The Sri Lankan government claims that, after its military victory against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which was fighting for an independent homeland in the island’s north-east for the Tamil minority, Tamil “terrorism” has been crushed, and that the outlook for the country is rosy.
In reality, Sri Lanka’s problems have gotten worse. The need for international action against the crimes of the regime is more urgent than ever.
This year, the regime’s genocidal war on the Tamil people killed more than 30,000 Tamils this year. This occurred after the government removed international witnesses.
“Genocide” is defined by the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide as an act committed with the intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.
More than 300,000 Tamils have been incarcerated in what are essentially concentration camps set up by the government in the north. A well-functioning defacto state in the Vanni region, four large districts administered by the LTTE for more than a decade, has been decimated.
Democracy in Sri Lanka has been dismantled and a politico-military dictatorship established.
More than any other country, China has assisted Sri Lanka militarily and economically. The quid pro quo is the establishment of a major naval facility in Sri Lanka. This will help supply oil to China from the Middle East and safeguard the movement of manufactured goods from China to the West.
China has also started a coal-powered power plant in the island’s north-west. Eighty families of fisher people in the area have been evicted. The government claims they are “illegal residents” because they live in huts.
A US$500 million “soft loan” has been granted by the Export and Import Bank of China.
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FROM THE WEBSITE OF TAMIL NET
Sunila Abeysekera, a human rights activist and executive director of INFORM human rights documentation center in Sri Lanka, in an interview to Real News Network in Toronto, accused the Sri Lanka Government authorities of not providing enough attention to the welfare of the nearly 300,000 people in the internment camps who have come to these camps after months of deprivation, and said that the lack of proper registration procedures for the people inside the camp is providing Colombo a free hand in facilitating the Paramilitaries to take youths out of the camps in large numbers without any accountability.
“Many of the people are dehydrated and have infected wounds,” Abeysekara said, and pointed to the April 11th statement by the High Court Judge in Vavuniyaa that fourteen elderly people died of starvation in one day.
Abeysekara said that she cannot accept Sri Lanka Government’s stand that they will screen the 300,000 people before giving access to independent NGOs including ICRC, and UNHCR, and that independent observers should be allowed to monitor the screening process.
She also said that more than 200 youths between the ages of 11 and 17 were taken from the Manik farm camp in Vavuniyaa last week, and the Government has not disclosed the list of the youths taken. “The parents of these youths are desparate,” Ms Abeysekera said.
Government admits that they have 10,000 LTTE surrendees and captives in who have surrendered, Ms Abeysekera said. “We don’t know where they are. We don’t have a list of who they are. There are families of senior LTTE cadres are in Government custody. For example, Soosai’s wife and children are captured by the Sri Lanka Navy. We are trying to find where these people are. And it is impossible,” Ms Abeysekara added.
Ms Abeysekera was honored as a Human Rights Watch Defender at the 2007, Voices for Justice Dinner Worldview.
TIM MARTIN ENDING STRIKE IN RESPONSE TO OFFERS OF HELP
On Sunday 7th June at 6pm, over 500 people gathered in London outside Parliament, for a ceremony to mark the end of a hunger strike carried out by a British former aid worker. Tim Martin, Director of the human rights group Act Now, had responded to assurances of help if he ended his hunger strike outside the Houses of Parliament in London, England, after enduring 21 days without food.
Tim’s protest has been to raise awareness of the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka, centred on an urgent appeal to President Obama, the UK Government and the UN to press for action to protect the devastated Tamil civilian population and uncover the true scale of the humanitarian disaster in Sri Lanka. During these 21 days, news of further atrocities and abuses in Sri Lanka have come to light – some obtained from Tim’s own contact network.
News of increasing opposition, amongst US politicians and lawmakers, to the request by the Sri Lankan Government for an IMF loan is reassuring to those, like Tim Martin, who believed Obama would not repeat the mistakes of old (such as Clinton on Rwanda) and that Obama’s ultimate stance on Sri Lanka will be a benchmark of his presidency, in terms of human rights issues.
Tim’s four-point request to the US President:
1. International monitors on the ground and satellite imaging effective immediately to verify the true number of casualties and the mop up process.
2. Immediate free access to international media and international organisations throughout Sri Lanka.
3. Emergency medical treatment for tens of thousands of civilians and POWs that are currently not in hospitals and are being held at checkpoints, schools and IDP camps.
4. Public Investigation into Vijay Nambiar, the Special Envoy for the UN Secretary General, as his brother Satish Nambiar is a paid consultant for the Sri Lankan government which suggests a conflict of interest.
