bona fides of either party in relation to Elder’s case. So far SL has made assertions/allegations. The UN has not disproved these assertions/allegations other than a statement of support for Elder. [see my previous comments above].

But your position alternates between allowing no burden of proof in some cases and absolute burden of proof in others. You can have it both ways, but for the purposes of this case, it doesn’t look very .. clear.

I think the SL govt has more urgent matters than following this blog discussion — and in case you were wondering, I have no connection to any SL govt organisation. Just an ordinary person, disgusted by the tainted West using HR angle to attack SL immediately following the annihilation of the LTTE. A victory that would not have been possible without HR abuses.

On a slight digressions, almost 100+ people murdered inPakistan,Afghanistan,Iraq,Somalia,Chechnya&Iraqover the last few days. Interestingly, none, (thankfully) inSri Lanka. If the LTTE were still in existence that miserable total would almost certainly contain deaths fromSri Lanka.

Jim McDonald Says:

September 24th, 2009 at 10:58 am

 

In response to Mango’s comment of Sept. 19, 3:42 A.M., I would make the following points:

1. Determining whether the UN is “duplicitous” as you assert would take an impartial observer some considerable time. Your assertions would be more believable if they were supported by evidence from other parties than yourself. I see that entire discussion as being somewhat off the point of my blog entry; if you wish to pursue it in a separate blog, that might be more appropriate.

2. Your position that the UN as a body is “duplicitous” and that therefore any allegation by the Sri Lankan government against the UN must be defended by the UN is open to question. If you or the Sri Lankan government wish to have an allegation taken seriously, it should be more detailed and backed by evidence. In this instance, certain charges are being made about statements made by Mr. Elder. Those statements should be provided. The charge that Mr. Elder was simply repeating statements by the LTTE should also be supported by evidence of the LTTE statements.

3. Of course, one other imbedded assumption in the Sri Lankan government’s charge against Mr. Elder is that if human rights abuses are reported by two separate parties at or around the same time, one party is just repeating the other party’s statements. That assumption can be and should be questioned.

 

Mango Says:

September 26th, 2009 at 6:02 pm

Hi Jim,

I’m only making the point about UN duplicity to prove that both parties are duplicitous and not to derail the thread. The instances I’ve mentioned are well proven including the UN’s own reports and statements given by senior military officials serving under the UN flag inBosniaandRwanda. The Kaushalyan incident is not refuted by anyone and will not disappear into an Orwellian memory hole. This is not to assert that the UN is duplicitous in all circumstances in all conflicts.

I agree with you that the SL govt should give more detailed info regarding Elder’s terms of reference concerning his posting to SL. Perhaps they do not wish to embarrass the UN, given that the SL govt also requires the UN’s assistance in helping to solve the IDP crisis. Similarly, if the UN really wanted to prove Elder’s impartiality and purity, it could’ve released his terms of posting to SL etc. They’ve conspicuously not done this.

Elder’s statements about ’starvation’, directly refuted by the WHO were in line with similar statements being made by LTTE supporters, NGOs and INGOs supportive of the LTTE, sailing under the HR banner.

Given that AI is an important organisation regarding these matters, perhaps you could determine the veracity of these claims and counter-claims by asking the UN for Elder’s terms of reference.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 

[Note: some of the comments and replies bear time stamps that appear to place the ‘conversation’ in an odd time sequence. The reason for this is not known. Comments have been copied and pasted directly from the AI USA blog, including time stamps as they appeared on the blog.

 

Sri Lanka: are releases of displaced civilians genuine?

http://tinyurl.com/yhcrg5m

 

Mango Says:

October 14th, 2009 at 7:23 am

To Jim Pappa:

You know that whether SL is at war or peace is a matter of supreme indifference to AI. Remember, they don’t take sides!

Even more damningly, they didn’t want the LTTE crushed, but declined to say how the suffering of the entire SL population, at the hands of the LTTE should be ended. In fact, AI don’t want any terror organisation crushed, for any reason, ever !

This makes all the various campaigns and lectures from AI and Western bloc HR overlords, about what should or should not be happening in the post-war scenario a little hard to stomach.

But, on the other hand, the SL govt has not been sufficiently transparent in allowing the process to be seen — not by the int’l HR circus, but by the local media and relief groups.

A small start was made recently by allowing a group of vehemently anti-SL Tamil Nadu MPs to visit the IDP camps. To everyone’s surprise (except the LTTE diaspora & their supporters), these TN MPs didn’t find any evidence of ‘genocide’. In due course, we will awake to cries of the LTTE diaspora discovering another noun or verb to which ‘genocide’ can be affixed.

From a legal viewpoint, if the IDPs are detained beyond a ‘reasonable’ period, its only a matter of time before someone files a fundamental rights petition with the SL Supreme Court. This body has been very critical of various govts and despite the wars and political degradation in SL.

Jim McDonald Says:

October 15th, 2009 at 6:49 am

In response to Mango’s comment of Oct. 14, 7:23 A.M., I would make the following points:

1. The comment makes certain assertions about AI’s positions. I believe the comment may be based on an earlier comment I made in another discussion where I declined to agree with Mango’s assumption that the only way to prevent human rights abuses is by killing a group of people who have been committing such abuses. If I’m correct, Mango has taken my earlier comment and decided that that means that AI “didn’t want the LTTE crushed” and that AI doesn’t “want any terror organization crushed, for any reason, ever.” It may be that Mango has other evidence, besides my earlier comment, to support his assertions about AI’s positions. If so, I’d ask that he provide such evidence to support his assertions.

2. If my assumption is correct that his assertions are based only on my prior comment, I’d like to try to make clear some of AI’s positions for his benefit and others who may be interested:

a. AI does not oppose war per se or the resort to arms by opposition groups. Nor do we support war or the resort to arms.

b. If parties do engage in warfare, AI asks that both sides observe international humanitarian law, also known as the “laws of war,” in conducting hostilities.

c. AI consistently calls on all sides in an armed conflict to not engage in human rights abuses.

d. AI has said that governments, including the Sri Lankan government, have the right, and indeed the obligation, to protect their civilian populations from attack. However, in doing so, governments are still obligated to adhere to their obligations under human rights law, including the obligation to observe the rights of those suspected of committing or planning to commit attacks against the civilian populations.

So, in the Sri Lankan context, AI did not oppose or support the war between the government and the LTTE. It is not accurate to say that AI was against the government defeating the LTTE, as Mango’s comment appears to assert. It is also not accurate to say that AI is against any government defeating any opposition group.

A final response to the comment: the comment refers to the possibility of a fundamental rights petition being filed on behalf of the IDPs with the Sri Lankan Supreme Court. I believe that two such cases have already been filed, one by the Centre for Policy Alternatives. I do not know the current status of the cases; those interested might check the CPA website (www.cpalanka.org).

In response to Jim Pappa’s comment of Oct. 14, 10:55 P.M., I’d note that the comment asks for the Sri Lankan government to be given time. I’d ask whether five months is not already sufficient time to have conducted the screening of the IDPs.

 

Mango2 Says:

October 15th, 2009 at 5:34 pm

Jim,

My reply appears to have vanished into the ether… I hope its not being censored, as it specifically deals with your points. Anyway, here it is again..

— – – – – – – —— – – – – – – – – – – – – ——- – – orignal reply ——————————–

Hi Jim,

Thanks for that. In fact in my original comment I gave two clear, irrefutable instances (Cambodia & Sierra Leone) where it was shown that sometimes,killing the right people improves HR. I’ve never said that this is always the case.

My points can be repeated thus:

Example 1. InSierra Leonein 2000, the British Army within a few months ‘crushed’ the arm-chopping rebels and brought peace to that benighted country. i.e. they killed enough ‘rebels’ to destroy the movement. A peace which the UN forces had been unable to achieve for over a decade, because they weren’t allowed to kill the right people. HR abuses inSierra Leonehave declined to virtually nothing from a level of unimaginable barbarity.

Example 2. In 1979 the truly genocidal Khmer Rouge regime (at the time supported by theUS&UKfor geopolitical reasons), was ‘crushed’ by the armed might of the North Vietnamese Army? The darkest and bloodiest period in modern Cambodian history was ended by the hard military power of the NVA and not by ‘conflict resolution paradigms’, ‘equality workshops’ and NGO activists holding ‘sustainable peace-building’ seminars.

I particularly like this description of what happened:

“In spite of a preemptive attack byCambodia, Vietnamese forces, using six coordinated corps-sized combined arms mechanized columns, along with a division-sized amphibious assault along the coast and air strikes conducted by captured American-made attack aircraft, quickly crushed the fanatical Cambodian resistance in a swift, blitzkrieg-like campaign. Within three weeks the Vietnamese controlled all major roads, harbors, airfields, and population centers in Cambodia, forcing the remainder of Pol Pot’s Cambodian armed forces to flee to the Thai border for sanctuary.” http://tinyurl.com/yznq7zb

Even better, not a single HR activist was involved in the crushing of the Khmer Rouge. They were too busy not taking sides.

Regardless of your personal opinion, the above cases are factually unarguable. If you disagree with my examples, I’d be interested to know how a better outcome could’ve been been obtained through non-violent, ‘non-crushing’ of rebels and/or genocidal movements.

I understand AI’s position re., ‘not taking sides’. Fine. If AI is unable or unwilling to take sides between a violent, racist, fascistic, terrorist organisation (the LTTE) and a flawed yet legitimate govt (SL govt), further comment on my part is probably superfluous, other than to say this:

If AI exists to maximise HR, in certain instances, only the destruction (or crushing) of a terrorist organisation will result in AI’s longed-for environment of peace and overall improvement in HR. As I’ve said many times, in SL, the major cause of 30+ years of HR abuses was the Eelam Wars, kept alive through the efforts of the LTTE. End of LTTE, end of Eelam and a gradual return to sanity, peace and maximum HR for all. Surely, AI must be delighted with this outcome, no?

Re., the rules of war, I agree. The war should’ve been fought as best as possible adhering to the commonly accepted rules of war, to which the LTTE is certainly NOT a contracting party, given that it is a transnational, illegal terrorist entity. 🙂

I’ve already given instances of where the SL govt was ‘allowed’ under the rules of war, to conduct military operations, knowing that innocent civilian lives would be lost to due its’ own operations. To summarise:

Key principles when facing civilian casualties during a military assault/conflict.

1. A military target remains a legitimate military target, even if it is located in a civilian area. The LTTE hid their mortars and heavy artillery amongst civilians to prevent the SL govt from legitimately destroying these units.

2. The use of civilians as shields to try to prevent attacks on military targets is prohibited. Further comment on this aspect of the LTTE’s strategy is futile.

3. “The presence of a protected person [i.e. civilian hostages] may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.”4th Geneva Convention, Article 28.

4. The armed forces are not liable where injury to civilians results from unavoidable collateral damage, provided it is proportionate to the military gain expected of the attack.

5. “Civilians do not enjoy absolute immunity. Their presence will not render military objects immune from attack for the mere reason that it is impossible to bombard them without causing injury to the non-combatants.” Oppenheim’s ‘International Law’

Fact 1: The LTTE used the Wanni civilians as a shield to prevent attacks on their forces by SL govt forces. Yes or No? Yes.

Fact 2: The LTTE intermingled their fighting positions amongst the civilians in the ‘No Fire Zone’. Yes or No? Yes..

All of the above conditions existed during the last phase of combat. And the SL govt did what they could to minimise civilians casualties during the final assault, but they were acting entirely within legal limits noted above.

Jim, do you agree with the above (1-5) and if not why not?

If we disagree, it is on what is to be done for the IDPs and how quickly it should be done. Jim Pappa’s given an excellent precis of the reasons (security) why this is thought to be necessary. Unfortunately AI appears to be unable to engage with the SL govt and instead prefers to point fingers from the sidelines.

Dayan Jayatilleke’s words should be read and re-read with care by the INGO circus, currently ‘advising’ and castigating SL.

“External pressure, especially extra-regional pressure (involving or based in ex-colonial states) hardly ever causes the widening of political space in aThird Worldcountry. In most Asian contexts it generates a backlash and de-legitimizes the cause it espouses, discrediting perhaps unfairly, the minorities and minority politicians as allies of hostile external forces.

Even where the context is not one of ethnic polarization, patronage from adversarial external sources only de-legitimizes local actors.”

http://transcurrents.com/tc/2009/05/post_362.html

Jim McDonald Says:

October 15th, 2009 at 10:56 pm

In response to Mango’s comment of Oct. 15, 5:35 P.M., I would make the following points:

1. The comment appears to discuss two separate arguments.

2. The first argument concerns whether, in certain circumstances, the only way to prevent future human rights abuses is by killing those committing such abuses. I think “only way” is an accurate characterization, given that in the ninth paragraph of the comment, there is the language “only the destruction (or crushing) of a terrorist organization…”

3. The second argument concerns whether the Sri Lankan security forces violated international humanitarian law during the closing stages of the war.

4. Although both arguments may be somewhat off topic, I think it would be unfair of me to invoke that rule here since my earlier comment may have opened the door to both of these arguments. Of course, if the editors disagree with me, they’re free to tell all of us to have these discussions elsewhere.

5. To deal with the first argument, the comment appears to make this argument by first citing two other countries and asserts that it’s “unarguable” that the first argument applies in those two cases (i.e., that the only way of preventing future human rights abuses is by killing those committing such abuses). Based on that conclusion, the first argument then appears to be (since the comment doesn’t say this explicitly) thatSri Lankais like those other two countries, so the first argument applies in the Sri Lankan case as well.

6. It is a little unclear, however, whether the first argument is based only on the two countries cited or whether it is deemed to apply to all countries, given the language “rebels and/or genocidal movements” in the sixth paragraph, which doesn’t appear to be limited to the two countries cited.

7. The comment asked, in effect, whether I agreed with the examples of the two countries cited. I decline to engage in a discussion about other countries. Mango may feel knowledgeable enough aboutSierra LeoneandCambodiato use them as examples for purposes of his first argument. I don’t share his confidence in either his expertise (or my own) on those two countries. One may assert that a conclusion is “unarguable” – that doesn’t mean that it is.

8. I believe that the first argument (although it’s a little unclear) then asserts thatSri Lankain effect is like the two countries cited and that the “only way” to prevent future human rights abuses is by killing those committing the abuses. It does seem unclear, particularly because in the eighth paragraph of the comment, the argument appears to shift. In that paragraph, it’s asserted that the main cause of human rights abuses was the war which, it is argued, was “kept alive” by the LTTE. So, it doesn’t appear to matter whetherSri Lankais like another country or not (or at least the asserted parallels aren’t further discussed).

9. If the eighth paragraph of the comment is asking whether I agree with the hypothesis about causality of human rights abuses inSri Lanka, I decline to do so. My focus is on campaigning against human rights violations currently being committed inSri Lanka, not on debates about whether the Sri Lankan government or the LTTE was more responsible for the continuation of the conflict over the decades.

10. Before leaving the first argument, I would just make the observation that the first argument would appear to support the concept called “the responsibility to protect” – i.e., in certain circumstances, the “only way” to protect civilian populations from certain grave abuses would mean that the international community would be justified in armed intervention in a country, against that country’s government.

11. The second argument makes certain assertions about international humanitarian law, also commonly known as the “laws of war.”

12. I would note that the ninth paragraph of the comment appears to say that the LTTE was not bound by the laws of war. That seems inconsistent with the rest of the second argument and, to my knowledge, is also inconsistent with Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. It may also be relevant that the LTTE in 1988 declared that it would abide by the Geneva Conventions.

13. The rest of the second argument appears to cite certain provisions of international humanitarian law and then assumes certain facts as to the last stages of the war. On the basis of those cited provisions and the asserted facts, the second argument asserts a conclusion that in effect the Sri Lanka military did not violate international humanitarian law during the last stages of the fighting.

