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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Sri Lanka Accused at United Nations > UN Commission on Human Rights 1985
UN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
41st Sessions: February 1985
- Joint Memorandum by 9 Non Governmental Organisations, February 1985
"...the President of Sri Lanka has announced his government's plans to colonise all Tamil areas with Sinhala settlers to reflect the nationwide population ratio of 75 percent Sinhalese and 25 percent other ethnic groups..."
- Statement by Centre Europe - Tiers Monde,28 February 1985
"...Recently, according to reports of the Amnesty International and the Civil Rights Movement of Sri Lanka , thousands of Tamils falling within the age group of 15 and 30 have been indiscriminately rounded up and detained in army camps where they are subjected to the familiar methods of torture..."
- Statement by Dr.G.S.Dhillon, Leader of Indian Delegation, 8 March 1985
"... The conditions in northern part of Sri Lanka are believed to have deteriorated to such an extent that Tamils are finding it difficult to continue to stay there..."
- Statement by H.W.Jayawardene Q.C. Leader of Sri Lanka Delegation 8 March 1985
"...There have been a few instances of indiscipline by members of the services. The Government has dealt with such conduct by suitable methods of punishment..."
"...In one incident soldiers marched into Murunkan Post Office, lined up all the staff, with one exception, and shot them. In another, a bus-load of passengers were lined up with the driver and shot, killing 17. Another bus was treated similarly and some 20 people killed and others severely injured. A jeep entered a village and opened fire on civilians, killing 12, including a woman who was nursing an infant child..."
"My delegation has listened with interest to the remarks made by the distinguished observer for the International Commission of Jurists. The remarks were mainly political and only incidentally touched on human rights and only on Sri Lanka..."
- Reply by Dr.G.S.Dhillon to Statement by Sri Lanka Leader of Indian Delegation,12 March 1985
"...The Sri Lankan representative has questioned the authenticity of the fact mentioned by us in our statement that over 50,000 Tamils, who are Sri Lankan nationals, have sought refuge in India since the eruption of ethnic violence in Sri Lanka in July 1983...He also contended that an artificial refugee situation was being created for ulterior purposes. These are stock arguments which Governments have used in the past in the face of their inability to contain the exodus of refugees. It is difficult to believe that thousands of poor and ordinary people who an struggling for survival would leave their hearths and homes and stay uprooted in another country unless they feared for their life and property..."
Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances Agenda Item 10 on Question of the Human rights of all persons subjected to any form of detention or imprisonment, in particular: Question of enforced or involuntary disappearances - 23 January 1985
Amnesty International on Agenda Item 12 Question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world, with particular reference to colonial and other dependent countries and territories -
"Despite the Commission's hopes last year for a resolution on the continuing problem of human rights violations in Sri Lanka, in the context of the inter communal strife, the year has seen many killings of non combatant civilians by military and security personnel in that country. As recently as 4 December last year in the Mannar area, over 100 civilians were killed, according to official sources. In one apparent massacre, it is alleged that at least 90 unarmed civilians, nearly all Tamils, many of them old men, women and children, were shot dead by army personnel. It is thought that the killings were in retaliation for the death of a soldier caused by a landmine."
"...Even as I speak, Mr. Chairman, thousands of Tamil people, not militants or "terrorists", but ordinary civilians, old people, young people, women and children are fleeing the country from the uncontrolled terror of the Sri Lankan security forces. Thousands of people are being forcibly dispossessed of their homes and driven of areas in which they have lived for over 2000 years...."
"...We are deeply disturbed at the numerous reports of human rights violations committed against the Tamil population by members of the security forces. These have included the indiscriminate killing citizens and widespread destruction of property. It has been said that they have been the work of indisciplined members of' the security force. It is, however, the Government which trains and deploys these forces, and, it is the Government which remains responsible for their actions..."
"...Several speakers in the Commission expressed their deep concern at the escalating violence resulting from the military solution pursued by the Sri Lankan government. The non governmental organizations listed below are greatly disturbed by the ongoing massacres and continuing exodus of refugees..."
Joint Memorandum by 9 Non Governmental Organisations
- consisting of the Anti-Slavery Society for the Protection of Human Rights, Centre Europe - Tiers Monde, Disabled Peoples International, International Federation of Human Rights, International League for the Rights and Liberation of People, Pax Christi International, Pax Romana - International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs, International Movement of Catholic Students, International Movement of Catholic Students, International Movement for Fraternal Union among Races and People, and World Student Christian Federation submitted in February 1985
Introduction | Lawlessness of Sri Lanka armed forces | Notorious Sri Lanka Prevention of Terrorism Act | Repressive Emergency Regulations | Reign of terror by Sri Lanka | Sri Lanka's Policy of 'collective responsibility' | Extra-judicial killings | Arbitrary arrests and detention | Ill treatment and torture | Failure to investigate atrocities | Planned colonisation of Tamil areas with armed Sinhala settlers | Tens of thousands Tamils displaced and have fled their homes
"The Jaffna District and part of the Kilinochchi district has been declared a security zone, and a prohibited zone has been established on the coast, with severe curtailment of movement and prohibition of various activities. Mass arrests of Tamil youth are being carried out. Detainees in the custody of the state have been killed.
Some members of the security forces have carried out massive reprisals against the civilian population and, in the course of their operations, have killed many people, and have caused much damage to private property, burning and destroying homes and farms. Peasants in the language-border areas have been pushed out of the their villages." [Civil Rights Movement of Sri Lanka 25 January 1985]
The background to the current situation in Sri Lanka is too complex to summarise in one short paragraph; the reader, therefore, is kindly requested to refer to the excellent reports prepared by Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists, which outline the various events, government measures and policies enacted since Independence which have contributed to the polarisation of the Sinhala and Tamil communities. These reports document the serious erosion of the democratic process and the pattern of escalating violence which culminated in the July-August 1983 killing of approximately 400 civilians. (ICJ Report, March 1984, pp. 74-75)
Lawlessness of Sri Lanka armed forces
Referring to the several bouts of communal violence since 1958 the ICJ Report "Sri Lanka, A Mounting Tragedy of Errors" (March 1984) notes:
- " The intervals between these episodes have become shorter; their extent over the island has become wider; and the violence has become more intense. All these are characteristics of a situation that is getting worse rather than better. Communal riots in which Tamils are killed, maimed, robbed and rendered homeless are no longer isolated episodes; they are beginning to become a pernicious habit." (p.15)
Recent events, as documented for example by Amnesty International (ASA 37/01/85 9 Jan. 85) bear disconcerting testimony to the realization of this statement; the Tamil community is now constantly confronted with the lawlessness of the armed forces, described by a Colombo-based diplomat as "among the most undisciplined soldiers in the whole world". (Newsweek, 21 Jan. . 85) The atrocities, including arbitrary and extra-judicial killings, committed by the armed forces are outlined in this document.
Notorious Sri Lanka Prevention of Terrorism Act
While Sri Lanka has in the past enjoyed the reputation of being a democracy various measures have seriously undermined the judicial and parliamentary process. To name but a few, the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA)is a serious violation of the Rule of Law and of Sri Lanka's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As outlined in the ICJ Report (1984):
"These provisions (in the Prevention of Terrorism Act) are quite extra-ordinarily wide. No legislation conferring even remotely comparable powers is in force in any other free democracy operating under the Rule of Law, however troubled it may be by politically motivated violence. Indeed, there is only one known precedent for the power to impose restriction orders under section11 of the Sri Lankan PTA and that ... such a provision is an ugly blot on the statute book of any civilised country..."
Sri Lanka has undergone a number of significant changes under the present UNP Government which have severely undermined the democratic apparatus and diminished the potential for a political solution to the current conflict. Briefly these include:
- stripping Mrs Bandaranaike, leader of the SLFP opposition party, of her civic rights thereby depriving her of the right to hold or campaign for public office;
- a new Presidential style Constitution (1978), without any endorsement by Referendum which confers very wide executive powers on the President from standing against him;
- the Third Amendment to the Constitution the life of Parliament was extended until 1989 and put to a Referendum which was conducted under Emergency Regulations;
- Sixth Amendment to the Constitution (July 1983) bars anyone advocating separatism even with peaceful means from sitting in parliament. This effectively bars the TULF (the main opposition party and representing the Tamil community), although it had never advocated or had recourse to any unconstitutional action and had dissociated itself from the militant groups.
Repressive Emergency Regulations
The repression of the Tamil community intensified and entered a new phase in November 1984 when the Government introduced a plethora of new Emergency Regulations. Briefly these Regulations include the:
(a) (i) Establishment of a Prohibited Zone covering distance 5 km seawards and 100 metres landwards along the entire coast of the northern province from Mannar on the west Coast to Mullaitivu in the East coast;(ii) Banning of all human habitation and activity in the zone;
(iii) Banning of fishing completely depriving several thousands of their livelihood and causing acute shortage of food.
(b) (i) The whole of Jaffna and Kilinochchi districts have been declared a Security Zone.
