Friday, March 24, 2017 INTERNATIONAL

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Democrats’ anti-Russia hysteria prepares the ground for war
Patrick Martin
 
EVER-WIDER layers of the American population hate the Trump administration. Significant protests have broken out over its attacks on democratic rights, its racist persecution of immigrants, and its frenzied assault on social programs, environmental regulations, art, culture and science. According to the most recent Gallup poll, conducted after the release of Trump’s first budget outline, his approval rating has fallen to 37 percent, with 58 percent disapproving. No administration in recent American history has been so discredited and unpopular so soon after taking office.
But the Democratic Party has chosen to base its opposition to Trump not on any of the social and political issues vital to tens of millions of working people, but on another ground entirely: the claim that Trump is a puppet of Russia, who won the presidency as a result of the hacking of Democratic Party targets ordered by Vladimir Putin during the 2016 presidential election.
The violently anti-Russian axis of the Democratic Party’s campaign against Trump was spelled out 18 March at a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee, where FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Michael Rogers gave their first public testimony on the claims of Russian hacking during the 2016 elections, and on Trump’s counter-claim that the Obama administration illegally wiretapped his offices in Trump Tower during the campaign.
Comey and Rogers gave the anticipated rebuke to Trump’s tweeted charges against Obama, declaring there was no information to substantiate his claims. But this occupied only a few minutes of the five-hour hearing, in which every Democratic representative voiced a variation on the theme that Trump’s presidency is the product of a Russian plot to subvert American democracy and take over the government.
The tone was set by the lengthy opening statement of the ranking Democrat on the intelligence panel, Adam Schiff of California, who elaborated the Democratic Party “theory” of the 2016 elections, in which “a foreign adversarial power intervened in an effort to weaken our democracy and to influence the outcome for one candidate and against the other.” He declared that the most important issue was “whether the Russians had the help of US citizens, including people associated with the Trump campaign.”
Schiff quoted from a discredited 25-page report produced by a former British intelligence agent, alleging a deal in which the Russian government would supply documents damaging to Hillary Clinton “in exchange [according to Schiff] for a Trump administration policy that de-emphasizes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and instead focuses on criticizing NATO countries for not paying their fair share. Policies which even as recently as the President’s meeting last week with Angela Merkel have now presently come to pass.”
The Democratic Party’s allegations recall the days when the notorious Senator Joe McCarthy declared that he carried in his briefcase the names of 205 “card-carrying members” of the American Communist Party. It is impossible to overstate how thoroughly fraudulent this anti-Russian campaign is. The neo-McCarthyites of the Democratic Party have not presented a shred of credible evidence to support any of their allegations. Not a single charge can withstand critical scrutiny. But the rhetoric is utterly unrestrained, with declarations being made over and over that the alleged Russian hacking during the 2016 election was an “act of war.”
