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Australian accused of war crimes

Australian accused of war crimes

An Australian citizen is the subject of war crimes accusations presented to the International Criminal Court in The Hague by two Tamil organisations.Dr Palitha Kohona, who is also a Sri Lankan…

An Australian citizen is the subject of war crimes accusations presented to the International Criminal Court in The Hague by two Tamil organisations.

Dr Palitha Kohona, who is also a Sri Lankan representative at the United Nations, is accused of complicity in the 2009 murders of three Tamil Tigers.

During the Sri Lankan civil war, in which the Tamil Tigers were defeated by government forces, Kohona was the secretary of the Sri Lankan foreign affairs ministry and helped to negotiate the surrender of Tamil Tigers.

Among those who surrendered were three senior Tamil Tiger members, Mahindran Balasingham, Seeveratnam Pulidevan and a man known as Ramesh.

On 18 May 2009 the men negotiated surrender with the Sri Lankan army and waved a white flag to indicate their intent. According to witnesses, as hundreds of Tamils watched the three men and several others walked into an army-controlled area. A few minutes later shots were heard.

Balasingham and Pulidevan were never seen again and Ramesh was found at a hospital several months later before disappearing.

The request for prosecution, filed by the Swiss Council of Eelam Tamils and the US-based Tamils Against Genocide, alleges that Kohona had a part in the trio's surrender.

"On about May 17, 2009, in the evening or night, Palitha Kohona communicated ... that the surrendering [Tamil Tigers] members would be safe if they surrendered with a white flag raised," reads the request.

"Some time after 8.15am [the next day, they] walked towards SLA lines with a white flag, along with 12 to 40 combatants and non-combatants ... the SLA attacked by gunfire."

Kohona, who became an Australian citizen in the 1980s and worked at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra, and the Sri Lankan Government have vehemently denied the claims.

Sri Lanka does not recognise the jurisdiction of the ICC, but the fact that Australia does means that Kohona could potentially be prosecuted. However, only a handful of the requests for prosecutions each year are actually pursued by the ICC.

Kohona told the ABC yesterday the claims had no substance and were politically motivated.

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