(ii) Banning the ownership and use of all vehicles including bicycles without special permits; however no machinery has been set up for the issue of permits;
(iii) The bus service operates only for a few hours each day due to extended curfews. Even those vehicles with permits, including bullock-carts, are permitted to travel towards Jaffna between 6.30 am and 8.30 am and away from Jaffna between 3pm to 4pm;
(iv) Only a few approved roads can be used; movement of vehicles are severely restricted to particular roads by means of the colour of the vehicles;
(v) Compulsory requirement that all should carry their Identity Cards. Very often the cards are confiscated by the security forces thereby completely prohibiting movement of people and confining them to their homes;
(vi) No one shall enter or leave the Security Zone without the permission of the Assistant Government Agent. (The full text of these Regulations are available on request)
Reign of terror by Sri Lanka
According to a statement by the Civil Rights Movement of Sri Lanka (CRM) (CRM E 2/1/85) issued on 25 January 1985:
"No person can be within the Prohibited Zone without a permit ... Reliable reports indicate that about 80,000 people have been already relocated, very often in refugee camps. The fishing industry in Jaffna district which accounts for almost 25% of the island's production of fish has virtually come to a standstill, throwing into enormous distress almost 22,000 families of fishermen and of others dependent on the fishing industry in the Jaffna district".
On the subject of travel and communication, the CRM Statement reports that "No person can move out of or into the security zone without due authorisation. No one can operate any means of transport, including pedal bicycles, without a permit; Travel, when authorised, is restricted to certain hours and to certain routes. Private buses are off the roads. State-run buses operate only within the terms of the regulations. Fuel is rationed. Curfews have extended to as long as 61 hours at a stretch. ... As a result of the curbs on transport, food supplies have run short. People and doctors cannot get to hospitals; doctors were issued with permits to use their cars only 8 days after the regulations were brought into force. All schooling has been affected."
Commenting on the impact of these draconian measures the Vicar-General of Jaffna, Father Michael Samy, said in an interview with Trevor Fishlock of The Times, "This is a reign of terror" (The Times, 31. 1984).
In a letter address to President Jayawardene by the Citizen's Committee of Valvettiturai they stress that the regulations "are in fact counter-productive in that they no longer help the law-abiding to go about self-assuredly their normal activities as citizens of Sri Lanka; instead these regulations have become totally anti-Tamil creating a feeling that we do not belong to this country, which is equally our mother-country, as it is of other citizens." (Saturday Review, 15 Dec. 1984)
In its Statement the CRM examines the consequences of the prohibited zone on a single Urban Council area in order to demonstrate the distress that is caused: "Fifty per cent of the 14,000 inhabitants of Valvetiiturai are estimated to live within the prohibited zone: five of the seven schools, the hospitals, the post office, the Urban Council office, the burial ground and the crematorium all lie within the prohibited zone. What will result, if all the prohibited zone regulations are rigorously implemented, is the disruption of the entire civil life of the community."
Sri Lanka's Policy of 'collective responsibility'
The 'emergency anti-guerrilla measures' implicate the whole Tamil community in 'terrorism'. The Government has openly conceded that these Emergency Regulations are aimed at the Tamil people collectively. The Minister of National Security, Lalith Athulathmudali, told the Parliament on 28 November 1984 that: 'many of the restrictions which are the aim of the new regulations are certainly unpleasant and likely to affect the lives of many persons, not themselves responsible for the current situation." He also called on the people in the Northern Province to evacuate and "take a holiday with friends or relatives in other parts of the country, so that there would be no doubt as to who was innocent and who was not." The Tamils who still remained in the area after this 'call' were, by implication, not innocent and had to bear the brunt of the military offensive.
The Government declarations and innuendo and new Emergency Regulations, together with the pattern of army conduct, make plain that a policy of 'collective responsibility' for the acts of the militants is being applied to the Tamil population as a whole.
As the embattled Tamil minority community is inexorably transformed into the 'collective enemy' of the 'Sinhala nation' - whatever the beliefs and affiliations of its individual members - the Tamil increasingly consider those detained to be 'hostages'.
Reports of arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and most frequently of extra-judicial killings of the Tamil people which escalated, particularly since October 1984, have been well documented by Amnesty International in it report of 9 January 1985 and by the Civil Rights Movement of Sri Lanka in its report of 25 January 1985.
Both Amnesty International and the CRM have expressed concern about increasingly widespread shooting of the Tamil civilian population, including old men, women and children, by security forces in reprisal attacks. Reports indicate that the Sinha Regiment, noted for its brutalities and disbanded in the 1970s, has been revived and sent to the Tamil areas, where it has been particularly active in taking reprisals. Amnesty International and CRM also report large scale arrests of 'suspected' most of them members of the male Tamil population aged between 15 and 30. Ill-treatment and torture during detention without trial under the Prevention of Terrorism Act continue to occur.
In a recent letter to the President of Sri Lanka, Amnesty International has drawn attention to an alarming trend:
"There are signs that persistent pattern of such extra-judicial killings by the security forces in reprisal for the killing of their own men may now be emerging".
Amnesty International points out that "these allegations have increased in recent months, for example: the secretary of the Jaffna Citizen's Committee alleged that 65 innocent civilians had been shot dead by the security forces in Jaffna during November 1984, and detailed reports have now reached Amnesty International that as many as 90 unarmed civilians, nearly all Tamils, were shot dead in cold blood in the Mannar area on 4 December by army personnel allegedly in retaliation for the killing of one of their colleagues in a land mine explosion the same day". Commenting on this Amnesty International reported:
Army personnel are said to have entered the Murunkan Post Office and after separating from those present one man who was able to identify himself a Muslim, lined up the other ten persons present, all believed to be Tamils, and shot them. Four were reportedly shot dead on the shot and six others, apparently left for dead, survived with serious wounds, among them the postmaster.
Army personnel are alleged to have stopped a Ceylon Transport Bus travelling from Murunkan to Vavuniya, and despite repeated pleas from the Sinhalese bus conductor, Kuda Dewage Jeyasena, not to harm the passengers and the driver, a Muslim, were then lined up and killed. Among the dead were Mr Philip Kulendram, aged fifty-five years and Alexander Rajaratnam, aged thirty-two years.
In the village of Uthavayankulam sixteen civilians, reported to be farmers engaged in transplanting crops, are said to have been shot dead by security forces personnel at their homes. According to these reports, they were ordered to lie down face downwards and shot through the head. Two Sinhalese women, one elderly, were reportedly among the victims: Mrs A.R.Baby Nona, aged seventy-five years, and Mrs Hemawathi Banda, aged forty-five years.
In the village of Parappankandal, army personnel, travelling in jeeps, allegedly fired indiscriminately at villagers, killing twelve civilians. Among the dead is a young mother, Mrs John Baptist, nursing a young child who survived despite having three toes shot off." According to the more recent CRM report the final death toll in the 4 December shootings in Mannar is estimated to be about 107.
In a letter addressed to the President of Sri Lanka, the Mannar Citizen's Committee noted that almost all those who were killed were over 50 years of age. Amnesty International reports that despite government denials there is sufficient evidence to show that these are in fact indiscriminate extra judicial killings by the security forces:
"The government has on several earlier occasions initially denied that such killings had taken place. Following public disclosure of the discovery of the bodies, the government stated that those killed had been terrorists caught in 'an exchange of fire' and later suggesting there might have been become available that these were in fact extra judicial killings or randomly selected civilians by the security forces"
Reports by the local Citizens Committees in the affected areas (Northern Province) estimate that between September and December 1984, the security forces Some of the major incidents have taken place at Chavakachcheri (20 November), Padviya (30 November), Mullaitivu (December), Vavuniya (3 December), Mannar that yet another massacre has taken place in two villages near Mannar. According to the reports 91 persona were massacred by the Sri Lankan security forces on 30 January 19885 (Le Courrier 13/2/85).
In its January report, Amnesty International also gives details of extra judicial killings of civilians in the North by security forces between August and December 1984, and provides eye-witness accounts of army killings in Mannar (11-12 August 1984), Point Pedro (1 September 1984) and Vavuniya (11 September, 1984).
Arbitrary arrests and detention
Under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, persons can be held in incommunicado detention without access to lawyers and relatives, and can be detained without trial of charge, for up to eighteen months. According to Amnesty International in its report of January 1985:
"The current numbers of persons detained under the Act are not known, but are believed to run into many hundreds. According to official statements (Sun, Colombo, 28 August), five hundred men from Jaffna were reported to be in custody as of last August..... Several hundred arrests have been made especially after attacks by Tamil extremist groups on security personnel increased in mid-November 1984. For example, the government (according to a report in the Daily Telegraph, London, 18 December 1984), has stated that seven hundred and twenty-five people, described as 'terrorist suspects' had been detained during the first week of December 198. In the same report, the Secretary of the Jaffna Citizens Committee gave the numbers of recent arrests since November as at least twelve hundred, saying most were men between eighteen and thirty years old."
Commenting on the arrest of innocent civilians Amnesty continues, innocent people, particularly between the ages of sixteen and thirty years, are liable to be arrested and detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The Minister of National Security has admitted that such arrests may take place: There could well be innocent people among those taken into custody in connection with the Point Pedro and Valvettitural incidents. But the true culprits can only be identified after an inquiry.' (Sun, Colombo, 27 August 1984) His observations refer to the arrest of young men in Valvettiturai and Point Pedro, in early August."
In its report of January 25 the CRM comments on recent methods used by security forces for mass arrests:
"State security forces are now adopting, in the Jaffna district, the method of cordoning off specific areas and then taking into custody all young Tamil males, falling usually between the ages of 15 and 30, caught within the cordoned areas. These persons are being taken into custody on the basis that they belong to a specific ethnic, age and sex group amongst whom there may be suspected offenders."
Ill treatment and torture
Together with the scale of arrests detention the practice of torture has been increasing. Amnesty International has several times pointed out that incommunicado detention which is possible for persons arrested under the PTA create preconditions for torture to take place. Amnesty International has also received reports that people are frequently subjected to army beatings on arrest or simply on being checked for identification. In its report of January 1985 Amnesty has also recorded recent testimonies of ill-treatment after arrest and of torture in army custody.
Persons taken into custody in the north are being transferred to camps in the South. In its report CRM points to the "generally bad" conditions under which detainees are being transported: "at times container ships with no basic facilities have been used. Some detainees are reported to have been kept in camps with no change of clothing for as long as 15 days".
CRM has also expressed great concern about instances of death in custody. Some detainees held in camps in the Northern have been killed "under doubtful circumstances". In a recent incident in the army camp in Vavuniya it was alleged that about 22 detainees had been killed "while attempting to escape".
Failure to investigate atrocities
In spite of public promises to the United Nations as well as to the public, that it would investigate atrocities, the government of Sri Lanka has not reported any findings.
So far no impartial investigation into the killing of 53 prisoners at Welikada Jail in July in 1983 has been undertaken by the Sri Lankan government. Moreover, there has been no follow up to another death in custody, that of K. Navaratnarajah who died in the Gurunagar Army Camp on 10 April 1983 and who was found at a post mortem examination to have sustained 25 external and 10 internal injuries (CRM E 2/1/85).
On 15 August 1984 a two member Cabinet Subcommittee was reported to have been established by the Minister of National Security to inquire into army excesses in Mannar. On 23 August the Minister announced that 33 soldiers had been confined to barracks and that investigations against six of them, believed to have led the rampage in Mannar, were continuing. To date the outcome is still being awaited.
On 13 September 1984 the government announced a full investigation into the killing of 16 bus passengers near Vavuniya on 11 September 1984 by unidentified men alleged to be connected with the armed services. In this incident the Minister of National Security stated to AFP on 12 September that "None of the troops were involved". Basing itself on eyewitness reports, however, Amnesty International has stated that "there are grounds to believe that armed forces personnel or persons connected with the forces have been involved in the Vavuniya killings." Upto now no information about the outcome of the government's investigations into this incident has been made available.
This continuing inaction in itself could encourage the repetition of similar tragedies. This is the more likely to happen when in the few cases that judicial proceedings have found officials to be responsible, the officials in question have been reinstated and even promoted. In one instance 2 police officers had been promoted after judges of the Supreme Court had directed that inquiries be undertaken concerning unlawful arrests. According to a report of the International Commission of Jurists (March 1984), "The President freely conceded that he had personally ordered the promotion of (the) two police officers, and the payment out of public funds of the damage and costs. This he said had been necessary to maintain police morale.."
The CRM in its statement of January 1985 underlines "the need for a government, however embattled, to observe civilised norms in dealing with offenders and to prevent all avoidable hardship to the civilian population. These norms are ... international standards to which it is bound by international law. They are laid down in international documents which specify precisely what one can do, and what one can never do; what methods can never be resorted to even in a time of war. Such standards cannot be abandoned".
Planned colonisation of Tamil areas with armed Sinhala settlers
The President of Sri Lanka has announced his Government's plan to colonise all Tamil areas with Sinhala settlers to reflect the nationwide population ratio of 75% Sinhalese and 25% other minority ethnic groups. This is calculated to undermine the numerical strength of Tamils in areas where they have traditionally lived.
The Minister of National Security told conference of District Ministers on January 8, 1985 that the only way to root out terrorism was to remove the concept of 'traditional homelands' and create parity between different communities. He announced that according to the plan 30,000 Sinhalese families will be settled in the Tamil north this year. Under the plan 250 families would be selected from each of the Sinhala constituencies for resettlement in the northern province. Such settlements would be created this year inn Killinochchi, Vavuniya, Mullaitivu and Mannar districts and extended to the Jaffna Peninsula next year. The new settlers would be given military training and equipment to safeguard themselves. In fact, in certain predominantly Tamil areas like Vavuniya, Mannar, Mullaitivu and Trincomalee districts, guns have already been distributed.
In its recent report the CRM has drawn attention to the arming of civilians:
"Civilians in the Trincomalee district have been given arms by police, ostensibly for their self-defence. Instances have been given reported of such individuals and groups using arms to terrorise persons of the Tamil community."
Tens of thousands displaced persons and refugees
The imposition of the Prohibited Zone covering the entire coastline of the Northern Province has rendered homeless and destitute an destitute an estimated 200,000 Tamil people who have lived for generations in this area. Over 40,000 fishermen and their families became deprived of their only means of livelihood as a result of the ban on fishing. In a speech to Parliament introducing the new regulations the Minister of National Security forces that there should be even this small area of land bordering the Northern Coast completely free human habitation and human activities".
According to the CRM statement of 25 January 1985:
"The magnitude of this operation, if it is to be carried out is enormous, as a significant part of the population of the Jaffna District lives on the northern coast line from Poonalai to Point Pedro".
The Government has not made any provision for the accommodation even temporarily of these displaced persons. They have been required to evacuate with no other place to go and have become refugees living in churches, temples and schools. The Citizens Committee of the northern coastal town of Valvettiturai, where 50% of the 14,000 inhabitants are estimated to live within the prohibited zone pointed out in a memorandum addressed to the President that, "Even with full state support and aid an evacuation of the Zone would take at least one month... An evacuation within hours ... humanely impossible. ... There is not a place or places within the (Jaffna) peninsula to house all the evacuees".
It is also exacerbating the refugee problem; there are now an estimated 50,000 Tamil refugees in South India. It is reliably learnt that during the last 2 months alone as many as 10,000 have already crossed over to India as refugees. Thousands have gone over to European countries, Canada and Australia. After the July 1983 massacre alone an estimated 30,000 arrived in Western Europe, and the flow continues.
With the collapse of the All-Party Conference on 26 December 1984 and the failure of national and communal leaders to seek a political solution to the grievances of the Tamil people, there is disquieting evidence that the Government is aggressively pursuing a military 'solution'. In its statement of 25 January 1985 the Civil Rights Movement of Sri Lanka notes that "The absence of a political solution has aggravated the conflict and caused much suffering among all sections of the community.""
Statement by Centre Europe - Tiers Monde
- Agenda Item 9 on the Right of Peoples to Self Determination and its Application to Peoples under Colonial or Alien Domination or Foreign Occupation, 28 February 1985 [CETIM/C.D.H./1985/2]
The Sub-Commission at its session in August last year expressed deep concern about the recurrence of violence in Sri Lanka with severe loss of life and property. While recognising the ultimate responsibility of the government of Sri Lanka for the protection of all sections of the-community, it hoped that the government of Sri Lanka would submit information on the progress made in the investigation of incidents, and the recent efforts made to promote communal harmony to the Commission on Human Rights at its 41st sessions.
The concern expressed by the Sub-Commission seem to have been fully justified by the events that have taken place since August 1984.
Mr.Chairman , the latest report of the Amnesty International released last month record a catalogue of incidents of killing of Tamil civilians, including old men, women and children.
Following the death of some soldiers in a land mine explosion, the army went on a rampage on August 11 and 12 last year in the northern Tamil town of Mannar setting fire to an estimated 123 homes and shops and killing several innocent Tamil civilians.
The Civil Rights Movement of Sri Lanka, the leading members of which belong to the Sinhalese community, in a comprehensive statement issued last month stated that following the death of a soldier in another land mine explosion, the army engaged in ''a mass attack on civilians living within 3 to 4 miles of the incident, on the passengers in buses plying on this road and on the staff of the Murunkan post office. The final death toll has been estimated at about 107". Almost all who were killed were over 50 years of age.
Mr.Chairman, the Amnesty International reports, despite government denials, there is sufficient evidence to show that these are in fact indiscriminate extrajudicial killings by the security forces. Recently, according to reports of the Amnesty International and the Civil Rights Movement of Sri Lanka , thousands of Tamils falling within the age group of 15 and 30 have been indiscriminately rounded up and detained in army camps where they are subjected to the familiar methods of torture.
Mr. Chairman, a new development in the apparently never-ending campaign of army atrocities is that the Christian clergy would appear to have become its latest target. Within the last two months, a Methodist Minister and a Catholic parish priest have shot and killed. In the case of the Catholic priest named Rev. Fr.Mary Bastian, he was gunned down in his own church through the window on January 6. Despite detailed eye-witness accounts provided to the authorities by the Catholic Bishops, up-to-date no action would appear to have been taken.
Mr.Chairman, we regret to note that the government has so far failed to undertake an impartial investigation into the July - August 1983 violence in which several hundred Tamils perished and over 200,000 were rendered homeless. The government of Sri Lanka has also failed to institute an impartial judicial investigation into the gruesome massacre of 53 Tamil political prisoners in a Colombo maximum security prison in July 1983. Similarly, several other incidents and rampages in which sections of the security forces had engaged in summary killing of civilian Tamils and the destruction of their property have remained uninvestigated and the culprits have gone unpunished.
Mr.Chairman, the continued failure on the part of the government to take effective measures to prevent repeated excesses committed by the army against civilians leads one to ask the question as to how mush of these excesses are due to the indiscipline of the armed forces and how much of them flow directly from conscious government policy.
Mr.Chairman, despite this Commission's desire to see the restoration of communal harmony in Sri Lanka, regrettably it would seem that the government of Sri Lanka has decided on a military solution to the ethnic conflict in that country. In November last year the government promulgated a plethora of new Emergency Regulations which have made normal life in the Tamil areas of the country virtually impossible.
Under these Regulations a Prohibited Zone has been set up along the entire northern coast prohibiting all forms of human habitation and activity. The ban on fishing has deprived several thousands of fishermen of their livelihood. Some of the northern districts have been declared a Security Zone where ownership and-use of vehicles of all descriptions, including bicycles, without special permits have been banned and only a few approved roads can be used. All people are compelled to carry identity cards and no one shall leave or enter the Security Zone without special permits. The Civil Rights Movement has summed up the disastrous impact of these regulations as "destruction of the entire civil life of the community".
