Sri Lanka: Canberra Times features MAPW letter

(Published Monday 11 July 2011) Dear Editor, On Monday this week the ABC’s Four Corners program broadcast distressing and compelling footage that strongly supports allegations of war crimes having been committed, by both sides but primarily by government forces, during the appalling conflict in Sri Lanka in 2009. In particular, evidence strongly supports claims made during the war that government forces repeatedly and deliberately bombed civilian areas, including food and medical facilities. Such actions are unequivocally criminal acts.

Since the time of the war there have been widespread calls for independent international investigations into the allegations, but no such investigations are underway. The Australian government could play an important role in promoting them but does not appear to be doing so.

In a statement to parliament on 14 September 2009, then Foreign Minister Stephen Smith stated that it is “important that allegations of human rights abuses [in Sri Lanka] be dealt with through a credible and independent process”. Smith also referred to Australia’s long-standing relationship as “a friend of Sri Lanka”.

One wonders how much longer the Australian government is going to wait for such a process to occur, or whether our friendship with another government is softening our approach to war crimes. Compared to the victims of other such crimes, the Tamil people have been all but forgotten. This can only pave the way for similar crimes to be conducted with impunity in future, by governments with friends in the West.

Yours sincerely

Dr Sue Wareham

Immediate Past President, Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia)