Paranagama refutes cluster munition claims

P Ajinthan LTTE cadre captured aliveChairman of the Presidential Commission to Investigate into Complaints regarding Missing Persons (PCICMP), Maxwell Paranagama said that there was no credible evidence to suggest that the Sri Lankan Army used cluster munitions during the war.

The UN High Commissioner had called for an independent and impartial investigation to be carried out, in light of recent reports on new evidence that has emerged on the use of cluster munitions towards the end of Sri Lanka’s conflict. This was following similar allegations in the OHCHR report.

Citing paragraph 33 of the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Paranagama said, “in fact there is nothing new about these allegations.

The Paranagama Commission is dealing with its second mandate report, fully examined the available evidence, and came to the conclusion that there was no credible evidence to suggest that the Sri Lankan Army used weapons of this kind. These, in military terms, are known as area weapons.”

He said that the factual position is that the Darusman Report referred to ‘allegations’ of the use of cluster bomb munitions, but no sources were given for such allegations.

The Paranagama Commission noted that three years after the end of the conflict, a leaked email from a member of the United Nations Development Program mine clearance section, alleged that, ‘some evidence’ had been discovered of cluster munitions in the conflict zone.

The Sri Lankan Army denied use of such munitions and this denial was accepted by the UN at the time. “In other words, it would appear there was no evidence that contradicted this denial,” said Paranagama.

According to the press release, anyone who reads the report made to the Human Rights Council could be forgiven for thinking that the use of cluster munitions at the time in some way constituted a war crime.

“As Chairman of the Commission, I would like to state that the Cluster Munitions Convention (CMC) banning the use of such weapons was not in force at the time of the conflict and only became operational on August 1, 2010.

Therefore, if there had been a need for the Sri Lankan Army to use cluster munitions because of military necessity, it was not illegal at the time.

There has been a great deal of publicity preceding the Geneva session touching upon the use of cluster munitions,” he said adding that it is only the Paranagama Commission Second Mandate Report which was laid before the parliament in October 2015 that clearly stated that the Cluster Munitions Convention was not in force at the time the war ended.