In the meantime, Mr.Chairman, the President of Sri Lanka has announced his government's plans to colonise all Tamil areas with Sinhala settlers to reflect the nationwide population ratio of 75 percent Sinhalese and 25 percent other ethnic groups.
The Minister of National Security has announced plans for the new settlers to be given military training and arms. In fact, in certain areas this has already been done. The Civil Rights Movement has in this connection stated:
"Civilians in the Trincomalee district have been given arms by the police, ostensibly for their self-defence. Instances have been reported of such individuals and groups using arms to terrorise persons of the Tamil community".
The Citizens Committees of the affected areas have complained of a grave situation and conditions of starvation. The request of international relief agencies to go into the affected areas would apppear to have been turned down by the government.
Mr.Chairman, all these conditions have created a vast exodus of refugees from Tamil areas into other countries, particularly to South India. Abandoning their homes, boat loads of people re reported to be landing daily along the coast of South India. Those who are able are reported to be fleeing to western countries.
The extent of this exodus of refugees in demonstrative of the grossness of the violence, violations and depredations to which the Tamil minority are subjected in Sri Lanka today.
Mr. Chairman, during the last sessions of the Commission, the Sri Lankan delegation placed heavy emphasis on the then on-going All Party Conference. Regrettably, Mr.Chairman, the government of Sri Lanka would appear to have failed to seize the opportunity given by this Commission.
On December 16th, the All Party Conference was formally wound-up and subsequently the government abandoned even the meagre proposals it had earlier placed before the Conference. The Tamil political party, the TULF , although did not accept the government's proposals, had declared that it was prepared to continue to negotiate a settlement on the basis of a recognition of the legitimate aspirations of the Tamil people.
In this context, Mr. Chairman, taking into consideration the concerns expressed by the Sub-Commission, we urge that this Commission should consider taking such steps as are necessary for the protection of human rights and restoration of inter communal justice and peace in Sri Lanka.
Statement by Dr.G.S.Dhillon, Leader of Indian Delegation
- Agenda Item 12 on Question of the Violation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in any part of the World with particular reference to Colonial and Dependent Countries and Territories, 8 March 1985
When the Human Rights Commission discussed the situation in Sri Lanka last year, there was a certain measure of optimism that the ethnic problem would be resolved through suitable political means. This was reflected in the resolution adopted by the Commission which welcomed all measures for rehabilitation and reconciliation, including the All Parties Conference, and expressed the hope that they would succeed in achieving a lasting solution. Mr. Chairman, these hopes have, unfortunately, been belied.
Today, as we meet, we find that the prospect of a political solution has receded very far. The All Parties Conference convened by President Jayawardene has been adjourned sine die without achieving any substantive progress and no fresh initiative has been undertaken.
The failure so far to reach a political settlement and the rupture in the dialogue with the minority Tamil community has created a climate of confrontation rather than conciliation, and has led to a growing spiral of violence and counter violence which has claimed the lives of many innocent people. In the violence that rocked Sri Lanka in March, April, August, November and December 1984 several hundreds have died.
2. Over the past few months the everyday lives of ordinary citizens, particularly in the North and East, have been adversely affected Following the imposition of a security zone in the Jaffna Peninsula, movement of persons and vehicles has been restricted. There are reports of an acute shortage of food and thousands of fisherfolk have been unable to ply their trade and are now without any means of livelihood. Recent reports of organised colonisation of the Northern and Eastern Provinces have added to the friction between different communities. Such an atmosphere, Mr.Chairman, breeds hate and fear - and these are emotions which are not conducive to creating the atmosphere necessary for finding a solution to the problem.
3. Mr. Chairman, we in India are particularly saddened by these development; for Sri Lanka is a close neighbour and one with whom we have had the friendliest of relations. Our interest is not just of a spectator. We cannot remain detached because the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka has repercussions on our country and imposes severe social, political and economic burdens on us.
4. Mr. Chairman, people of Sri Lanka and India have contacts and ties which date back to millenia. There are over 200,000 Indian nationals in Sri Lanka who have been affected by the ethnic crisis, apart from the very large number of persons of Indian origin. We are naturally concerned about the well-being of our citizens.
5. The growing insecurity of the minority community in Sri Lanka has affected us in other ways. There has been a sudden spurt in the influx of refugees from Sri Lanka since early February 1985. These refugees are Sri Lankan Tamils, most of them fishermen who are fleeing their country and arriving on the coast of Tamil Nadu, in whatever type of boats available to them. The number of refugees which have arrived has already exceeded 6,000 and there is no sign of abatement.
The conditions in northern part of Sri Lanka are believed to have deteriorated to such an extent that Tamils are finding it difficult to continue to stay there. It may be recalled that we already have in India around 50,000 Sri Lankan refugees and further influx places severe strain on us. Although the Government of India has provided shelter to these unfortunate refugees on humanitarian grounds they cannot be expected to live permanently in our country. Uprooted as they are from their homes, families and occupation, these refugees feel an acute sense of frustration and their agony is compounded by the knowledge that in the forseeable future they cannot go back in honour and safety.
6. Mr.Chairman, in view of some far-fetched allegations made in Sri Lanka about the policy and attitude of my Government, I would like to state that the Indian people and Government have no interest in exacerbating the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka. Ethnic tension in that country has adverse consequences for us. We have, rather, a vital stake in a resolution of Sri Lanka's ethnic problem as early as possible. Mr.Chairman, no one would be more pleased than us if the Sri Lankan Government succeeded in creating conditions which would ensure amity and harmonious relations between different ethnic communities. This would facilitate the return to Sri Lanka of those Sri Lankan nationals who have felt compelled to seek shelter in our country.
7. As you know, Mr.Chairman, the problems which have led to the current ethnic crisis of Sri Lanka have been serious and have festered over the years. At the time of the Fortieth Session of the Commission, the Sri Lankan Government also appeared to favour a constructive political approach and invited all parties and groups to sit together at the conference table to discuss and evolve a solution to this crucial issue. This was in January 1984. Various proposals were put forward during the course of the Conference and in late 1984 President Jayewardene introduced draft legislation providing for some measure of devolution. The Tamils felt that these measures were insufficient but were prepared to continue discussions to see how the differences could be bridged. However, towards the end of December 1984, the Government withdrew the legislation and terminated the dialogue.
8. In the absence of any dialogue there has been a fresh eruption of ethnic violence. When groups of people cease to talk to each other, when no channels of communication are open, apprehensions, distortions and mistrust tend to grow. What is needed, Mr.Chairman, is not the cold barrier of silence but the warmth of dialogue. We hope that fresh efforts will be made by the Sri Lankan Government to seek a political solution. There is, Mr.Chairman, no other alternative.
Statement by Sri Lanka
- H.W.Jayawardene Q.C., Leader of Sri Lanka delegation, Agenda Item 12 on Question of the Violation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in any part of the World with particular reference to Colonial and Dependent Countries and Territories, 8 March 1985
Sri Lanka has meticulously fulfilled the reporting obligations under the Human Rights Covenants signed by Sri Lanka and as such the Human Rights bodies of the United Nations are well informed of our commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights.
However, in consonance with our support for the UN and in a spirit of co-operation with UN activities in the important field of human rights, we have voluntarily made available information on the situation in Sri Lanka both before the Commission on Human Rights and before the Sub Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities.
This spirit of co-operation is undiminished by serious misgivings which we share with other delegations about the selectivity of approach to country situations, the overlapping of procedures within the UN bodies on human rights and the blatant political use made of these bodies by interested parties who seek to pursue their political aims in any forum and at any time.
In voluntarily placing material before the Commission at this session, we are also mindful of Resolution No. 1984/32 of the Sub Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities which in its operative paragraph stated and I quote -
"Expresses the hope that the Government of Sri Lanka will submit information on the progress made in investigations of the incidents and the recent efforts to promote communal harmony to the Commission on Human Rights at its 41st session".
Mr. Chairman, explicit in the operative paragraph of the Sub-Commission resolution as well as in the decision of the 40th session of this Commission is the recognition that efforts continue to be taken by the Government of Sri Lanka to promote national harmony.
A fundamental aspect of these efforts was the All Party Conference which commenced on January 10th 1984 and concluded its deliberations on 21st December 1984. It performed the function of a political negotiating process towards finding a peaceful and durable solution to the demands of a certain section of the Sri Lanka Tamil minority.
The main purpose of this Conference was to reach and implement a fair and just political solution acceptable to the people of Sri Lanka as a whole, achieving a greater degree of participation by them at all levels of Government. Prolonged deliberations were held throughout the year in which the Government of Sri Lanka invested a great deal of political energy.
37 official sessions and over 100 non formal meetings were held discussing the many concrete proposals that were made. Two committees of experts -one chaired by the Prime Minister and the other chaired by a Sri Lanka Tamil Minister - worked towards achieving a final package of proposals. The principal Sri Lanka Tamil political organisation - The Tamil United Liberation Front -which had associated itself throughout the year-long political process, indicated its willingness to accept the proposals in substance and they were infect embodied in draft legislation including a Constitutional amendment. The Conference was then closed.
Suddenly however, the TULF announced that the proposals were not acceptable to them thus terminating the dialogue initiated by the Government within the All Party Conference framework. This surprise announcement was received by the Government of Sri Lanka with deep disappointment and in the face of this volte-face it was decided not to proceed with the implementation of the proposals.
