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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > International Frame of Struggle for Tamil Eelam > United States & the Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Congressional Human Rights Caucus Briefing - Statement by Congressman Bill Luther
United States & the struggle for Tamil Eelam
Whatever may be said, who ever may say it - to
determine the truth of it, is wisdom - Thirukural
Congressional Human Rights Caucus
Briefing - CHRC Archive: Briefings
2 March 1999
I would first like to thank our panelists for agreeing to meet with us today. I very much look forward to hearing from you this afternoon.
In what has been described as “one of the most violent, intractable, and complex conflicts of the post Cold War period,” many civilians today in Sri Lanka find themselves the victims of inhumane atrocities that include murder, abduction, torture and rape. Trapped between two warring parties, the people of Sri Lanka have recently benefited from attempts by their government to put an end to impunity for those who commit human rights violations.
According to the Human Rights Watch World Report for 1998, the government of Sri Lanka has released the reports of three regional commissions that have investigated more than 16,000 disappearances over the past 10 years.
On February 10, Sri Lanka took another important step toward strengthening its human rights record with the conviction of six members of their own security forces who had been charged with the “disappearance” of 25 people, including 24 students between the ages of 15 and 17. According to Amnesty International, the decision “should set an example to the international community that impunity for past abuses can be ended when there is the political will.”
These developments, along with Sri Lanka’s recent ratification of the UN Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, are encouraging as they demonstrate a willingness on the part of the government to value and protect, in theory and in practice, the basic human rights of its citizens.
The United States supports the Sri Lankan government’s territorial integrity along with its proposals for a political resolution of the ethnic conflict. While important measures have been taken to end the mistreatment of noncombatants in this conflict, there is still much work to be done. I urge the government of Sri Lanka to build upon this foundation of justice and accountability that it has established by ending human rights violations and supporting the work of commissions that continue to investigate the thousands of disappearances and other transgressions that have occurred.
independent human rights monitors have access to the areas of conflict, the
Sri Lankan government can continue with the progress it has made and protect the
lives of innocent civilians. While they represent just the beginning of a
long and difficult process, too many important steps have been taken to allow
the momentum to stall now.