Black July 1983: the Charge is Genocide
There is no time limit within which a
for genocide may be launched -
for Genocide '83 both within the then Sri Lanka Cabinet of Ministers
and outside it, must be charged and punished according to law.
Genocide is a crime which transcends national frontiers.
Furthermore, there is no time limit within which a prosecution for
genocide may be launched. Those who committed the crime of genocide
during the Second World War continue to be hunted down today.
The matters presented in this publication constitute, at
the lowest, prima facie evidence, sufficient to warrant an indictment for
genocide against the Sri Lanka authorities.
To recapitulate, Black July '83 was admitted by all sides, including the Sri
Lanka government to have been planned attack. Who then were the planners?
Who were the planners of this contingent plan which was worked
out long before the ambush of 13 soldiers in Jaffna on 22 July 1983? Who were
the planners of an attack which was neither directed against the government nor
directed against big business but was directed against the Tamils? The
features of the planners of the planners emerge from the nature of the plan.
- The planners were persons who (to use the
words of Sri Lanka President
Jayawardene on 11 July 1983) had little regard for the
opinion or the lives of the Tamil people.
- The planners were persons who were in a
position to command considerable organisational resources.
- The planners were persons who were in a position to mobilise
an existing strong arm net work at short notice.
- The planners were persons who were able to assure the
goondas that no harm would befall them and
that the army and the police would look the other way.
- The planners were persons who occupied positions of power
which rendered such assurances credible.
- The planners were persons who were in a position to
influence and direct the police and the army to look the other
way and ensure that such directions were not countermanded.
- The planners were persons who were secure in the knowledge
that they themselves would be safe after the event - that the
thousands who implemented the plan would not and could not 'tell
- The planners were persons who were secure in the knowledge
that there would be no investigation by the government - because
the planners themselves were persons who were in a position to
direct and influence government action.
The circumstances taken together
are consistent only with the conclusion that the Sri Lankan
Government as well as leading members of the ruling United National
Party were the planners of Genocide '83. They are not consistent
with any other conclusion. Furthermore,
points the finger of guilt firmly to those in the seats of power in the Sri
Seventy years after the massacre of around one million Armenians
on orders of the Turkish government, the Permanent Peoples Tribunal
(successor to the Bertrand Russell Tribunal on Vietnam) held a
special hearing in Paris. The Tribunal's jury included three Nobel
Prize winners -Sean Macbride, Adolfo Perez Esquivel and Professor
George Wald. The
verdict on 16 April 1984 was that 'there was no doubt regarding
the reality of the physical acts constituting the genocide' of the
Armenian people. The Tribunal declared:
'The fact of the murder of members of the group, of grave
attacks on their physical or mental integrity, and of the
subjection of this group to conditions leading necessarily to
their deaths, are clearly proven by the full and unequivocal
evidence submitted to the Tribunal...''
''It is further observed that the authorities generally
refrained from intervening to prevent the slaughter, although
they had the power to do so... This attitude amounts to
incitement to crime and criminal negligence, and must be judged
as severely as the crimes actively committed and specifically
covered by the law against genocide...''
''The Tribunal finds that the charge of genocide of the
Armenian people brought against the Turkish authorities is
established...The fundamental rights of this (Armenian) people
are of direct concern to the international community, which is
entitled and duty bound to ensure that these rights are
respected, particularly when they are openly denied by one of
its member states.''
Equally, even apart from the direct involvement of the Sri Lankan
authorities in the planned attack on the Tamil people in July 1983,
the failure of the Sri Lankan authorities to intervene 'to prevent
the slaughter, although they had the power to do so... amounts to
incitement to crime and criminal negligence, and must be judged as
severely as the crimes actively committed and specifically covered
by the law against genocide.'
The Minority Rights Group was moved to comment in September 1983:
"...The present conflict has transcended the special
consideration of minority rights and has reached the point where
the basic human rights of the Tamil community - the rights to
life and property, freedom of speech and self expression and
freedom from arbitrary arrest have in fact and in law been
subject to gross and continued violations. "(Tamils of Sri
Lanka: Minority Rights Group Report September 1983)
The International Commission of Jurists Review
concluded in December 1983 :
"A (Sri Lanka) government spokesman has denied that the
destruction and killing of Tamils amounted to genocide. Under
the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of
Genocide, acts of murder committed with intent to destroy, in
whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious
group as such are considered as acts of genocide. The evidence
points clearly to the conclusion that the violence of the
Sinhala rioters on the Tamils amounted to acts of genocide."
Francis Wheen was moved to remark in the
London Times, on 30 July 1983
"Genocide is a word that must be used with care; but how
else is one to describe the impulse which guided the Sinhalese
lynch-mobs this week?.."
How else, indeed. Those responsible for genocide '83 both within the then
Sri Lanka government and outside it, must be charged and punished according to