By C.V. Wigneswaran –
While I sit down to prepare this message on the 9th of December this year in time for the World Human Rights’ Day declared for the 10th of December, an important fact comes to light. During the early part of this year the United Nations General Assembly had adopted 9th of December for the first time as the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime. Remembering all those victims of Genocide I proceed to prepare this Message.
The curtailment of the awesome power of the State and the prevention of its abuse against individuals and/or Peoples have been the object of the journey towards Human Rights. The holocaust of the Jewish people was the immediate trigger for the United Nations to embark in the year 1948 on the venture of detailing the human rights of individuals, shifting the focus of International Law from the rights of States to the rights of individuals and peoples.
Every right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has now been spelt out in detail in subsequent Conventions and Declarations on the subject. Machinery to ensure that the rights are observed have been devised through the Human Rights’ Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The principles enunciated in the UN documents on Human Rights have special significance for Sri Lanka. They have great significance for the plight that Tamils find themselves in.
In every sense, the rights of Tamils as individuals and as a People have been violated over the course of time by the Governments of Sri Lanka.
The United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights promises all Peoples the right of self determination. Article 1 of the Covenant reads: ” All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”.
This legitimate right of self-determination has been denied to the Tamils; instead, their right to equality, a central human right, has been violated throughout the period of Sri Lanka’s existence. The right to life of individual Tamils has been violated through extra-judicial killings in which the State and its agents actively participated. There has been no accountability for any of the killings that have taken place.
The right to liberty, again a non-defeasible right stated in the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, continues to be violated with the incarceration of many hundreds of young Tamils detained without trial or deprived of proper hearings. Their continued imprisonment is a continuing violation of this important right by the Government of Sri Lanka. It is incumbent on the part of the Government of Sri Lanka to release these prisoners without any delay and demonstrate its commitment to human rights. I am expecting His Excellency the President conscious of the need to release our Tamil political prisoners, to soon do so by an open Amnesty.
A Resolution of the Northern Provincial Council in February this year had already characterised the consecutive killings of Tamil civilians as genocide. Needless to say an obligation arises on the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure that the perpetrators of the genocide are brought to trial. But recent statements by Government leaders are confusing and contradictory but consistent in one respect in that they play down the extent of the system crimes so clearly outlined by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in its Report on Sri Lanka this year.
The Pinheiro Principles are a set of principles that are to be followed so that people displaced through war or other like incidents are restored to the lands they occupied prior to the event. Today the lands of our People are in the occupation of the Army. Such occupation is in violation of the International Human Rights’ law. Consistency with such laws requires that the occupation by the Army is ended and the lands restored to its original owners.
Successive Governments of Sri Lanka have indulged in Human Rights’ violations continually. Even after the 8th of January this year there had been incidents of White Van abductions. Consistency with Human Rights requires that in the light of various violations of human rights by successive governments of Sri Lanka, a constitutional solution consistent with the right to self determination of the Tamil people is brought about so as to find a lasting solution to the continuous violations of Tamil rights. It is then that Human Rights’ Day would truly be applicable to this Country.
*Justice C.V.Wigneswaran – Chief Minister, Northern Province