At one point during the hearing, FBI Director Comey repeated the claim made previously by US intelligence agencies that Putin had intervened in the US elections out of sheer hatred for the Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, whom he blamed for Washington’s support for anti-Putin demonstrations in Moscow in 2011, while Clinton was secretary of state. No evidence was presented to support this wild and stupid claim.
None of the assembled congressmen bothered to ask the FBI director to produce the evidence on which he based this “insight” into Putin’s motives. How does Comey know what Putin actually thinks? In any case, if Putin is really the master strategist the American media make him out to be, is it likely that this Russian Machiavelli makes political decisions on the basis of “sheer hatred” or any other set of subjective emotions?
The whole purpose of the congressional hearings—20 March’s was only the first in a series—has less to do with Trump than with the acceleration and intensification of the preparations for war with Russia. This was acknowledged in the opening remarks of the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Republican Representative Devin Nunes, who declared that whatever his disagreements with the Democrats, “one benefit” of the hearing was already clear. “It has focused wide attention on the pressing threats posed by the Russian autocrat” and set the stage “for stronger action against Russian belligerence.”
The working class confronts a conflict between two vile and reactionary camps, which are arguing over the best and fastest path to war. The Democrats want Russia to be Target Number One. Trump, however, views China and Germany as the preferred targets in the new struggle for world domination.
This conflict between two criminal gangs is a war of liars: the lies of Trump vs. the lies of the Democrats. Both Trump and the Democrats represent and defend the interests of the Wall Street banks and the giant corporations, and are prepared to sacrifice the lives of millions of working people in new wars to defend the global dominance of American imperialism.
One fundamental political lesson must be drawn from the filthy proceedings in Washington. The fight of the working class against Trump must be developed entirely independently of and in opposition to the political cesspool known as the Democratic Party.
The working class must mobilize its strength on the basis of socialist and anti-imperialist policies against the ultra-right policies of the Trump administration: defending immigrant workers, opposing budget cuts, denouncing the chauvinistic threats against Mexico, China or any other country that is targeted by the American ruling class. But this fight cannot and must not have anything to do with the Democratic Party, which seeks to pollute the mass opposition to Trump with its own filthy imperialist politics. In response to the Democrats and Republicans, we quote the words of Shakespeare’s Mercutio: “A plague on both your houses.”
—WSWS