Over the course of Tim’s protest, these requests have begun to be addressed. Three days into the hunger strike, initially based outside the US Embassy in London, the US Government released satellite pictures highlighting the scale of the devastation in the so-called ‘Safety Zone’. The press also began to report on Tim’s fourth request: the need for an investigation into Indian diplomat and UN Chief of Staff Vijay Nambiar, whose brother is a paid consultant of the Sri Lankan government. There are now calls for this matter to be taken up by the UN.
Assurances of help have been given to Tim on condition he ended his strike:
1. Tim has been invited to raise awareness and high profile support from a number of top celebrities at a special celebrity event this month, with guests including Bob Geldof and Brian May.
2. Tim has been invited to speak to UN representatives of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, in particular, addressing those countries that voted for the Sri Lankan Government’s self-congratulatory resolution supporting its own version of events concerning the recent conflict.
3. A Parliamentary meeting has been organised for next Wednesday, 10th June – the latest reports from Sri Lanka will be presented to MPs by Tim Martin and news journalists recently returned from the camps.
4. Tim’s requests to Obama have been filmed and given to the President’s ‘Spiritual advisor’ with the promise of being viewed by the President.
5. He had received numerous requests to end his strike from the Tamil community and from the doctors who were extremely worried as his health has been deteriorating. He also received a special request from the Tamil community organisation the British Tamil Forum, pleading that, since Tim is the only non-Tamil NGO worker that has lived in Tamil Eelam in the good times of peace and the bad times of war that has come forward and fighting for the freedom of the Tamil people, fighting publicly on injustices and atrocities which continue to take place, he is irreplaceable to the Tamil community.
Tim has more than proved his ability to gain support after the large number of celebrities and MPs that he managed to get behind the Mercy Mission. Including ‘Trip-hop’ band Massive Attack, Joanna Lumley, Sian Evans (singer/songwriter of the band Kosheen), Brian May of the mega-rock group Queen, Jade Parfitt and Jasmine Guinness (British fashion models), Deborah Leng, Dr Chris Steele (of This Morning TV). Tim is now recuperating from his hunger strike, gathering his energies to report on the atrocities in Sri Lanka to British and UN officials and to raise awareness of his requests to protect Sri Lanka’s devastated Tamil population from further suffering. He urges everyone to sign the online appeal to Obama which can be found at http://www.act-now.info/Site/Online_Appeal.html
“The Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) is continuing to inflict Nazi-type crimes and atrocities against the Tamils even after their alleged excuse of fighting a “war against terrorism” has been exposed as a bogus pretext to annihilate the Tamils and to steal their lands and natural resources. This is what Hitler and the Nazis called “lebensraum”–“living space” for the Sinhala at the expense of the Tamils. The GOSL’s “ethnic cleansing” of the Tamil Homeland for the benefit of the Sinhala is now underway,” warns Francis Boyle, professor of International Law at the University of Illinois College of Law.
“With the UN already under fire for withholding and downplaying the number of civilian casualties in Sri Lanka, another ongoing controversy has opened up concerning the number of internally displaced persons detained in the IDP camps in northern Sri Lanka. Between the May 27 and May 30 reports of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, over 13,000 IDPs simply disappeared from the camps,” reported Inner City Press which is covering the affairs at the United Nations in New York.
“Concerning these missing 13,130+ genocide-survivors from the Safety Zone, Article 7(1)(i) of the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court provides that the “enforced disappearance of persons” is a Crime Against Humanity “when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack,” Boyle said.
Clearly the GOSL’s enforced disappearances of these Tamils and other Tamils in the past has been both “widespread” and “systematic” as documented over the years by numerous human rights NGOs. The GOSL’s widespread and systematic enforced disappearances of Tamils over the years constitutes a Crime Against Humanity, Boyle added.
“According to the Nuremberg Charter (1945), the Nuremberg Judgment (1946) and the Nuremberg Principles (1950), the paradigmatic example of a Crime Against Humanity is what Hitler and the Nazis did to the Jews.
“Historically, this Nuremberg Crime Against Humanity was the legal precursor to the International Crime of Genocide as defined by the 1948 Genocide Convention,” Boyle said.
Lebensraum served as a major motivation for Nazi Germany’s territorial aggression. Adolf Hitler believed that the German people needed Lebensraum – for a Großdeutschland, land, and raw materials – and that it should be taken in the East. It was the stated policy of the Nazis to kill, deport, Germanize or enslave the Polish, and later also Russian and other Slavic populations, and to repopulate the land with reinrassig (racially pure) Germanic peoples.
Sri Lanka Government’ Nazi-type crimes in the Vanni appear motivated by the doctrine of lebenstraum, and the future survival of Tamil culture in Sri Lanka is in peril, says Prof. Boyle.
