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Protecting the UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy


Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Saturday, 22 September 2018 00:10


 

  • This address was delivered by Dr. Nalaka Godahewa at a special side event held in Geneva on 20 September, during the 39th session of the UN Human Rights Council. The 2014 Nobel Peace Award nominee Prof. Mehmet Sukru Guzel chaired the session.

At the ‘2005 world summit’, the leaders dedicated themselves to support all efforts to uphold the sovereign equality of all states, respect their territorial integrity, to refrain from the use of force in any manner inconsistent with the principles of the United Nations, to uphold resolution of disputes by peaceful means and in conformity with the international law, non-interference in the internal affairs of states, respect for human rights and international cooperation in solving international problems in good faith of the obligations assumed in accordance with the UN Charter.

Then in 2006, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the ‘Global Counter Terrorism Strategy’, a unique global instrument to enhance national, regional and international efforts to counter terrorism.

Through its adoption all Member States agreed to a common strategic and operational approach to fight terrorism. 

The members of the United Nations resolved;

To consistently, unequivocally and strongly condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, as it constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.

To take urgent action to prevent and combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

Let us now take our memories back to a status report that appeared on FBI website in USA in 2008. Let me quote a paragraph from it:

(Quote) “…….as terrorist groups go, it has quite a resume; 

  •  Perfected the use of suicide bombers;
  •  Invented the suicide belt;
  •  Pioneered the use of women in suicide attacks;
  •  Murdered some 4,000 people in the past two years alone; and
  •  Assassinated two world leaders – the only terrorist organisation to do so.

No, it’s not al Qaeda or Hezbollah or even Hamas….

The group is called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) or the Tamil Tigers for short.

Needless to say, the Tamil Tigers are among the most dangerous and deadly extremists in the world. For more than three decades, the group has launched a campaign of violence and bloodshed in Sri Lanka, the island republic off the southern coast of India……. (unquote).

So here is a terrorist organisation, which should fall within the purview of the ‘Global counter terrorism strategy of UN’. 

The LTTE

Formed in 1975 with its roots in the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka, the LTTE was fighting for a separate state called ‘Tamil Eelam’.

The LTTE had two wings – one military and the other political. 

It is the military wing that carried out all the attacks on civilian and military targets whilst the political wing of the LTTE oversaw the civil administration of territory that was under the LTTE control. The political wing also had an international secretariat, which coordinated the global LTTE network and managed its foreign relations.

The LTTE’s financial infrastructure was complex and secretive. It had investments in stocks and money markets, real estate, restaurants and a large number of grocery stores throughout the world. Its shipping operations carried legitimate goods and also engaged in the smuggling of drugs, arms, gold, and has also been indicted for human trafficking to UK and parts of Europe. 

The bulk of LTTE funds came from illegal means such as robbery, extortion, forgery, international arms sales and siphoning of monies from donations provided by non-governmental organisations, aid organisations and other benevolent entities. The Tamil diaspora living in western countries were also forced to contribute, more often than not unwillingly. 

The international network

What is very important for someone to understand is that the international network of LTTE, which was the main sources of funding for the LTTE, remained unharmed even after LTTE was defeated in 2009. 

Only the military leaders and their cadres who couldn’t escape the country perished as a result of the final assault by Sri Lankan armed forces. Any key activists who had already left the country at that time or those who were already operating from off shore survived the war. 

Since the elimination of terrorism in Sri Lanka, the millions of dollars that were spent to procure weapons annually are no longer required to sustain a guerrilla war, but the funds keep coming. This has become a highly lucrative business for some individuals. 

Today, the custodians of this huge business empire only have to spend a fraction of the money they spent earlier on the war, to keep the Eelam propaganda alive. With large sums of money available for lobbying foreign governments, non-governmental organisations, media outlets and opinion-makers, this group of people has the power to create global support for their cause. 

It is in this light that someone has to question whether there could be any possible link between this powerful international network and the relentless pursuit of Sri Lanka at UNHRC over the last few years. 

Let us look at the sequence of events that followed the end of the war up to the evolution of UNHRC resolution 30/1 of 2015.

UNHRC special session on Sri Lanka

It was on 19 May 2009, the same day that the war ended, that 17 nations, led by Germany, called for a special session of the Human Rights Council to discuss the situation in Sri Lanka. Their justification for the request was the possibility that war crimes could have been committed during the last phase of the war.

A special session was held on 26 and 27 May 2009, during which the majority of the countries participating rejected the resolution tabled by the Germany-led group, and instead adopted a counter-resolution, which commended Sri Lanka’s victory against terrorism and wished the country well in its post-war challenges. In other words, the first formal pronouncement by UNHRC on Sri Lanka, since the end of the war, was a positive one.

This however did not put an end to attempts to isolate and punish Sri Lanka for the war victory. Senior UN officials suddenly started showing an interest in Sri Lanka that was not evident during the 30 years when Sri Lanka suffered from a terrorist problem. 

