Colombo Telegraph

BTF Expresses Disappointment Over OISL Deferral

British Tamils Forum (BTF) has expressed their deep disappointment and anguish on the deferral of the OISL report by another six months, pointing out it has eroded the credibility of the UNHRC in the eyes of the victims.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein

They have pointed out in a statement that despite the High Commissioner’s justification of the deferral stating that there is a possibility for ‘new important information’ to emerge, legal sources families with the evidence already collected have indicated that there is enough hard evidence to prosecute the perpetrators.

The BTF has also requested the HC to reveal the commitments that have been made by the new GoSL that he refers to in his letter to the Council in requesting the deferral, and also to clarify how they would facilitate the emergence of new information.

“We also wish to know what measures have been considered to protect the sources of this new information from the Sri Lankan state,” the BTF has stated pointing out the very same military that threatened victims who sought justice during the former HC’s visit is still in control of the war affected areas.

The BTF has further stated that considering the statements made by the government spokes persons and the external affairs minister against the implementation of an international investigation and would only support a domestic probe into a few incidents; it is difficult to see how the HC arrived at the conclusion that there is a change of context in Sri Lanka.

We publish below the statement in full:

Tamil People Bitterly Disappointed and Betrayed by Deferral of Key UNHRC Report on Sri Lanka Conflict

British Tamils Forum shares the deep disappointment and anguish felt by Tamil people across the world on learning that the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) report, scheduled to be released in March 2015, will be deferred by another six months.

Tamil Diaspora organisations and Tamil parties in the island of Sri Lanka and India, together representing Tamil people across the world, have repeatedly requested that this long awaited report be released in March 2015 as mandated. The victims and the witnesses of this genocide have already waited far too long.

In his explanation for this unprecedented move, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Dr Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, states that there are “strong arguments for deferring the report’s consideration a bit longer, given the changing context in Sri Lanka, and the possibility that important new information may emerge which will strengthen the report.” However, legal sources familiar with the evidence already collected have indicated that there is enough hard evidence to prosecute the perpetrators. The High Commissioner further states, “I have received clear commitments from the new Government of Sri Lanka indicating it is prepared to cooperate with my Office on a whole range of important human rights issues – which the previous Government had absolutely refused to do – and I need to engage with them to ensure those commitments translate into reality.” We, as victims, too have a right to know what these commitments are and how these will facilitate the emergence of new information.

We also wish to know what measures have been considered to protect the sources of this new information from the Sri Lankan state. The same military that threatened victims who sought justice from the previous High Commissioner during her visit is occupying, and is very much in control of, the North and East of Sri Lanka. Jeyakumari Balendran, the mother who sought help from the previous High Commissioner to find her missing son, is still in a Sri Lankan prison on trumped-up charges, and the sister who pleaded to be reunited with her brother is now separated from her mother too. Tamil victims have not seen any change in their plight in the island of Sri Lanka. The Tamil people do not see any change in the nature of the Sri Lankan state.

The High Commissioner goes on to rightly state, “I am acutely aware that many victims of human rights violations in Sri Lanka, including those who have bravely come forward to provide information to the inquiry team, might see this as the first step towards shelving, or diluting, a report they have long feared they would never see. I fully understand those fears and deep anxieties, given the history of failed or obstructed domestic human rights inquiries in Sri Lanka, and the importance of this international investigation being carried out by my team at the UN Human Rights Office.”

Sri Lanka’s Foreign minister and Sri Lankan Government spokespersons have already publicly stated that they will not allow an international investigation and will only set up a domestic probe into a few “incidents”. Given this explicit position of the Sri Lankan state it is difficult to see how the High Commissioner arrived at the conclusion that there is a ‘change in context’ in Sri Lanka. It would be a great betrayal of trust by the UNHRC if the report is never released, diluted or transferred to a domestic inquiry.

The deferral of this report without any consultation with the victims has already eroded the credibility of UNHRC in the eyes of the victims. The UN has belatedly acknowledged that it failed to protect the Tamil people from the massacre in Mullivaikkal; it is once again failing the Tamil people by delaying justice.

British Tamils Forum, on behalf of the Tamil people, appeals to the High Commissioner to review his position, release the report as originally scheduled and restore Tamil people’s faith in the UN system.

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