Sep 04, 2017

Sri Lanka: Ex army chief duo trade accusations over war crimes

Two of Sri Lanka's former military commanders have entered a war of words blaming each other of committing crimes during the country's bloody civil war, in the wake of international lawsuits against one of them for alleged war crimes.

Former army commanders Jagath Jayasuriya and Sarath Fonseka levelling accusations against each other in public after human rights organisations filed war crime charges against General Jayasuriya in Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Chile, where he served as Sri Lanka's ambassador until last week.

Troops under his command are alleged to have attacked hospitals and abducted, killed and tortured thousands of Tamils.

Brazil urged to investigate

CarloseSpanish prosecutor, Carlos Castresana Fernández who coordinated the lawsuit against Jayasuriya has met Brazillian authorities on Monday urging them to  probe the accused diplomat turned general.

Adding weight to evidence gathered by The International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) and its Latin American partner organisations who filed the cases, war-time army commander Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka accused General Jayasuriya of "engaging  in crimes" against detainees.

ITJP has recorded evidence from Tamil detainees who survived abduction and torture in the much feared Joseph Camp military complex under Jayasuriya during the war and its aftermath.

Crimes against detainees

“I received complaints during that period about Jagath Jayasuriya engaging in crimes," Fonseka told journalists in Colombo adding that he was only in charge of defending military  bunker lines and providing logistics to fighting brigades in the battle front.

"But, he was in charge of those who were arrested. I received information that he was committing crimes against them. He continued with the same practice after he was appointed to the post of army commander."

Sarath Fonseka who holds the regional development portfolio in the present government vouched to give detailed evidence about crimes perpetrated by General Jayasuriya "if proper legal proceedings are initiated".

He emphasised that fighting divisions came under his direct command during the military offensive in the north.

Fonseka himself, accused of commanding troops that committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, had admitted earlier that hospitals treating unarmed Tamils during the war had come under Sri Lanka military bombardment.

Sri Lanka has persistently rejected investigating its armed forces despite commitments made at the UN.

Pointing fingers

Confirming that he was involved in providing logistics, General Jagath Jayasuriya said it was not him but Sarath Fonseka who should be held accountable for any alleged war crimes.

Mahinda Gota"It was the former commander Sarath Fonseka who claims that he is the one who was in charge of military operations during the war," Jayasuriya told journalists in Colombo upon his return from the diplomatic posting in Latin America. "Therefore, it is wrong to lay the blame of command responsibility on me."

While the military spokesman had denied allegations against Jayasuriya, Government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne downplayed the charges as those of "a very general nature".

Fonseka said an inquiry initiated by him during his tenure as army chief against Jayasuriya was hampered by the head of state at the time Mahinda Rajapaksa and his sibling, the powerful Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

"I have information that he committed those crimes with the blessings of the ruler and defence secretary during that period," said Sarath Fonseka.

Jagath Jayasuriya wants the UN to intervene and issue a public proclamation exonerating him and the military from allegations of war crimes.

The UN has found that at least 70, 000 civilians were killed in the last stages of the war and that Sri Lanka armed forces continue with abductions, torture and sexual violence.

(By Athula Vithanage –