Comment

Patrick Martin
 
EVER-WIDER layers of the American population hate the Trump administration. Significant protests have broken out over its attacks on democratic rights, its racist persecution of immigrants, and its frenzied assault on social programs, environmental regulations, art, culture and science. According to the most recent Gallup poll, conducted after the release of Trump’s first budget outline, his approval rating has fallen to 37 percent, with 58 percent disapproving. No administration in recent American history has been so discredited and unpopular so soon after taking office.
But the Democratic Party has chosen to base its opposition to Trump not on any of the social and political issues vital to tens of millions of working people, but on another ground entirely: the claim that Trump is a puppet of Russia, who won the presidency as a result of the hacking of Democratic Party targets ordered by Vladimir Putin during the 2016 presidential election.
The violently anti-Russian axis of the Democratic Party’s campaign against Trump was spelled out 18 March at a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee, where FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Michael Rogers gave their first public testimony on the claims of Russian hacking during the 2016 elections, and on Trump’s counter-claim that the Obama administration illegally wiretapped his offices in Trump Tower during the campaign.
Comey and Rogers gave the anticipated rebuke to Trump’s tweeted charges against Obama, declaring there was no information to substantiate his claims. But this occupied only a few minutes of the five-hour hearing, in which every Democratic representative voiced a variation on the theme that Trump’s presidency is the product of a Russian plot to subvert American democracy and take over the government.
The tone was set by the lengthy opening statement of the ranking Democrat on the intelligence panel, Adam Schiff of California, who elaborated the Democratic Party “theory” of the 2016 elections, in which “a foreign adversarial power intervened in an effort to weaken our democracy and to influence the outcome for one candidate and against the other.” He declared that the most important issue was “whether the Russians had the help of US citizens, including people associated with the Trump campaign.”
Schiff quoted from a discredited 25-page report produced by a former British intelligence agent, alleging a deal in which the Russian government would supply documents damaging to Hillary Clinton “in exchange [according to Schiff] for a Trump administration policy that de-emphasizes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and instead focuses on criticizing NATO countries for not paying their fair share. Policies which even as recently as the President’s meeting last week with Angela Merkel have now presently come to pass.”
The Democratic Party’s allegations recall the days when the notorious Senator Joe McCarthy declared that he carried in his briefcase the names of 205 “card-carrying members” of the American Communist Party. It is impossible to overstate how thoroughly fraudulent this anti-Russian campaign is. The neo-McCarthyites of the Democratic Party have not presented a shred of credible evidence to support any of their allegations. Not a single charge can withstand critical scrutiny. But the rhetoric is utterly unrestrained, with declarations being made over and over that the alleged Russian hacking during the 2016 election was an “act of war.”
At one point during the hearing, FBI Director Comey repeated the claim made previously by US intelligence agencies that Putin had intervened in the US elections out of sheer hatred for the Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, whom he blamed for Washington’s support for anti-Putin demonstrations in Moscow in 2011, while Clinton was secretary of state. No evidence was presented to support this wild and stupid claim.
None of the assembled congressmen bothered to ask the FBI director to produce the evidence on which he based this “insight” into Putin’s motives. How does Comey know what Putin actually thinks? In any case, if Putin is really the master strategist the American media make him out to be, is it likely that this Russian Machiavelli makes political decisions on the basis of “sheer hatred” or any other set of subjective emotions?
The whole purpose of the congressional hearings—20 March’s was only the first in a series—has less to do with Trump than with the acceleration and intensification of the preparations for war with Russia. This was acknowledged in the opening remarks of the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Republican Representative Devin Nunes, who declared that whatever his disagreements with the Democrats, “one benefit” of the hearing was already clear. “It has focused wide attention on the pressing threats posed by the Russian autocrat” and set the stage “for stronger action against Russian belligerence.”
The working class confronts a conflict between two vile and reactionary camps, which are arguing over the best and fastest path to war. The Democrats want Russia to be Target Number One. Trump, however, views China and Germany as the preferred targets in the new struggle for world domination.
This conflict between two criminal gangs is a war of liars: the lies of Trump vs. the lies of the Democrats. Both Trump and the Democrats represent and defend the interests of the Wall Street banks and the giant corporations, and are prepared to sacrifice the lives of millions of working people in new wars to defend the global dominance of American imperialism.
One fundamental political lesson must be drawn from the filthy proceedings in Washington. The fight of the working class against Trump must be developed entirely independently of and in opposition to the political cesspool known as the Democratic Party.
The working class must mobilize its strength on the basis of socialist and anti-imperialist policies against the ultra-right policies of the Trump administration: defending immigrant workers, opposing budget cuts, denouncing the chauvinistic threats against Mexico, China or any other country that is targeted by the American ruling class. But this fight cannot and must not have anything to do with the Democratic Party, which seeks to pollute the mass opposition to Trump with its own filthy imperialist politics. In response to the Democrats and Republicans, we quote the words of Shakespeare’s Mercutio: “A plague on both your houses.”
—WSWS

