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Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home >  Tamils - a Trans State Nation  > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Indictment against Sri Lanka > Black July 1983: the Charge is Genocide - Preface, Prologue & Index > Black July 1983 - The Record Speaks


Black July 1983: the Charge is Genocide

Sri Lanka engaged in a cover up and
dishonoured its pledge to the UN to hold an inquiry...

In any case, why did not the government arrange for an impartial inquiry? This may have resolved the 'confusion' in the mind of the government. If it was the case that the attack was a left inspired one intended to destabilise the government, then it was all the more important that the matter should have been fully investigated and the culprits brought to book. After all, the Sri Lankan Ambassador, Mr.Tissa Jayakody, had proclaimed before the Sub Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities at Geneva on the 22nd of August:

"The Sri Lankan authorities....would leave no stone unturned to bring to justice all those responsible for killings, violence and acts of destruction, no matter who they were and regardless of their status, ideology or political alignments. There would be no exceptions."

These were soothing words which were intended to allay the fears that the Sub Commission may have had for the future of the Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka.

In its Note Verbale dated 30 January 1984, distributed to the delegates to the 40th Sessions of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in February 1984, the Sri Lanka government continued to reiterate:

"The events of July 1983 were caused by a minority of lawless elements in particular circumstances. The guilty have been or are being punished and the Government has initiated a complex and sensitive political process to deal with the fundamental issues which led to the events of July 1983. In this context, the constructive approach of the international community is to desist from any action or comment on the situation in Sri Lanka."

However the Sri Lankan government did not honour the pledge that it gave the UN Commission on Human Rights. No public inquiry was ever held into the genocidal attacks launched on the Tamil people in July 1983. The Sri Lanka government took no steps to determine the identity of the planners of the contingent plan.

The government ignored the recommendation by the International Commission of Jurists, contained in a statement circulated in August 1983, to members of the UN Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, that:

"It is imperative that the government .. (should establish) an independent judicial inquiry to investigate the causes of the recent violence, the events leading to and occurring during the violence and to assess responsibility for the resulting loss of life and devastation. The killing of detainees in Welikade prison should be the subject of a special investigation.Those responsible for arson and killing should be prosecuted regardless of any official position."

In March 1984, Paul Sieghart Q.C., Chairman of Justice, the British section of the International Commission of Jurists was constrained to remark:

"But, what I find most extraordinary is that, to this day, there has been no attempt to find out the truth through an official, public and impartial inquiry, when the situation in the country cries for nothing less... I regard the appointment of such an inquiry as one of the most important steps for the Government to take in the immediate future." (Paul Sieghart: Sri Lanka-A Mounting Tragedy of Errors - Report of a Mission to Sri Lanka in January 1984 on behalf of the International Commission of Jurists and its British Section, Justice, March 1984)

The continued failure of the Sri Lankan government to initiate an independent and impartial inquiry led Amnesty International to comment in June 1984:

"Despite repeated appeals from international human rights bodies such as the International Commission of Jurists and Amnesty International, and from regional organisations concerned with the protection of human rights such as Lawasia, the government has failed to order independent investigations into the reports of extra judicial killings"; and further in reference to the killings in Welikade Jail: ''.. Amnesty International believes, the need for further investigations to be conducted by an independent body before which witnesses can testify in conditions of safety. Amnesty International believes that the government must order a comprehensive inquiry into the circumstances of the killings and bring to justice any of those identified as responsible for them."...

But the government of Sri Lanka took no steps to investigate the murders and bring the culprits to justice. In the case of the killings in Welikade jail, the prison guards, who were eye witnesses to the murders which were committed in broad daylight, and who were unable to identify any one who had participated in the attack, were retained in employment - they continued to serve as loyal and obedient servants of the government of Sri Lanka.

Paul Sieghart Q.C. commented:

''I have now been told that it has not been possible to find enough evidence to enable anyone to be prosecuted - a proposition which must stretch credulity.'' (Paul Sieghart: Sri Lanka-A Mounting Tragedy of Errors - Report of a Mission to Sri Lanka in January 1984 on behalf of the International Commission of Jurists and its British Section, Justice, March 1984)

The call by more than 50 British Members of Parliament on 28 July 1984 for an 'impartial international commission should be set up to inquire into the violence against the Tamils in July 1983' went unheeded.

