Monday, March 16, 2009

Open Letter to US Attorney General

SPUR (Society for Peace, Unity and Human Rights for Sri Lanka Inc)
Reg: A003 0777 M
P.O. Box 4066, Mulgrave VIC 3170, Australia
Phone: (+613) 9795 7143, Fax: (+613) 9795 7142

16 March 2009

Honorable Eric H. Holder
United States Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530-0001

Dear Mr. Attorney General

We refer to the submission made on February 5, 2009 by Mr. Bruce Fein, Attorney for Tamils Against Genocide, (TAG) urging your Department to open a grand jury investigation into the alleged accusations levelled against the Defence Secretary of Sri Lanka, Mr. Gotabaya Rajapakse, a US citizen and the Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, a green card holder.

Mr. Fein is acting on behalf of TAG, the ad hoc front of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), popularly known as Tamil Tigers, which is an internationally banned terrorist organization. Its leader Velupillai Prabhakaran is wanted by Interpol. India and Sri Lanka for various crimes ranging from drug trafficking and recruitment of child soldiers, to the killing of Rajiv Gandhi, Prime Minister of India and the bombing of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka which killed 86 civilians, including Tamils, and injured 1338.

At the outset, we wish to emphasize that Mr. Fein is a fine lawyer who first acted on behalf of the Sri Lankan government and argued against the war crimes and the crimes of humanity committed by the LTTE. He campaigned against the LTTE publicly and published articles under his name in the Washington Times. (Feb 3rd 2004: Writ to Terror). Subsequently, when he was hired by the LTTE he switched his loyalties and arguments to accuse the Sri Lankan government, which he defended when he was in its pay. This has placed him in the questionable position of arguing for both sides and also arguing against both sides. In the process he is caught in the middle arguing against his own self. Playing the role of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde questions his credibility and ethics. All this raises the elementary question of whether Mr. Fein should be taken seriously.

His latest role also indicates that he is operating hand-in-glove with the American agents of the LTTE. On the surface, Mr. Fein makes it appear that he is defending the high principles of national and international law. But his questionable dual role and close affiliations with the agents of the banned LTTE cast serious doubts not only about his ethics and political motives but also the overall interests of American soldiers who have courageously fought in wars against terrorism in various parts of the globe.

If, for instance, Mr. Fein is granted a grand jury against Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, an American citizen, and a green card holder, Lt. Gen. Fonseka, would this not set a precedent to bring charges against all the heroic soldiers of America who had fought under similar circumstances in Iraq and Afghanistan? It would be like the agents of Al Qa’ida instituting charges against selected high-profile officers to be put on trial. The ulterior motive of such a legal move would be not to put the officers on trial as such but the whole of America and its national interests expressed in campaigns to restore democracy, liberal values, peace and stability in a war-weary world.

As for the main charge of committing genocide we are confident – and it can be proved – that neither the Sri Lankan government nor the Security Forces have officially adopted a policy of committing genocide against their own people. On the contrary, the Government of Sri Lanka and the Security Forces have been commended by the UN and humanitarian organizations for being the unique state in caring for the Tamil community, including the Tamil Tiger terrorists. The military operations that began in 2006 have been conducted with extreme care to avoid and/or minimize as far as possible casualties to the Tamil civilians. The current offensive could have been finished much earlier if the Forces were adopting a callous policy of disregarding the security and the welfare of the Tamils civilians, particularly those held hostage by the LTTE.

We do not deny that there are fault lines where the unintended consequences of offensives have affected the civilians. As you are aware there isn’t a single war that has been fought without such incidents. The American Civil War, for instance, which was fought to defeat the southern separatists records the highest amount of civilian casualties fought in any war by Americans in any part of the globe. Over 500,000 died in the Civil War. Without denying the consequences to the individuals affected by the separatist war in Sri Lanka it should be noted that after nearly 30 years of war the total loss of lives have amounted to 70.000. It is grievous record that we regret because we value each and every life sacrificed in this futile war.

Consider, for instance, the last stage of this current offensive confined to Mullativu, a sliver of land located in the northeast coast of Sri Lanka. The attached report in the Washington Post reveals that even nuns seeking refuge in the Government-controlled safety zones were shot at by the LTTE. It is now universally acknowledged by human rights organizations and the international community, including UN that it continues to be a conscious policy of the LTTE to shoot the Tamils running away in the back. Appeals from the international community have fallen on deaf ears.

This has never been the policy of the Sri Lankan Government. The Government policy, followed with due care by the Security Forces, is to provide protection to the Tamil civilians. For instance, the Government declared a 42-hour period for the Tamil civilians to come over to the safety zone but the Tigers refused to let the people go. The latest UN report confirms this. It appealed to the LTTE to release not only the Tamil civilians but also its officers held captive in Mullativu. This appeal has gone unheeded by the LTTE. If this is the treatment given to the representatives of the UN you could imagine the treatment given to the unprotected Tamil civilians used as a human shield. The attached letter from the Indian Home Minister P.Chidambaram too will confirm this.

We are deeply concerned about the impact of this war prolonged and perpetuated by the LTTE. They have the power to end the huge humanitarian crisis facing the Tamil community by laying down arms, as requested by the international community, and negotiating for peace. But their open policy has been to use the Tamil people as their last weapon. The documented evidence is sufficient to bring Velupillai Prabhakaran, the wanted criminal by the international community, before an international criminal court for consciously and aggressively pursuing a policy of genocide against all communities, particularly the Tamils. As opposed to this, it has never been the official or unofficial policy of the government or the Security Forces to target civilians. On the contrary, it has carried out an war against “the world deadliest terrorist group”, (FBI) with the least amount of civilian casualties. The campaign which began in August 2006 and ended in Mullativu has caused only around 200 casualties.

Fighting a separatist war in which the terrorists are armed with modern technology and suicide bombers is bound to result in heavy casualties as seen in the American Civil War fighting the separatists of the south. Credit should be given to the Security Forces for taking special care to minimize civilian casualties as the government and the Security Forces consider the Tamil as citizens of Sri Lanka. In fact, the highest number of Tamils has been killed by the Tamil Tigers, according to Tamil leaders.

We are unable to comment on the details presented to you, as we do not possess the material presented by Mr. Fein. We do not know how how credible they are. But we know that a government that has (1) provided food, ((2) medical assistance, from hospitals to medicine (3) free education and (4) other social needs to a rebel held territory can never be guilty of committing genocide. One shining example will illustrate this argument: when Daya Master a leading Tamil Tiger was dying the LTTE asked for government help. He was flown from the rebel-held territory to a leading hospital where he was treated and returned in good health to carry on his anti-government war. Is this the conduct of a government committing genocide?

We also attach the latest report of the McKenzie Institute, a leading and respected research center in Canada, which lays to rest the charge of genocide.

The questionable role played by Mr. Fein in bringing charges against two of the most successful officers should be judged in the light of the following facts: the LTTE suicide bombers deliberately targeted both Mr. G. Rajapaksa and Lt. Gen. Fonseka. The female Tamil suicide bomber, posing as a pregnant woman, jumped into the path of motorcade of Gen. Fonseka and he was seriously injured. Fortunately, he recovered fully to wage his most successful military operation, which has now become a role model for campaigns against terrorism. The LTTE also targeted Mr. Rajapakse with a deadly remote control explosive in the heart of Colombo but he too narrowly escaped death. The pattern is clear. They could not get both these leaders through their suicide bombers. Mr. Fein has been hired to do the next best – demand death sentence for these two heroic officers who will go down in the annals of terrorist wars as pioneers who proved that a democratic state can defeat terrorism with the minimum of casualties to the civilians.

Ranjith Soysa