It is not without significance, that the terrorists had deliberately escalated their activities at crucial stages of this delicate process of negotiation in order to sabotage the talks. At the same time however, the Government announced its continued commitment to the quest for a political solution and President J.R. Jayawardene continues his consultations in pursuit of this solution. The Government of Sri Lanka has however announced that certain amendments involving Revolution of power at local government level and the setting up of new institutions of local government at grass root level on an island-wide basis will be implemented.
Mr. Chairman, the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities expressed the hope that we would submit information on progress made in the investigation of incidents of violence in Sri Lanka.
The prime cause for incidence of violence in Sri Lanka has been the acts of terrorists which the security forces of Sri Lanka are endeavouring to control in order to protect the human rights including the right to life of all citizens of Sri Lanka wherever they may live in our island home. To give but a few examples :-
Up to December 31, 1984, 475 persons of all ethnic groups had been killed by the separatist terrorists and these included 282 civilians. Of these 282 civilians this Commission would be interested to learn that 179 were in fact Sri Lankan Tamils. On February 22 this year the chief civilian administrator of the district of Mulaitivu, a Sri Lankan Tamil, was abducted by the terrorists who later executed him and displayed his corpse on a lamp-post. These are facts and figures not denied by even the most fervent supporters of the separatist terrorist cause.
Some of these killings were the result of "Kangaroo trials" conducted arbitrarily by the terrorists with their victims gruesomely strung up on lamp-posts for alleged crimes. In addition, numerous robberies of banks, cooperative stores and even school laboratories have been conducted by the terrorists.
The brutal and premeditated killing of a visiting Japanese Buddhist priest undertaking a peace mission in Jaffna; the blasting of a Buddhist temple and Sinhala school; the destruction of a Roman Catholic church at Kokilai and the desecration of the statue of the Virgin Mary, the diabolical plan of destroying commercial airplanes which miscarried and tragically resulted in an explosion at Madras Airport causing several deaths and the recent bomb explosion involving a train proceeding from Jaffna killing 44 persons are only some of the macabre highlights of this terrorist violence.
What is particularly tragic is the manner in which innocent civilians have been victimised by the terrorists. On November 30, 1984, over 100 peasant cultivators on two farms at Padaviya in the North-East of Sri Lanka were attacked under cover of darkness by terrorist youths who butchered them indiscriminately - men, women and children. Shortly thereafter on December 2nd terrorist gangs killed 11 fishermen of a Roman Catholic fishing community in their traditional fishing grounds at Kokilai as part of their plan to drive out non Sri Lankan Tamil residents from the area they would like to rule as a separate state carved out on racist lines.
There have been a few instances of indiscipline by members of the services. The Government has dealt with such conduct by suitable methods of punishment. At the appropriate stage, my delegation will provide details of punitive measures taken.
The Government of Sri Lanka has done more than punish errant members of its security forces. It has taken positive measures to ensure discipline among service personnel. It has conducted programmes on human rights intended to inculcate a sense of respect for human rights among the members of the security forces. Government law officers have delivered a series of lectures on human rights to Army, Navy, Air Force and Police personnel.
An organisation is being set up under the aegis of the Human Rights Centre of Sri Lanka and with the patronage of the President, the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice and the Leader of the Opposition for the promotion of human rights among the law enforcement agencies.
The United Nations documents relating to law enforcement and human rights have been translated into national languages for distribution to all members of the military and police services. The Government has enabled aggrieved parties to seek compensation for loss of property caused by the security forces in the course of their operations.
Mr. Chairman, All complaints made following the disturbances of July 1983 were investigated. In this process 700 high ranking public officials were appointed to assist the investigating authorities. Wherever any person concerned in the offence had been identified, steps have been taken to initiate proceedings against him 648 cases have already been filed and a further 700 cases are in process of being instituted. Some of these have been concluded, the persons convicted having been sentenced to varying terms including imprisonment for life.
However, it is the fate of democratic and open societies such as ours in Sri Lanka to have the offences committed exaggerated with no mention at all of the punishment meted out. It is also the fate of small Third World countries with limited resources to face a formidable propaganda challenge launched by a cleverly organised network of expatriate groups with no shortage of funds or supporters.
They prey on the credulity of non-governmental organisations and human rights groups prone to react predictably to stories of alleged atrocities by majority groups against minority groups. Their aim is to undermine the morale of the security forces and earn world-wide sympathy for terrorism. Absence of an over reaction to terrorist attacks on the security services of Sri Lanka and army discipline remaining firm are the rule, but exceptional situations are portrayed as the norm by political opponents of our country.
For example when the terrorist attack on the Chavakachcheri police station where 33 policemen were killed on November 20, 1984, and the train blast at Murugandi on January 19, this year, where 29 soldiers were killed and 25 injured there was no break in army discipline. The terrorist propaganda machines are of course silent on these. So are their sympathisers, supporters and certain human rights groups.
The daily newspapers of Sri Lanka contain reports of meetings and exhortations by community and opinion leaders for national unity and the practice of tolerance aimed at the ending of violence. These community efforts have been encouraged by the Government. Despite this, reports are assiduously spread alleging violations of human rights by the Government of Sri Lanka. How credible are these reports and how disinterested are their authors as watchdogs of human rights?
Mr. Chairman, fundamental rights are justiciable before an independent Supreme Court in Sri Lanka and are entrenched under the Constitution. Under Article 126 of the Constitution any person who feels that his fundamental rights have been or are about to be violated by executive action can invoke the jurisdiction of the Court. The court is required to hear and conclude its deliberations within two months of the complaint. This is not an academic provision. It has been invoked on numerous occasions and the courts have in some instances held with the complainant.
In a recent case the Supreme Court upheld the State's contention that the human rights of the complainant had not been violated but, as obiter dictum, one of the Judges made the comment that the relevant regulation was unclear. Within four days of the delivery of judgement the regulation was amended in accord with the views expressed by the Judge. If those who allege that human rights are violated in Sri Lanka are sincere, why do they not utilize they Constitutional procedures that exist to redress their grievances.
The answer Mr. Chairman is that charges are made outside because they make good copy as political agitation, even though they cannot stand scrutiny before an established court. Thus human rights fore are exploited as another battlefield for political causes by those who cannot prevail in peaceful elections and the democratic process.
Mr. Chairman, I have dealt as comprehensively as I could with the facts of the situation in Sri Lanka. I could - had I so desired -have painted a rosy picture but that would have been untrue and unworthy. Human rights in Sri Lanka are violated by terrorists. The hope of my delegation for the return of peace and harmony to Sri Lanka is stronger than that of anyone else. This can only begin by a cessation of terrorism.
My Government is on record as having offered the terrorists an amnesty provided they lay down their arms. The atmosphere for the negotiations to achieve democratic political solution can only be created by an end to terrorism. Before I conclude Mr. Chairman, may I quote the concluding paragraph of a report by three British members of Parliament who visited Sri Lanka recently and I quote -
"Sri Lanka is an integral part of the Commonwealth. She has pioneered democracy and we believe the President to be sincere when he stated to us that democracy was precious to everyone in Sri Lanka. However, democracy is a delicate plant that needs nurturing. In the case of Sri Lanka the Government and the Sinhala people have to give a lead and find a way forward that will give dignity to all its people."'
We are giving that lead and have found a way to give dignity to all our people without discriminating between one section of our people and another. Unfortunately the TULF chose not to take that path but succumbed to pressure from terrorists and their confederates abroad. No one can live in dignity and with respect for democratic institutions unless and until terrorism is effaced from Sri Lanka.
It is a symptom found in other countries too. You will take your minds back to the events in the United Kingdom when terrorism sought to destroy the Prime Minister and her entire cabinet. Which way do we go Mr. Chairman? Destroy terrorism or let terrorism destroy democracy. That is the task before us all not only in my country but in many other parts of the world. Are we prepared to face the challenge ?
Mr. Chairman, my delegation listened with particular care and interest to the statement of the distinguished representative of India regarding the situation in Sri Lanka. The views of a neighbouring country with whom we have had a long tradition of friendship are normally important. They are more so because of our shared traditions of parliamentary democracy and the linkages which inevitably arise in our geopolitical situation.
The distinguished representative of India dwelt at length on an alleged influx of refugees into India from Sri Lanka. I do not know whether we share a common definition of what a refugee is. The convention relating to the Status of Refugees states that a refugee is a person who "owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country". That is an extract from Article 1(2) of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
The violence in Sri Lanka did cause the displacement of persons. Following the disturbances of July 1983 an elaborate programme of rehabilitation was undertaken by the Government in regard to those affected by the disturbances and that situation is now ended. We have had another situation caused by the brutal attacks of terrorists on innocent villagers in the North-East of Sri Lanka and special provisions had to be created for the people so displaced. The Government with the assistance of NGOs undertook prompt and effective measures to care for them.
With regard to the exodus of persons leaving Sri Lanka one has to distinguish between the economic opportunity seekers and others. For many years Sri Lanka, like many developing countries, has had a' brain drain' of professionally qualified persons educated at state expense under our programme of free education from primary to university level leaving the country for more attractive wages abroad.
More recently, with the concurrence of the Government, semiskilled and unskilled workers have also gone to various parts of the world in search of more remunerative employment. As a democratic country Sri Lanka, since 1977 when the present Government was elected to power, abolished the exit permit system. Consequently the Constitutionally entrenched fundamental freedom of a person to leave the country and return is uninhibited. In addition, despite scarce foreign exchange, the Government permits foreign exchange to travel abroad and this is availed of by those leaving the country who do so with legally obtained passports. We have no walls and barriers preventing the exodus or entry of Sri Lanka nationals.
