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Young lawyers expose Sri Lankan atrocities

Young lawyers expose Sri Lankan atrocities

Two years of hard work by the New South Wales Young Lawyers (NSWYL) has culminated in the delivery of a brief to the Federal Government calling for investigations into war crimes and crimes…

Two years of hard work by the New South Wales Young Lawyers (NSWYL) has culminated in the delivery of a brief to the Federal Government calling for investigations into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sri Lanka.

The NSWYL assisted the International Commission of Jurists Australia (ICJA) to prepare and submit a brief of evidence to the Australian Federal Police and Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions last Friday (14 October).

The brief calls for an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Sri Lanka during the final phase of the civil war.

"Many thousands of men, women and children were left injured, homeless and dead at the end of the civil war and justice must be afforded to those people," said Daniel Petrushnko, president of the NSWYL.

"Those responsible for such atrocities need to be held to account. There will no peace in Sri Lanka or elsewhere in the world if international impunity for such crimes continues."

Confidential copies of the brief have been provided to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd and Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland.

For the past two years, the NSWYL has worked jointly with the ICJ Australia to take witness statements from Sri Lankan Australians who bore witness to atrocities committed as the civil war drew to a close.

Petrushnko said the organisation is also calling on the Federal Government and Opposition to support calls for Sri Lanka to be suspended from the Commonwealth at the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to be held in Perth from 28 to 30 October.

Yesterday (17 October) the president of the ICJA, John Dowd, refused to comment on whether the brief implicated Thisara Samarasinghe, Sri Lanka's High Commissioner in Australia.

Samarasinghe was in command of the Sri Lankan navy in the north of the country in the final weeks of the civil war against the Tamil Tigers in early 2009. Samarasinghe told the ABC that the Sri Lankan navy only fired at terrorists and did not target civilians during the conflict.

Samarasinghe was appointed as the chief of the Sri Lankan navy after the conflict ended in July 2009 and retired from that position in January this year.

He took up his current role as the High Commissioner in May.

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