The Sri Lankan governement finally crushed the Tamil Tiger rebellion last week, killing the top three rebel commanders including their leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran The government ignored the pleaas of the U.N. and most of the Europeans nations to allow civilians to escape from the last contested areaa. Civilian casualties are said to be very high.  The non Tamil population celebrated the end of the Tiger’s reign of terror, but Tamil people were conspicuously absent from the celebration. Discrimination against the Tamil ethnic group is pervasive in the country and some felt that Prabharkaran’s tactics gave the few Tamil elected officials bargaining chips  in governement negotiations. Sensing an opportunity perhaps for real peace, President Mahinda Rajapaksathe delivered  a speech to the country which included a message to the Tamil ethnic minority, which he delivered in their own language. He alluded to having a power sharing agreement that included the Tamils.  Peace can be elusive though, and the lull in fighting is not necessarily a guarantee for peace.  Twenty-five years of fighting leaves plenty of memories of injustice and rebellions are easily made. Two things need to happen to insure peace. Government has to offer full participation and representation to the Tamil minority, and atrocities committed during the war, on both sides must be investigated and prosecuted. President Rajapaksathe can make  a good first step by allowing medical personnel and U.N. representatives into the Tamil area so that civilians who have been without medical assistance and in some cases without food, can receive immediate aid.

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The prosecution of  Charles Taylor, former president of Liberia, in the Special Court of Sierra Leone, sitting in special session at the Hague, came to a conclusion in February. Since that time the court has been weighing defense motions for an acquittal alleging that the prosecutor’s evidence failed to establish Mr. Taylor had committed war crimes or crimes against humanity. On Monday, the court ruled in strong language  it “wholly” rejected the motion for acquittal. The trial has been set to resume on June 29th and it is expected that the defense will call Mr. Taylor as its first witness. A recent editorial on allafrica.com questioned why the Blaise Campoare, current president of Burkina Faso was not  also on trial. The writer noted that it was publicly know that Campoare supported Taylor during the civil war in Liberia and helped finance his activities in Sierra Leone. That question will remain for another day. For now, Mr. Taylor must continue to wait for his fate to play out in court.

Last week the International Law Observer reported that the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk, filed the results of his investigation into the Israeli offensive in Gaza which started in December of 2008 and ended January 2009. The Rapporteur analyzed whether the level of force Israel used in response to rocket attacks by the Palestinians was justified. He first laid out the basis for assessing whether Israel should be held accountable under international Law, dismissing Israel’s claim that its status as an occupying force ceased in 2005. Thereafter, the rapporteur analyzed the laws of war and concluded the level of Israeli force was not justified, focusing particularly on the number of civilian casualties as well as the fact that Israel blatantly refused to allow civilians to leave the area during its assault. He concluded that Israel may very well have committed war crimes and called for a full U.N. inquiry. The introduction to the report also describes the disgraceful way in which Israel treated the UN Rapporteur, who was arrested, thrown in a cell, subjected to “excessive body searches” and then deported. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon announced the findings today and indicated that much work needs to be done to resolve the situation.