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DANGER OF WAR IN ASIA
US threats against North Korea
Andre Damon
 
WITH extreme recklessness, the Trump administration is charting a course toward war in the Asia-Pacific. From the response in the US media and political establishment, however, one would have no idea how dangerous the situation is, nor how incalculable the consequences.
The latest in the escalating war of words came from US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who said at a press conference in Seoul, South Korea on 18 March that “all options are on the table” in dealing with North Korea. The comments came in advance of Tillerson’s visit today to China, North Korea’s main ally.
“Let me be very clear: the policy of strategic patience has ended,” the former CEO of ExxonMobil said, in what was widely interpreted as a rebuke to the Obama administration’s preference for economic sanctions in relation to North Korea. When asked about the possibility of a military response, Tillerson replied, “If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action then that option is on the table.”
Echoing Tillerson’s threats, US President Donald Trump tweeted, “North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been ‘playing’ the United States for years. China has done little to help!”
If words have any meaning, the statements from Tillerson and Trump make clear that the US is preparing “pre-emptive” war, justified by North Korea’s reported plans to test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the continental United States.
There is a staggering disconnect between the terrible consequences of such a war and the way it is being treated in the US media. Tillerson’s comments were greeted with a shrug on the network news programs 18 March evening. The Democrats have remained silent.
What would come from a US strike on North Korea? Would the crisis-ridden North Korean regime respond by firing missiles against Seoul or Tokyo? Would it use one of its nuclear weapons? Would a war against North Korea spiral into a direct conflict between the world’s two largest economies, the United States and China? These questions cannot be answered for certain, but all scenarios are possible.
One of the few comments addressing the character of a US war with North Korea came from retired Army Major Mike Lyons, a senior fellow for the Truman National Security Project. Writing in the Hill on 17 March, Lyons said that US allies in the Pacific should begin “taking inventory of your military capability” and planning for a military operation that “could cause immediate casualties and destruction the world hasn’t seen since WWII.”
“We would have to literally blanket the sky for hours with air strikes,” Lyons wrote. The attack “would not focus on just military targets—there would be civilian casualties in the hundreds of thousands as well.” He further warned, “The war won’t go as planned for many reasons—if the North is successful in launching a nuclear weapon that destroys part of Seoul,” the US would likely be impelled to retaliate.
In other words, a war is being contemplated that could lead to the first combat use of nuclear weapons since the end of World War II.
Any military action in the tinder box of North East Asia can have far-reaching consequences, whatever the immediate intentions of the US may be. In recent weeks, the US and South Korea have engaged in large-scale military exercises; North Korea’s ambassador to the UN has warned that the “the Korean Peninsula is again inching to the brink of a nuclear war;” North Korea has test-fired missiles in the direction of Japan; and the US has begun deployment of an anti-ballistic missile system in South Korea that is directed primarily at China.
Japan last week announced plans to dispatch its largest warship on a tour of the South China Sea, prompting protests from China.
The German newspaper Die Zeit commented earlier this week on escalating geopolitical tensions throughout the world: “Whether on purpose or accidentally, Trump could quickly get into a great war. Whether the United States, or anyone else, could emerge victorious from it, is doubtful.”
The recklessness of US actions testifies to the fact that the root of the spiraling conflict is not to be found in the Asia-Pacific, but rather in the United States, which is facing an unparalleled series of crises.
Despite its increasingly provocative threats against China and North Korea, the US alliance system in Asia is showing severe signs of strain. The impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-hye was seen as a blow to US interests in the region. Meanwhile the Philippines, a key US ally, has reoriented toward China at the expense of the US.
Washington’s European alliance system faces an even more dramatic breakdown. The same day that Tillerson made his threats against China, Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a press conference in which the NATO allies addressed each other effectively as adversaries.
At the same time, the Trump administration has proposed a budget that calls for cuts to domestic spending of over 30 percent in some departments, while adding some $52 billion to US military spending. The White House is pushing a health care overhaul that would gut Medicaid, the health care program for the poor and disabled, and cause more than 20 million people to lose health care coverage.
The imposition of these policies will lead to growing social discontent within the United States, which is already beset by record social inequality.
There is an element of madness in the Trump administration’s policies, but it is a madness rooted in the contradictions of American capitalism. The American ruling class depends upon constant war—both as a means of diverting social tensions outward, and as the principle mechanism for maintaining its global position under conditions of economic decline.
Responsibility for this policy does not end with the White House. Whatever their differences, all factions of the political establishment are agreed on the basic strategic imperative of world domination. As for the pseudo-left organizations, which take their line from the Democratic Party and ooze with the complacency of the upper-middle class layers for which they speak, one would never know from reading their publications that world war is an imminent possibility.
The greatest danger is that the working class, which does not want war, is unaware of the gravity of the situation and is not politically organized and mobilized to prevent it. Policies that will have catastrophic consequences for workers in the United States and internationally are being carried out behind their backs. This plays into the hands of the conspiratorial cabal in Washington.
The development of a socialist, anti-war movement in the United States and throughout the world is the most urgent political task.
—WSWS