The figures given by the distinguished representative of India of an influx of refugees have to be viewed with great caution. Attempts are being made by alarmist reports to create an artificial refugee situation. This is being done by Sri Lanka terrorist groups who want to achieve the separation of Sri Lanka through violence. Indian press reports quoted Mr. A. Amirthalingam, Leader of the Tamil United Liberation Front calling upon India to launch a Bangladesh type invasion to assist the Sri Lankan Tamils. I am happy to state the distinguished Prime Minister of India rejected this call publicly.
It is clear that strategy of the terrorists and their supporters is to drive a wedge between India and Sri Lanka and to create a refugee situation as a means of applying political pressure on New Delhi. We are confident that these measures will fail. Sri Lanka has proposed the establishment of a joint naval patrol in the narrow stretch of water that separates India and Sri Lanka as a means of maintaining the friendship and co-operation between our two countries. Efforts are being made by terrorists to forcibly evacuate certain areas in the Northern Province and intimidate people into going by boat to the State of Tamil Nadu in order deliberately to create a refugee situation.
Mr. Chairman, it is relevant for me to state at this point that the vast majority of Sri Lankan Tamils and Indian Tamils live peacefully in Sri Lanka. In addition, 82,797 citizens of India holding Indian passports continue to remain in Sri Lanka, some of them overstaying their residence permits. If the situation in Sri Lnaka is a hell on earth which the terrorists and their supporters claim it is why are these people still in Sri Lanka despite all the facilities given to them to leave?
Relevant to the definition of a refugee is also the status of many groups and individuals in India, for example, are Messers Uma Maheswaran and Pirabaharan two notorious self-styled leaders of Sri Lanka Tamil terrorist groups who give interviews freely in Tamil Nadu to foreign journalists and others refugees?
Are the Sri Lankan Tamils accused in the Madras Airport bombing case refugees? Are the members of the 'Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front' (EPRLF) who issued in Madras their ransom demands after the kidnapping of an American Engineer and his wife in Sri Lanka refugees? There are many others whose activities compare very strangely with their alleged status as refugees. Consequently great care must be exercised in counting numbers Mr. Chairman. My delegation categorically rejects the figures of refugees given by the distinguished representative of India.
The concern of the distinguished representative of India for the violence in Sri Lanka has been well known. What is conspicuous by its absence is the cause of this violence which is terrorism. The distinguished representative is well aware of similar problems in his own country and we have no doubt that this will help him understand the problem in Sri Lanka.
May I quote Mr. Chairman, from page 2 of the Government of India publication entitled - "White Paper on the Punjab Agitation" issued on July 10, 1984. I quote -
"The tactics employed by the secessionist and terrorist groups were: systematic campaign to create bitterness and hatred between Sikhs and Hindus; indoctrination in the ideology of separatism in militant terms behind the facade of gurmat camps; training in the use of modern weaponry use of terrorism against specific targets in the police and the administration of Punjab; preparation of 'hit lists' of those who disagreed and organising their murder; random killing of persons of a particular community aimed at creating terror and instigating communal violence; stockpiling of arms and ammunition in places of worship; utilisation of smugglers and antisocial elements for procuring supplies of arms, ammunition and for looting banks, jewellery shops and individual homes; and obtaining covert and overt support from external sources."
The problem of a dialogue with this type of terrorism is the same throughout the world. No Government can have a dialogue with terrorists as long as they are committed to the path of violence.
The Representative of India referred to 'Security Zones'. This is a measure adopted in other countries as well including in India as a means of combating terrorism and violence. I have stated earlier that my
Government has sought to mitigate the impact of the regulations on day to day civilian life and the manner in which financial compensation is paid. We do not want these regulations to proceed one day longer than necessary.
If one is so deeply concerned about a speedy solution to the ethnic situation in Sri Lanka one should prevent the terrorists and murderers who have found a haven in foreign territory from conducting a campaign of terror against our people, both Sinhalese and Tamils, and from continuing their illegal and dastardly activities against my country and its people, only then will the refugee problem cease to bother anyone. Echoing the words of the distinguished representative of India when he said "What is needed Mr. Chairman is not the cold barrier of silence but the warmth of dialogue", may I state that what is needed, Mr. Chairman, is not the cold barrier of inaction but the warmth of co-operation.
Statement by the International Commission of Jurists
- Agenda Item 12 on Question of the Violation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in any part of the World with particular reference to Colonial and Dependent Countries and Territories, March 1985
The International Commission of Jurists wishes to comment on the situation in Sri Lanka, a situation which has deteriorated rapidly in the past few months. Between August and December 1984, ethnic violence has escalated, and, as is usual in such circumstances, civilians in no way connected with the violence are the principal victims.
After last year ' s meeting of this Commission, it was widely hoped that the All-Party Conference convened by the President of Sri Lanka would find a solution to the ethnic conflict and prevent further violence. The crucial question was and is, what powers the central government is prepared to delegate to a provincial government of the five predominantly Tamil districts in the north of Sri Lanka, so as to give them a fair measure of self-government without destroying the unity of the State.
Towards the end of the year the President of Sri Lanka made proposals which he subsequently described in his speech on 14 December 1984. These proposals offered:
- the creation of 25 District Councils to replace the more numerous Development Councils but with powers covering a wider range of subjects;
- the creation of Provincial Councils if two or more district councils in a province surrendered certain of their powers to them. Provincial councils would have only such powers as the district councils agreed to surrender. In the absence of such agreement there would be no Provincial Council; and
- the creation of a 75 member Council of State, of which 50 members would represent the district councils, 18 would be appointed from communities that are inadequately represented in the district councils, and the other seven would be appointed by the President. The functions of the Council would be advisory.
In our opinion, these proposals in fact offered little in the way of self-government for the Tamils. It is well known that in all countries, local authorities are very reluctant to surrender any of their powers. As the provincial councils would have only such powers as the district councils were prepared to surrender to them, the likelihood of any provincial structure being introduced is remote, or if it were, of it having any real powers. In any event, the powers of the District Councils relate to relatively minor matters of local government, and contain no decision making powers of the kind to be associated with a provincial council.
Moreover, all the legislative powers of the District Councils are subject to veto by the Presidential as would therefore, in any such powers surrendered to Provincial Councils. As to the Council of State, bodies which are advisory are a confirmation, not a devolution of, central power.
These proposals were rejected by the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF). Its Secretary - General stated that they had asked for regional autonomy, with the regional body empowered to enact laws and exercise executive powers on specified listed subjects including the maintenance of internal law and order, administration of justice, social and economic development, cultural matters and land policy, and that the proposals made by the President did are seeking not embody any scheme for autonomy. The powers they are seeking are powers often to be found in cantonal, regional or state governments in a federation, as for example in Switzerland.
As the government was not prepared to contemplate a regional structure of this kind for the predominantly Tamil area, it withdrew its proposals in face of their rejection and the All - Party Conference ended without finding the much needed political solution.
While the All-Party Conference was still in progress a concerted attack was mounted by the Tamil extremists, one can only assume with the intention of sabotaging the talks. This included attacks on police stations, armed patrols and on the Sinhalese civilian population. The government, to its credit, immediately took steps to prevent another backlash by the Sinhalese civilian population, comparable to that which occurred in August 1983.
Unfortunately this did not apply to the Sinhalese security forces which, in reaction to these attacks, on many occasions went berserk and resorted to arbitrary shooting and killing of Tamils.
For example, on December 4, 1984 a soldier was killed when a land mine exploded near Murunkan in the Mannar District. In reprisal for the killing of this one soldier, over 100 Tamil civilians were killed in that District on the same day by the security forces. In one incident soldiers marched into Murunkan Post Office, lined up all the staff, with one exception, and shot them. In another, a bus-load of passengers were lined up with the driver and shot, killing 17. Another bus was treated similarly and some 20 people killed and others severely injured. A jeep entered a village and opened fire on civilians, killing 12, including a woman who was nursing an infant child. In another village, 16 people were killed including two Sinhalese women aged 45 and 75. Apart from this slaughter, houses, mills, shop premises, a private nursing home, tractors and lorries were indiscriminately burned.
The International Commission of Jurists has received photocopies of 108 signed affidavits relating to 74 incidents during the period between August-December 1984. These affidavits were made by the relatives of Tamils killed by the security forces or by injured victims.
It is important that the government of Sri Lanka should enquire into all arbitrary actions of the security forces and prosecute the offenders. We recognise the fact that the government is handicapped in conducting inquiries by the unwillingness of the Tamils to complain or testify' which we are told is because they fear for their lives. This illustrates how extravagant counter-measures against terrorism alienates the law abiding members of the Tamil community and plays into the hands of the extremists. Difficult as it may be, the government must restore discipline in its security forces and prevent the indiscriminate killing of civilians pop whatever the provocation. This is an indispensable step towards regaining the confidence of the Tamils and finding a political solution.
Apart from these matters there are many hardships suffered at present by the Tamil population, in particular as a result of the creation of a prohibited zone and a security zone under the recent Emergency Regulations. The prohibited zone which covers the entire coast of the northern province has resulted in -the evacuation of nearly 80,000 people. The fishing industry has come to a standstill affecting the livelihood of about 20,000 families. The security zone which covers two whole districts has disrupted completely the economic and social life of the people, and shortages of food and other essentials have been reported.
The International Commission of Jurists respectfully submits that the Commission should maintain on its agenda the question of the situation of human rights in Sri Lanka and monitor developments.