FROM THE CEYLON NADU WEBSITE
By Lisa Schlein
Navi Pillay (April 2009 file photo)
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has renewed her call for an international investigation into violations allegedly committed by Sri Lankan troops and Tamil Tiger rebels during the final months of their decades-long civil war. The High Commissioner has presented a progress report on the global situation of human rights at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The top U.N. human-rights official, Navi Pillay, says civilians suffer the most in all armed conflicts. She says the neglect of basic human rights, as well as discriminatory practices, often are at the root of armed conflict. And, that is why, she says, it is crucial to uphold the human rights of the victims.
She says it is important to get to the truth, to have independent human-rights monitors and the media present in situations of conflict. But, she notes independent observers were not able to access either the conflict zone or the camps for displaced people in northern Sri Lanka.
The government has been accused of using heavy weaponry in a so-called civilian safe zone and the Tamil rebels of using civilians as human shields.
But since there were no witnesses to what was happening, Pillay says it is hard to corroborate these allegations.
“A comprehensive process of accountability for human-rights violations committed by all sides should be carried out,” Pillay said. “To that end, I have called for an independent international inquiry. On June 2nd, speaking before this Council, the Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights of Sri Lanka stated that his government is committed to a reconciliation scheme. This commitment is welcome.”
Pillay says she believes accountability is a prerequisite for the attainment of justice and reconciliation for all Sri Lankans and a foundation for lasting peace.
At the end of May, the U.N. Human Rights Council held a special session on the human-rights situation in Sri Lanka. The high commissioner’s plea for an international investigation went unheeded.
Turning her attention to other areas of concern, High Commissioner Pillay highlights the grave situation of civilians caught in conflict in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, the Palestinian Territories and Colombia.
She notes the terrible impact fighting in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, is having on civilians, aid workers, human-rights defenders and journalists.
“During the past weeks, many civilians were killed, hundreds injured and thousands displaced by clashes between pro and anti-government forces in Mogadishu,” she said. “Women are particularly at risk of violent attacks for which they have no effective recourse. The fighting must be stopped. Countering impunity of perpetrators for their past and current atrocities must be a priority in order to achieve justice and deter further violations.”
Pillay expresses her outrage at the lack of justice and horrific levels of sexual attacks in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She deplores the treatment of human-rights defenders, humanitarian workers and U.N. national staff In Sudan’s conflict-ridden Darfur Province. She says the workers are subject to arbitrary arrests, detentions, ill treatment and torture.
The U.N. official says the recent clashes between the Chadian rebels and government forces have added to the widespread violations and abuses by both parties in the country.
Noting that “Disappearances” of ethnic Tamils in the north and east and in the capital, Colombo, allegedly by members of the security forces or Tamil armed groups remain a serious problem, New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a press release issued today said, “[t]he Sri Lankan government needs to ensure that the abuses that occurred when LTTE strongholds fell in the past don’t recur,” and that Sri Lankan Government “should ensure that military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam does not result in new “disappearances,” unlawful killings or the jailing of government critics.”
Full text of the release follows:
The Sri Lankan government should ensure that military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam does not result in new “disappearances,” unlawful killings or the jailing of government critics, Human Rights Watch said today.
The Sri Lankan government appears from its statements to be preparing to take action against individuals and organizations that criticized it during the war, Human Rights Watch said. On June 3, 2009, the media minister, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardana, said the Defense Ministry was preparing to bring charges against journalists, politicians, armed forces personnel and businessmen who have assisted the LTTE.
“The last thing Sri Lankans need right now is a witch hunt,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The country desperately needs healing. The government should make clear to everyone, especially Tamils, that it will respect their rights.”
In addition to the media minister’s statement, in late May, the Army commander, Gen. Sarath Fonseka, said in a televised interview that the government would take action against journalists whose reporting benefited the LTTE, saying that they would be prevented from leaving the country and prosecuted for treason. Inspector General of Police Jayantha Wickremeratne accused unnamed Sinhalese media-freedom activists of being paid by the LTTE to generate false reporting intended to implicate the army in war crimes.
Sri Lankan security forces have long been implicated in enforced disappearances and unlawful killings following the capture of LTTE strongholds. In the 12 months after government forces captured the northern town of Jaffna from the LTTE in December 1995, more than 600 people, mostly young men suspected of having LTTE links, “disappeared.” Although several mass graves have since been uncovered, the fate of most of them has never been determined, and successful prosecutions of security forces personnel have been few.