14. AI has said that it had received reports during the last stages of the war that indicated that violations of international humanitarian law may have been committed by both sides: by the LTTE in using civilians as human shields and in deliberate attacks against civilians and by the Sri Lankan military in deliberate and indiscriminate attacks against civilians.

15. To determine whether a military action that causes injury or death to civilians violates international humanitarian law would depend on an investigation into all the relevant circumstances. AI has called for such an investigation. The Sri Lankan government has made it clear that it will undertake no such investigation. AI has accordingly called for an international investigation.

16. The second argument says, in effect, that the cited provisions of international humanitarian law (points 1 -5) are the only ones that apply to the Sri Lankan context. I have not undertaken the necessary research to determine whether that is correct. Even assuming that they are, the second argument then in effect assumes that the conditions required by the cited provisions were satisfied in order to reach the conclusion that “the SL govt did what it could to minimize civilians [sic] casualties during the final assault,” and that therefore the Sri Lankan military did not violate international humanitarian law.

17. I do not share the confidence, as expressed in the second argument, that the facts about the last stages of the fighting are actually known well enough to draw conclusions about whether international humanitarian law had been violated. I think most people would agree that independent observers were kept away from the war zone. So determining exactly what happened can be difficult. Satellite imagery can provide some evidence, but for greater certainty, more investigation would need to be done.

18. If we keep up this discussion, I can see that we’ll no doubt need to move it to another thread.

Mango2 Says:

October 16th, 2009 at 8:14 pm

Jim,

Thanks for that considered reply and it does cover two areas.

My first point is about the unavoidable truth that sometimes, killing the right people prevents and/or stops continuing horrendous HR abuses.Cambodia,Sierra LeoneandRwandaare well proven instances of this. The confidence of my argument isn’t based on my expertise (or lack of it), but on a straightforward reading of the available history. In all three cases, only a military action (killing and crushing) lead to the annihilation of those engaging in truly unspeakable acts of violence against civilians. We saw it with our own eyes and it happened in the last two decades. This isn’t the Punic Wars with disputed legends making the determination of the truth a matter of conjecture.

For SL, the same applies. As the AI specialist for SL, you’ll be well aware the the LTTE’s participation in innumerable peace talks were only and always with the non-negotiatiable determination to win a separate, ethnically ‘pure’ state. Even the most fervent Eelamist frequenting this blog wouldn’t deny that. VP’s appeal for funding from the Diaspora’s for the ‘Final Battle’, the arms ships, stockpiling of weapons, smuggling in of aircraft hidden amongst Tsunami relief supplies, etc, etc.. Sure, he was a real peace lover!

Whilst I applaud your concern about the current level of HR abuses in SL, avoiding the discussion of how we got where we are now, as opposed to where we would’ve been without the crushing of the LTTE is simply untenable.

BTW, I like your move to get ‘R2P’ into the discussion by saying that “…the international community would be justified in armed intervention in a country, against that country’s government.” R2P might’ve worked (and did inSierra Leone) where the government has ceased to exist or exercise control and the Brits stepped in and were warmly welcomed the terrified civilians.

But it cannot be applied to SL, where a legitimate govt was combatting a racist, separatist terror group. I would’ve welcomed a R2P exercise in SL, by the IC, had they sent troops to assist the SL govt in its’ campaign against the LTTE, but I guess the Western bloc of the IC was far too pre-occupied invading Iraq and getting bogged down in other quagmires. Further, who exactly would’ve invaded SL on a R2P mission, against the express wishes of the SL govt and Armed Forces?Luxembourg, or perhapsNorway?

I’ll give you another successful example of R2P working, in the ousting of Idi Amin inUgandadue to the invasion in 1979 ofUgandabyTanzaniaand Ugandan exiles.

I’ll reply to the ‘war crimes’ section shortly and again I appreciate your dialogue.

Jim McDonald Says:

October 17th, 2009 at 1:30 pm

In response to Mango2′s comment of Oct. 16, 8:18 P.M., I appreciate that the comment only dealt with the first argument and left the second argument for another time, thus permitting the comment to remain reasonably succinct. I’m aware that my earlier response was extremely lengthy and I’ll try to be more succinct in future.

The first argument starts by saying that killing certain human rights violators “prevents and/or stops” future abuses. Certainly, the people who’ve been killed won’t be committing any more abuses. But will others take their place and the killings only lead to more future abuses? The argument cites certain other countries as examples for where, it’s argued, others didn’t take the place of those killed so there have not been any successors taking the place of the people killed and committing further abuses. The examples are intended to show that it’s possible that others won’t take the place of those killed. It’s argued thatSri Lankawill fall into the category of the countries cited.

The argument does not address whether it would have been possible to stop future abuses by some method other than killing the abusers. It appears to say that in the Sri Lankan context, it would not have been possible. This assertion appears to be based only on a description of the LTTE’s past behavior; the Sri Lankan government’s past behavior is not examined in this context.

I agree that understanding the context of human rights abuses is important. The LTTE arose in a context where the Tamil minority felt discriminated against by the Sinhalese majority since independence, particularly over issues concerning land, education and language. Successive Sri Lankan governments did not successfully resolve these grievances in a peaceful fashion, and Tamil political parties escalated their demands from autonomy to seeking an independent state. In the 1970s, several militant groups (including the LTTE) were formed by Tamil youth to achieve the independent state through violence. In the course of the conflict, both the Sri Lankan security forces and the LTTE committed horrific human rights abuses.

Will holding the IDPs in the camps indefinitely continue a sense of discrimination by the Tamil minority and ultimately lead to renewed conflict? Will treating all Tamil civilians displaced from the war zone as LTTE members, until proven otherwise, result in deepening embitterment? Even if it doesn’t, it is a human rights violation to detain the IDPs in the camps; that violation should end as soon as possible.

Mango2 Says:

October 18th, 2009 at 7:07 pm

Jim,

Thanks for summarising my position so well. My concern wasn’t simply a cessation of HR abuses, but the dismantling of an ethnically/racially defined statelet within theIsland. [Personally, I doubt the scientific validity of the theory which claims that Tamils & Singhalese are racially different, but that’s can of worms I’ll leave for others to open].

[Jim says] “The argument does not address whether it would have been possible to stop future abuses by some method other than killing the abusers.”

Using the example of the three countries,Cambodia,Sierra Leone,Uganda(and alsoRwanda), so far, they haven’t slipped back into uncontrolled anarchy which preceded the killing and crushing the right people. The fact we can’t predict the future doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to improve our lives and security, now. In the long run, we’re all dead.

[Jim says] “It appears to say that in the Sri Lankan context, it would not have been possible.”

100% true. There wasn’t even a shred of evidence that LTTE would be countered by anything other than a return to a full-scale, to-the-bitter-end campaign of Eelam War 4. The LTTE asking for ‘talks and ceasefire’ in early May ’09 doesn’t count! I’ll repeat what I wrote earlier.

The LTTE’s participation in innumerable peace talks were only and always with the non-negotiatiable determination to win a separate, ethnically ‘pure’ state. Even the most fervent Eelamist frequenting this blog wouldn’t deny that. VP’s appeal for funding from the Diaspora for the ‘Final Battle’, the arms ships, stockpiling of weapons, smuggling in of aircraft hidden amongst Tsunami relief supplies etc…

Even when LTTE had almost everything they wanted, in 2002 when he controlled the North & East, they were unable to compromise and build on their gains.

There’s more chance of me winning the Warriors Award of Tamil Eelam (Thamizheezha Ma’ravar Viruthu) than there was of VP & the LTTE agreeing to compromise their demands for a separate state.

I’ve never shied away from pointing out that SL govts (of all political hues) have committed HR abuses over the course of 30+ year war including the brutal quelling of the 2nd JVP insurgency in the 1980s. As you must know, this is an immutable fact of [counter-insurgency] warfare, excepting the Falklands War where only the combatants and sheep suffered. I’m not saying I agree with it or like it, but that’s the way it is. When a state fights for its’ national survival, as Western bloc countries have done in the past (and not so recent past), unfortunately this sort of thing happens. You’ll note, I’ve resisted invoking Godwin’s Law even on this justifiable occasion and I hope you appreciate it.

I agree with you totally that the IDP camp situation must be ended as soon as practicably possible. Which sane, human being with any compassion would argue otherwise? Again, you raise the false claim of ‘indefinite’ detention (which we’ve argued about before, so I won’t bother re-treading that ground) when we know that internal and external pressure will mean that the SL govt will release the Vanni IDPs. Not simply because Western bloc INGOs demand it, but because it is the right thing to do. Otherwise, their claims to be a national govt will be found to be wanting.

My question to you & AI is this: what are you doing to work with the SL govt, instead of working as part of the coalition against them? If Eelam War 4 has shown anything, it is that you’ll get more (from the SL govt) by co-operation rather than by confrontation. Especially when the confrontation is lead by countries and INGOs who were at the forefront of trying to rescue the LTTE leadership (by pressuring for a ceasefire) from meeting their well-deserved fate on the Eastern lagoon.

Jim McDonald Says:

October 19th, 2009 at 7:03 am

In response to Mango’s comment of Oct. 18, 7:07 P.M., I’d make the following points:

1. The argument made in the comment essentially is that it was necessary for the 7,000 or more civilians (the estimates as to how many civilians were killed in the final stages of the war vary) to die. The argument is that the only way the government had of preventing future abuses was by defeating the LTTE and by defeating them in the way the government chose to do.

2. I don’t buy that argument. There were other options available to the government. It didn’t have to kill thousands of civilians.

3. The fact is, the Sri Lankan government never sought a political solution to the ethnic conflict or to try to undercut what support the LTTE had from the Tamil population by showing that the government was prepared to meet some demands for autonomy.

4. Furthermore, the government could have taken other steps towards the end of the war to minimize civilian casualties, by making greater efforts to avoid attacks against the civilians.

5. Why keep the IDPs detained in the camps and restrict access to them? You can’t help but think that one of the reasons is because the government doesn’t want the facts of what happened during the closing stages of the war to become known, so they don’t want the IDPs out and able to tell the world what they experienced in the war zone. If this isn’t so, then why not let journalists and aid agencies have unrestricted access to the IDPs?

6. I don’t want war to return toSri Lanka. But the treatment of the IDPs by the Sri Lankan government isn’t making that less likely.

Mango2 Says:

October 19th, 2009 at 1:36 pm

Dear Jim,

I’ll address each of your points in turn.

[Jim says] 1. The argument made in the comment essentially is that it was necessary for the 7,000 or more civilians (the estimates as to how many civilians were killed in the final stages of the war vary) to die. The argument is that the only way the government had of preventing future abuses was by defeating the LTTE and by defeating them in the way the government chose to do.

Deeply regrettable as their deaths are, the civilians were being used by the LTTE to shield themselves from attack by theSLA. I remind you yet again, that their deaths are directly attributable to the LTTE. “The presence of a protected person [i.e. civilian hostages] may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.”4th Geneva Convention, Article 28.

[Jim says] 2. I don’t buy that argument. There were other options available to the government. It didn’t have to kill thousands of civilians.

What other options were there other than to destroy the LTTE?SLAdidn’t deliberately set out to kill thousands of civilians. The LTTE deliberately set out put thousands of civilians in harm’s way by using them as hostages.

Peace talks? Negotiations? I find your stance completely and utterly unrealistic given the LTTE’s prior proven behaviour. Remember, snakes bite, scorpions sting the LTTE breaks ceasefires. Its an immutable law of nature. Here’s just one example (amongst many) of the LTTE stance regarding ‘peace talks’.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/6524869.stm

During the final stage of the war the LTTE would’ve promised to [become] Quakers if that would’ve enabled them to escape to fight another day. These aren’t my suppositions, but the exact strategy employed by VP to escape defeat, as related by the surviving senior cadres.

I’d love to see proof of your theory that there were other options and show any demonstrable instances of the LTTE willing to compromise or negotiate.

I’d take it even further and prove the Utilitarian point of view. Let’s assume unending war in SL with at least another 2-3,00 violent deaths per annum. Had they not been crushed with the attendant civilian death toll (3,000 to 7,000) the LTTE would’ve survived for at least another decade and provided us with another 30,000 SL corpses & crippled civilians and combatants.

You in the Int’l HR community may be willing to countenance that kind of slow-burn death toll, but I’m glad that the SL population, through their wholehearted support for finally finishing this damned war, didn’t.

[Jim says] 3. The fact is, the Sri Lankan government never sought a political solution to the ethnic conflict or to try to undercut what support the LTTE had from the Tamil population by showing that the government was prepared to meet some demands for autonomy.

Jim, it simply isn’t true to say that the SL govt “..never sought a political solution to the ethnic conflict”. After the LTTE had fought theSLAto a standstill, there was a political solution of sorts, but not the separate state demanded by the LTTE. But VP wouldn’t settle for anything less than a maximalist separate state position.

How on earth was the SL govt going to ‘undercut’ the LTTE’s support amongst its’ captive population? The LTTE killed hundreds of Tamils seeking a ‘moderate’ solution. There wasn’t the slightest chance of the LTTE allowing any sort of ‘undercutting’ of their cause in areas under their control. Cutting off your head and sticking it on a pole was the reward on offer to anyone caught trying to ‘undercut’ the LTTE!’

Neelan Tiruchelvam, Rajani Thiranagama and Kethesh Loganathan, all of whom tried to find a non-violent, compromise path to the conflict are amongst the best known victims of the LTTE murder squads.

For those of you with short memories, this account of Tiruchelvam’s life and death is well worth reading.

“He was called a traitor to the Tamil community because he participated in a positive exercise of constitution making instead of rabble rousing like some other Tamil sycophants of the LTTE.

Few bothered to analyse the package constructively. Despite its shortcomings the GL-Neelan package was the best possible scheme of power sharing to be evolved in post-independenceSri Lanka.”

http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/973

[Jim says] “4. Furthermore, the government could have taken other steps towards the end of the war to minimize civilian casualties, by making greater efforts to avoid attacks against the civilians.”

Until the LTTE used the Vanni civilians as hostages/shrapnel sponges, civilian casualties attributed to SL govt action was mercifully low. So low that even Tamilnut was unable to capitalise on them. But beyond a certain point, other than agreeing to a cessation of hostilities from which the LTTE would, yet again, tediously re-emerge to continue their campaign, the SL govt had to finish the war, despite the LTTE’s self-acknowledged use of civilian hostages to delay, stall or stop the final offensive.

[Jim says]  5. Why keep the IDPs detained in the camps and restrict access to them? You can’t help but think that one of the reasons is because the government doesn’t want the facts of what happened during the closing stages of the war to become known, so they don’t want the IDPs out and able to tell the world what they experienced in the war zone. If this isn’t so, then why not let journalists and aid agencies have unrestricted access to the IDPs?

Jim, eventually (hopefully soon) the IDPs will be released back to their normal lives. If the govt wanted to prevent them from talking, surely it’d have been better to kill them all. Aid agencies do have access to the IDP camps. After the proven partiality of certain Western bloc news agencies, I’m not surprised that the SL govt is withholding access to the IPD camps. Channel 4 & the BBC are famous for their pro-LTTE stance. Even more famous than certain INGOs who assisted the LTTE with financial and weapons smuggling expertise.

I’m glad to say that I personally don’t need validation from partial and corrupted Western bloc NGOs, whose disastrous advice SL slavishly followed for far too long. If we’d taken their (and your) advice about how to deal with the LTTE, we’d still be counting the dead and injured , rather than the number of living IDPs.

But I do agree that SL govt has to provide better media access, if only to silence the most outrageous lies being spread by the LTTE diaspora, who are still dealing with the death of their dream state.

[Jim says] 6. I don’t want war to return to Sri Lanka. But the treatment of the IDPs by the Sri Lankan government isn’t making that less likely.

The group most fervently pushing for SL to return to war is the LTTE diaspora. Whether they’ll actually come back to SL to re-start an insurgency is open to question. I think they prefer to gorge themselves on Big Macs and Western welfare benefits.

