Birds of a Feather and Fellow International Criminals.

Pinochet and Kumaranatunge

Twenty-five years after engineering disappearances in his country, the law has finally caught up with Pinochet. The rapid changes in legal theory have recognized the criminal responsibility of heads of state who knowingly violate the human rights of their people on a massive scale.

Since torture and genocide have now been recognized as international crimes, it has become possible for the prosecution of such leaders before the domestic courts of other states, which are inclined to adopt legal policies, based on ethical considerations. The setting up of international tribunals to punish the atrocities committed in Rwanda and in Yugoslavia has accelerated these changes in the last few years.

The projected International Criminal Court which the United Nations is to establish will further accelerate these developments and the prosecution of these criminals both before international tribunals specially set up for specific atrocities and before domestic courts of different states will become frequent and common-place. Such trials will serve as a deterrent towards heads of state unleashing the machinery of the state to wreak havoc on sections of the state on the basis of their ethnicity or religion.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa also provides a further example of the need to punish leaders who have terrorized sections of the populace or caused massive and large-scale "disappearances." Such actions are necessary in order to prevent future leaders engaging in similar practices and also for ascription of the blame for the events.

It is in the light of these international developments that one has to view Chemmani which provides evidence of the fact that Kumaranatunge and her coterie have ruthlessly suppressed the civilian population of Eelam during the occupation of their land. The criminal responsibility of Kumaranatunge, her "General" Ratwatte and the underling Kadirgamar, have to be assessed in the light of these emerging principles.

Tamil communities living abroad must be prepared to have recourse to the courts of the states in which they live to try out litigation based on the new theories of jurisdiction of these courts over responsibility for international crimes committed by the people like those mentioned. This is one service that could be provided to the people of Eelam by their brethren living abroad.

In the same vein, we should not forget the fact that Kumarantunge's mother, Mrs Pandaranaike was responsible for the death of over 60,000 Sinhalese youth. This figure, incidentally, is less than the 3,000 that Pinochet is reputed to have killed.

Sri Lankan leaders do such killing, even of their own kind, on a massive scale. It is necessary to ensure that such wickedness is also punished. No family has brought such misery on a people in the pursuit of power as the Pandaranaike family.

Amnesty International which announced that it is prepared to take over the litigation regarding Pinochet, should be similarly generous if Mrs. Pandaranaike comes for treatment to the UK or some other country to prosecute her, for it is Amnesty which recorded these killings in its reports.

Since Amnesty has also expressed concern over Chemmani, let us hope that the next visit abroad of Kumaranatunge, Ratwatte or Kadirgamar will be the occasion for Amnesty International to test itself,

Professor M. Sornarajah

Centre for Petroleum and Natural Resources Law

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