Enforced disappearances and killings of people suspected of being LTTE supporters also occurred in association with the government’s taking of LTTE-controlled territory in eastern Sri Lanka in late 2006 and early 2007. Government security forces were implicated in the mafia-style killing of 17 humanitarian aid workers shortly after government forces retook the northeastern town of Mutur from the LTTE in August 2006. Human Rights Watch reported on numerous serious human rights violations in the east in late 2008.
“Disappearances” of ethnic Tamils in the north and east and in the capital, Colombo, allegedly by members of the security forces or Tamil armed groups remain a serious problem.
“The Sri Lankan government needs to ensure that the abuses that occurred when LTTE strongholds fell in the past don’t recur,” said Adams. “This is crucial for building trust between communities.”
The government announced victory over the LTTE on May 18 after a devastating 25-year conflict. The last months of fighting came at a terrible cost in civilian lives, estimated at more than 7,000 civilian dead and 14,000 wounded. Human Rights Watch reported on serious violations of international humanitarian law by both sides. However, a full accounting of abuses is not yet possible because of government restrictions on access to the conflict zone by the media and human rights organizations.
Since 2008, virtually all civilians who managed to flee the fighting to government-controlled areas have been sent to government detention camps in northern Sri Lanka. Almost 300,000 persons, including entire families, are currently in these camps, where they are denied their liberty and freedom of movement, either for work or to move in with other families.
In recent months, the government has also detained more than 9,000 alleged LTTE fighters and persons with suspected LTTE connections. The United Nations and other international agencies have had little or no access to the screening process, and the government has in many cases failed to provide families of the detained with any information. Many families still do not know the fate and whereabouts of their relatives.
Human Rights Watch urged the Sri Lankan government to take steps to ensure the safety of both civilians and LTTE fighters taken into custody. This includes registering and providing public information about all persons who have been in LTTE-controlled areas, and allowing international humanitarian agencies to participate in processing them. Those detained should have prompt access to family members and legal counsel.
The Sri Lankan government has rejected calls from opposition politicians to end Sri Lanka’s state of emergency and to repeal the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act, which has been used to arrest and indefinitely detain suspected LTTE supporters and government critics.
Human Rights Watch called upon the Sri Lankan government to treat internally displaced persons in accordance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and respect their basic human rights.
“The government should recognize that respecting the rights of all its citizens, including political opponents and critics, displaced civilians and captured combatants, will have important long-term implications for Sri Lanka’s future,” Adams said.
Sri Lanka has no plans to investigate allegations that its security forces massacred 20,000 Tamil civilians in the final stages of an offensive against the Tamil Tigers, and neither is Colombo willing to eventually accept an international probe, trade minister G. L. Peiris said Wednesday in Tokyo. “No, we don’t regard that attitude as acceptable. That is some kind of inquisition,” Peiris, a former peace negotiator said, according to an AFP report. Last week, leading British and French newspapers published their investigations, including interviews with UN officials, into the massacre.
Minister Peiris had earlier held talks with his Japanese counterpart Toshihiro Nikai and Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone.
At a news conference, Minister Peiris reiterated that Colombo has no plan to probe allegations of war crimes and rejected international demands for a probe.
The minister said: “The world should not try to… emphasise everything that is negative, make things as difficult as possible for Sri Lanka, threaten economic sanctions.”
Unnecessary pressure on the Sri Lankan government may even lead to a revival of terrorism in the country, he warned, without elaborating.
“What the country needs this time is support, understanding, empathy, not condemnation, not judgement… not posturing,” he said.
Peiris said his government refrained from using heavy artillery and aerial bombardment attacks out of concern for civilians “at the expense of postponing the end of hostilities.”
The United States and other governments had repeatedly called on the Sri Lankan government (GoSL) to cease pounding a narrow strip of land in which 300,000 people had concentrated on the government’s advice.
In mid-March, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telephone President Mahinda Rajapakse “to express the United States’ deep concern over the deteriorating conditions and increasing loss of life occurring in the GoSL -designated ‘safe zone’.”
“The Secretary stated that the Sri Lankan Army should not fire into the civilian areas of the conflict zone,” a State Department press release said.
More pointedly, as casualties mounted amid relentless shelling – even as US satellites observed – President Barack Obama demanded on May 13, “the [Sri Lanka] government should stop the indiscriminate shelling that has taken hundreds of innocent lives, including several hospitals, and the government should live up to its commitment to not use heavy weapons in the conflict zone.”
Last week, independent investigations by The Times and Le Monde newspapers found that up to 20,000 Tamil civilians had been slaughtered by government shells. The papers quoted UN officials as saying the UN knew, but sought to suppress reports to retain Colombo’s goodwill.
