ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Tamil political parties, Civil Society organisations and Victims’ Organisations have written to the 47 member states of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) demanding action against what they call is a deteriorating Human Rights situation in this country.
The letter signed by all the political parties representing voters in the Tamil majority areas in the North and East points out that all the major political parties in the country “have categorically and without exception stated that they will protect the Sri Lankan armed force from prosecutions” for what took place at the end of the separatist war.
The 46th session of the UNHRC will be held next month where Sri Lanka’s situation will be evaluated in light of previous resolutions.
The letter notes that a week after the separatist war a joint communiqué issued by the Government of Sri Lanka and the United Nations was issued at the conclusion of the UN Secretary-General’s visit to Sri Lanka on 23 May 2009 said: “Sri Lanka reiterated its strongest commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, in keeping with international human rights standards and Sri Lanka’s international obligations.”
At the time the Secretary-General underlined the importance of an accountability process for addressing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. “The Government will take measures to address those grievances”
The letter went on to say that “upon Sri Lanka failing to take meaningful steps to address the above commitments, the UN Secretary-General appointed on 22 June 2010, a three-member panel to look into human rights and accountability issues during the final stages of the armed ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. This report of the Panel of Experts (POE) was handed over to the Secretary-General in March 2011.”
Thereafter the UNSG referred the matter to the President of the UNHRC and the High Commissioner for Human Rights in September 2011 which led to the adoption of Resolution 19/2 “Promoting Reconciliation and Accountability in Sri Lanka.”
Subsequently, the Government of Sri Lanka after the regime change in 2015 co-sponsored Resolutions 30/1 (October 2015), 34/1 (March 2017) and 40/1 (March 2019).
However, the letter states that “it is now time for the Member States to acknowledge that there is no scope for a domestic process that can genuinely deal with accountability in Sri Lanka. The continuing and intensifying oppression against the Tamils including militarisation, indefinite detention of political prisoners, land grab in the name of archaeological explorations, the denial of traditional, collective land rights like cattle grazing rights, intensifying surveillance of political and civil society activists, the denial of burial rights during COVID19 to our Muslim brethren and the denial of the right to memory underscore the urgency of addressing the deteriorating situation.”
The letter demands that the Council pass a resolution that “must declare that Sri Lanka has failed in its obligations to investigate allegations of violations committed during the armed ethnic conflict and atrocity crimes including genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. In such a context the Resolution must acknowledge that there is no prospect for accountability in Sri Lanka by way of its own domestic mechanisms or through hybrid mechanisms.”
The signatories request the following:
1. Member States urge in the new resolution that other organs of the United Nations including the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly take up the matter and take suitable action by reference to the International Criminal Court and any other appropriate and effective international accountability mechanisms to inquire into the crime of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
2. The President of the UNHRC refers to matters on accountability in Sri Lanka back to the UN Secretary-General for action as stated above.
3. Member States to mandate the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to continue to monitor Sri Lanka for ongoing violations and have an OHCHR field presence in the country.
4. Without detracting from that which has been stated in point 1 above, take steps to establish an evidence-gathering mechanism similar to the International Independent Investigatory Mechanism (IIIM) in relation to Syria established as a subsidiary body of the UN General Assembly with a strict time frame of twelve months duration. We reiterate the need for concrete action with accountability and for the above the matter to be escalated to higher forums.
1. Hon. R. Sampanthan
Member of Parliament
Leader – Tamil National Alliance
2. Hon. G. G. Ponnambalam
Member of Parliament
Leader – Tamil National People’s Front
3. Hon. Justice C.V. Wigneswaran
Member of Parliament
Leader – Tamil Makkal Tesiya Kootani
4. Rev.Fr. Leo Amstrong
Tamil Heritage Forum, Mullaitivu
5. Mr. Sabharathinam Sivayohanathan
Eastern Province Civil Society Forum
6. Mr. Rasalingham Vikneswaran
President – Amparai Civil Society forum
7. Mr. Amarasingham Gajenthiran
General secretary – Tamil Civil Society Forum (TCSF)
8. Ms. Yogarasa Kanagaranjini
President – Association for Relatives of the Enforced Disappearances, North and East.
9. Mr. Subramanium Sivaharan
President – Tamil Thesiya Vaalvurimai Iyakkam (TTVI)
10. Velan Swamikal
11. Rt. Rev. Dr. C. Noel Emmanuel
Bishop of Trincomalee
(Colombo January 17, 2021)
Reported by Arjuna Ranawana