Mon, 13 Dec 2010
An attempt was made on the morning of Friday 3 December 2010 to obtain an arrest warrant from the City of Westminster Magistrates Court in respect of a senior Sri Lankan army commander for alleged war crimes and human rights abuses.
Manjit S. Gill QC was instructed in the early hours of 3 December 2010 to represent the applicant in this case, a former home office minister and MP, representing a Tamil human rights group. However, following urgent inquiries by the court and the police, it emerged that the commander had left the jurisdiction late on the evening before the case, having apparently brought the date of departure forward. He had arrived in the country only a few days previously as part of the Sri Lankan president’s entourage. The president had been due to address the Oxford Union but large scale protests were planned in Oxford which had led to cancellation of the speech.
The Sri Lankan government’s conduct of the war against the Tamil Tigers, particularly in its latter stages from late 2008 to May 2009, has been widely criticised for having involved the use of excessive and disproportionate force and attacks on civilians and other atrocious conduct in violation of international law.
There has been increasing use of such arrest warrants by human rights groups in recent years. The fear that such warrants could limit the international movements of politicians and impede foreign policy led the last Labour Government to issue a consultation on curbing their use. The proposals met with heavy criticism from NGOs and human rights activists.