You didn’t respond to my previous question about AI working with SL rather than against it, so I’ll try again (if you don’t mind):

What are you doing to work with the SL govt, instead of working as part of the coalition against them? If Eelam War 4 has shown anything, it is that you’ll get more (from the SL govt) by co-operation rather than by confrontation. Especially when the confrontation is lead by countries and INGOs who were at the forefront of trying to rescue the LTTE leadership (by pressuring for a ceasefire) from meeting their well-deserved fate on the Eastern lagoon.

p.s. I have no issue with derogatory remarks being made about me. None whatsoever. Although I’m not sure whether being labelled a SL govt agent is derogatory or praiseworthy. Just to be sure, if I was, I’d be posting under my real name, so that I could at least collect a productivity bonus and build an even larger Elite Cubicle.

Jim McDonald Says:

October 19th, 2009 at 6:14 pm

In response to Mango2′s comment of Oct. 19 1:36 P.M., I would make the following points:

1. The argument made in the comment is one of “necessity” – it was “necessary” to militarily defeat the LTTE and it was “necessary” to do so in the way that the government did.

2. It’s not surprising that those committing human rights abuses attempt to defend themselves by making this argument.

3. Note that the comment doesn’t deny that the government killed thousands of civilians toward the end of the war. Instead, all blame is shifted to the LTTE on the basis of the “necessity” argument.

4. Let’s be clear. AI didn’t oppose the war. We just said that in conducting the war, the government had to abide by the Geneva Conventions, which they’re already a party to.

5. The comment’s argument is that the government didn’t have to abide by the Geneva Conventions since there was no other way to defeat the LTTE.

6. It’s easy to make predictions that support your argument – i.e., “if the government had tried any other option, it wouldn’t have worked and more people would have died.” That’s not proof; that’s just a self-serving statement. I could just as easily argue that if the government had tried, it would have eventually worked, wearing down the LTTE and inducing defections (and of course there never would be any defections from the LTTE, but I suppose Karuna’s revolt in the east is different?).

7. I knew I was potentially opening an endless debate by referring to the lack of any political solution being offered by the Sri Lankan government to the ethnic conflict. There isn’t time or space enough here to fully debate that. I stand by my conclusion. The example offered in the comment to disprove my conclusion was an interim arrangement that didn’t solve the political issues and that both the LTTE and then the government abandoned. If Mango wishes to further pursue this argument, we’ll need to do so elsewhere.

8. Aid agencies’ access to the camps is limited; my understanding is that they have to sign an agreement with the government promising not to talk publicly about conditions in the camps. Arguing that journalists shouldn’t be allowed in to the camps because they’re biased seems rather weak; if the facts support the government’s case, why not let the world see it?

Mango3 Says:

October 22nd, 2009 at 3:41 pm

Dear Jim McD, apologies for the delay, but I trust you’ll find my reply useful.

In response to Mango2’s comment of Oct. 19 1:36 P.M., I would make the following points:

[Jim says] 1. The argument made in the comment is one of “necessity” – it was “necessary” to militarily defeat the LTTE and it was “necessary” to do so in the way that the government did.

Of course it was necessary to defeat the LTTE in a military manner. How else were they do be prevented from maintaining their illegal racist statelet? Through peace-building workshops? Given that the LTTE re-started the Eelam War 4, they were also seeking a final military confrontation, which they were hoping to win.

[Jim says] 2. It’s not surprising that those committing human rights abuses attempt to defend themselves by making this argument.

I’m sorry, did I miss something here? Wars always cause human rights abuses. The continued existence of the LTTE & its’ war-making potential was always going to result in HR abuses. You have not put forward a single credible, fact-based argument that the LTTE was at any time contemplating anything other than total war.

Have a look here and note the key points made by the FBI’s “Criminal Complaint Against Karunakaran Kandasamy” [senior LTTE guy in US] assessing LTTE actions and intentions. Not my opinion, just facts.

– In his ‘Heroes’ Day Speech in Nov 2005, Fatty announced that the LTTE would intensify attacks unless demands for a Tamil homeland were met.

– Hundred of subsequent LTTE attacks since that speech were naturally signs of their peaceful intent.

Which do you think was their most impressive attack in their ‘Tiger Claymores for Peace’ campaign? The one on the Gen. Fonseka, the Army commander in 2006 or perhaps the assassination of Kethesh Loganathan, secretary general of the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP), or even the bus bombing in June 2006 when over 60 people including 15 kids were murdered?

Actually the most damning part (for Eelamists) in this indictment is from an LTTE video where Fatty VP …”stated that the Sri Lankan government was playing games, that his patience was running out, and that everyone should be prepared to go to war soon.”

Yes, Velupillai Prabhakaran, a real Prince of Peace, who in the cause of advancing peace in SL, was trying desperately trying to buy 30mm flak guns and lots of other kit including 50 tons of C4 RDX. I guess all those bus bombings must’ve depleted their stockpiles of C4.

[Jim says] 3. Note that the comment doesn’t deny that the government killed thousands of civilians toward the end of the war. Instead, all blame is shifted to the LTTE on the basis of the “necessity” argument.

I’ve never denied that civilians weren’t killed during the final May battles. You may be confusing me with a SL govt spokesman. Of course civilians were killed in the cross-fire during the final stage in May. But, let me re-phrase that for you. Military action was necessary by the govt to destroy the LTTE, who it must be remembered used civvies as hostages to prevent that outcome. My most fervent wish was that even at that late stage the LTTE would’ve freed the hostages & surrendered or fought to the death without using civilian hostages.

But in the real world, as opposed to one inhabited by AI researchers, that was was never going to happen. To repeat my previous statement, VP was counting on Western bloc ‘outrage’ at the inevitable civilian death toll, to yet again halt theSLAoffensive. For all our sakes (except Eelamists and the fellow-travellers) this was not allowed to happen. Not this time.

This part of their strategy was openly admitted to by senior LTTE cadres who have repeatedly and unequivocally stated that this was VP’s most fervent hope. I’m reminded of Orwell’s demolition of the pacifist position at the start of WW2.

“Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one.”

http://www.orwell.ru/library/articles/pacifism/english/e_patw

[Jim says] 4. Let’s be clear. AI didn’t oppose the war. We just said that in conducting the war, the government had to abide by the Geneva Conventions, which they’re already a party to.

As far as I can judge, the SL govt did adhere to the GC and as I’ve already said, “The presence of a protected person [i.e. civilian hostages] may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.”4th Geneva Convention, Article 28.

The corollary of this is that the Govt, had a duty of care to minimise unavoidable civilian casualties during that final phase, which it did.

Now, I’ll have to be fair to AI – as shocking as that may sound. It appears that in 1999, AI pleaded with the the LTTE to “to spare the lives of those who may be on the terrorist organisation’s hit-list.”

http://www.thehindu.com/fline/fl1620/16200530.htm

Thanks for that. Unfortunately it didn’t work. The LTTE being the Energizer Bunny of Terrorism simply continued to kill, bomb and hack off heads until, they in turn were crushed. For a group that murdered an Indian PM, what’s a few more assassinations?

What did work, in ending the LTTE’s ability to murder civilians and anyone else opposed to it, was of course theSLA. But thanks again for the letter writing campaign. [BTW, interesting that the LTTE unilaterally announced that they were going to abide by the GC. Was that before they murdered the 600+ surrendering policemen or after?]

[Jim says] 5. The comment’s argument is that the government didn’t have to abide by the Geneva Conventions since there was no other way to defeat the LTTE.

Not true. I’ve never said that I don’t think the SL govt has ever said that either. Unfortunately theUSdid for a time derogate from the GC regarding captured Islamic terrorists. But we understand that the lives ofFirst Worldcitizens are worth at least 300 times that of Third Worlders. It’s unfair, but that just the way it is.. but I digress. This isn’t AI’s fault.

[Jim says] 6. It’s easy to make predictions that support your argument – i.e., “if the government had tried any other option, it wouldn’t have worked and more people would have died.” That’s not proof; that’s just a self-serving statement.

Au contraire. I’m applying basic scientific principles of observed phenomena, repeatability and proof. Let’s try it here.

1. Observation and description of a phenomenon or group of phenomena.

2. Formulation of an hypothesis to explain the phenomena.

3. Use of the hypothesis to predict the existence of other phenomena, or to predict quantitatively the results of new observations.

4. Performance of experimental tests of the predictions by several independent experimenters and properly performed experiments.

For each step described above the LTTE fulfills all the criteria of engaging in all-out war for a separate state. Deny it, but provide me with proof. How many more peace traps was SL supposed to fall into before we realised that negotiations and compromise were but a pause in their war? We proved (after many broken peace talks) that only crushing and killing would stop the LTTE.

[Jim says] I could just as easily argue that if the government had tried, it would have eventually worked, wearing down the LTTE and inducing defections (and of course there never would be any defections from the LTTE, but I suppose Karuna’s revolt in the east is different?).

You can argue that, but the facts don’t support your argument. Karuna’s revolt was a breakthrough but see what really happened (and you should know better).

“”By the end of April 2004 it was as if the rebellion didn’t happen. The Tigers were back in the East, reopening their police stations, reactivating their courts and re-conscripting the child soldiers released by Karuna. The LTTE also began a systematic campaign of murder targeting Karuna supporters and sympathisers. Several prominent Karuna loyalists were murdered. The Norwegians who had withdrawn from their monitoring duties in the East during the rebellion came back doing little to hide their elation at the way things turned out.” Read the rest of this salutary example of how the LTTE dealt with ‘wearing down’ and ‘under-cutting’.

http://tinyurl.com/yl8olhs

p.s what is with the Norwegian’s fascination with the LTTE? Are their lives too dull for them in that endless Winter?

[Jim says] 7. I knew I was potentially opening an endless debate by referring to the lack of any political solution being offered by the Sri Lankan government to the ethnic conflict. There isn’t time or space enough here to fully debate that. I stand by my conclusion. The example offered in the comment to disprove my conclusion was an interim arrangement that didn’t solve the political issues and that both the LTTE and then the government abandoned. If Mango wishes to further pursue this argument, we’ll need to do so elsewhere.

Jim, you can stand by your conclusion, but an objective outsider would tend to agree with my proven hypothesis that as inCambodia,Sierra LeoneandUganda, killing and crushing, sometimes works.

The only political solution to which the LTTE would agree was the division of the island in their favour. They almost achieved it (with the help of their Western backers in the ‘International Community), but were foiled in their murderous reign by the SL govt.

The LTTE was never, ever even remotely interested in anything other than a ethnically ‘pure’ separate state to be achieved through violence and the crushing of all Tamil opposition to that that aim. For you to state the opposite is simply unworthy of a SL expert at AIUSA.

[Jim says] 8. Aid agencies’ access to the camps is limited; my understanding is that they have to sign an agreement with the government promising not to talk publicly about conditions in the camps. Arguing that journalists shouldn’t be allowed in to the camps because they’re biased seems rather weak; if the facts support the government’s case, why not let the world see it?

Good points, but already answered in previous comments by myself, Jim Pappa and other non-Eelamists.

p.s. Any news on whether AI gets funding from the EU?

p.p.s your lack of response to my previous question about AI working with SL rather than against it, suggests that AI will work against the SL govt. Am I correct?

Jim McDonald Says:

October 23rd, 2009 at 11:07 am

In response to multiple comments from Mango, I’ll respond briefly. We do now have another post on the topic of violations of international humanitarian law. I’ll respond now and won’t respond further on this forum. I’ll try to be succinct:

1. The comments defend the Sri Lankan government’s conduct of the war and assert that any other proposed course of action by the government wouldn’t have been as successful. Thus, those calling for the government to pursue an alternative course of action are actually condemning the Sri Lankan population to continued human rights abuses. This argument defends whatever was done. It would apply even if the government had simply wiped out the entire population in the war zone. The government didn’t do that but the argument doesn’t depend on that – it simply says that whatever had been done was necessary so human rights advocates shouldn’t criticize.

2. The comments also assert that the government took steps to minimize civilian casualties. I don’t know what the evidence is for that assertion. Is it the Sri Lankan government? President Rajapaksa and other government spokesmen have said more than once that there were no civilian casualties caused by the government. Of course, independent observers were barred from the war zone during the fighting and journalists now can’t interview the civilians who survived the fighting and who are still detained in the camps, so how do we know exactly what happened? That’s why AI has been calling for an international investigation into the closing stages of the war.

3. The comments assert that any civilian casualties caused by the government didn’t violate international humanitarian law. That assumes we know exactly what happened during the war, but we don’t. Take a look at the State Dept. war crimes report. The government was bound to observe the principles of proportionality and distinction; did it? If it didn’t in the course of causing civilian casualties, that would have violated the laws of war. We’d need an investigation to figure that out exactly.

4. I find it odd that The Hindu is referred to in stating what AI has said in the past. Those interested in reading AI’s past statements and reports onSri Lankacan find them all on theSri Lankapage of the AIUSA website, including statements from 1999 and earlier.

5. No news, unfortunately, on the funding question. As I said earlier, when I have a response, I’ll report back.

6. Arguments about history (in this instance, the impact of Karuna’s defection) I’ll leave to another forum.

Summary:

Amnesty International has been a vociferous and consistent critic human rights abuses committed by ‘both sides’ duringSri Lanka’s war against the LTTE. Yet opinions expressed by its ‘country specialist’, Jim McDonald in 2009 shows that AI’s real thinking correlated deeply with the ‘Righteous’ mindset. His beliefs can be summarised as follows:

–        Sri Lankadidn’t try anything other than a military solution to end the conflict.

–        Sri Lankadisregarded risks to civilians in the war zone.

–         The government never sought a political solution

–         Demands for autonomy were never met by the government

–         The government didn’t try to ‘undercut’ the LTTE’s support base

–         Refused to provide evidence that AI had not received funding from EU official bodies.

Jim McDonald is the Country Specialist for Sri Lanka at Amnesty International USA.

Notes to reading this document: comments and replies are in chronological order as they appeared on the AI USA blog. When I have quoted from Jim’s writing in my own replies, I have used the phrase [Jim says] or similar. Typos and other errors have been left as originally written. The most ‘interesting’ admissions and/or statements made by Jim McDonald have been highlighted in bold and blue text.

 

 

“Sri Lanka: Time for action by the UN” http://tinyurl.com/36rqtg5

Mango Says:

September 15th, 2009 at 8:01 am

Will AI indemnifySri Lankaif, IDPs are sent back to their original homes in mine-uncleared areas? Perhaps AI could create a chart listing compensation for loss of life and limb due to mine injuries. How about $500 for a leg? Or is that too expensive?

What is AI doing about returning Sri Lankans previously ‘ethnically cleansed’ out of their homes by the LTTE, who are still languishing in miserable IDP camps? Remember them?

Or is AI still going through the grieving process at the total annihilation of its favourite terror group, the LTTE?

One pedantic point: GOSL will argue this isn’t ‘arbitrary’ detention, but necessary to weed out the remaining hard-core LTTE cadres, who are amongst the refugees. There may be other hard-core cadres in the rest of the country, but major combat occured in the North East, so obviously, they’ll be in amongst this group of IDPs. So AI’s logic is faulty. No real suprise there.

Jim McDonald Says:

September 15th, 2009 at 7:15 pm

In response to Mango’s comments, I would say:

1. AI is not asking that displaced civilians be returned to unsafe areas; if there’s any evidence to the contrary, please disclose it. We are asking that civilians not be confined against their will in the camps. Please see the following AI public statement for a full explanation of these issues: http://www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?id=ENGNAU2009091113076&lang=e.

2. AI has written about the Muslims displaced by the LTTE in 1990 from the north; see our 2006 report “Waiting to go home” (at http://www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?id=ENGASA370042006&lang=e). That report gives our position on those and other internally displaced civilians whose displacement occurred more than a year ago.

3. AI has over the years repeatedly condemned the human rights abuses committed by the LTTE. As one example, please see http://www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?id=ENGUSA20080606003&lang=e.

