Abbott gets it wrong on Sri Lanka

Image courtesy of smh.com.au

Image courtesy of smh.com.au

Do you remember when Tony Abbott defended Sri Lanka’s human rights record, saying the Rajapaksa government was committed to upholding the democratic charter of the Commonwealth but that “sometimes in difficult circumstances difficult things happen”? Yes, like torture. And murder.

He went to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka with nothing but praise for President Mahinda Rajapakse, rather than to “bury him under the weight of human rights abuse allegations” that had completely dominated the CHOGM.

“We are here to praise as much as judge,” he told the forum’s opening meeting, lauding the ending of Sri Lanka’s civil war, and the development in the country since.

While Tony Abbott is content with showering praise, meanwhile in the real world:

A tribunal of 11 eminent judges has unanimously found the Sri Lankan government guilty of the crime of genocide against ethnic Tamil people. Sitting in Bremen, from December 7 to 10, the Second Session of the Peoples’ Tribunal on Sri Lanka found that the crime of genocide has been and is being committed against the Eelam Tamils as a national group.

The tribunal found that genocide against the Eelam Tamil group has not yet reached the total destruction of their identity; however, the genocide is a process and the process is ongoing. The military killings of May 2009 have been transformed into other forms of conduct causing serious bodily and mental harm to members of the group. The tribunal considered that the proof established beyond any reasonable doubt that the following acts were committed by the government of Sri Lanka:

- Killing members of the group, which includes massacres, indiscriminate shelling, the strategy of herding civilians into so-called ”no fire zones” for the purpose of killings, targeted assassinations of outspoken Eelam Tamil civil leaders who were capable of articulating the Sri Lankan genocide project to the outside world.

- Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, including acts of torture, inhumane or degrading treatment, sexual violence including rape, interrogations combined with beatings, threats of death, and harm that damages health or causes disfigurement or injury.

- Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or part, including expulsion of the victims from their homes; and seizures of private lands; declaring vast areas as military high security zones to facilitate the military acquisition of Tamil land.

The tribunal undertook to further examine allegations of forced sterilisation of Tamil women.

Britain and the US were found to be guilty of complicity in the crime of genocide, including complicity by procuring means, such as weapons, instruments or any other means, used to commit genocide, with the accomplice knowing that such means would be used for such a purpose; and complicity by knowingly aiding or abetting a perpetrator of a genocide in the planning or enabling of such acts.

The tribunal recognised that Sri Lanka did not have the capacity to achieve genocide without assistance and, on the basis of evidence provided, came to the conclusion that Britain, the US and possibly India are guilty of complicity. However, due to the constraint of time, the tribunal limited its findings to Britain and the US, pending the availability of further evidence against India and other states.

After the recent gift of two patrol boats to Sri Lanka’s navy, Australia is in danger of being one of those states. The gift adds to the military capacity of the Rajapaksa regime to illegally detain and harm Tamil asylum seekers fleeing repression.

But in Abbott’s eyes it’s OK to donate two navy ships to Sri Lanka because they simply “promote enhanced collaboration on people smuggling”.

Is it really worth it? Is he that desperate to stop the boats that he’s happy to accept that the alternative for those people is that difficult things might happen to them?

Dan Rowden, on providing the link to the tribunal’s finding (above) on The AIMN summarises it better than anyone:

And this Government has now made Australia complicit. Whatever else this Government does I don’t think this one can be surpassed.

Abbott certainly got that one wrong, didn’t he?