Comment

Andre Damon
 
WITH extreme recklessness, the Trump administration is charting a course toward war in the Asia-Pacific. From the response in the US media and political establishment, however, one would have no idea how dangerous the situation is, nor how incalculable the consequences.
The latest in the escalating war of words came from US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who said at a press conference in Seoul, South Korea on 18 March that “all options are on the table” in dealing with North Korea. The comments came in advance of Tillerson’s visit today to China, North Korea’s main ally.
“Let me be very clear: the policy of strategic patience has ended,” the former CEO of ExxonMobil said, in what was widely interpreted as a rebuke to the Obama administration’s preference for economic sanctions in relation to North Korea. When asked about the possibility of a military response, Tillerson replied, “If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action then that option is on the table.”
Echoing Tillerson’s threats, US President Donald Trump tweeted, “North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been ‘playing’ the United States for years. China has done little to help!”
If words have any meaning, the statements from Tillerson and Trump make clear that the US is preparing “pre-emptive” war, justified by North Korea’s reported plans to test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the continental United States.
There is a staggering disconnect between the terrible consequences of such a war and the way it is being treated in the US media. Tillerson’s comments were greeted with a shrug on the network news programs 18 March evening. The Democrats have remained silent.
What would come from a US strike on North Korea? Would the crisis-ridden North Korean regime respond by firing missiles against Seoul or Tokyo? Would it use one of its nuclear weapons? Would a war against North Korea spiral into a direct conflict between the world’s two largest economies, the United States and China? These questions cannot be answered for certain, but all scenarios are possible.
One of the few comments addressing the character of a US war with North Korea came from retired Army Major Mike Lyons, a senior fellow for the Truman National Security Project. Writing in the Hill on 17 March, Lyons said that US allies in the Pacific should begin “taking inventory of your military capability” and planning for a military operation that “could cause immediate casualties and destruction the world hasn’t seen since WWII.”
“We would have to literally blanket the sky for hours with air strikes,” Lyons wrote. The attack “would not focus on just military targets—there would be civilian casualties in the hundreds of thousands as well.” He further warned, “The war won’t go as planned for many reasons—if the North is successful in launching a nuclear weapon that destroys part of Seoul,” the US would likely be impelled to retaliate.
In other words, a war is being contemplated that could lead to the first combat use of nuclear weapons since the end of World War II.
Any military action in the tinder box of North East Asia can have far-reaching consequences, whatever the immediate intentions of the US may be. In recent weeks, the US and South Korea have engaged in large-scale military exercises; North Korea’s ambassador to the UN has warned that the “the Korean Peninsula is again inching to the brink of a nuclear war;” North Korea has test-fired missiles in the direction of Japan; and the US has begun deployment of an anti-ballistic missile system in South Korea that is directed primarily at China.
Japan last week announced plans to dispatch its largest warship on a tour of the South China Sea, prompting protests from China.
The German newspaper Die Zeit commented earlier this week on escalating geopolitical tensions throughout the world: “Whether on purpose or accidentally, Trump could quickly get into a great war. Whether the United States, or anyone else, could emerge victorious from it, is doubtful.”
The recklessness of US actions testifies to the fact that the root of the spiraling conflict is not to be found in the Asia-Pacific, but rather in the United States, which is facing an unparalleled series of crises.
Despite its increasingly provocative threats against China and North Korea, the US alliance system in Asia is showing severe signs of strain. The impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-hye was seen as a blow to US interests in the region. Meanwhile the Philippines, a key US ally, has reoriented toward China at the expense of the US.
Washington’s European alliance system faces an even more dramatic breakdown. The same day that Tillerson made his threats against China, Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a press conference in which the NATO allies addressed each other effectively as adversaries.
At the same time, the Trump administration has proposed a budget that calls for cuts to domestic spending of over 30 percent in some departments, while adding some $52 billion to US military spending. The White House is pushing a health care overhaul that would gut Medicaid, the health care program for the poor and disabled, and cause more than 20 million people to lose health care coverage.
The imposition of these policies will lead to growing social discontent within the United States, which is already beset by record social inequality.
There is an element of madness in the Trump administration’s policies, but it is a madness rooted in the contradictions of American capitalism. The American ruling class depends upon constant war—both as a means of diverting social tensions outward, and as the principle mechanism for maintaining its global position under conditions of economic decline.
Responsibility for this policy does not end with the White House. Whatever their differences, all factions of the political establishment are agreed on the basic strategic imperative of world domination. As for the pseudo-left organizations, which take their line from the Democratic Party and ooze with the complacency of the upper-middle class layers for which they speak, one would never know from reading their publications that world war is an imminent possibility.
The greatest danger is that the working class, which does not want war, is unaware of the gravity of the situation and is not politically organized and mobilized to prevent it. Policies that will have catastrophic consequences for workers in the United States and internationally are being carried out behind their backs. This plays into the hands of the conspiratorial cabal in Washington.
The development of a socialist, anti-war movement in the United States and throughout the world is the most urgent political task.
—WSWS

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(0)



