Commission Calls on Australia to Back Sri Lankan War Crimes Report

Monday 24 May 2010

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has called on the Australian Government to support the recommendations of the International Crisis Group’s (ICG) report on possible war crimes in the last year of the Sri Lankan civil war which ended a year ago.

The ICG report says there is compelling evidence to suggest the Sri Lankan military intentionally shelled civilians, hospitals and humanitarian operations and that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) intentionally shot civilians and caused them suffering.

It says that it has collected a compelling case to warrant an international inquiry into possible war crimes on both sides of the conflict.

The ICG has put together its report with the help of eyewitness reports, photographs, videos, satellite images, electronic communications and documentary evidence.

Apart from calling on the United Nations to undertake an international inquiry into possible war crimes during the last year of the conflict, the report makes recommendations for action to a number of countries including Australia.

Among these recommendations, the report calls for targeted sanctions such as the imposition of travel restrictions on Sri Lankan officials and their families.

The Justice and Peace Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the ICG report criticizes countries like Australia for turning a blind eye to the evidence of human rights violations during the conflict.

“It is important that those responsible for human rights violations be held accountable for their actions,” Mr Arndt said.

“Many governments like the Australian Government want to forget all about the dreadful things which were done both by the Sri Lankan military and the Tamil Tigers, but this is a grave injustice to the thousands of Tamil civilians who were killed and maimed in the conflict,” he said.

“There is no hope for political reconciliation and peace in Sri Lanka if those responsible for these injustices are not held accountable for them,” he said.

“Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II often said there is ‘no peace without justice’,” he said.

“In a petition with over two thousand signatures which we submitted to the Senate last year, we called for a credible investigation into human rights violations in Sri Lanka and we continue to urge the Australian Government to support this,” he said.

”If we believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we must believe that the lives of the individual Tamil civilians who suffered at the hands of the Sri Lankan military and the Tamil Tigers mean something,” he said.

“They are the mothers and fathers and sons and daughters of human beings just like us and they deserve justice,” he said.

“We hope Catholics will read the ICG report and tell their local MP that they want Australia to take strong action for the sake of all those who have suffered in Sri Lanka,” he said.

For further information, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.

NB:This release is issued with the approval of the Commission or its Executive under the provision of its Mandate which enables it to speak in its own right.  The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

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