On 23 May 2009, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon made a spontaneous visit to Sri Lanka, under the guise of wanting to experience the post-war situation first-hand.

Upon his return, the Secretary-General commissioned a “Panel of Experts report on Sri Lanka”. It was claimed that the purpose of the panel was to advice the Secretary-General on the issue of accountability with regard to alleged human rights violations. The report was, in other words, for the Secretary-General’s personal edification.

A series of actions followed this investigation by the Panel of Experts.

Resolutions on Sri Lanka

In 2012, a new resolution was tabled at UNHRC which stated in general terms that there were allegations of violations of humanitarian law and human rights law, related to the last phases of the war. The resolution asked the Sri Lankan Government to look into these allegations, while asking the High Commissioner to provide technical assistance. 

The next resolution was tabled in 2013; it went beyond simply calling for an investigation into violations allegedly committed during the war, by commenting on the prevailing political situation in the country, thereby clearly overstepping the bounds of the UN Charter. The Resolution went as far as to make recommendations for the devolution of power to various ethnic groups within the country.

A third resolution was tabled in 2014 covering a gamut of issues, including alleged human rights violations. The Resolution requested that the High Commissioner undertake a comprehensive investigation into the alleged violations during the period 2002-2011. 

One should take a serious note of these timelines as LTTE was in operation long before 2002 and thousands of civilians and military personnel were killed through terrorist attacks over a period, which spanned across three decades. 

The 2014 Resolution 25/1 which authorised the investigation has defined the situation of the past-armed conflict as ‘combatting terrorism’.

‘Internal armed conflict’

However the report of the investigation carried out by the office of the high commissioner (the OISL report), which was released on 16 September had disregarded the above fact and defined the battle against LTTE as an ‘internal armed conflict’.

There is a considerable difference between ‘combatting terrorism’ and ‘an internal armed conflict’.

Most shockingly in the OISL report, LTTE is defined as a ‘non-state armed group’ a seemingly deliberate attempt to avoid defining LTTE as a terrorist group. 

Even though in OISL report, LTTE is defined as a NSAG, in paragraph 49 of the OISL report itself the following can be observed:

“The LTTE developed as a ruthless and formidable military organisation, capable of holding large swathes of territory in the north and east, expelling Muslim and Sinhalese communities, and conducting assassinations and attacks on military and civilian targets in all parts of the island. One of the worst atrocities was the killing of several hundred police officers after they had surrendered to the LTTE in Batticaloa on 17 June 1990. The LTTE exerted significant influence and control over Tamil communities in the North and East, as well as in the large Tamil diasporas, including through forced recruitment and extortion.”

These are universally accepted acts of terrorism. Then why is OISL report so careful not to define LTTE as a terrorist group? 

Even amongst the principal findings in part of the of OISL report, one can observe that LTTE can been accused of what clearly falls within terrorist acts; 

  •  Unlawful killings 
  •  Abduction and forced recruitment 
  •  Recruitment of children and use in hostilities 
  •  Attacks and hostilities on civilians and civilian objects 
  •  Control of movement people 
  •  Denial of humanitarian assistance to civilians affected by war

But these systematic crimes were not defined neither as a crime against humanity nor acts of terrorism by those who were responsible for the report. 

It is very clear that OISL refrained from designating LTTE as a terrorist organisation or as NSAG designated terrorists.

A crucial difference is that, in legal terms, ‘armed conflict’ is a situation in which certain acts of violence are considered lawful and others are unlawful, while any act of violence designated, as “terrorism” is always unlawful.

The difference of legal definition of the past-armed conflict in Sri Lanka by HRC and OISL report has created impunity to the members of LTTE whom should be subject to criminal investigation for individual indirect responsibility for the financing of terrorism under the UNGCTS in the world. 

There is ample recorded evidence of LTTE atrocities over three decades. 

The LTTE stormed through border villages, slitting the throats of innocent people, stabbing the bellies of pregnant mothers and killing civilians by detonating bombs all over the country. Its international network financed these gruesome crimes. Therefore any surviving member who was involved in financing the LTTE is responsible for the crimes committed by this terrorist group. Further, the world should be conscious of the fact that as long as there are sympathisers of the ideology of LTTE, one cannot ignore the possibility of a re-emergence of this terrorist group.

Terrorism financing is defined as “the wilful provision or collection, by any means, directly or indirectly, of funds by their nationals or in their territories with the intention that the funds should be used, or in the knowledge that they are to be used, in order to carry out terrorist acts.”

UNHRC should have taken decisions according to the ‘Global counter-terrorism strategy’ and initiated an international criminal investigation on the financiers of LTTE. 

The resolution of HRC 30/1 can only be defined as the internationally wrongful act where UNHRC has avoided its obligations by not asking for internatıonal investigation on the perpetrators who fınanced terrorism. 

 


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