The opportunity in Geneva for a fresh start
Jehan Perera in Colombo
 
THE draft resolution on Sri Lanka that is currently before the UN Human Rights Council gives Sri Lanka the additional two years that the government sought to deliver on commitments made 18 months ago. The extended time frame to be granted to Sri Lanka reflects the confidence that the international community reposes in the good faith of the government headed by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. It also reflects the absence of other viable options with regard to hastening the transitional justice process in Sri Lanka. Transitional justice as mandated by the UN system consists of truth seeking, accountability through courts of law, reparations and institutional reforms to ensure that there will not be recurrence of human rights violations. 
By giving Sri Lanka the two years that the government asked for, the international community has recognized that it is only the Sri Lankan government that can deliver on all of these, and not the international community which can at best play a supportive role. The United States has said it is pleased that Sri Lanka had agreed once again to co-sponsor the resolution, and invited like-minded UN members to demonstrate support for reconciliation and peace in Sri Lanka by adding their names to the list of cosponsors. In a statement, the US applauded the government for its continuing efforts to promote reconciliation.
Although the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in his report to the UNHRC has called for the establishment of hybrid courts, this is not necessarily the view of the UNHRC which passed the resolution of October 2015 and is proposing to give Sri Lanka two more years to fulfil its commitments made in terms of that resolution which Sri Lanka also co-sponsored. This gives the opportunity for a process of give and take. The international community could give due consideration to the government’s concerns about the hybrid court. Indeed, some of them have said that it is up to the government to interpret what participation means.
 
Strong opposition
However, the problem for the government with delivering on its commitments in a timely manner is the strong internal opposition it is facing. One source of internal opposition is from the defence establishment which fears that any accountability mechanism will target them. This concern is even more so with regard to a hybrid mechanism which will have foreigners in it. The other source of internal opposition is from the political opposition. They are using the call of the UN and other international actors for hybrid courts to generate nationalistic concerns amongst the general population. They are strident in alleging that the hybrid courts will be biased against the military and those who won the war, and that it will debilitate the sovereignty of the country. The government needs to counter these negative messages by having more positive messages of its own, but has yet to visibly improve its communications strategy. 
The basic challenge for Sri Lanka today in regard to dealing with issues of the past is for the government to break free of the shackles being imposed on it by those who oppose the reconciliation process. In a post war setting, such as Sri Lanka’s, those who have fought and won the war and continue to be in positions of authority will very likely be held in high esteem by much of the population. Ensuring accountability for war crimes that might also have been committed will be a major political problem.  In Sri Lanka, it is a problem with the potential to even unseat the government if not properly handled. But it is also a problem that needs to be fixed in order to break the cycle of impunity.
 
UN blocking system
The draft resolution as currently constituted, which has been presented by the UN Human Rights Council at its ongoing sessions, consists of a rollover, which extends the life of the previous resolution of October 2015 by a further two years. It has been reported that the government sought to also obtain a change in the resolution to reflect its position regarding the issue of international participation in the judicial accountability mechanism. Both President Sirisena and latterly Prime Minister Wickemesinghe have publicly stated that there will be no role for foreign judges as decision makers in hybrid special courts which have foreign and local judges sitting in judgment together. The resolution of October 2015 affirmed the importance of participation in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism, including the Special Counsel’s office, of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defense lawyers, and authorized prosecutors and investigators.€ 
On the other hand, the report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, states that Sri Lanka should Adopt legislation establishing a hybrid court, which should include international judges, defence lawyers, prosecutors and investigators, to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of international human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law, and provide it with the resources necessary to enable it to try those responsible promptly and effectively.€  This is at variance with the resolution of the UNHRC. A reading of the wording of the resolution shows that it neither insisted on foreign participation nor called for a hybrid court. It further states that the judicial mechanism should be a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism. 
Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera has said that the government cannot bring in foreign judicial officers under the existing constitution but they were also looking at all their options where the recommendation of the UNHRC was concerned.  As a sovereign nation we are entitled to look at all options. We cannot bring in foreign judicial officers under the existing constitution, but we are exploring all our options, the minister said. He also said that the resolution that is once more to be co-sponsored by Sri Lanka at the UNHRC is the same that was presented previously in 2015. He stated the government had requested for an extension of two years to implement it. He added that “But nowhere is there an insistence for foreign judges to be part of a war crimes tribunal.”