4. The government is detaining civilians, including entire families, on the basis of their being Tamil and coming from areas formerly controlled by the LTTE. The government has no further evidence that they were LTTE members or have broken any laws, but continues to detain them indefinitely. That constitutes discrimination and arbitrary detention, both prohibited by the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. The burden is on the government to justify detaining anyone; a person doesn’t have to prove his/her innocence to have freedom of movement.

5. As to whether AI receives any funds from theUKgovernment or the EU, I’m checking on that and will report back once I find out.

Mango Says:

September 15th, 2009 at 7:16 pm

Jim,

The arrogance of unelected people such as yourself to demand things from the democratically elected SL govt never fails to surprise me. AI and its lackeys were soundly slapped down at the last UNHCR meeting, but it seems you just don’t get the message. Ms Pillay’s proven partiality towards the LTTE is simply ignored in your commentary.

The most effective means of protecting the human rights (and lives) of all Sri Lankans was to annihilate the LTTE in battle. I’d be pleased if you would direct me to an AI statement congratulating the SL govt on having taken this vital step rather than having continued on an endless series of peace talks and of course endless war. Or would you (and AI) rather have had yet more pointless peace talks with the LTTE?

Finally, were you in favour of the creation of an ethnically pure Tamil enclave withinSri Lanka(as wished for by the LTTE) or for the maintenance of a unitary, mult-ethnic state?

Don’t be shy. Tell us. Time for action by AI.

Jim McDonald Says:

September 15th, 2009 at 8:05 pm

In response to Mango’s comment of 7:16 P.M. on Sept. 15, AI has not taken and does not take a position on whether there should be an independent state for the Tamil minority inSri Lanka, or on what form of governmentSri Lankashould have. AI works to oppose human rights abuses, whether by governments likeSri Lanka’s or by armed opposition groups like the LTTE.

With respect to Mango’s comment about annihilating the LTTE in battle, I note that the Sri Lankan Attorney-General’s statement today to the UN Human Rights Council inGenevacontained the following: “It is respectfully highlighted that with the dismantling of the LTTE in May 2009, there is not even a semblance of a conflict inSri Lanka.Sri Lankahas restored normalcy in all parts of the country…” And even so, roughly 264,000 people are being held indefinitely in camps because they’re Tamils from the former war zone, and 14 journalists and other media workers have been killed since 2006 with no one held accountable for their murders. I’m glad we don’t hear of civilians being caught in bombings by the LTTE or other attacks. But AI will keep campaigning against human rights abuses while they go on.

Mango Says:

September 16th, 2009 at 5:43 am

Dear Jim,

Thanks for taking the time to reply to my points. I appreciate it.

I’m still puzzled by this: If AI’s position is to reduce HR abuses (an unarguably laudable aim), these HR abuses will be quickly diminished by cessation of hostilities. That could only ever have happened by the total destruction of the LTTE’s military & terrorist capacity, by the state engaging in legitimate war.

Ergo, AI must be delighted that the SL Govt have crushed the LTTE, no?

AI have given their thoughts and positions on so many different moral quandries including the abortion, alleged anthropogenic global warming, Dignity in Poverty (whatever that means), arms control etc. Yet you’re unable to say whether the annihilation of the LTTE is a ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’ thing.

As for the IDPs, I’m surprised that you make such a basic error of fact by stating that approx 300k SL citizens are being held “indefinitely”. You must know that this is simply not true. They’re being held for a limited time (estimates ranging from 3-6 months) for the reasons mentioned earlier.

Or would you prefer them to be released back to their original homes before demining is complete?

In the interests of consistency (after all I presume AI treats Western bloc regimes without favour) what steps have AI taken to abolish indefinite detention in theUKandUSA? In theUK, (Mother of Parliaments ©, Home of Democracy ©, The Rule of Law etc ©, All-Round Moral Arbiters ©), suspected criminals (usually Islamic terror suspects) are now being held in indefinite detention. Just like apartheid eraSouth Africaor a banana republic.

I should also of course mentionGuantanamo.. owned by the world’s leading pace-setter of human rights adherence, best practice and Moral Example, the USA – notwithstanding Iraq and um…Afghanistan.

What steps have AI taken to impeach ex-President Bush, ex-PM Blair and the Heads of their respective Armed Services for their complicity in their blatant and undeniable HR abuses?

Murdered journalists: absolutely agree. This is a real scandal and I trust AI will maintain relentless pressure on SL govt for action in pursuing the murderers. In the interests of consistency, have AI pursued the USAF and US Army to find and punish those responsible murdering Al-Jazeera journalists inKabulandBaghdad. In professional armies, everything is written down. Attack orders, target selection & clearance etc. It shouldn’t be too difficult to get this info from your DoD. Pres Bush even admitted it, so AI doesn’t have to go very far to find the culprit.

Or are Western bloc countries exempt from the consequences of HR abuses?

Jim McDonald Says:

September 16th, 2009 at 8:38 am

In response to Mango’s comment of Sept. 15, 5:43 A.M., I would say:

1. The Sri Lankan government is indeed holding the IDPs “indefinitely.” It had told the Indian government in late May that 80% would be released in 180 days. This percentage was later revised to 60%. Later reports also said the “180 days” meant by the end of 2009, though 180 days from late May actually ends in late November. A Sri Lankan minister recently said publicly that a majority would be released by the end of next January. In President Rajapaksa’s recent interview in Le Figaro, he declined to specify a date by which the IDPs would be released, though at one point in the interview it appears that he’s saying it could take another 6 months or a year, which would mean September 2010 (it’s unclear whether he’s referring to the release of the IDPs or the ending of the state of emergency at that point in the interview). Other statements by other government officials have only stressed the need for screening of the IDPs before they can be released; there’s no timeframe given in most statements that I’ve seen.

2. As I’ve said earlier, releasing the IDPs from the camps is not the same as sending them to mined areas. I know of no one advocating that anyone should be sent to areas which haven’t been demined. But the IDPs should be free to live elsewhere in the country outside the camps.

3. Those interested in AI’s statements and documents about human rights violations by other governments, such as theU.S.and theU.K., can find them on the AIUSA website.

Mango Says:

September 16th, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Jim,

Again thanks for the reply. The time frame for releasing the IDPs from the final war against the LTTE was a movable feast (2 months to six months or more), but NOT indefinite detention. So I hope you’ll amend your copy to reflect that.

Indiaand other close neighbours rather than AI will be able to influence the SL govt. AI had better get used to the fact that its’ voice, power and influence has been fatally and possibly permanently undermined in SL. Recent attacks on SL, especially during the recent failed attempt to censure SL at the UN, literally days after victory, will not be forgotten or forgiven. If AI had engaged less in the fishwife style hectoring and more in quiet diplomacy and worked with the govt, it might have achieved more for the IDPs.

The govt is still operating under a heavy security environment, just three months after the end of a 30-year war. Some IDPs may have relatives in other parts of SL, but many do not. The majority want to return to their homes, in villages and town heavily damaged during the fighting. So, should these people be dispersed throughout the island to stay in hostels and shacks if they don’t have friends and relatives with spare rooms?

If you have time, I’d be grateful for any answers to my original questions about sources of AI funding and also whether you and AI are pleased that the LTTE have been destroyed.

Jim McDonald Says:

September 16th, 2009 at 5:55 pm

In response to Mango’s comment of Sept. 15, 5:27 P.M., I have three points:

1. For someone’s detention to be “definite,” there would be a known date by which the government would be obligated to release them. The Sri Lankan government has not, to my knowledge, publicly disclosed any such date; rather, the statements made by the government emphasize a precondition set by the government (not set, I would note, pursuant to any law) which is dependent on the government’s own action to be fulfilled. The IDPs detention is indefinite and arbitrary.

2. Asking for the civilians to be released from the camps is not saying that they must be removed from the camps. If any civilians have no other safe place to stay until their home villages, of course they should be allowed to remain in the camps, but would have the freedom to come and go from them.

3. As I said earlier, I’m checking on the question about UK/EU funding; when I know the answer, I’ll report back.

Mango Says:

September 17th, 2009 at 6:10 am

Hi Jim,

Since we’re arguing about the definition of ‘indefinite detention’ in the Sri Lankan context, I’d argue that we’re only improving on from ‘indefinite detention best practice’ already achieved so brilliantly and effectively by the Human Rights Gold Standards, the USA and UK. These countries have shown the world how to implement indefinite detention (Guantanamo & UK terror suspects at Belmarsh), whilst the SL govt has committed itself to allowing the IDPs to return to their original homes as soon as practicable.

In the SL case, this is ‘definite’ detention as there are targets to achieve for the release of the IDP population. You appear not to recognise the higher duty the SL govt has to the entire population, to ensure that LTTE’s terror infrastructure is completely destroyed beyond resurrection. That can only be done by screening etc.

So the IDPs are not being ‘arbitarily’ detained, but rather, as a consequence of having arrived from an area of major combat. Whilst the overwhelming majority are undoubtedly innocent of sedition and insurrection against the legitimate govt of SL, a significant minority were involved in violence against the state.

Digressing slightly, it appears that Australian Indefinite Detention law and practice is even ‘better’ than theUSorUK. Some poor bloke was detained without trial for over seven years. It seems that SL has quite a way to go before we catch up with best-practice Western bloc indefinite detention.

Jim McDonald Says:

September 17th, 2009 at 8:34 am

In response to Mango’s comment of Sept. 17, 6:10 A.M., I have nothing further to add to what I’ve already said on the issue of indefinite and arbitrary detention. If there are new arguments or information or points to be addressed, I would be happy to respond.

In response to Bharatha’s comment of Sept. 16, 6:56 P.M., I would have the following points:

1. I appreciate the link to the OCHA report; I’d seen that report last night as well. It appears from the report that it’s just dealing with those IDPs displaced after April 2009 when counting the number of IDPs. Is it clear that that’s the same population being referred to in the report’s statistics on returning IDPs? In any event, the main point shouldn’t be lost: the vast majority of the IDPs are still being held in the camps.

2. I didn’t understand the reference in Bharatha’s comment to “trying to pressurize the GOSL economically” as there was nothing in my blog post about trying to exert economic pressure on the Sri Lankan government.

3. With respect to generalizations, my blog post had no reference to a “Sinhalese government” so I don’t know what the comment is referring to there. I did refer to “Tamils” in the camps. My understanding is that the IDPs who were displaced in the last stages of the fighting and are now being held in the internment camps are all Tamils. Is there evidence to the contrary? I am aware that the majority of the Tamil population inSri Lankais outside the camps. I wasn’t trying to address any issues concerning the Tamil population outside the camps in my blog post, and I’m not sure I see the relevance of issues concerning that population to the current discussion.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 

 

 

 

Sri Lanka: international investigation still needed http://tinyurl.com/367t6ab

 

Mango Says:

September 17th, 2009 at 11:06 am

Jim,

GOSL reply should be very short: “after you, old chap”.

FirstUSAandUKare investigated by the UN for causing huge civilian deaths in their little wars.

Here’s my rough reckoning of civilians killed due to Western bloc military action.

Gulf War 1: 50,000+ civilian deaths? (4k from direct action and 45k+ from post-war sanctions.)

Gulf War 2: another 50,000+ civilian deaths?

Afghanistan: 10,000+ dead civilians?

Approx total = 110,000+ civilian deaths, plus inIraq’s case, the near complete destruction of previously functioning country. Hmmmm.

Let’s see if AI and HRW have got the balls to go after the Western Bloc nations beforeSri Lanka.

 

# Jim McDonald Says:

September 17th, 2009 at 6:03 pm

 

In response to Mango’s comment, as I’ve said elsewhere, those interested in AI’s documents on human rights violations in other countries, such as Iraq or Afghanistan, should review the pages on those countries in the AIUSA website. In general, I do not find persuasive any argument that attempts to change the subject from human rights abuses in Sri Lanka to abuses in some other country. Changing the subject doesn’t address the violations in Sri Lanka; it seems to be saying for some reason not related to Sri Lanka, it’s okay for the violations in Sri Lanka to occur.

Mango Says:

September 18th, 2009 at 3:52 am

Jim,

Only a fool would deny that there have not been HR abuses in SL. The best example is the necessary but brutal quelling of the 2nd JVP insurrection in the 1980s. This exclusively Singhalese Pol-Pot style organisation was only crushed with 60,000+ deaths. The HR abuses committed during this period saved SL from becoming a secondCambodia.

My point is simple. The scale of Western bloc HR abuses (measured by unnecessary civilians deaths in illegal wars, abductions, death squads etc) is so huge, they dwarf the HR abuses in SL.

Being lectured to about HR abuses by the West and Western HR organisations is a bit like King Herod being put in charge of ante-natal care. So, unless and until the West puts itself in the dock and shows that its’ leaders answer for their own massive and continuing HR abuses, the idea of SL being made to answer for its own abuses is a non-starter.

We both know that HR is simply the latest stick with which to beat recalcitrant (poor) countries to accept Western geopolitical & realpolitik objectives.

Comparison and equity are perfectly proper. Let’s see the UN and UNHCR apply the same standards to the West. I’ve got better odds of winning the lottery than that happening.

Mango Says:

September 18th, 2009 at 8:56 am

Jim,

By all means carry on your sterling work exposing HR abuses from across the world. I have no argument with that and I’m sure AI’s activities are invaluable in many cases. And to be fair to AI, it has often highlighted the worst HR abuses of the now-defunct LTTE.

My point in not that AI shouldn’t actively highlight HR abuses in SL – it must and should continue to do this – but only that the generally accepted principle of equity be applied to SL HR abuses.

In the last decade, the West’s HR abuses, in pursuit of its’ own commercial, strategic and defence interests are demonstrably worse thanSri Lanka’s by almost any measure you care to name.

So let the Western bloc countries currently engaged in anti-terror campagins (for ease of comparison withSri Lanka) subject themselves to the same committees of enquiry thatSri Lankais threatened with.

I would be bitterly disappointed if AI, HRW, UNHCR and the rest were not straining every sinew to expedite this process.

Jim McDonald Says:

September 18th, 2009 at 6:12 pm

 

In response to Mango’s comment of Sept. 18, 8:56 A.M., I would say:

1. The comment refers to a “generally accepted principle of equity” – I’m not aware of such a principle. The implication, again, seems to be that one cannot carry out human rights work on a particular country unless one has also undertaken a certain amount of human rights work on certain other countries. AI has never, to my knowledge, accepted any precondition as to how it does its work.

2. Those interested in AI’s work on other countries are encouraged to visit the relevant country pages on the AIUSA website.

 

Mango Says:

October 2nd, 2009 at 11:42 am

Dear Jim,

It’d be good to have a discussion without Eelamists carpet bombing this page with a zillion news stories.

[quote from Jim McDonald] “The question has been raised repeatedly as to “how else could the LTTE have been crushed?” I won’t respond to that question. It assumes that I agree that anyone should be “crushed.”

AI’s refusal or inability to answer the question ‘how else could the LTTE have been crushed?’ and not even wishing to have the LTTE crushed, annihilated, obliterated and atomised but always pushing for ‘ceasefires’ could only have produced two logical outcome.

1. Unending war in SL with at least another 2-3,00 violent deaths per annum and,

2. An ethnically cleansed North & East fit only for Tamils to inhabit, ruled by a perfectly formed, non-democratic LTTE.

I’m delighted that this SL govt (regardless of their other faults) placed a higher value on the lives and futures of SL citizens than have HR organisations like AI, by crushing the military power of the LTTE.

By following your position of ‘no-one should be crushed’, to its logical conclusion, you must be distraught that in 1979 the truly genocidal Khmer Rouge regime (at the time supported by theUS&UKfor geopolitical reasons), was ‘crushed’ by the armed might of the North Vietnamese Army?

The darkest and bloodiest period in modern Cambodian history was ended by the hard military power of the NVA and not by ‘conflict resolution paradigms’, ‘equality workshops’ and NGO activists holding ’sustainable peace-building’ seminars.

