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HOUSE OF COMMONS CHAMBRE DES COMMUNES CANAflA
Member of Parliament/Depute
The Honorable Raymond J. Deane United States District Judge Eastern District of New York 225 Cadman Plaza East Brooklyn, New York 11201
August 6, 2013
Dear Judge Deane,
Please accept the present letter of support with respect to the case of Suresh Sriskandarajah. I have known Suresh since 2009, starting when I was Professor of Law at Osgoode Hall Law School of York University in Toronto and continuing through the period since my election to the House of Commons as Member of Parliament for Toronto-Danforth (on March 19, 2012). Please indulge me as I briefly set out the context for me first meeting Suresh. He sought me out after hearing about my close involvement in human rights advocacy relate to Sri Lanka during the final stages of the war in early 2009, when I agreed to be a co-founder and then to serve on the Advisory Committee of the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice (www.srilankacarnpaign.org). Along with Chair Edward Mortimer (leading UK journalist and Kofi Annan’s Director of Communications for five years while Annan was Secretary-General) and two others, until my election to Parliament, I was very active on the steering committee of this organization, which has come to be accepted alongside Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group as one of the most authoritative sources of critical information on Sri Lanka including on a centrepiece of our advocacy, namely, the need for war crimes investigations of both LTTE and Sri Lanka government leaders and commanders for the atrocities in the civil war. All of this is to say that
I understand quite well the back-drop against which the proceedings before you unfold. When I first met with Suresh (a lunchtime conversation lasting perhaps two hours), I came away immensely impressed with this young man. I had had by then 20 years of interacting with university students, as a law professor, and, in two hours, I believe 1 can get a very good sense of a student’s character and potential. I went away from the first meeting solid in the knowledge that I had just me a young man of real personal integrity, with a genuine commitment to the betterment of society and great compassion for others. He made no excuses for the choices that
Case 106-cr-00616-RJD-.)O DocumenJ. 29 FiLec.I 10/29/ 3 aae 10 of 14 PaalD #: 3007 had lea to tile us extraaition request, all ne wniie noping at t e canadian and us systems would exercise as much discretion as possible to allow him to fulfil his dreams of making a positive difference in the world, notably in Sri Lanka and in Canada. It was, I would add, very obvious that his experiences in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, so poignantly and passionately described in an article he wrote in 2005, had a profound influence on his sense of justice both in terms of his desire to help those in suffering and in terms of his awareness of treatment of Tamils in Sri Lanka as revealed by the government’s channelling of aid resources in unfair ways. I left that meeting hoping that, one way or another, his mistaken belief he could help Sri Lanka by assisting the LTTE acquire some technological knowledge would not result in the Canadian and American legal systems contributing to one more wasted life from the Sri Lankan conflict.
I came to know Suresh better in the winter of 2011 when he volunteered on both my nomination and, after the nomination, by-election campaign for the Toronto-Danforth House of Commons seat. After my election, I stayed in touch to learn about how he was faring in his first year at law school. My views from that first encounter were confirmed, in spades. This remarkable young man is the kind of singular, indeed very special, person who we should, in an ideal world, not want removed from our societies. This is a young man who has witnessed and experienced a lot that most of us (me included) can only faintly grasp escape from Sri Lanka as an 8-year-old via a refugee pipeline with his younger sibling (and no parent or older relative accompanying them), loss to the tsunami of over a hundred children at an orphanage he was assisting on a trip back to Sri Lanka, to name just some formative experiences. Yet, he always looks on the positive side and never gives in to depression witness how he has spent his time in incarceration since being extradited to the US. He is full of the desire to help others and of intelligence in equal measure. He is the kind of young generation member of the Tamil diaspora who the world needs to be involved in Sri Lanka’s future (not to mention the future of Canada, where Tamil youth are amongst the most socially and educationally disadvantaged group in our society such that Mr. Sriskandarajah’s impressive educational accomplishments truly stand out as a role model). I am convinced that, if given the chance, he will give back as husband, as citizen, as humanitarian in full recognition of and gratitude for any discretion that is exercised in his favour at sentencing.
