By SONJA DECHIAN | Published: OCTOBER 27, 2011
The rejection of a request to prosecute Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa for war crimes in an Australian court has brought attention to the Commonwealth’s response to human rights abuses.
Australian civil engineer Arunachalam Jegapheeswaran filed the charges this week in a Melbourne magistrates court. Under Australian law, the Attorney General must give the go ahead for any war crimes prosecution to proceed.
The charges coincide with the Sri Lankan president’s arrival in Perth, Australia, for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). A statement for Attorney General Robert McClelland said ‘he would be in breach of international laws which provide immunity to heads of diplomatic missions if he allowed the case to go ahead.’
The Australian Tamil community has expressed disappointment at the decision, and maintains a campaign against the president’s presence at CHOGM. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard is said to have raised the subject of human rights abuses committed during the country’s civil war, during talks with the Sri Lankan president last night.
Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has threatened to boycott the 2013 CHOGM summit if it is held in Sri Lanka, as currently planned.
A range of experts offer opinions on the war crimes allegations in Australian magazine The Conversation.