IfCambodiahad followed HR mantras prescribed to SL on how to deal with the LTTE, there wouldn’t have been many Cambodians left alive to attend ‘Good Governance’ seminars.

[quote from Jim McDonald] “We don’t say that the way to end human rights abuses by any particular group of people is to kill all those people or to dismantle that organization.”

It seems that your theory is, yet again, found wanting. In some instances, the answer (as unpalatable it is to HR organisations) is to kill people and destroy their organization’s ability to cause mayhem, murder and destruction.

Killing the right people improves HR: InSierra Leonein 2000, the British Army within a few months ‘crushed’ the arm-chopping rebels and brought peace to that benighted country. i.e. they killed enough ‘rebels’ to destroy the movement. A peace which the UN forces had been unable to achieve for over a decade, because they weren’t allowed to kill the right people. HR abuses inSierra Leonehave declined to virtually nothing from a level of unimaginable barbarity.

In the Eelam Wars, the continued existence of an intransigent LTTE, unwilling to brook any deviation from its’ maximalist position of an ethnically defined separate state, was the greatest causative factor in human rights abuses. How exactly was the LTTE to be humanised or tamed?

The brutal quelling of the almost exclusively Sinhalese JVP in the 1980s, prevented the emergence of a Pol-Pot style regime in SL. Would you like to speculate on the state of HR rights in SL if the JVP had been allowed to take over the State, through violent means?

Again, the position taken by AI has the effect of causing maximum death and destruction in SL, by facilitating the continued existence of the LTTE; i.e. by hindering the destruction and crushing of the LTTE.

[quote from Jim McDonald] “We don’t take positions on what form of government a country should have, or whether any part of any country should or should not be a separate or autonomous state.” Excellent. So, in this instance, AI cannot have any disagreement with the fact that the mandate given by the people of SL to the legitimately elected SL govt was: ‘crush the LTTE’. If as you say, you agree with democracy, well, here’s democracy in action. A govt following the will of the majority of the peoples of the island.

[quote from Jim McDonald] “AI did say earlier this year that the temporary ceasefire should be extended in Sri Lanka, as we thought the alternative would cause many civilian casualties (and the extent of how many civilians were ultimately killed is the topic I started this discussion with).”

Based purely on the LTTE’s past performance as a guide, how exactly would a temporary ceasefire have helped to anyone other than the LTTE? Snakes bite, Scorpions sting, the LTTE breaks ceasefires. Its an immutable law of nature.

Ceasefire talks with the LTTE have been proven to be totally worthless for this reason:

the LTTE always (and I mean always) used ceasefire periods to recruit, train and re-arm to re-start the conflict. Defecting senior LTTE cadres have repeatedly and unequivocally stated that this was VP’s standard position; straight from the Tigers’ mouth, so to speak.

By its’ very nature, a temporary ceasefire would eventually turn into semi-permanent war.

If this is what AI wished to happen, you should have to courage of your convictions to say it openly.

I now see even more clearly why this SL govt decided to politely decline advice from the HR industry, during its successful campaign to crush the military capability and leadership of the LTTE.

Jim McDonald Says:

October 5th, 2009 at 11:02 pm

 

In response to Mango’s comment of Oct. 5, 1:13 P.M., I’d make the following points:

1. The argument in the comment rests on the assumption that if the government’s course of action in conducting the war as it did had not been followed, there were only two other possible outcomes: an LTTE victory or unending war.

2. Personally, I don’t accept that assumption.

3. AI was calling on the government to observe the laws of war as it fought the LTTE. We insisted that the government’s argument, that the laws of war could be ignored in the interests of obtaining victory, could not be accepted. International law requires that the government find another way of fighting, one that did not involve violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes.

4. I don’t believe the future is as pre-determined as the argument in Mango’s comment suggests it is. The government didn’t try any other way than its military strategy which disregarded the risks to civilians caught in the war zone.

5. If the assumption in the argument is not accepted, the rest of the argument does not hold.

Mango Says:

October 7th, 2009 at 9:39 am

Dear Jim,

I’m glad that you agree with my well proven assertion that in certain instances terrorist organisations must be crushed. Further, sometimes the overall HR situation in a country can only be improved by killing the relevant people.Cambodia,Sierra Leoneand now,Sri Lankaare good examples the above.

 

[quote from Jim McDonald] “In response to Mango’s comment of Oct. 5, 1:13 P.M., I’d make the following points:

1. The argument in the comment rests on the assumption that if the government’s course of action in conducting the war as it did had not been followed, there were only two other possible outcomes: an LTTE victory or unending war.

2. Personally, I don’t accept that assumption.

OK. Tell me what would’ve happened had the LTTE been allowed to remain as a viable entity with its’ arms and cadres intact? ‘Not accepting it’ simply isn’t good enough, from AI, who after all, allegedly has HR concerns as its very reason for being.

3. AI was calling on the government to observe the laws of war as it fought the LTTE. We insisted that the government’s argument, that the laws of war could be ignored in the interests of obtaining victory, could not be accepted. International law requires that the government find another way of fighting, one that did not involve violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes.

I don’t recall the SL govt ever saying that they were ignoring the Laws of War. Do you mean civilian deaths in the last stage of combat, when the LTTE was using the civilians as hostages?

Key principles when facing civilian casualties during a military assault/conflict.

1. A military target remains a legitimate military target, even if it is located in a civilian area. The LTTE hid their mortars and heavy artillery amongst civilians to prevent the SL govt from legitimately destroying these units.

2. The use of civilians as shields to try to prevent attacks on military targets is prohibited. Further comment on this aspect of the LTTE’s strategy is futile.

3. “The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.”

4th Geneva Convention, Article 28.

4. The armed forces are not liable where injury to civilians results from unavoidable collateral damage, provided it is proportionate to the military gain expected of the attack.

5. “Civilians do not enjoy absolute immunity. Their presence will not render military objects immune from attack for the mere reason that it is impossible to bombard them without causing injury to the non-combatants.” Oppenheim’s ‘International Law’

Fact 1: The LTTE used the Wanni civilians as a shield to prevent attacks on their forces by SL govt forces. Yes or No? Yes.

Fact 2: The LTTE intermingled their fighting positions amongst the civilians in the ‘No Fire Zone’. Yes or No? Yes..

All of the above conditions existed during the last phase of combat. And the SL govt did what they could to minimise civilians casualties during the final assault, but they were acting entirely within legal limits noted above.

Hell, there’s even UAV footage of LTTE cadres shooting at civilians trying to escape ‘Eelam-by-the-Sea’ in Puthumathalan!

[quote from Jim McDonald] “4. I don’t believe the future is as pre-determined as the argument in Mango’s comment suggests it is. The government didn’t try any other way than its military strategy which disregarded the risks to civilians caught in the war zone.

For a ‘Sri Lanka’ specialist within AI, are you unaware of the many, many peace talks and peace traps laid by the LTTE in the intervening 30 years? This govt and all previous ones bent over backwards to meet the LTTE’s demands half-way. These are matters of fact and not opinion. If you deny this, I can only conclude that anything AI have to say on the SL situation should be disregarded.

I have made my assertions on the basis of proven factual evidence of the LTTE always breaking ceasefires to re-start the war, after it had replensihsed its’ arms and re-strenghtned its’ cadres. Eelam War IV was no exception other than they got more than they bargained for!

Based on the evidence and the LTTE’s own pronouncements (’Final Battle, 2006 is Year of War, massive fundraising etc), they were not willing to countenance anything other than a separate state, carved out of SL through violent, non-democratic means. I’m highly amused that AI try to pretend otherwise when Eelamists themselves admit that that was the LTTE’s stated and open strategy.

[quote from Jim McDonald] “5. If the assumption in the argument is not accepted, the rest of the argument does not hold.”

Disprove my argument rather than merely saying you don’t accept it. I’ve already disproved your assertions about why the LTTE had to be crushed and that futile ceasefires would only result in more combat deaths and further degradation of SL society & polity.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 

 

AI Expels UN Official http://tinyurl.com/3s534vr

 

Over the weekend, it was reported  thatSri Lankahad cancelled the visa of James Elder, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) spokesperson inSri Lanka, for comments he had made earlier this year during the goverment’s war with the opposition Tamil Tigers.  Mr. Elder had regularly expressed concern about civilians caught in the conflict and more recently about issues such as malnutrition among children in the camps for displaced civilians.  UNICEF  defended Mr. Elder’s earlier comments and said it was very concerned about the Sri Lankan government’s decision.  U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement  today through his spokesperson expressing regret for the government’s decision and saying that he would personally raise the issue with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.  Yesterday, the Sri Lankan government said  that it was reviewing its decision in Mr. Elder’s case.

Amnesty International has reported how freedom of expression has been under severe restriction inSri Lanka.  I hope the Sri Lankan government reconsiders its decision in Mr. Elder’s case, so he doesn’t become one more example of the dangers of speaking out inSri Lanka.

Mango Says:

September 16th, 2009 at 5:50 pm

“…Mr Elder had offended and embarrassed Sri Lanka and, in the process, breached the UN mandate by suggesting children locked up in the country’s refugee camps were dying of malnutrition,” Dr Kohona said. Mr Elder’s statement was solely based on unauthenticated stories furnished by propaganda units of pro-LTTE front organizations and websites…”

So did he or he did not breach the UN mandate about its officials not interfering in the internal affairs of their host country? It appears that he did breach the mandate. Since AI clearly supports the rule of law, I expect a statement from AI supporting the SL govt’s decision to expel Mr Elder.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,26041546-2703,00.html

Jim McDonald Says:

September 16th, 2009 at 6:21 pm

 

In response to Mango’s comment of Sept. 16, 5:50 P.M., I would make the following points:

1. The comment asserts that there is a “UN mandate about its officials not interfering in the internal affairs of their host country.” It appears from the comment that the evidence in support of the existence of this “mandate” is a quote from a Sri Lankan government official (who had once been a UN official) as reported in The Australian.

2. The comment also asserts that Mr. Elder breached this “mandate” in his statements on Sri Lanka. Again, it appears from the comment that the evidence in support of this conclusion is statements made by the Sri Lankan government official as reported in The Australian.

3. My blog post above provides links to statements made by the head of UNICEF and by a spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, both of which are supportive of the statements which Mr. Elder had made.

4. Accordingly, it appears that the head of UNICEF and the UN Secretary-General are not in agreement with the conclusions reached by the Sri Lankan government official or Mango’s comment; otherwise, I do not see how they could have made the statements they did.

5. I have not independently researched whether there is such a “mandate” as described in Mango’s comment, nor whether (assuming there is such a “mandate”) Mr. Elder’s statements breached such “mandate.” Given the statements made by the head of UNICEF and the UN Secretary-General, I find it unlikely that any such research would lead to the conclusions suggested by Mango’s comment.

6. I note that a UN official is currently visiting Sri Lanka according to reports, and that one of the topics for discussion with the Sri Lankan government is the expulsion of Mr. Elder. I hope that we may soon hear that the Sri Lankan government has reconsidered its decision in Mr. Elder’s case.

 

Mango Says:

September 17th, 2009 at 6:49 am

Hi Jim,

Thanks for your considered reply. It repeats my point precisely. Under what conditions are UN officials posted to countries and do they have a duty to not interfere in the internal affairs of that country? My guess is that they must be under certain strictures.

In Elder’s case, his assertion about ‘malnutrition’ in camps was countered by the simple fact that (as sad as it is) the level of malnutrition is no worse than that prevailing in certain poorer parts of the country. This was supported by the WHO.

The utterings of UN officials do not, yet, conform to the doctrine of infallibility. Until they do, and due to proven instances of some UN staffers supporting the LTTE, James Elder has to obey SL’s laws. A kind of ‘my house, my rules’.

If he doesn’t like it, he can resign and join the ‘Provisional Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam’ of whatever they currently call themselves.

p.s. If Elder really cared about the children, he should be using the UN’s moral authority, to press for the immediate extradition of Adele Balasingham from theUKto SL. I’m sure you know, ‘Aunty Adele’ (the female Pied Piper of LTTE child soldiers) was seen garlanding LTTE child combatants with cyanide capsules during their induction ceremonies and assisted with their recruitment into the LTTE.

Jim McDonald Says:

September 17th, 2009 at 8:40 am

 

In response to Mango’s comment of Sept. 17, 6:49 A.M., I’m sorry if I hadn’t made myself clear earlier. I do not accept as true the assertions made by the Sri Lankan government with respect to Mr. Elder’s comments. It is to be expected that anyone being criticized would not welcome such criticism. The Sri Lankan government has the power to expel UN officials working in their country. Given that Mr. Elder’s superiors at the UN have publicly supported him in response to the Sri Lankan government’s expulsion, I think those arguing in favor of the Sri Lankan government’s position (i.e., that Mr. Elder has acted in a way meriting expulsion) still have the burden of proving their point. Simply guessing or relying on the Sri Lankan government’s statements is not persuasive, at least to me.

Mango Says:

September 17th, 2009 at 10:02 am

Hi Jim,

But your position is that the utterances of UN officials are to be believed and those of SL govt, dismissed. Now, I grant you, both organisations have a proven record of duplicity. So why favour one over the other?

For the UN’s support of James Elder to be credible, they would have to show the following:

1. The terms of this post-holder’s tenure in SL.

2. His ability to criticise the actions of the host government.

3. Criticism to be fact-based rather than re-hashing accusations generated by pro-LTTE organisations.

If the UN & Elder are so certain of their case, let this information be placed in the public domain. After all, they have nothing to hide, do they?

Jim McDonald Says:

September 17th, 2009 at 6:12 pm

 

In response to Mango’s comment of Sept. 17, 10:02 A.M., I would note:

1. I don’t agree that the UN has a “proven record of duplicity.” That charge should be supported by evidence if it’s to be believed.

2. The burden should be on the Sri Lankan government to prove that Mr. Elder has merited expulsion; it shouldn’t be on the UN or Mr. Elder to prove the converse. I assume the Sri Lankan government has the power to expel Mr. Elder without having to prove anything to anyone; if my assumption is correct, the fact that they can expel him does not mean that he has actually done anything inappropriate in keeping with the responsibilities of his position.

 

Mango Says:

September 18th, 2009 at 3:06 am

Jim,

A quick glance at your in-house library should provide you with plenty of evidence of UN duplicity. For those with short attention spans, here are a few examples of UN duplicity.

How about the Iraq ‘Oil for Food’ affair, Rwanda, UNRWA Hamas employees and Holocaust Denial, Gordon Weiss and Navi Pillay using LTTE sourced casualty figures as ‘UN authorised’ figures, Vijay Nambiar’s calls to KP (an Interpol-wanted terrorist) from CMB, Srebrenica (you’ll remember the French UN General’s love-in with Mladic), UNIFIL assisting Hezbollah during the recent Lebanon war and finally, “…UN Resident Coordinator admitted, when he acknowledged that UN awareness that the LTTE was recruiting one person per family was not expressed publicly in 2007 – and when it was raised to 2 in 2008, there was an even more deafening silence”.

My particular favourite is in 2007 when UN officers inColombomisled Kofi Annan to issue a condolence message when an LTTE area leader called Kaushalyan was killed. Shall I continue?

A reasonable person can now agree that the UN has a proven record of duplicity.

The burden of proof should be on both parties prove that each did the correct thing (or not) by expelling Elder. If the UN disagreed with the grounds for his expulsion, they should show reasons, rather than simply saying that they support his position. Perhaps you could ask the UN for a statement indicating the terms of reference under which Elder was posted to SL?

Are senior UN civil servants posted to countries allowed to criticise the host government or get involved with that country’s internal politics?

Jim McDonald Says:

September 18th, 2009 at 7:28 am

 

In response to Mango’s comment of Sept. 18, 3:06 A.M., I do not agree that the burden of proof is on both parties. Only if the Sri Lankan government first makes a case in support of its position, then the UN would be expected to justify its position in support of Mr. Elder. Anyone can make a charge at any time against anyone; that doesn’t require the person being charged to have to prove their innocence.

