Sri Lanka War Crimes Investigation: USTPAC Supports UN Secretary General's Move Creating Advisory Panel

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UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon plans to appoint an advisory panel to look into possible war crimes investigations targeted at Sri Lankan political figures. The United States Tamil Political Action Council (USTPAC) approves, and suggests Illinois law professor Francis Boyle as a panelist.

The United States Tamil Political Action Council (USTPAC) declared its support for UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon's initiative to appoint an advisory panel for war crimes investigations in Sri Lanka.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon formally declared in February his "concern about the lack of progress on political reconciliation, the treatment of internally displaced persons, and the setting up of an accountability process in SL since the UN signed a joint statement with the Government last year in the wake of the end of its separatist Tamil rebels."

USTPAC proposed the name of Chicago law professor Francis Boyle to the advisory panel, and described him as eminently qualified for the task. "The UN Secretary General is talking about setting up a panel to tell him whether there is enough evidence to mount an investigation into possible war crimes," said the USTPAC spokesperson. "We think Professor Boyle is well suited to this task.

"He is a well known scholar in the fields of international law and human rights. Professor Boyle is eminently qualified to advise the UN Secretary General on any war crime investigations of the parties to the conflict in Sri Lanka," said the USTPAC spokesperson.

Currently a law professor at the University of Illinois, Professor Boyle was instrumental in developing the indictment against Slobodan Milosevic for committing genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

One year ago Sri Lanka carried out a military offensive against the Tamil Tigers. The rebels were driven, along with hundreds of thousands of civilian refugees, into a small coasatal area in Sri Lanka. Some witnesses described the goevernment's use of heavy wweapons showed "callous disregard for the lives of nearly a half-million Tamil civilians trapped in a narrow stretch of sand in the middle of the fighting." The United Nations warned at the time of "a blood bath on the beach." The government, for it's part, claimed that the Tiger rebels used the civilians as human shields.

"We believe that the Secretary General's panel will try to sort out the truth from the lies in this serious matter," said the USTPAC spokesperson. "We think that Professor Boyle can make an important contribution."

According to Gordopn Weiss, who was the UN spokesperson in Colombo during the fighting, up to forty thousand civilians were killed by the indiscriminate use of heavy weapons during the last weeks of the war. The 300,000 survivors of the fighting were put in internment camps by the Sri Lankan Government for many months under what witnesses said were humiliating conditions and in violation of innumerable international norms.

The Secretary General announced his intention to move forward in assembling a group of experts "to advise him on setting the broad parameters and standards on the way ahead on establishing accountability concerning Sri Lanka." On March 16 he re-affirmed his intention to appoint the expert panel, which would advise him on "standards, benchmarks, and parameters based on international experience that must guide the accountability process."

"The UN Secretary General's initiative is welcome, deserves the full support of the international community, and should proceed without delay. The terms of reference need to be broad enough to ensure full accountability," said the spokesperson for USTPAC.

The Secretary General's action follows calls by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillai and the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Philip Alston, urging international investigations based on credible reports of war crimes on the island.

Inner City Press reported that the Secretary General has entrusted the panel's terms of reference and its membership to his chief of staff, Mr. Vijay Nambiar, along with the Sri Lankan Ambassador to the UN, Dr. Palitha Kohena. "We appeal to the Secretary General that, in the interest of fairness to the victims, he consult the Tamils also in appointing the advisory panel," said the USTPAC spokesperson, adding, "USTPAC and the Global Tamil Forum strongly recommend that Professor Francis A. Boyle to named to the advisory panel."

For more information, please contact info(at)ustpac(dot)org or 202.595.3123

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