By Thambu Kanagasabai –
Eelam Tamils in Sri Lanka and Tamils all over the world are very deeply concerned in relation to Sri Lanka’s past human rights violations including war crimes and the very minimal steps taken by Sri Lanka so far to uphold accountability and dispense justice to the victims which is long delayed and has been remaining in cold storage since the Human Rights Resolutions of:
1). 19/2 of 22 March 2012, 2). 22/1 of 21 March 2013, 3). 25/1 of 27 March 2014, 4). 30/1 of 01 October 2015, 5). 34/1 of 23 March 2017, 6). 40/1 of 21 March 2019, 7). 46/1 of 23 March 2021
On promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka.
Being the holders and serving as core members, Tamils all over the world are fully confident and hopeful that UNHRC would initiate appropriate measures and actions to deal with Sri Lanka’s dilly-dallying and deceptive tactics including elusive approach and attitude to defeat, discard and devalue most of the Human Right Councils’ Recommendations which have been lying dormant and action less so far in the cold storage.
It is important to note that Sri Lanka has only performed the following lame duck actions namely the setting up of an Office of the Missing Persons in 2016 and the passing of the Enforced Disappearances Act of 2016.
Sad to state that the Office of the Missing Persons (OMP) Office is dysfunctional and breathing for life viewing its cessation of actions and operations. Although the Enforced Disappearances Commission set up in 2018 received credible and substantiated personal and written complaints of about 16,000 disappearances, this Office also appears to be remaining frozen and inactive without any activities and has distressingly failed to initiate required and necessary follow ups for the investigations of credible complaints received. Not one single person alleged to have been forcefully disappeared has been produced leaving the victims to prolong to endure and suffer the miseries and pains caused by their missing relatives of the families.
It should be noted that the fasting and sit-in-campaign of victims including relatives and mothers of the disappeared is still continuing even after the lapse of 2000 days since the fasting campaign commenced in the Mullaitivu and Vavuniya districts in the North of Sri Lanka.
Tamils all over the world seek the assistance of the world leaders to rein in Sri Lanka and call on it to implement UNHRC’s Recommendations to ensure accountability and justice is dispensed without any further delay to the victims of the genocidal crimes allegedly committed by Sri Lankan security forces in the past particularly during the war between 2006 and 2009. It is very important to note that so far 129 grieving and fasting mothers have died while participating in the sit-in-protest for more than five years.
It is time for the International Community to consider imposing political, economic and diplomatic sanctions against Sri Lanka and its officials including Sri Lankan security forces alleged to have committed war crimes etc. in order to uphold accountability and justice and also to prevent the recurrence of commissions of crimes by state and security officials who are still continuing to enjoy Sri Lanka’s entrenched culture of impunity.
In conclusion, it is up to the International Community to consider one or more of the following options in the interests of justice and accountability including rule of law to ensure full compliance with Provisions of UNHRC and United Nations’ Charters.
1. Referring Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court [ICC] by a member country of the ICC or by the Security Council.
2. Resort to the exercise of Universal Jurisdiction by a member country which has accepted it.
3. Imposing appropriate sanctions on alleged war criminals like former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, his brother and war time President Mahinda Rajapaksa etc under the recognized principle of command responsibility.
4. Calling on Sri Lanka to hold a Referendum in the North and East of Sri Lanka to ascertain the final option of the people living in these Provinces of Sri Lanka.
5. To consider setting up of an international investigative mechanism as Sri Lanka is delaying the setting up of the internal judicial mechanism as promised by it.
It should be noted that the UNHRC draft Resolution has for the first time acknowledged the “Underlying governance factors” which impliedly refer to the bad governance of all Sri Lankan governments including discriminatory measures and actions against minority communities particularly Tamil people, and upholding its entrenched culture of impunity for serious human rights violations and abuses perpetrated by the governments for a long period of time. The Resolution acknowledges that as long as these practices continue, the rule of law and reconciliation with affected communities particularly Tamil People would remain elusive forever with the root causes continuing to affect the economy and political stability while feeding communalism and racism.
Eelam Tamils in Sri Lanka have seen, heard and experienced years after years of conflicts due to various reasons by the fellow community of different races or nations which have made this world dangerous for its continuous existence and survival and has now come to a state of heading towards a nuke war among nations. It means a complete annihilation of all living beings on this planet mother earth.
The leaders of the countries must therefore take bold steps to bring forward a strong world order to have a peaceful life for all living beings sharing the mother earth. Thus the UN shoulders a strong responsibility and obligation to work towards the whole humanity and not for favored people or nations.
The world Tamil community and the upright people of the world are frustrated the way UN Resolutions were drafted and implemented. They have no strong binding force on the particular country’s offenders to adhere and comply with the passed Resolutions and they do not fully reflect the High Commissioner’s Reports of the violations. Due to the vague wordings and non-power of implementing, Sri Lanka simply doesn’t even talk to the people of Sri Lanka about such Resolutions and its effects. The ruling political leaders of Sri Lanka do not like their Sinhala ethnic majority community to know the war crimes committed against the Tamil ethnic minority by the successive governments and armed forces.
A good example is Sri Lanka where the ethnic war ended in 2009 May. So far, a number of Resolutions have been passed in UNHRC pointing out the war crimes, crimes against humanity and International human rights violations etc. amounting to genocide. All these took place against a particular Tamil national ethnicity, but not one of the UNHRC Resolutions stated that the affected people are Tamil Nationals. Why is this impartiality? There is nothing wrong in calling a spade a spade. Now 13 years have passed since the end of the war. A good number of relatives of victims are dead without seeing justice for their lost ones. The armed forces and political leaders who committed the war crimes and crimes against humanity etc. and will die without facing the due justice for their crimes and without any punishment due to the entrenched Sri Lanka’s culture of impunity.
The above-mentioned ineffective Resolutions serve nothing to anyone but only will be dragged on endlessly until the heat is cooled and forgotten at last while abandoning the victims desolate and desperately searching for remedies for their long-standing grievances.
“Justice delayed is justice denied”.
*Thambu Kanagasabai, LLM London, Former Lecturer in Law, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.