Mango Says:

September 18th, 2009 at 12:23 pm

Hi Jim,

So we agree that the UN is a proven duplicitous entity; as bad as if not worse than the SL govt. Excellent.

The SL govt appears to have made their case that Elder had exceeded his brief, broke agreements and MOUs etc about how senior UN staffers should act in their host countries.

Surely it is for the UN to show that he did not exceed his brief, break agreements, MOUs etc.

Are you sure you meant to write “Anyone can make a charge at any time against anyone; that doesn’t require the person being charged to have to prove their innocence.”

Well, I trust the SL govt will use your excellent logic to reject all and any charges made by AI regarding all and any aspects of HR abuses in SL, whether legitimate or not.

Hmmm… Perhaps you may need to re-evaluate your contention.

Jim McDonald Says:

September 18th, 2009 at 6:45 pm

 

In response to Mango’s comment of Sept. 18, 12:23 P.M., I would say:

1. I’m sorry if my earlier response was misconstrued. I don’t agree that the UN has a “proven record of duplicity.” Many of your examples appear to be charges made by the Sri Lankan government; if so, it appears to be a curious source to be using.

 

2. I’m not withdrawing my earlier comment about the burden of proof. The Sri Lankan government should prove its case against Mr. Elder. As for AI’s human rights work, read our reports. We don’t publicly disclose our research sources for obvious reasons. If our work was shown to be without substance, our reputation would reflect that and our reports would be ignored. But they’re not, as evidenced in part by all these blog discussions. As for the Sri Lankan government rejecting our reports because of my comment, I’m sure you know that the Sri Lankan government has not needed my comment to reject our reports in the past. It’s to be expected that governments violating human rights would try to conceal what they’re doing, including rejecting our reports.

Mango Says:

September 19th, 2009 at 3:42 am

Dear Jim,

I only used a few examples of UN duplicity inSri Lanka. The non-Sri Lankan examples are far more impressive and proven beyond reasonable doubt. Are you seriously going to deny UN duplicity in the ‘Oil for Food’ scheme orBosniaorRwanda?

Either Annan sent condolences on Kaushalyan’s death or he didn’t. We know that he did. Absolutely no room for debate. Even Tamilnut mentions it 🙂 And Kaushalyan was the LTTE commander for the East and not some obscure LTTE pen-pusher working for the Eelam Agricultural Team.

I recall another case: Tamil Centre for Human Rights (TCHR), an LTTE front, was accorded UN recognition as an NGO.

Are you still going to maintain your stance that the UN is not a duplicitous organisation?

On the ‘burden of proof’ issue, I’m only asking that you be consistent. Since both parties are duplicitous, we cannot accept the bona fides of either party in relation to Elder’s case. So far SL has made assertions/allegations. The UN has not disproved these assertions/allegations other than a statement of support for Elder. [see my previous comments above].

But your position alternates between allowing no burden of proof in some cases and absolute burden of proof in others. You can have it both ways, but for the purposes of this case, it doesn’t look very .. clear.

I think the SL govt has more urgent matters than following this blog discussion — and in case you were wondering, I have no connection to any SL govt organisation. Just an ordinary person, disgusted by the tainted West using HR angle to attack SL immediately following the annihilation of the LTTE. A victory that would not have been possible without HR abuses.

On a slight digressions, almost 100+ people murdered inPakistan,Afghanistan,Iraq,Somalia,Chechnya&Iraqover the last few days. Interestingly, none, (thankfully) inSri Lanka. If the LTTE were still in existence that miserable total would almost certainly contain deaths fromSri Lanka.

Jim McDonald Says:

September 24th, 2009 at 10:58 am

 

In response to Mango’s comment of Sept. 19, 3:42 A.M., I would make the following points:

1. Determining whether the UN is “duplicitous” as you assert would take an impartial observer some considerable time. Your assertions would be more believable if they were supported by evidence from other parties than yourself. I see that entire discussion as being somewhat off the point of my blog entry; if you wish to pursue it in a separate blog, that might be more appropriate.

2. Your position that the UN as a body is “duplicitous” and that therefore any allegation by the Sri Lankan government against the UN must be defended by the UN is open to question. If you or the Sri Lankan government wish to have an allegation taken seriously, it should be more detailed and backed by evidence. In this instance, certain charges are being made about statements made by Mr. Elder. Those statements should be provided. The charge that Mr. Elder was simply repeating statements by the LTTE should also be supported by evidence of the LTTE statements.

3. Of course, one other imbedded assumption in the Sri Lankan government’s charge against Mr. Elder is that if human rights abuses are reported by two separate parties at or around the same time, one party is just repeating the other party’s statements. That assumption can be and should be questioned.

 

Mango Says:

September 26th, 2009 at 6:02 pm

Hi Jim,

I’m only making the point about UN duplicity to prove that both parties are duplicitous and not to derail the thread. The instances I’ve mentioned are well proven including the UN’s own reports and statements given by senior military officials serving under the UN flag inBosniaandRwanda. The Kaushalyan incident is not refuted by anyone and will not disappear into an Orwellian memory hole. This is not to assert that the UN is duplicitous in all circumstances in all conflicts.

I agree with you that the SL govt should give more detailed info regarding Elder’s terms of reference concerning his posting to SL. Perhaps they do not wish to embarrass the UN, given that the SL govt also requires the UN’s assistance in helping to solve the IDP crisis. Similarly, if the UN really wanted to prove Elder’s impartiality and purity, it could’ve released his terms of posting to SL etc. They’ve conspicuously not done this.

Elder’s statements about ’starvation’, directly refuted by the WHO were in line with similar statements being made by LTTE supporters, NGOs and INGOs supportive of the LTTE, sailing under the HR banner.

Given that AI is an important organisation regarding these matters, perhaps you could determine the veracity of these claims and counter-claims by asking the UN for Elder’s terms of reference.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 

[Note: some of the comments and replies bear time stamps that appear to place the ‘conversation’ in an odd time sequence. The reason for this is not known. Comments have been copied and pasted directly from the AI USA blog, including time stamps as they appeared on the blog.

 

Sri Lanka: are releases of displaced civilians genuine?

http://tinyurl.com/yhcrg5m

 

Mango Says:

October 14th, 2009 at 7:23 am

To Jim Pappa:

You know that whether SL is at war or peace is a matter of supreme indifference to AI. Remember, they don’t take sides!

Even more damningly, they didn’t want the LTTE crushed, but declined to say how the suffering of the entire SL population, at the hands of the LTTE should be ended. In fact, AI don’t want any terror organisation crushed, for any reason, ever !

This makes all the various campaigns and lectures from AI and Western bloc HR overlords, about what should or should not be happening in the post-war scenario a little hard to stomach.

But, on the other hand, the SL govt has not been sufficiently transparent in allowing the process to be seen — not by the int’l HR circus, but by the local media and relief groups.

A small start was made recently by allowing a group of vehemently anti-SL Tamil Nadu MPs to visit the IDP camps. To everyone’s surprise (except the LTTE diaspora & their supporters), these TN MPs didn’t find any evidence of ‘genocide’. In due course, we will awake to cries of the LTTE diaspora discovering another noun or verb to which ‘genocide’ can be affixed.

From a legal viewpoint, if the IDPs are detained beyond a ‘reasonable’ period, its only a matter of time before someone files a fundamental rights petition with the SL Supreme Court. This body has been very critical of various govts and despite the wars and political degradation in SL.

Jim McDonald Says:

October 15th, 2009 at 6:49 am

In response to Mango’s comment of Oct. 14, 7:23 A.M., I would make the following points:

1. The comment makes certain assertions about AI’s positions. I believe the comment may be based on an earlier comment I made in another discussion where I declined to agree with Mango’s assumption that the only way to prevent human rights abuses is by killing a group of people who have been committing such abuses. If I’m correct, Mango has taken my earlier comment and decided that that means that AI “didn’t want the LTTE crushed” and that AI doesn’t “want any terror organization crushed, for any reason, ever.” It may be that Mango has other evidence, besides my earlier comment, to support his assertions about AI’s positions. If so, I’d ask that he provide such evidence to support his assertions.

2. If my assumption is correct that his assertions are based only on my prior comment, I’d like to try to make clear some of AI’s positions for his benefit and others who may be interested:

a. AI does not oppose war per se or the resort to arms by opposition groups. Nor do we support war or the resort to arms.

b. If parties do engage in warfare, AI asks that both sides observe international humanitarian law, also known as the “laws of war,” in conducting hostilities.

c. AI consistently calls on all sides in an armed conflict to not engage in human rights abuses.

d. AI has said that governments, including the Sri Lankan government, have the right, and indeed the obligation, to protect their civilian populations from attack. However, in doing so, governments are still obligated to adhere to their obligations under human rights law, including the obligation to observe the rights of those suspected of committing or planning to commit attacks against the civilian populations.

So, in the Sri Lankan context, AI did not oppose or support the war between the government and the LTTE. It is not accurate to say that AI was against the government defeating the LTTE, as Mango’s comment appears to assert. It is also not accurate to say that AI is against any government defeating any opposition group.

A final response to the comment: the comment refers to the possibility of a fundamental rights petition being filed on behalf of the IDPs with the Sri Lankan Supreme Court. I believe that two such cases have already been filed, one by the Centre for Policy Alternatives. I do not know the current status of the cases; those interested might check the CPA website (www.cpalanka.org).

In response to Jim Pappa’s comment of Oct. 14, 10:55 P.M., I’d note that the comment asks for the Sri Lankan government to be given time. I’d ask whether five months is not already sufficient time to have conducted the screening of the IDPs.

 

Mango2 Says:

October 15th, 2009 at 5:34 pm

Jim,

My reply appears to have vanished into the ether… I hope its not being censored, as it specifically deals with your points. Anyway, here it is again..

— – – – – – – —— – – – – – – – – – – – – ——- – – orignal reply ——————————–

Hi Jim,

Thanks for that. In fact in my original comment I gave two clear, irrefutable instances (Cambodia & Sierra Leone) where it was shown that sometimes,killing the right people improves HR. I’ve never said that this is always the case.

My points can be repeated thus:

Example 1. InSierra Leonein 2000, the British Army within a few months ‘crushed’ the arm-chopping rebels and brought peace to that benighted country. i.e. they killed enough ‘rebels’ to destroy the movement. A peace which the UN forces had been unable to achieve for over a decade, because they weren’t allowed to kill the right people. HR abuses inSierra Leonehave declined to virtually nothing from a level of unimaginable barbarity.

Example 2. In 1979 the truly genocidal Khmer Rouge regime (at the time supported by theUS&UKfor geopolitical reasons), was ‘crushed’ by the armed might of the North Vietnamese Army? The darkest and bloodiest period in modern Cambodian history was ended by the hard military power of the NVA and not by ‘conflict resolution paradigms’, ‘equality workshops’ and NGO activists holding ‘sustainable peace-building’ seminars.

I particularly like this description of what happened:

“In spite of a preemptive attack byCambodia, Vietnamese forces, using six coordinated corps-sized combined arms mechanized columns, along with a division-sized amphibious assault along the coast and air strikes conducted by captured American-made attack aircraft, quickly crushed the fanatical Cambodian resistance in a swift, blitzkrieg-like campaign. Within three weeks the Vietnamese controlled all major roads, harbors, airfields, and population centers in Cambodia, forcing the remainder of Pol Pot’s Cambodian armed forces to flee to the Thai border for sanctuary.” http://tinyurl.com/yznq7zb

Even better, not a single HR activist was involved in the crushing of the Khmer Rouge. They were too busy not taking sides.

Regardless of your personal opinion, the above cases are factually unarguable. If you disagree with my examples, I’d be interested to know how a better outcome could’ve been been obtained through non-violent, ‘non-crushing’ of rebels and/or genocidal movements.

I understand AI’s position re., ‘not taking sides’. Fine. If AI is unable or unwilling to take sides between a violent, racist, fascistic, terrorist organisation (the LTTE) and a flawed yet legitimate govt (SL govt), further comment on my part is probably superfluous, other than to say this:

If AI exists to maximise HR, in certain instances, only the destruction (or crushing) of a terrorist organisation will result in AI’s longed-for environment of peace and overall improvement in HR. As I’ve said many times, in SL, the major cause of 30+ years of HR abuses was the Eelam Wars, kept alive through the efforts of the LTTE. End of LTTE, end of Eelam and a gradual return to sanity, peace and maximum HR for all. Surely, AI must be delighted with this outcome, no?

Re., the rules of war, I agree. The war should’ve been fought as best as possible adhering to the commonly accepted rules of war, to which the LTTE is certainly NOT a contracting party, given that it is a transnational, illegal terrorist entity. 🙂

I’ve already given instances of where the SL govt was ‘allowed’ under the rules of war, to conduct military operations, knowing that innocent civilian lives would be lost to due its’ own operations. To summarise:

Key principles when facing civilian casualties during a military assault/conflict.

1. A military target remains a legitimate military target, even if it is located in a civilian area. The LTTE hid their mortars and heavy artillery amongst civilians to prevent the SL govt from legitimately destroying these units.

2. The use of civilians as shields to try to prevent attacks on military targets is prohibited. Further comment on this aspect of the LTTE’s strategy is futile.

3. “The presence of a protected person [i.e. civilian hostages] may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.”4th Geneva Convention, Article 28.

4. The armed forces are not liable where injury to civilians results from unavoidable collateral damage, provided it is proportionate to the military gain expected of the attack.

5. “Civilians do not enjoy absolute immunity. Their presence will not render military objects immune from attack for the mere reason that it is impossible to bombard them without causing injury to the non-combatants.” Oppenheim’s ‘International Law’

Fact 1: The LTTE used the Wanni civilians as a shield to prevent attacks on their forces by SL govt forces. Yes or No? Yes.

Fact 2: The LTTE intermingled their fighting positions amongst the civilians in the ‘No Fire Zone’. Yes or No? Yes..

All of the above conditions existed during the last phase of combat. And the SL govt did what they could to minimise civilians casualties during the final assault, but they were acting entirely within legal limits noted above.

Jim, do you agree with the above (1-5) and if not why not?

If we disagree, it is on what is to be done for the IDPs and how quickly it should be done. Jim Pappa’s given an excellent precis of the reasons (security) why this is thought to be necessary. Unfortunately AI appears to be unable to engage with the SL govt and instead prefers to point fingers from the sidelines.

Dayan Jayatilleke’s words should be read and re-read with care by the INGO circus, currently ‘advising’ and castigating SL.

“External pressure, especially extra-regional pressure (involving or based in ex-colonial states) hardly ever causes the widening of political space in aThird Worldcountry. In most Asian contexts it generates a backlash and de-legitimizes the cause it espouses, discrediting perhaps unfairly, the minorities and minority politicians as allies of hostile external forces.

Even where the context is not one of ethnic polarization, patronage from adversarial external sources only de-legitimizes local actors.”

http://transcurrents.com/tc/2009/05/post_362.html

Jim McDonald Says:

October 15th, 2009 at 10:56 pm

In response to Mango’s comment of Oct. 15, 5:35 P.M., I would make the following points:

1. The comment appears to discuss two separate arguments.

2. The first argument concerns whether, in certain circumstances, the only way to prevent future human rights abuses is by killing those committing such abuses. I think “only way” is an accurate characterization, given that in the ninth paragraph of the comment, there is the language “only the destruction (or crushing) of a terrorist organization…”

3. The second argument concerns whether the Sri Lankan security forces violated international humanitarian law during the closing stages of the war.

4. Although both arguments may be somewhat off topic, I think it would be unfair of me to invoke that rule here since my earlier comment may have opened the door to both of these arguments. Of course, if the editors disagree with me, they’re free to tell all of us to have these discussions elsewhere.