Comment

Jehan Perera in Colombo
 
THE draft resolution on Sri Lanka that is currently before the UN Human Rights Council gives Sri Lanka the additional two years that the government sought to deliver on commitments made 18 months ago. The extended time frame to be granted to Sri Lanka reflects the confidence that the international community reposes in the good faith of the government headed by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. It also reflects the absence of other viable options with regard to hastening the transitional justice process in Sri Lanka. Transitional justice as mandated by the UN system consists of truth seeking, accountability through courts of law, reparations and institutional reforms to ensure that there will not be recurrence of human rights violations. 
By giving Sri Lanka the two years that the government asked for, the international community has recognized that it is only the Sri Lankan government that can deliver on all of these, and not the international community which can at best play a supportive role. The United States has said it is pleased that Sri Lanka had agreed once again to co-sponsor the resolution, and invited like-minded UN members to demonstrate support for reconciliation and peace in Sri Lanka by adding their names to the list of cosponsors. In a statement, the US applauded the government for its continuing efforts to promote reconciliation.
Although the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in his report to the UNHRC has called for the establishment of hybrid courts, this is not necessarily the view of the UNHRC which passed the resolution of October 2015 and is proposing to give Sri Lanka two more years to fulfil its commitments made in terms of that resolution which Sri Lanka also co-sponsored. This gives the opportunity for a process of give and take. The international community could give due consideration to the government’s concerns about the hybrid court. Indeed, some of them have said that it is up to the government to interpret what participation means.
 
Strong opposition
However, the problem for the government with delivering on its commitments in a timely manner is the strong internal opposition it is facing. One source of internal opposition is from the defence establishment which fears that any accountability mechanism will target them. This concern is even more so with regard to a hybrid mechanism which will have foreigners in it. The other source of internal opposition is from the political opposition. They are using the call of the UN and other international actors for hybrid courts to generate nationalistic concerns amongst the general population. They are strident in alleging that the hybrid courts will be biased against the military and those who won the war, and that it will debilitate the sovereignty of the country. The government needs to counter these negative messages by having more positive messages of its own, but has yet to visibly improve its communications strategy. 
The basic challenge for Sri Lanka today in regard to dealing with issues of the past is for the government to break free of the shackles being imposed on it by those who oppose the reconciliation process. In a post war setting, such as Sri Lanka’s, those who have fought and won the war and continue to be in positions of authority will very likely be held in high esteem by much of the population. Ensuring accountability for war crimes that might also have been committed will be a major political problem.  In Sri Lanka, it is a problem with the potential to even unseat the government if not properly handled. But it is also a problem that needs to be fixed in order to break the cycle of impunity.
 
UN blocking system
The draft resolution as currently constituted, which has been presented by the UN Human Rights Council at its ongoing sessions, consists of a rollover, which extends the life of the previous resolution of October 2015 by a further two years. It has been reported that the government sought to also obtain a change in the resolution to reflect its position regarding the issue of international participation in the judicial accountability mechanism. Both President Sirisena and latterly Prime Minister Wickemesinghe have publicly stated that there will be no role for foreign judges as decision makers in hybrid special courts which have foreign and local judges sitting in judgment together. The resolution of October 2015 affirmed the importance of participation in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism, including the Special Counsel’s office, of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defense lawyers, and authorized prosecutors and investigators.€ 
On the other hand, the report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, states that Sri Lanka should Adopt legislation establishing a hybrid court, which should include international judges, defence lawyers, prosecutors and investigators, to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of international human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law, and provide it with the resources necessary to enable it to try those responsible promptly and effectively.€  This is at variance with the resolution of the UNHRC. A reading of the wording of the resolution shows that it neither insisted on foreign participation nor called for a hybrid court. It further states that the judicial mechanism should be a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism. 
Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera has said that the government cannot bring in foreign judicial officers under the existing constitution but they were also looking at all their options where the recommendation of the UNHRC was concerned.  As a sovereign nation we are entitled to look at all options. We cannot bring in foreign judicial officers under the existing constitution, but we are exploring all our options, the minister said. He also said that the resolution that is once more to be co-sponsored by Sri Lanka at the UNHRC is the same that was presented previously in 2015. He stated the government had requested for an extension of two years to implement it. He added that “But nowhere is there an insistence for foreign judges to be part of a war crimes tribunal.”

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