"The ethnic violence which erupted in Sri Lanka in July 1983 brought untold misery to the Tamils. They were beaten, hacked and burnt to death in a frenzy of racial hatred. Their houses and businesses were selectively looted and destroyed. The Sri Lankan government had admitted that the violence was pre planned and well organised and that even sections of the security forces joined in the attack against the Tamils.

53 Tamil detainees held in a maximum security prison were brutally killed on July 25th and July 27th. Yet to date no impartial inquiry into these violent attacks has taken place. Amnesty International (AI) recently reported a number of cases of extra judicial killings and secret disposal of bodies without inquest or post mortem. The AI and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) have also reported on a number of cases of torture and death in custody of persons detained incommunicado for period upto 18 months under the Sri Lankan Prevention of Terrorism Act.

'No legislation conferring remotely comparable powers is in force in any other free democracy... such a provision is an ugly blot on the statute book of any civilised country'(ICJ). The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution has virtually disenfranchised the country's 3 million Tamils by reason of the ban imposed on their political parties. This Amendment according to the ICJ, 'constitutes a clear violation by Sri Lanka of its obligations in international law'. The one million Tamils working in the tea plantations, who were deprived of nationality, citizenship and franchise in 1948 continue to remain stateless persons. We are of the opinion that:

* an impartial international commission should be set up to inquire into the violence against the Tamils in July 1983 including the killing of 53 Tamil detainees held in custody by the government

* the Prevention of Terrorism Act should be repealed and the powers given to the security forces which facilitate arbitrary killing of civilians and disposal of their bodies without inquest or post mortem should be rescinded

* the use of torture and incommunicado detention in violation of Sri Lanka's obligations under International Covenants should be discontinued

* the rights to nationality, citizenship and franchise to the Tamils working in the plantations should be restored

* the Sri Lankan government should repeal the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution and take meaningful steps to arrive at a political solution to the country's ethnic problem by the granting of the legitimate rights of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka."

- David Alton MP, Paddy Ashdown MP, Norman Atkinson MP, Tony Banks MP, Prof John Barret, Kevin Barron MP, Alan Beith MP, Tony Benn MP, Gerry Berningham M.P., Prof Tom Bottomore, Sydney Bidwell MP, Malcolm Bruce MP, Dale Campbell-Savours MP, Dennis Canavan MP, Alex Carlile MP, Tom Clarke MP, Bob Clay MP, Anne Clwyd MP, Harry Cohan MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Ron Davis MP, Eric Deakins MP, Alf Dubs MP, Professor Michael Dummet, Derek Fatchett MP, Mark Fisher MP, Martin Flannery MP, Roy Hattersley MP, Michael Foot MP, Simon W.H. Hughes MP, Lord Jenkins, Russel Johnston MP, Sir David Lane,, Robert Kilroy Silk MP, Archy Kirkwood MP, Ted Knight, Terry Lewis MP, Bob Litherland MP, Ken Livingstone, Tony Lloyd MP, Eddie Loyden MP, Max Madden MP, Joan Maynard MP, Willie McKelvy MP, Bill Michie MP, Dr.Paul Noone, Bob Parry MP, Alan Roberts MP, Ernie Roberts MP, Allan Rogers MP, Aubrey Rose, Ernie Ross MP, Steven Ross MP, Clare Short MP, Dennis Skinner MP, Prof Peter Townsend, Jim Wallace MP, Gareth Wardell MP, Dafydd Wigley MP and many others, The Guardian, 28 July 1984

''President Jayawardene stated in January 1984 that a judge of the Supreme Court was about to be appointed to carry out an independent judicial inquiry into the significant and relevant incidents surrounding the prison tragedy to establish whether any of the prison officers were to blame, and to recommend what steps should be taken to prevent the recurrence of such incidents. As of this date, that body of inquiry has not yet been appointed.'' (Statement of Amy Young, Executive Director, International Human Rights Law Group to the Sub Committee on Human Rights of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the US House of Representatives, 2 August 1984)




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