5. To deal with the first argument, the comment appears to make this argument by first citing two other countries and asserts that it’s “unarguable” that the first argument applies in those two cases (i.e., that the only way of preventing future human rights abuses is by killing those committing such abuses). Based on that conclusion, the first argument then appears to be (since the comment doesn’t say this explicitly) thatSri Lankais like those other two countries, so the first argument applies in the Sri Lankan case as well.

6. It is a little unclear, however, whether the first argument is based only on the two countries cited or whether it is deemed to apply to all countries, given the language “rebels and/or genocidal movements” in the sixth paragraph, which doesn’t appear to be limited to the two countries cited.

7. The comment asked, in effect, whether I agreed with the examples of the two countries cited. I decline to engage in a discussion about other countries. Mango may feel knowledgeable enough aboutSierra LeoneandCambodiato use them as examples for purposes of his first argument. I don’t share his confidence in either his expertise (or my own) on those two countries. One may assert that a conclusion is “unarguable” – that doesn’t mean that it is.

8. I believe that the first argument (although it’s a little unclear) then asserts thatSri Lankain effect is like the two countries cited and that the “only way” to prevent future human rights abuses is by killing those committing the abuses. It does seem unclear, particularly because in the eighth paragraph of the comment, the argument appears to shift. In that paragraph, it’s asserted that the main cause of human rights abuses was the war which, it is argued, was “kept alive” by the LTTE. So, it doesn’t appear to matter whetherSri Lankais like another country or not (or at least the asserted parallels aren’t further discussed).

9. If the eighth paragraph of the comment is asking whether I agree with the hypothesis about causality of human rights abuses inSri Lanka, I decline to do so. My focus is on campaigning against human rights violations currently being committed inSri Lanka, not on debates about whether the Sri Lankan government or the LTTE was more responsible for the continuation of the conflict over the decades.

10. Before leaving the first argument, I would just make the observation that the first argument would appear to support the concept called “the responsibility to protect” – i.e., in certain circumstances, the “only way” to protect civilian populations from certain grave abuses would mean that the international community would be justified in armed intervention in a country, against that country’s government.

11. The second argument makes certain assertions about international humanitarian law, also commonly known as the “laws of war.”

12. I would note that the ninth paragraph of the comment appears to say that the LTTE was not bound by the laws of war. That seems inconsistent with the rest of the second argument and, to my knowledge, is also inconsistent with Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. It may also be relevant that the LTTE in 1988 declared that it would abide by the Geneva Conventions.

13. The rest of the second argument appears to cite certain provisions of international humanitarian law and then assumes certain facts as to the last stages of the war. On the basis of those cited provisions and the asserted facts, the second argument asserts a conclusion that in effect the Sri Lanka military did not violate international humanitarian law during the last stages of the fighting.

14. AI has said that it had received reports during the last stages of the war that indicated that violations of international humanitarian law may have been committed by both sides: by the LTTE in using civilians as human shields and in deliberate attacks against civilians and by the Sri Lankan military in deliberate and indiscriminate attacks against civilians.

15. To determine whether a military action that causes injury or death to civilians violates international humanitarian law would depend on an investigation into all the relevant circumstances. AI has called for such an investigation. The Sri Lankan government has made it clear that it will undertake no such investigation. AI has accordingly called for an international investigation.

16. The second argument says, in effect, that the cited provisions of international humanitarian law (points 1 -5) are the only ones that apply to the Sri Lankan context. I have not undertaken the necessary research to determine whether that is correct. Even assuming that they are, the second argument then in effect assumes that the conditions required by the cited provisions were satisfied in order to reach the conclusion that “the SL govt did what it could to minimize civilians [sic] casualties during the final assault,” and that therefore the Sri Lankan military did not violate international humanitarian law.

17. I do not share the confidence, as expressed in the second argument, that the facts about the last stages of the fighting are actually known well enough to draw conclusions about whether international humanitarian law had been violated. I think most people would agree that independent observers were kept away from the war zone. So determining exactly what happened can be difficult. Satellite imagery can provide some evidence, but for greater certainty, more investigation would need to be done.

18. If we keep up this discussion, I can see that we’ll no doubt need to move it to another thread.

Mango2 Says:

October 16th, 2009 at 8:14 pm

Jim,

Thanks for that considered reply and it does cover two areas.

My first point is about the unavoidable truth that sometimes, killing the right people prevents and/or stops continuing horrendous HR abuses.Cambodia,Sierra LeoneandRwandaare well proven instances of this. The confidence of my argument isn’t based on my expertise (or lack of it), but on a straightforward reading of the available history. In all three cases, only a military action (killing and crushing) lead to the annihilation of those engaging in truly unspeakable acts of violence against civilians. We saw it with our own eyes and it happened in the last two decades. This isn’t the Punic Wars with disputed legends making the determination of the truth a matter of conjecture.

For SL, the same applies. As the AI specialist for SL, you’ll be well aware the the LTTE’s participation in innumerable peace talks were only and always with the non-negotiatiable determination to win a separate, ethnically ‘pure’ state. Even the most fervent Eelamist frequenting this blog wouldn’t deny that. VP’s appeal for funding from the Diaspora’s for the ‘Final Battle’, the arms ships, stockpiling of weapons, smuggling in of aircraft hidden amongst Tsunami relief supplies, etc, etc.. Sure, he was a real peace lover!

Whilst I applaud your concern about the current level of HR abuses in SL, avoiding the discussion of how we got where we are now, as opposed to where we would’ve been without the crushing of the LTTE is simply untenable.

BTW, I like your move to get ‘R2P’ into the discussion by saying that “…the international community would be justified in armed intervention in a country, against that country’s government.” R2P might’ve worked (and did inSierra Leone) where the government has ceased to exist or exercise control and the Brits stepped in and were warmly welcomed the terrified civilians.

But it cannot be applied to SL, where a legitimate govt was combatting a racist, separatist terror group. I would’ve welcomed a R2P exercise in SL, by the IC, had they sent troops to assist the SL govt in its’ campaign against the LTTE, but I guess the Western bloc of the IC was far too pre-occupied invading Iraq and getting bogged down in other quagmires. Further, who exactly would’ve invaded SL on a R2P mission, against the express wishes of the SL govt and Armed Forces?Luxembourg, or perhapsNorway?

I’ll give you another successful example of R2P working, in the ousting of Idi Amin inUgandadue to the invasion in 1979 ofUgandabyTanzaniaand Ugandan exiles.

I’ll reply to the ‘war crimes’ section shortly and again I appreciate your dialogue.

Jim McDonald Says:

October 17th, 2009 at 1:30 pm

In response to Mango2′s comment of Oct. 16, 8:18 P.M., I appreciate that the comment only dealt with the first argument and left the second argument for another time, thus permitting the comment to remain reasonably succinct. I’m aware that my earlier response was extremely lengthy and I’ll try to be more succinct in future.

The first argument starts by saying that killing certain human rights violators “prevents and/or stops” future abuses. Certainly, the people who’ve been killed won’t be committing any more abuses. But will others take their place and the killings only lead to more future abuses? The argument cites certain other countries as examples for where, it’s argued, others didn’t take the place of those killed so there have not been any successors taking the place of the people killed and committing further abuses. The examples are intended to show that it’s possible that others won’t take the place of those killed. It’s argued thatSri Lankawill fall into the category of the countries cited.

The argument does not address whether it would have been possible to stop future abuses by some method other than killing the abusers. It appears to say that in the Sri Lankan context, it would not have been possible. This assertion appears to be based only on a description of the LTTE’s past behavior; the Sri Lankan government’s past behavior is not examined in this context.

I agree that understanding the context of human rights abuses is important. The LTTE arose in a context where the Tamil minority felt discriminated against by the Sinhalese majority since independence, particularly over issues concerning land, education and language. Successive Sri Lankan governments did not successfully resolve these grievances in a peaceful fashion, and Tamil political parties escalated their demands from autonomy to seeking an independent state. In the 1970s, several militant groups (including the LTTE) were formed by Tamil youth to achieve the independent state through violence. In the course of the conflict, both the Sri Lankan security forces and the LTTE committed horrific human rights abuses.

Will holding the IDPs in the camps indefinitely continue a sense of discrimination by the Tamil minority and ultimately lead to renewed conflict? Will treating all Tamil civilians displaced from the war zone as LTTE members, until proven otherwise, result in deepening embitterment? Even if it doesn’t, it is a human rights violation to detain the IDPs in the camps; that violation should end as soon as possible.

Mango2 Says:

October 18th, 2009 at 7:07 pm

Jim,

Thanks for summarising my position so well. My concern wasn’t simply a cessation of HR abuses, but the dismantling of an ethnically/racially defined statelet within theIsland. [Personally, I doubt the scientific validity of the theory which claims that Tamils & Singhalese are racially different, but that’s can of worms I’ll leave for others to open].

[Jim says] “The argument does not address whether it would have been possible to stop future abuses by some method other than killing the abusers.”

Using the example of the three countries,Cambodia,Sierra Leone,Uganda(and alsoRwanda), so far, they haven’t slipped back into uncontrolled anarchy which preceded the killing and crushing the right people. The fact we can’t predict the future doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to improve our lives and security, now. In the long run, we’re all dead.

[Jim says] “It appears to say that in the Sri Lankan context, it would not have been possible.”

100% true. There wasn’t even a shred of evidence that LTTE would be countered by anything other than a return to a full-scale, to-the-bitter-end campaign of Eelam War 4. The LTTE asking for ‘talks and ceasefire’ in early May ’09 doesn’t count! I’ll repeat what I wrote earlier.

The LTTE’s participation in innumerable peace talks were only and always with the non-negotiatiable determination to win a separate, ethnically ‘pure’ state. Even the most fervent Eelamist frequenting this blog wouldn’t deny that. VP’s appeal for funding from the Diaspora for the ‘Final Battle’, the arms ships, stockpiling of weapons, smuggling in of aircraft hidden amongst Tsunami relief supplies etc…

Even when LTTE had almost everything they wanted, in 2002 when he controlled the North & East, they were unable to compromise and build on their gains.

There’s more chance of me winning the Warriors Award of Tamil Eelam (Thamizheezha Ma’ravar Viruthu) than there was of VP & the LTTE agreeing to compromise their demands for a separate state.

I’ve never shied away from pointing out that SL govts (of all political hues) have committed HR abuses over the course of 30+ year war including the brutal quelling of the 2nd JVP insurgency in the 1980s. As you must know, this is an immutable fact of [counter-insurgency] warfare, excepting the Falklands War where only the combatants and sheep suffered. I’m not saying I agree with it or like it, but that’s the way it is. When a state fights for its’ national survival, as Western bloc countries have done in the past (and not so recent past), unfortunately this sort of thing happens. You’ll note, I’ve resisted invoking Godwin’s Law even on this justifiable occasion and I hope you appreciate it.

I agree with you totally that the IDP camp situation must be ended as soon as practicably possible. Which sane, human being with any compassion would argue otherwise? Again, you raise the false claim of ‘indefinite’ detention (which we’ve argued about before, so I won’t bother re-treading that ground) when we know that internal and external pressure will mean that the SL govt will release the Vanni IDPs. Not simply because Western bloc INGOs demand it, but because it is the right thing to do. Otherwise, their claims to be a national govt will be found to be wanting.

My question to you & AI is this: what are you doing to work with the SL govt, instead of working as part of the coalition against them? If Eelam War 4 has shown anything, it is that you’ll get more (from the SL govt) by co-operation rather than by confrontation. Especially when the confrontation is lead by countries and INGOs who were at the forefront of trying to rescue the LTTE leadership (by pressuring for a ceasefire) from meeting their well-deserved fate on the Eastern lagoon.

Jim McDonald Says:

October 19th, 2009 at 7:03 am

In response to Mango’s comment of Oct. 18, 7:07 P.M., I’d make the following points:

1. The argument made in the comment essentially is that it was necessary for the 7,000 or more civilians (the estimates as to how many civilians were killed in the final stages of the war vary) to die. The argument is that the only way the government had of preventing future abuses was by defeating the LTTE and by defeating them in the way the government chose to do.

2. I don’t buy that argument. There were other options available to the government. It didn’t have to kill thousands of civilians.

3. The fact is, the Sri Lankan government never sought a political solution to the ethnic conflict or to try to undercut what support the LTTE had from the Tamil population by showing that the government was prepared to meet some demands for autonomy.

4. Furthermore, the government could have taken other steps towards the end of the war to minimize civilian casualties, by making greater efforts to avoid attacks against the civilians.

5. Why keep the IDPs detained in the camps and restrict access to them? You can’t help but think that one of the reasons is because the government doesn’t want the facts of what happened during the closing stages of the war to become known, so they don’t want the IDPs out and able to tell the world what they experienced in the war zone. If this isn’t so, then why not let journalists and aid agencies have unrestricted access to the IDPs?

6. I don’t want war to return toSri Lanka. But the treatment of the IDPs by the Sri Lankan government isn’t making that less likely.

Mango2 Says:

October 19th, 2009 at 1:36 pm

Dear Jim,

I’ll address each of your points in turn.

[Jim says] 1. The argument made in the comment essentially is that it was necessary for the 7,000 or more civilians (the estimates as to how many civilians were killed in the final stages of the war vary) to die. The argument is that the only way the government had of preventing future abuses was by defeating the LTTE and by defeating them in the way the government chose to do.

Deeply regrettable as their deaths are, the civilians were being used by the LTTE to shield themselves from attack by theSLA. I remind you yet again, that their deaths are directly attributable to the LTTE. “The presence of a protected person [i.e. civilian hostages] may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.”4th Geneva Convention, Article 28.

[Jim says] 2. I don’t buy that argument. There were other options available to the government. It didn’t have to kill thousands of civilians.

What other options were there other than to destroy the LTTE?SLAdidn’t deliberately set out to kill thousands of civilians. The LTTE deliberately set out put thousands of civilians in harm’s way by using them as hostages.

Peace talks? Negotiations? I find your stance completely and utterly unrealistic given the LTTE’s prior proven behaviour. Remember, snakes bite, scorpions sting the LTTE breaks ceasefires. Its an immutable law of nature. Here’s just one example (amongst many) of the LTTE stance regarding ‘peace talks’.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/6524869.stm

During the final stage of the war the LTTE would’ve promised to [become] Quakers if that would’ve enabled them to escape to fight another day. These aren’t my suppositions, but the exact strategy employed by VP to escape defeat, as related by the surviving senior cadres.

I’d love to see proof of your theory that there were other options and show any demonstrable instances of the LTTE willing to compromise or negotiate.

I’d take it even further and prove the Utilitarian point of view. Let’s assume unending war in SL with at least another 2-3,00 violent deaths per annum. Had they not been crushed with the attendant civilian death toll (3,000 to 7,000) the LTTE would’ve survived for at least another decade and provided us with another 30,000 SL corpses & crippled civilians and combatants.

You in the Int’l HR community may be willing to countenance that kind of slow-burn death toll, but I’m glad that the SL population, through their wholehearted support for finally finishing this damned war, didn’t.

[Jim says] 3. The fact is, the Sri Lankan government never sought a political solution to the ethnic conflict or to try to undercut what support the LTTE had from the Tamil population by showing that the government was prepared to meet some demands for autonomy.

Jim, it simply isn’t true to say that the SL govt “..never sought a political solution to the ethnic conflict”. After the LTTE had fought theSLAto a standstill, there was a political solution of sorts, but not the separate state demanded by the LTTE. But VP wouldn’t settle for anything less than a maximalist separate state position.

How on earth was the SL govt going to ‘undercut’ the LTTE’s support amongst its’ captive population? The LTTE killed hundreds of Tamils seeking a ‘moderate’ solution. There wasn’t the slightest chance of the LTTE allowing any sort of ‘undercutting’ of their cause in areas under their control. Cutting off your head and sticking it on a pole was the reward on offer to anyone caught trying to ‘undercut’ the LTTE!’

Neelan Tiruchelvam, Rajani Thiranagama and Kethesh Loganathan, all of whom tried to find a non-violent, compromise path to the conflict are amongst the best known victims of the LTTE murder squads.