Sri Lanka Reply to the International Commission of Jurists
H.W.Jayawardene Q.C., Leader of Sri Lanka Delegation, Agenda Item 12 on Question of the Violation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in any part of the World with particular reference to Colonial and Dependent Countries and Territories, 12 March 1985
My delegation has listened with interest to the remarks made by the distinguished observer for the International Commission of Jurists. The remarks were mainly political and only incidentally touched on human rights and only on Sri Lanka.
One would have expected. a more objective approach to the problem of Sri Lanka from an NGO particularly a body of international jurists such as the ICJ. Regrettably his intervention seems to confirm what we have suspected for a long time, that its approach to the problem of Sri Lanka has been motivated otherwise, than by an interest an human rights in Sri Lanka. In his intervention, the representative of ICJ raised three issues - firstly, hardships caused by the Emergency Regulations; secondly, lack of control over the army; thirdly, devolution of power.
I will answer each separately.
(1) Hardships caused by the Emergency Regulations
The escalation of terrorist activity which my delegation referred to in our statement compelled the Sri Lankan Government to take additional measures to provide security for civilians and to step up action to end terrorism. The terrorists were operating in heavily populated areas as well as from offshore. Therefore it became necessary to provide a sterile area in which the Army could take action against terrorists and prevent them landing men and weapons on the coast. With these objectives in view, a narrow belt of the seashore 100 metres in width was designated as a prohibited zone. A further area where terrorists intermingled with civilians was designated a security area where the identity of persons normally living in those areas had to be established. In an effort to monitor movements or terrorists in hijacked private vehicles a system of registering possessors of vehicles and also a regulating movement in vehicles became necessary.
The regulations promulgated have sought to effect a balance between requirements essential for the preservation of national security and territorial integrity on the one hand and the limiting of the restrictions to an absolute minimum on the other. The Sri Lankan Government appreciated-the fact that these restrictions would cause inconvenience to civilians ordinarily resident in these areas. The situation however was serious enough to justify the imposition of these restrictions. The Government has made provision to compensate all persons financially affected by the disruption of the normal tenor of their lives and to provide such relief measures as may be necessary to reduce the inconvenience caused to a minimum
The representative of the ICJ referred to some affidavits which he had received. Perhaps, he does not know that under the Sri Lanka Law, a Justice of Peace only affirms to the fact that the persons who made the statement in fact, signed before him. He does not exercise any judicial power. He is in fact a Commissioner of Oaths though the misnomer of Justice of Peace established in the colonial era has been allowed to continue.
(2) Lack of control over the Army
In replying this allegation, my delegation will also deal with the accusations made by the representative of Amnesty International. We categorically deny that the army has been used for extra-judicial killings. When however members of the armed services have been guilty of misconduct or excesses in the course of duty the Government of Sri Lanka has taken prompt and severe action. I have before me a list of instances where the Government has punished members of the security forces after investigations were conducted by senior officers into complaints of conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline
- the first battalion of the Rajarata Regiment was disbanded and 6 officers and 87 soldiers were dismissed for their suspected over-reaction to a terrorist attack on an election polling booth at Kandaramadam in Jaffna in which 2 soldiers were killed, one soldier's body was mutilated and several police officers and soldiers were injured.
- 61 soldiers of the first battalion of the Sri Lanka Light Infantry were dismissed for their conduct folio lo the blasting of a landmine at Tinnewelli in Jaffna on July 23, 1983, when ~ soldiers were killed hi- terrorists. It alas the l-otter incident which was this ir~nedl-4e c~_ for the disturbances throughout the country;
- on August 11, 1984? when an incident was provoked by six soldiers being blown up by terrorists in a landmine explosion on Pooneryn Road in Mannar, 29 soldiers of the Sri Lanky Artillery were summarily dismissed for indiscipline;
- in addition, 80 petty officers and sailors of the Sri Lanka Navy and 7 nonco~issioned officers of the Air Force have also been dismissed for similar acts of indiscipline.
The above examples of disciplinary action taken by the Government of Sri Lanka illustrate the firm and unequivocal policy regarding disciplinary lapses by the security forces of the country whatever the provocation may be. It may be noted that this punishment has been imposed even though direct and more positive evidence sufficient to sustain criminal prosecutions in civilian courts could not be obtained.
(3) Devolution of Power
A political solution involving devolution of power remains the goal of the Government of Sri Lanka. Such a goal is best realized by the functioning of the democratic political process which has been in operation in Sri Lanka from 1931 when Adult Universal Franchise was introduced. The freely chosen representatives of the people of Sri Lanka have in the past taken decisions on the governance of the country within the framework of its independence, territorial intermit end sovereignty and in accordance with its Constitution. This has been done without the adverse influence of movements directed towards violent political change or by external coercion.
The disappointing, end to the All Party Conference caused by the retraction of the TULF raises serious doubts whether the TULF are able to negotiate and agree to a political solution as long is the terrorists are on the rampage. For these terrorists only a military solution through armed insurrection is acceptable. The distinguished representative of the ICJ wishes to carve thousand square kilometers in extent, one eighth in the North and holding 6%of the total population of 15 million for self government by the Tamils.
He commented on a provision of the draft legislation placed before the All Party Conference in which legislation passed by the Provincial and District Councils had to be approved by the President of Sri Lanka. The draft legislation was placed before the All Party Conference after agreement with the Tamil political panty representatives. Subsequently they went back on their agreement. But when the distinguished representative speaks of self government for the Tamils or the power of veto of the President, he enters into a field of controversy that did not arise between a section of the Tamil community and the majority community.
Sri Lanka is a unitary state and no agreement was envisaged that would change the unitary character of the Constitution - a change which Parliament has no power to make. It is these irresponsible statements that tend to foster the dicha rmony between the communities in my country and I sincerely hope that the distinguished representative would desist from entering into the political field in Sri Lanka and advocating causes of his owm creation. In a unitary Constitution such as in Sri Lanka, both substantive and subordinate legislation must receive the assent of the people through Parliament or the elected head of State.
The adverse reference by the distinguished representative of the ICJ to the power of veto by the President shows lamentable disregard of fundamental constitutional theory.
The reference by the distinguished representative to the power of veto exercised by a democratically elected head of state might equally well be addressed to heads of State of most democratic states. He has dipped both his hands into the cauldron of Sri Lanka politics and this action of his must be the measure by which the credibility of his avowed interest in the human rights situation in Sri Links mist be judged.
A reference was made by another speaker to the murder of the Fr. Mary Bastian. We condemn this shameful act. But the question is who was responsible? Was it - member of the security forces or were there any others? We do not know yet.
An investigation is being conducted by a special team from the Criminal Investigation Department They are recording statements and if their investigations reveal that any person, whether a member of the security forces or not, was concerned in the shooting of Fr. Mary Bastian, a prosecution will be launched on an appropriate criminal charge.
In order to allay the fears of any person who wishes to give any information or evidence of reprisals by the persons concerned all members of the services who were stationed in the Area at the time of the alleged incident have been transferred to other areas.
In any event a fair percentage of the service personnel whowere stationed in the area were Christians mainly Catholics.
A reference was made a the representative of Centre Europe-Tiers Monde that the Sri Lanka Government is planning a scheme of forced settlement, This statement is completely false.
The true position is that Sri Lanka is one of those developing countries where the entire population ,was concentrated in the areas which were geographically advantaged.
Large tracts of land remained arid scrub jungle due to lack of adequate water resources. Sri Lanka Government commenced a programme of constructing dams and reservoirs to supply water to these hitherto inirrigable lands.
Very large sums of money was obtained from many countries. Some of the money was in the form of outright gift but a substantial percentage was raised by way of loan. This has placed a substantial debt repayment burden on the entire nation.
Thus it is only fit and proper that the newly opened tracts of land being supplied water at national expense should be allocated to settlers in a ratio which reflects the national ethnic ratio.
These scrub jungles were not the traditional homelands of any particular ethnic groups. They were the haunts of wild animals and a few nomadic tribes which hunted them.
Sri Lanka. is a small island in the Indian Ocean. The natural increase of copulation had to overflow into the hitherto sparsely populated areas of scrub land which had been provided with irrigattion facilities and water at great national expense.
We can do no better than to quote a free translation of a report by delegation of Swiss officials which visited Sri Lanka last year:
'The population of Sri Lanka increased from. 6 million to 15 millions in a few decades. The Government, therefore followed a policy of land settlement, the objective of which was to allow a maximum number of Sri Lankans to purchase at very fair prices a house and a piece of land. The possibilities to proceed on a larger scale were available only to the north by clearing the jungle thus making available extra land to the State. Talking into consideration the existing proportion between Sinhalese and Tamils it seems normal that the Sinhalese will settle down in the north districts. The Tamils who are in need of shelter are also benefiting from this programme."
Reply by Dr.G.S.Dhillon to Statement by Sri Lanka
Statement by Leader of Indian Delegation in the exercise of the Right to Reply under Agenda Item 12 on Question of the Violation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in any part of the World with particular reference to Colonial and Dependent Countries and Territories, 12 March 1985
It is a matter of deep dismay for my delegation that in his statement made on last Friday night, the distinguished representative of Sri Lanka did not appreciate the spirit in which we made our statement. Our intention was to express our anguish at the ethnic situation in Sri Lanka and was motivated by our deep desire to see an amelioration of the situation within the framework of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka and by our intention to extend all possible cooperation for this purpose. In the same spirit I would like to respond very briefly to some of the points raised by the distinguished representative of Sri Lanka in order to set the record right.