Regarding the controversy over an IMF loan Sri Lanka is seeking, Minister Peiris said that a decision on the disbursement of the funds “should not involve political considerations,” but should be “dependent upon technical criteria.”
Prof. Peiris was the chief negotiator for the then UNP government when it was in negotiations with the LTTE in 2002-3.
The UNP was defeated by the SLFP in 2004 and he switched sides two years later, along with fellow negotiator Milinda Moragoda.
Both men had been popular with Western backers of the peace process as was the UNP, given its enthusiasm for the neoliberal agenda for Sri Lanka.
During the Norwegian-brokered negotiations, Prof. Peiris was famously associated, along with LTTE chief negotiator, Anton Balasingham, with the ‘Oslo Declaration’, an agreement between both sides to explore federalism as a solution to the conflict.
At the time Peiris lauded the Oslo Declarations as a ‘paradigm shift by the LTTE’ and as a climb down by the Tigers from the demand of an independent Tamil Eelam state.
However, after crossing over to the Sinhala-nationalist government of President Rajapakse in 2006, Prof. Peiris rejected federalism as a solution.
“Today the intellectuals and experts worldwide agree that terms such as federalism, unitary and united have no clear definition and are indistinct at best,” he was quoted as saying.
He added, without elaborating, that what was required was a “practical solution” to the ethnic conflict.
“This is one of the most unprincipled and shameless resolutions ever adopted by any body of the United Nations in the history of that now benighted Organization. It would be as if the U.N. Human Rights Council had congratulated the Nazi government for the “liberation” of the Jews in Poland after its illegal and genocidal invasion of that country in 1939,” said Francis Boyle, professor of International Law at the University of Illinois College of Law, referring to the resolution passed at the United Nations Human Rights Council on the Sri Lanka war.
“This Resolution simultaneously gives the imprimatur of the U.N. Human Rights Council to the ethnic cleansing, genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes that the Government of Sri Lanka has already inflicted upon the Tamils in the past , as well as the Council’s proverbial “green light” for the GOSL to perpetrate and escalate more of the same international crimes against the Tamils in the future,” Boyle said.
“The U.N. Human Rights Council and those member States that voted in favor of this Resolution have thereby become ACCESSORIES AFTER THE FACT to the GoSL’s genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing against the Tamils in the past, as well as AIDERS AND ABETTORS to future acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing that the GOSL will undoubtedly inflict upon the Tamils thanks to this Resolution-all in violation of the Genocide Convention, the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Two Additional Protocols of 1977 as well as the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court.
“Sri Lanka, together with these other Council States, are contracting parties to some or all of these International Criminal Law Conventions and therefore must be held accountable for their violation and international crimes against the Tamils,” Boyle added.
“History shall so judge them all!
“Orwell stands vindicated by the U.N. Human Rights Council: WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS FREEDOM, THE U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL LOVES BIG BROTHER,” Boyle said, indicating he is deeply disturbed by the U.N. action.
The Star Online
GENEVA: Malaysia and China are among 12 countries supporting a Sri Lankan bid to try to quash Western censure of alleged human rights abuses committed during its final phase of war against the Tamil Tiger rebels, diplomats said on Friday.
Colombo declared total victory over the Tigers on Monday after cornering them in the north-east of the island and killing off their leaders in a climactic battle.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay last week backed calls in the West for an independent inquiry into possible war crimes in the tiny zone she said may have become a “killing field”.
Fending off outside criticism, Sri Lanka on Friday presented to the UN Human Rights Council a draft resolution stating the “principle of non-interference” in internal matters and respect for its sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.
The other countries backing the Sri Lanka draft are: India, Pakistan, Bahrain, Bolivia, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Nicaragua, the Philippines and Saudi Arabia.
Western diplomats, who are also preparing a resolution to be presented at a special Council session on Sri Lanka on Tuesday, said Colombo’s developing country allies were likely to band together to deflect serious scrutiny of its record.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, speaking at a rally in Colombo, brushed off Western calls for a war crimes probe into acts by government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The United Nations said this week that the conflict had killed between 80,000 and 100,000 people since erupting into full-scale civil war in 1983. The toll includes unofficial and unverified tallies showing 7,000 civilian deaths since January.
Nearly 300,000 Tamil civilians, who followed or were taken by the Tigers as the military relentlessly cornered them, are now in crowded camps after fleeing in the final months.
Aid groups say that Sri Lankan authorities prevented access to the conflict zone and hampered the entry of life-saving medical supplies and evacuations of wounded people.
“Sri Lanka does not deserve to be praised, but rather condemned for blocking humanitarian emergency relief to thousands, (and) creating conditions leading to the spread of diseases,” UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said. — Reuters