For those of you with short memories, this account of Tiruchelvam’s life and death is well worth reading.

“He was called a traitor to the Tamil community because he participated in a positive exercise of constitution making instead of rabble rousing like some other Tamil sycophants of the LTTE.

Few bothered to analyse the package constructively. Despite its shortcomings the GL-Neelan package was the best possible scheme of power sharing to be evolved in post-independenceSri Lanka.”

http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/973

[Jim says] “4. Furthermore, the government could have taken other steps towards the end of the war to minimize civilian casualties, by making greater efforts to avoid attacks against the civilians.”

Until the LTTE used the Vanni civilians as hostages/shrapnel sponges, civilian casualties attributed to SL govt action was mercifully low. So low that even Tamilnut was unable to capitalise on them. But beyond a certain point, other than agreeing to a cessation of hostilities from which the LTTE would, yet again, tediously re-emerge to continue their campaign, the SL govt had to finish the war, despite the LTTE’s self-acknowledged use of civilian hostages to delay, stall or stop the final offensive.

[Jim says]  5. Why keep the IDPs detained in the camps and restrict access to them? You can’t help but think that one of the reasons is because the government doesn’t want the facts of what happened during the closing stages of the war to become known, so they don’t want the IDPs out and able to tell the world what they experienced in the war zone. If this isn’t so, then why not let journalists and aid agencies have unrestricted access to the IDPs?

Jim, eventually (hopefully soon) the IDPs will be released back to their normal lives. If the govt wanted to prevent them from talking, surely it’d have been better to kill them all. Aid agencies do have access to the IDP camps. After the proven partiality of certain Western bloc news agencies, I’m not surprised that the SL govt is withholding access to the IPD camps. Channel 4 & the BBC are famous for their pro-LTTE stance. Even more famous than certain INGOs who assisted the LTTE with financial and weapons smuggling expertise.

I’m glad to say that I personally don’t need validation from partial and corrupted Western bloc NGOs, whose disastrous advice SL slavishly followed for far too long. If we’d taken their (and your) advice about how to deal with the LTTE, we’d still be counting the dead and injured , rather than the number of living IDPs.

But I do agree that SL govt has to provide better media access, if only to silence the most outrageous lies being spread by the LTTE diaspora, who are still dealing with the death of their dream state.

[Jim says] 6. I don’t want war to return to Sri Lanka. But the treatment of the IDPs by the Sri Lankan government isn’t making that less likely.

The group most fervently pushing for SL to return to war is the LTTE diaspora. Whether they’ll actually come back to SL to re-start an insurgency is open to question. I think they prefer to gorge themselves on Big Macs and Western welfare benefits.

You didn’t respond to my previous question about AI working with SL rather than against it, so I’ll try again (if you don’t mind):

What are you doing to work with the SL govt, instead of working as part of the coalition against them? If Eelam War 4 has shown anything, it is that you’ll get more (from the SL govt) by co-operation rather than by confrontation. Especially when the confrontation is lead by countries and INGOs who were at the forefront of trying to rescue the LTTE leadership (by pressuring for a ceasefire) from meeting their well-deserved fate on the Eastern lagoon.

p.s. I have no issue with derogatory remarks being made about me. None whatsoever. Although I’m not sure whether being labelled a SL govt agent is derogatory or praiseworthy. Just to be sure, if I was, I’d be posting under my real name, so that I could at least collect a productivity bonus and build an even larger Elite Cubicle.

Jim McDonald Says:

October 19th, 2009 at 6:14 pm

In response to Mango2′s comment of Oct. 19 1:36 P.M., I would make the following points:

1. The argument made in the comment is one of “necessity” – it was “necessary” to militarily defeat the LTTE and it was “necessary” to do so in the way that the government did.

2. It’s not surprising that those committing human rights abuses attempt to defend themselves by making this argument.

3. Note that the comment doesn’t deny that the government killed thousands of civilians toward the end of the war. Instead, all blame is shifted to the LTTE on the basis of the “necessity” argument.

4. Let’s be clear. AI didn’t oppose the war. We just said that in conducting the war, the government had to abide by the Geneva Conventions, which they’re already a party to.

5. The comment’s argument is that the government didn’t have to abide by the Geneva Conventions since there was no other way to defeat the LTTE.

6. It’s easy to make predictions that support your argument – i.e., “if the government had tried any other option, it wouldn’t have worked and more people would have died.” That’s not proof; that’s just a self-serving statement. I could just as easily argue that if the government had tried, it would have eventually worked, wearing down the LTTE and inducing defections (and of course there never would be any defections from the LTTE, but I suppose Karuna’s revolt in the east is different?).

7. I knew I was potentially opening an endless debate by referring to the lack of any political solution being offered by the Sri Lankan government to the ethnic conflict. There isn’t time or space enough here to fully debate that. I stand by my conclusion. The example offered in the comment to disprove my conclusion was an interim arrangement that didn’t solve the political issues and that both the LTTE and then the government abandoned. If Mango wishes to further pursue this argument, we’ll need to do so elsewhere.

8. Aid agencies’ access to the camps is limited; my understanding is that they have to sign an agreement with the government promising not to talk publicly about conditions in the camps. Arguing that journalists shouldn’t be allowed in to the camps because they’re biased seems rather weak; if the facts support the government’s case, why not let the world see it?

Mango3 Says:

October 22nd, 2009 at 3:41 pm

Dear Jim McD, apologies for the delay, but I trust you’ll find my reply useful.

In response to Mango2’s comment of Oct. 19 1:36 P.M., I would make the following points:

[Jim says] 1. The argument made in the comment is one of “necessity” – it was “necessary” to militarily defeat the LTTE and it was “necessary” to do so in the way that the government did.

Of course it was necessary to defeat the LTTE in a military manner. How else were they do be prevented from maintaining their illegal racist statelet? Through peace-building workshops? Given that the LTTE re-started the Eelam War 4, they were also seeking a final military confrontation, which they were hoping to win.

[Jim says] 2. It’s not surprising that those committing human rights abuses attempt to defend themselves by making this argument.

I’m sorry, did I miss something here? Wars always cause human rights abuses. The continued existence of the LTTE & its’ war-making potential was always going to result in HR abuses. You have not put forward a single credible, fact-based argument that the LTTE was at any time contemplating anything other than total war.

Have a look here and note the key points made by the FBI’s “Criminal Complaint Against Karunakaran Kandasamy” [senior LTTE guy in US] assessing LTTE actions and intentions. Not my opinion, just facts.

– In his ‘Heroes’ Day Speech in Nov 2005, Fatty announced that the LTTE would intensify attacks unless demands for a Tamil homeland were met.

– Hundred of subsequent LTTE attacks since that speech were naturally signs of their peaceful intent.

Which do you think was their most impressive attack in their ‘Tiger Claymores for Peace’ campaign? The one on the Gen. Fonseka, the Army commander in 2006 or perhaps the assassination of Kethesh Loganathan, secretary general of the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP), or even the bus bombing in June 2006 when over 60 people including 15 kids were murdered?

Actually the most damning part (for Eelamists) in this indictment is from an LTTE video where Fatty VP …”stated that the Sri Lankan government was playing games, that his patience was running out, and that everyone should be prepared to go to war soon.”

Yes, Velupillai Prabhakaran, a real Prince of Peace, who in the cause of advancing peace in SL, was trying desperately trying to buy 30mm flak guns and lots of other kit including 50 tons of C4 RDX. I guess all those bus bombings must’ve depleted their stockpiles of C4.

[Jim says] 3. Note that the comment doesn’t deny that the government killed thousands of civilians toward the end of the war. Instead, all blame is shifted to the LTTE on the basis of the “necessity” argument.

I’ve never denied that civilians weren’t killed during the final May battles. You may be confusing me with a SL govt spokesman. Of course civilians were killed in the cross-fire during the final stage in May. But, let me re-phrase that for you. Military action was necessary by the govt to destroy the LTTE, who it must be remembered used civvies as hostages to prevent that outcome. My most fervent wish was that even at that late stage the LTTE would’ve freed the hostages & surrendered or fought to the death without using civilian hostages.

But in the real world, as opposed to one inhabited by AI researchers, that was was never going to happen. To repeat my previous statement, VP was counting on Western bloc ‘outrage’ at the inevitable civilian death toll, to yet again halt theSLAoffensive. For all our sakes (except Eelamists and the fellow-travellers) this was not allowed to happen. Not this time.

This part of their strategy was openly admitted to by senior LTTE cadres who have repeatedly and unequivocally stated that this was VP’s most fervent hope. I’m reminded of Orwell’s demolition of the pacifist position at the start of WW2.

“Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one.”

http://www.orwell.ru/library/articles/pacifism/english/e_patw

[Jim says] 4. Let’s be clear. AI didn’t oppose the war. We just said that in conducting the war, the government had to abide by the Geneva Conventions, which they’re already a party to.

As far as I can judge, the SL govt did adhere to the GC and as I’ve already said, “The presence of a protected person [i.e. civilian hostages] may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.”4th Geneva Convention, Article 28.

The corollary of this is that the Govt, had a duty of care to minimise unavoidable civilian casualties during that final phase, which it did.

Now, I’ll have to be fair to AI – as shocking as that may sound. It appears that in 1999, AI pleaded with the the LTTE to “to spare the lives of those who may be on the terrorist organisation’s hit-list.”

http://www.thehindu.com/fline/fl1620/16200530.htm

Thanks for that. Unfortunately it didn’t work. The LTTE being the Energizer Bunny of Terrorism simply continued to kill, bomb and hack off heads until, they in turn were crushed. For a group that murdered an Indian PM, what’s a few more assassinations?

What did work, in ending the LTTE’s ability to murder civilians and anyone else opposed to it, was of course theSLA. But thanks again for the letter writing campaign. [BTW, interesting that the LTTE unilaterally announced that they were going to abide by the GC. Was that before they murdered the 600+ surrendering policemen or after?]

[Jim says] 5. The comment’s argument is that the government didn’t have to abide by the Geneva Conventions since there was no other way to defeat the LTTE.

Not true. I’ve never said that I don’t think the SL govt has ever said that either. Unfortunately theUSdid for a time derogate from the GC regarding captured Islamic terrorists. But we understand that the lives ofFirst Worldcitizens are worth at least 300 times that of Third Worlders. It’s unfair, but that just the way it is.. but I digress. This isn’t AI’s fault.

[Jim says] 6. It’s easy to make predictions that support your argument – i.e., “if the government had tried any other option, it wouldn’t have worked and more people would have died.” That’s not proof; that’s just a self-serving statement.

Au contraire. I’m applying basic scientific principles of observed phenomena, repeatability and proof. Let’s try it here.

1. Observation and description of a phenomenon or group of phenomena.

2. Formulation of an hypothesis to explain the phenomena.

3. Use of the hypothesis to predict the existence of other phenomena, or to predict quantitatively the results of new observations.

4. Performance of experimental tests of the predictions by several independent experimenters and properly performed experiments.

For each step described above the LTTE fulfills all the criteria of engaging in all-out war for a separate state. Deny it, but provide me with proof. How many more peace traps was SL supposed to fall into before we realised that negotiations and compromise were but a pause in their war? We proved (after many broken peace talks) that only crushing and killing would stop the LTTE.

[Jim says] I could just as easily argue that if the government had tried, it would have eventually worked, wearing down the LTTE and inducing defections (and of course there never would be any defections from the LTTE, but I suppose Karuna’s revolt in the east is different?).

You can argue that, but the facts don’t support your argument. Karuna’s revolt was a breakthrough but see what really happened (and you should know better).

“”By the end of April 2004 it was as if the rebellion didn’t happen. The Tigers were back in the East, reopening their police stations, reactivating their courts and re-conscripting the child soldiers released by Karuna. The LTTE also began a systematic campaign of murder targeting Karuna supporters and sympathisers. Several prominent Karuna loyalists were murdered. The Norwegians who had withdrawn from their monitoring duties in the East during the rebellion came back doing little to hide their elation at the way things turned out.” Read the rest of this salutary example of how the LTTE dealt with ‘wearing down’ and ‘under-cutting’.

http://tinyurl.com/yl8olhs

p.s what is with the Norwegian’s fascination with the LTTE? Are their lives too dull for them in that endless Winter?

[Jim says] 7. I knew I was potentially opening an endless debate by referring to the lack of any political solution being offered by the Sri Lankan government to the ethnic conflict. There isn’t time or space enough here to fully debate that. I stand by my conclusion. The example offered in the comment to disprove my conclusion was an interim arrangement that didn’t solve the political issues and that both the LTTE and then the government abandoned. If Mango wishes to further pursue this argument, we’ll need to do so elsewhere.

Jim, you can stand by your conclusion, but an objective outsider would tend to agree with my proven hypothesis that as inCambodia,Sierra LeoneandUganda, killing and crushing, sometimes works.

The only political solution to which the LTTE would agree was the division of the island in their favour. They almost achieved it (with the help of their Western backers in the ‘International Community), but were foiled in their murderous reign by the SL govt.

The LTTE was never, ever even remotely interested in anything other than a ethnically ‘pure’ separate state to be achieved through violence and the crushing of all Tamil opposition to that that aim. For you to state the opposite is simply unworthy of a SL expert at AIUSA.

[Jim says] 8. Aid agencies’ access to the camps is limited; my understanding is that they have to sign an agreement with the government promising not to talk publicly about conditions in the camps. Arguing that journalists shouldn’t be allowed in to the camps because they’re biased seems rather weak; if the facts support the government’s case, why not let the world see it?

Good points, but already answered in previous comments by myself, Jim Pappa and other non-Eelamists.

p.s. Any news on whether AI gets funding from the EU?

p.p.s your lack of response to my previous question about AI working with SL rather than against it, suggests that AI will work against the SL govt. Am I correct?

Jim McDonald Says:

October 23rd, 2009 at 11:07 am

In response to multiple comments from Mango, I’ll respond briefly. We do now have another post on the topic of violations of international humanitarian law. I’ll respond now and won’t respond further on this forum. I’ll try to be succinct:

1. The comments defend the Sri Lankan government’s conduct of the war and assert that any other proposed course of action by the government wouldn’t have been as successful. Thus, those calling for the government to pursue an alternative course of action are actually condemning the Sri Lankan population to continued human rights abuses. This argument defends whatever was done. It would apply even if the government had simply wiped out the entire population in the war zone. The government didn’t do that but the argument doesn’t depend on that – it simply says that whatever had been done was necessary so human rights advocates shouldn’t criticize.

2. The comments also assert that the government took steps to minimize civilian casualties. I don’t know what the evidence is for that assertion. Is it the Sri Lankan government? President Rajapaksa and other government spokesmen have said more than once that there were no civilian casualties caused by the government. Of course, independent observers were barred from the war zone during the fighting and journalists now can’t interview the civilians who survived the fighting and who are still detained in the camps, so how do we know exactly what happened? That’s why AI has been calling for an international investigation into the closing stages of the war.

3. The comments assert that any civilian casualties caused by the government didn’t violate international humanitarian law. That assumes we know exactly what happened during the war, but we don’t. Take a look at the State Dept. war crimes report. The government was bound to observe the principles of proportionality and distinction; did it? If it didn’t in the course of causing civilian casualties, that would have violated the laws of war. We’d need an investigation to figure that out exactly.

4. I find it odd that The Hindu is referred to in stating what AI has said in the past. Those interested in reading AI’s past statements and reports onSri Lankacan find them all on theSri Lankapage of the AIUSA website, including statements from 1999 and earlier.

5. No news, unfortunately, on the funding question. As I said earlier, when I have a response, I’ll report back.

6. Arguments about history (in this instance, the impact of Karuna’s defection) I’ll leave to another forum.

 Document compiled 31st July 201

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Filed under citizen journalism, historical interpretation, Indian Ocean politics, life stories, LTTE, military strategy, Rajapaksa regime, reconciliation, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, Uncategorized, world events & processes

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