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Joint Press Release: Sri Lanka sends war crimes denier to Geneva as part of official delegation.
Published Date: 07/03/2019 (Thursday)

Johannesburg: Sri Lanka is sending a Minister to represent its Government in Geneva who has systematically denied war crimes, threatened journalists and allegedly intimidated a father whose child was killed. Media reports say Mahinda Samarasinghe is part of a three-man delegation despatched to the Human Rights Council for the current session[1].

 

“The Minister’s job is to convince member states that Sri Lanka does intend to implement its 2015 promises to the international community regarding accountability for alleged war crimes. How can any interlocutor take him seriously in this role when he continues to deny there’s even a problem to fix,”said ITJP’s Executive Director, Yasmin Sooka. 

 

Mahinda Samarasinghe was the Rajapaksa-era Human Rights Minister. A UN-backed international body reported that a witness, Dr Manoharan, gave sworn testimony that Mahinda Samarasinghe had contacted him by phone and told him not to talk to internationals, that members of the security forces had killed his son, and that he would assist him and his family with a new life in Colombo. This incident is well known and has been widely reported in the Sri Lankan media. The same body, the International Indepenedent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP),described this in its report as: 

 

“…intimidation and/or attempted bribery of a material witness from the very Minister responsible for protecting human rights in Sri Lanka, but it was intimidation from a person who was, and remains part of the GoSL’s team that represents Sri Lanka at international forums on human rights..”. 

 

Twelve years later, members of IIGEP would be surprised to know Minister Samarasinghe is still representing Sri Lanka in Geneva despite the change of government and professed commitment to dealing with the country’s violent past. 

 

“This shows Sri Lanka isn’t serious about accountability and it doesn’t even have the decency to pretend well,” said Sinhalese exiled journalist Bashana Abeywardene of Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka. “Imagine what it’s like for victims and their families to see a man like this in Geneva who has systematically denied there was enforced disappearance or summary executions at the end of the war. The Minister hasn’t indicated that he’s changed his mind in the intervening years  – quite the contrary.”

 

Mahinda Samarasinghe threatened reprisals against the Journalists for Democracy group in 2009 after they gave videos of naked bound prisoners being summarily executed by soldiers to Channel 4 News for broadcast[2].The footage was subsequently authenticated by the United Nations[3]. Nevertheless just last year, Mahinda Samarasinghe repeated the allegation that Channel 4 news had fabricated the execution videos[4].

 

“This is a man who threatens journalists just for doing their job, who allegedly intimidates bereaved families and who denies allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity that multiple UN bodies have investigated and found credibleUN officials and diplomats need to make it clear to the Minister how unacceptable his position is and to ask themselves how this Government can be serious about its commitments if this is their representative,”said Mr Abeywardene. 

 

In 2016, Sri Lanka sent an alleged perpetrator of torture as part of its delegation to the UN Committee Against Torture. It has yet to respond to the UN Committee’s questions regarding the individual[5].

 


[1]http://www.dailynews.lk/2019/03/06/local/179455/three-representatives-attend-unhrc-session

[2]On October 5, 2009, at the government media briefing in Colombo, Mahinda Samarasinghe said:
"We are hoping to take action against the JDS, which gave this clip to Channel 4. By now we have obtained information about the members of this group. We will take action against them. What they have done is very wrong. We should punish them properly for deliberately fabricating something like this to destabilise the peaceful situation we have achieved."

[3]UN Human Rights expert Christof Heyns on Sri Lanka video footage, Video at

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9c9AWIo1lA

[4]Video with translation of remarks by Mahinda Samarasinghe, 19 Sep 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uA-mcVgOpc&feature=youtu.be

Sri Lanka: Renewed attack against Channel 4 documentary as “fake” (VIDEO), JDS, 24 Sep 2018,

http://www.jdslanka.org/index.php/news-features/politics-a-current-affairs/813-sri-lanka-renewed-attack-against-channel-4-war-crimes-documentary-as-fake

[5]The Case Against Sisira Mendis Summary, 15 Nov 2016, http://itjpsl.com/assets/press/The-case-against-Sisira-Mendis-final.pdf

PRESS RELEASE: SISIRA MENDIS REWARDED NOT INVESTIGATED, 24 July 2017 

http://itjpsl.com/assets/press/Press-release-24-July-2017-on-Sisira-Mendis-2.pdf

UN gets no response from Sri Lanka on role of spy chief in torture

5 Feb 2018, JDS, http://www.jdslanka.org/index.php/news-features/human-rights/741-uncat-sisiramendis-srilanka

 

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