The following was sent to a Sri Lankan media outlet that wanted a comment on the NDTV article given below. It was also sent to the NDTV website but its moderator strangely refused to upload this clarification alongside the innacurate report.

I think the report is not to bad, in that internal inconsistencies will prevent it from being too misleading. But, to sum these up –

First sentence: Government has always accepted that there may have been incidents requiring further investigation, and then perhaps indictments, which is precisely why the LLRC is looking into allegations. The use of the word ‘may’ is correct here, and does not represent anything new.

 Third sentence: I did not say anyone was found guilty of killing civilians during the final phase of the war. In fact I pointed out that the general allegations about indiscriminate attacks on civilians were easily shown to be exaggerated if not false (ie as when I noted that one incident for which a precise date was given firing on a UN hub on the night of January 23rd / dawn of January 24th was manifestly falsified by the UN letter of January 24th thanking the forces for their cooperation).

 I did say that when there were specific dates given, as with the White Flag case, government should investigate further. This is correctly reported further down. I should note however that this incident is not about civilian deaths, as the last para makes clear.

 Second paragraph: I said nothing categorical about LLRC decisions because these are not in the public domain except for the initial recommendations. I said that I thought it likely they would recommend charges (not changes) where there was a prima facie case. I believe they may already have made recommendations for indictment but the case in which I have noted specifics that could be looked into, the White Flag case, does not seem to have been considered as yet. That is why I talk of my hopes for further investigation being mandated. The LLRC cannot of course find anyone guilty since they are not a judicial body.

Third paragraph: I obviously did not say there was impunity in the Eastern Province, I said there were allegations that there had been impunity, and said those allegations were wrong for the reason I then gave. There was a case in which someone has not just been indicted, but had gone through a judicial process, and I believe been given a suspended sentence. But I said very clearly that this was not for a war crime as far as I knew, it was for something much less grave. The reason I mentioned it was to indicate that, though procedures take a long time, this made it clear that there was no question of impunity. If good cases were made, there would be further investigation and charges, and if these were proved, what happened in the East would happen in the North.

The last paragraph makes it clear that the instance I cited was one that concerned LTTE forces. Whilst I believe that should be investigated further, it is a very different type of allegation from those made with regard to civilians and hospitals, all of which can be disproved on the evidence we have. Where there is precision, as in the instance I mentioned above, and in others I have discussed, we can investigate and show the charges are false.

Sri Lanka to probe human rights violations by its army personnel

NDTV Correspondent, Updated: September 01, 2011 09:35 IST

Colombo:  Over two years after Sri Lanka’s war against the LTTE, the Mahinda Rajapakse government has for the first time indirectly admitted that some of its army personnel may have indulged in human rights violations in the final phase of the war. They add that these army personnel may therefore be indicted in coming months. According to Rajiva Wijesinha, Adviser on Reconciliation to the Lankan President, some of these army personnel have been found guilty of killing civilians during the final phase of the war against the LTTE, and accordingly action will be taken against them.

The Sri Lankan government has been under tremendous pressure from the international community for some time now for the alleged killing of killing of several thousand civilians during the civil war. According to Wijesinha, the government is dealing with this by setting up the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) which is going to recommend changes to the government. He says the LLRC has already made some reports which calls for potential indictment of some army personnel. The final report is expected in November.

But Wijesinha also makes it clear the LLRC will not be a witchhunt. “We are not going to run around asking everyone did you indulge in war crimes? If we have prima facie evidence that would be investigated.”

He adds, “I think the white flag incident needs to be investigated. I hope very much that the LLRC would recommend it. In the eastern province where there is impunity someone has been indicted. But we are not going to make the trial public. We are not going to make a song and dance of it.”

The white flag incident refers to an incident with Sri Lankan army troops allegedly gunned down LTTE forces who were surrendering, towards the end of the civil war. The incident attracted international condemnation, and is seen as one of the major reasons for the setting up of the government probe today.

NDTV 1 September 2011