Lanka insists no impunity for soldiers

The Sri Lankan government on Tuesday insisted that soldiers found guilty of committing crimes will not be able to get away with impunity.

A government statement quoted the island’s powerful defense secretary as saying that there may have been a few individuals who were guilty of acting outside orders and committing crimes during the war.

The Sri Lankan military defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels three years ago after 30 years of bitter fighting but human rights groups have accused the military of committing war crimes and yet not being charged for those crimes.

“If any soldier has been found guilty of having done something wrong, the full weight of military justice has been brought to bear in the past, and it will be so in the future as well,” Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said.

He said the notion of perpetrators getting away with impunity is completely wrong as the Sri Lankan military has strong systems to ensure compliance to accepted norms, and it has mechanisms to investigate and punish any soldiers or officers who violate those norms.

“It should also be noted that since the publication of the Recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission in December last year, the commanders of the Army and Navy have established special Courts of Inquiry to investigate any alleged violations that occurred during the humanitarian operation. The public is free to make submissions to the Courts of Inquiry, and if substantial evidence exists against any individual or group, a General Court Martial would be convened to try the alleged offenders,” he said.

Rajapaksa said that the number of deaths alleged to have occurred during the final stages of the war has been grossly exaggerated.

However he noted that despite the best intentions of the government and the military, some level of civilian casualties were unavoidable.

“The government had a clear policy on zero civilian casualties, but achieving zero casualties in practice was impossible because the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) used civilians as a human shield, and forced them to become combatants in the last stages of the war,” he said. (Xinhua)