If you will indulge me a bit more, please allow me to outline two other factors that you may find relevant in your sentencing. Firstly, I believe that Sri Lanka will not move forward without a combination of insight and courage on the part of those who step forward to challenge myths and memories of the brutal practices of the LTTE and of the combination of triumphalism, chauvinism, and ruthlessness demonstrated by the Government of Sri Lanka. Such a process requires two other ingredients, in my view namely, past-oriented self-reflection on the part of actors who got caught up in blind or idealistic support for one side or the other without seeing that ends did not justify many of the means and a future-oriented willingness to build bridges between and across communities, ideologies, camps and so on. My strong sense is that Suresh’s story fit exceedingly well into this narrative if given the chance. Here, I would add that a sort of overarching variable for the future of just peace in Sri Lanka is the need for a series of imaginative break-throughs. A real process of self-reflective truth-telling would be one such break-through. But, individual acts of reaching out and bridge-building also are crucial. Here, if the United States judicial system were to decide that, in this case and in light of Suresh’s own efforts to acknowledge his responsibility and transcend the legacies of the war, no significant purpose is achieved by sentencing Suresh to further imprisonment, this could be one small but meaningful imaginative step that could have real demonstrator effects for Sri Lanka as a whole.
Secondly, it might be relevant to note that the practice after armed conflicts a practice that is the International Committee of the Red Cross study on the laws of war sees as actual custom
Case 1 06cr00$i6RJDJD Doeument.529 flied 10/29/13 Pane 1]. of 14 PaalD #: 3008 that low-level actors wno nave not committeci war crimes are generally released and aiiowed to build new lives even if they could be prosecuted with some crime (as is always the case when an insurgent movement loses out in a civil war). I recognize that the crime to which Suresh is pleading guilty is one treated by the US to be against the US and also one that is treated in the rubric of terrorism and not war crimes, but the fact remains that the Sri Lankan armed conflict is the foundation for the conduct, whatever legal categories or jurisdictions are then associated with conduct in the context of that armed conflict. I think any international humanitarian lawyer would agree with me when I point out that the conduct that Suresh is pleading guilty to falls squarely within the analogy of conduct that would be treated as forgivable conduct when carried out by people who end up as low-level prisoners of war within the laws of war. I am not arguing that he is not guilty, but rather that, for similar reasons to the viewpoint taken by the law of war, you might well take the view that there are broader reasons of fairness to rule that further imprisonment of Suresh is not necessary to carry out the purposes of US criminal law.
I very much hope this letter proves useful in considering the range of possibilities when the time comes to sentence Suresh.
Craig Scott, MP Toronto-Danforth
Ottawa house of Commons! Chambre des communes
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6
Case 1:06-cr-00616-R3D-JO Document 529
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28 June 2011
Mr. Robert 0. Blake, Jr. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs U.S. Department of State Washington, D.C., U.S.A.
Mr. Blake, We are members of the Parliament of Canada, and we are writing to you as legislators, pleading for clemency and the discontinuation of the criminal prosecution of Mr. Suresh Sriskandarajah, who is a Canadian citizen facing imminent extradition to the US. Mr Sriskandarajah is facing prosecution for material support of the Tamil Tigers, and for dealing with the property of a terrorist organization in
Mr. Sriskandarajah affirms that his support was humanitarian, and occurred because he felt compelled to help his community in the aftermath of the disastrous December 2004 tsunami that ravaged the East Coast of Sri Lanka, killing 36,000, and affecting the lives of 8oo,000 Sri Lankan citizens. In Canada, Mr Sriskandarajah has been a tireless advocate for reconciliation and reconstruction in Sri Lanka.
His experience and knowledge both with the people and culture of Sri Lanka, as well as Canada, is helping build a valuable bridge between Canada’s fast-growing Sri Lankan Tamil population of over 300,000 and the forces for reconciliation and rebuilding in Sri Lanka. Building bridges is more necessary than ever after the awful destruction caused by a civil war that lasted almost three decades and killed up to 100,000 people. Mr. Sriskandarajah has proved to be an exceptional young Canadian and taken sound and concrete practical steps toward transforming his life and the lives of so many others in the community. More than ever, Sri Lanka and the Global Community need champions for peace and non-violence that will work for reconciliation, not division. We urge you to choose clemency for Mr Sriskandaraah so that his good work towards healing can continue in Canada and Sri Lanka. Sincerely,
p1 Peter Julian, M (Burnaby-New Westminster)
Rathika Sitsabaiesan, M p (Scarborough-Rouge River)