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article imageSri Lanka Confirms U.S. to Quiz Army Chief over War Crimes

By Chris Dade     Nov 1, 2009 in World
The authorities in Sri Lanka have confirmed that the country's Chief of Defence Staff, General Sarath Fonseka, has been asked to attend an interview with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, supposedly over allegations of war crimes.
General Fonseka and his wife Anoma left Sri Lanka for a largely private visit to the U.S. on October 23.
Lanka Truth confirms that the general is the holder of a Green Card for the U.S., which enables him to reside in the U.S., and his visit is connected to renewing that right of residency.
Furthermore the general and his wife have daughters living in Oklahoma, whom they are also visiting.
It is in Tulsa, Oklahoma where U.S. officials would like General Fonseka to attend a reportedly voluntary interview on November 4.
The interview is expected to consist of questions related to possible war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan military during its fight with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, more commonly known as the LTTE or Tamil Tigers.
A long-running and violent campaign by the LTTE to establish a separate state for Tamils in northern and eastern Sri Lanka was finally brought to an end by the Sri Lankan military in May.
On October 22 the U.S. State Department presented a 68-page report to Congress which apparently contains details of atrocities allegedly committed by both sides in the conflict as fighting neared an end earlier this year. And it is an extract from that report that may well have roused the interest of U.S. Homeland Security. The extract reads:A media outlet reported on July 18 that at a celebrity event in Ambalangoda, Army Chief General Sarath Fonseka stated that the military had to overlook the traditional rules of war and even kill LTTE rebels who came to surrender carrying white flags during the war against the LTTE
A report by the BBC, which states that the U.N. is also eager to discover the extent of any war crimes committed and who their perpetrators might have been, quotes a senior Sri Lankan government source as saying that the real motive for the general's interview is to persuade him to testify against Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the Defense Secretary of the island nation that is less than 20 miles from the southern coast of India.
As many as 6,500 civilians were killed in the final stages of what was essentially a civil war in Sri Lanka. Those deaths, according to the Sri Lankan military, occurred as the LTTE used people as human shields. But the military has been accused of exercising little or no caution whatsoever when operating in areas where civilians were present.
The Sunday Times in Sri Lanka says that after initially seeking legal advice from Fred Fielding, once a White House Counsel to late Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and former President George W. Bush, General Fonseka is now being advised by Patton Boggs, a firm which lobbies on behalf of and does promotional work for the Sri Lankan government in the U.S.
Yet any advice Patton Boggs may give to the general regarding a claim of diplomatic immunity may be compromised by his status as a Green Card holder. Diplomatic immunity does not apply to Green Card holders, who are subject to the same U.S. laws as citizens of the country.
It is unclear if General Fonseka intends to attend Wednesday's interview, with the Sunday Times reporting that Sri Lanka's ambassador to the U.S., Jaliya Wickremasuriya, has contacted Robert Blake, Assistant Secretary in the State Department, asking that he assist in resolving whatever issues Homeland Security has with the general.
An invitation for General Fonseka to attend a farewell ceremony in Hawaii for Admiral Timothy J. Keating, head of the US Pacific Command, was retracted after the State Department report was released.
General Fonseka and his wife have attended some ceremonies whilst in the U.S., those being of a religious nature at the Washington Buddhist Viharaya last Monday. According to Lanka Truth the general made a speech whilst attending the ceremonies that has led to "a contradiction between him and the Government of Sri Lanka". The nature of that contradiction was not revealed.
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