The Sri Lankan representative has questioned the authenticity of the fact mentioned by us in our statement that over 50,000 Tamils, who are Sri Lankan nationals, have sought refuge in India since the eruption of ethnic violence in Sri Lanka in July 1983. He remarked that these figures should be viewed with great caution. He also contended that an artificial refugee situation was being created for ulterior purposes. These are stock arguments which Governments have used in the past in the face of their inability to contain the exodus of refugees. It is difficult to believe that thousands of poor and ordinary people who an struggling for survival would leave their hearths and homes and stay uprooted in another country unless they feared for their life and property.
The fact remains that a large influx of refugees has taken place and this influx is continuing unabated. According to the latest figures, since the first week of February this year nearly 15,000 Tamils from Sri Lanka have fled to India.
My Government has had to cope with the problem of providing them food and shelter and the political, social and economic tensions that their presence has generated. The pathetic ph ght of these people who have been forced by circurnstarices to become refugees has been well documented in the international media.
As for the continued presence of Indian nationals in Sri Lanka, I would like to mention that a very large community of Tamils of Indian origin has existed in Sri Lanka for than a century. The Government of India, in a unique gesture, agreed to accept the major proportion of the Tamils of Indian origin who had the status of stateless persons in Sri Lanka as Indian citizens. The Government. of Sri Lanka is well aware that there are established procedures to be followed by both Governments and to be completed before such persons who have been granted Indian citizenship can return to India. Out of the 418,085 stateless persons in Sri Lanka who have been granted Indian citizenship. 336,980 have already come to India.
The distinguished representative of Sri Lanka has referred to the situation in the state of Punjab. I would not like to dwell on this point beyond stating that. the situation in Sri Lanka is, in fact, qualitatively different from that prevailing in the Punjab, where all communities including Sikhs, enjoy full political, economic and cultural rights.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to end by reiterating, once more what my Government has said on many occasions - namely that we in India are opposed to separatism, secession and all forms of violence. We have no truck with terrorism and can have no interest, whatsoever, in exacerbating ethnic tension in Sri Lanka. We have on the other hand a deep and abiding interest in restoration of communal amity in Sri Lank Since the beginning my Government has impressed on all concerned the necessity of finding a political solution within the framework of the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka. I am glad that the Sri Lankan representative has affirmed that his Government is committed to such a solution. I would not like to say more because consultations are underway between the two Governments for defusing the situation so that a climate conducive to a political settlement is created.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
Agenda Item 10 on Question of the Human rights of all persons subjected to any form of detention or imprisonment, in particular: Question of enforced or involuntary disappearances - 23 January 1985 - E/CN. 4/1985/15 pages 1, 77
Introduction. [page 1]
1. The Working Group presents herewith to the Commission on Human Rights the fifth report on its work, together with its conclusions and recommendations, as requested by the Commission in resolution 1984/23. In doing so, the Group wishes to stress that it has attempted to give a factual, objective and complete picture of enforced or involuntary disappearances, on the basis of the reliably documented individual cases brought to its attention.
2. The information given to the Group by Governments, relatives of missing persons and non-governmental organizations acting on behalf of the families is again reflected in summarized form. However, as many details as possible have been retained in order to enable members of the Commission and the interested public better to understand the different points of view expressed. In recording as faithfully as possible the various statements made before the Working Group, the report does not reflect in any way the value judgements which the Group may have made. As in the past, the Group has continued to maintain its strictly non - accusatory approach based on purely humanitarian considerations.....
9. Sri Lanka [page 77]
274. The Working Group's previous activities in relation to Sri Lanka are recorded in its last three reports to the Commission on Human Rights. [E/CN.4/1492, paras. 138-139; E/CN.4/1983/14, para. 128; E/CN.4/1984/21, para. 166]
275. In 1981 Amnesty International reported to the Working Group that three youths had been arrested in Sri Lanka in 1979 and had subsequently disappeared. The same cases were again submitted to the Group by a lawyer representing the relatives of the missing persons. In August 1983 the Government of Sri Lanka, in response to a request addressed to it by the Working Group, provided copies of the document entitled "Report of the Parliamentary Select Committee to inquire into and report on the allegations against the Sri Lanka Police", in which reference was made to the disappearance of the three youths. The report did not, however, clarify their fate but merely recommended additional investigations.
276. The Working Group, in accordance with the decision taken at its thirteenth session (see para. 79 (b)), therefore requested the Government of Sri Lanka by letter dated 6 November 1984, to provide information on the outcome of further investigations on these cases. The Government of Sri Lanka subsequently informed the Working Group that, with regard to two of the youths, the Sri Lankan police authorities had continued inquiries as recommended in the report of the Select Committee and had found no evidence as to their whereabouts. In the case of the third youth, the Government was awaiting information from the relevant authorities.
I. Total number of cases transmitted to the Government by the Working Group ... 3
II. Government responses
(a) Total number of responses received from the Government relating to cases transmitted by the Working Group... 3
(b) Cases clarified by the Government's responses... 0
Centre Europe Tiers Monde Statement - P.Rajanayagam
Agenda Item 12 Question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world, with particular reference to colonial and other dependent countries and territories
Our organisation intervened under item 19 on the gross violation of human rights in Sri Lanka. Even as we meet in the safe and salubrious surroundings of Geneva, the situation in Sri Lanka is rapidly deteriorating for the people, particularly the Tamil Community.
Without further ado, I seek to demonstrate the seriousness of the situation by quoting from three on the spot recent reports.
The Lankan Daily Telegraph of December l2, 1984 reported:
"Sri Lankan Armed Forces had unleashed a bloody campaign of terror..." and "..are committing the most grotesque crimes away from international notice... Jaffna may be only 300 miles north of Colombo, but it is a world apart. It is under siege. The 800,00 inhabitants of the peninsula live in the shadow of murder, arson, bombings and looting.. .As the first foreign reporter to reach Jaffna...I have spent three days listening to a series of appalling stories of rape, massacre and intimidation. I saw two bodies lying in the fields at Vaddukoddai eight miles west of Jaffna. Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvatn, a former MP for the area, claimed troops shot dead 40 civilians last week".
Again the London Times of 31 December 1984 reported:
"Sri Lankan forces are conducting a harsh and remorseless campaign of intimidatioL among the island's Tamil minority. By means of random murder, indiscriminate shooting, beatings, torture and plunder, ill disciplined and trigger happy soldiers keep the Tamils in the north in a state of constant fear,
"Many thousands of people, mostly women and children, have fled to India and to Europe. Thousands of youths have been rounded up and held in army camps. Their parents do not know where they are: they have become Sri Lanka's disappeared ones. There is strong evidence of beating, torture and murder of young men in army custody. Meanwhile, thousands of displaced people, driven from their homes in army's 'combing out'operations, are in refugee camps
The American Time magazine of Februaary 11 this year, which was banned from circulation in Sri Lanka, reported:
"In the north, evidence of destruction by the military is everywhere, Temples and churches have been desecrated. In the past month, a Roman Catholic priest and a Methodist minister were gunned down by government forces. Residents say the worst savagery occurred in Mannar in December following the ambush of an army patrol by guerrillas. "The soldiers began shooting at anyone they saw," reports one eyewitness. "People died like flies. The soldiers went out on the road, killing some people on the spot and taking others away. They went to the post office and made people line up before they shot them. Then they went looking for people in the paddy fields. No one was spared. It was a scene out of hell." The massacre began at 11 in the morning and ended at 4:30 in the afternoon, When it was over, more than 150 people had been killed,"
This is the tragedy that is being enacted in Sri Lanka today. Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists in their reports and their interventions yesterday have given graphic accounts of the massive violations of human rights, including the most fundamental of all human rights, the right to life.
Even as I speak, Mr. Chairman, thousands of Tamil people, not militants or "terrorists", but ordinary civilians, old people, young people, women and children are fleeing the country from the uncontrolled terror of the Sri Lankan security forces. Thousands of people are being forcibly dispossessed of their homes and driven of areas in which they have lived for over 2000 years.
On a personal note, Mr. Chairman, my own family, including my wife's 70 year old mother have abandoned their home situated in the town of Mannar and disappeared. The army had threatened that if they did not leave, the house would be set on fire with all of them inside. Hopefully they are on a boat, to South India where they have no relations or friends, Possibly they may join other refugees in makeshift refugee camps.
I received this information from my wife who telephoned me from London night before last. Last night when I conveyed this tragic news to the distinguished Sri Lankan delegate to this Commission, he expressed his sympathy. The battered and downtrodden Tamil people must be thankful for and content with these small mercies of expressions of sympathy.
The government of Sri Lanka, in its Note Verbale dated 30th January l984 (E/CN.4/l0, 1 February 1984) distributed to the delegates to the Human Rights Commission at its 40th sessions, inter alia, stated
"The Government of Sri Lanka is fully committed to strengthening of national unity by promoting cooperation and mutual understanding among all people of Sri Lanka...
As a part of this process, in January 1984, the President of Sri Lanka summoned a Conference of all political parties representing various ideologies and ethnic groups, with a view to discussing the relevant issues and proposals concerning the rights of the minorities and finding solutions acceptable to all parties concerned within the democratic framework of the country.... In this context, the constructive approach of the International community is to desist from any action or comment on the situation in Sri Lanka."
It is in the above context, and the various assurances given by the Sri Lankan delegation, the Commission at its 40th sessions desisted from examining the serious complaints of violation of human rights in Sri Lanka, and appealed for and welcomed all measures for national harmony and reconciliation.
All Party Conference
The various assurances given by the government of Sri Lanka have not been kept, the All Party Conference (APC) has been terminated without a settlement having been reached to the ethnic conflict,
Even before the APC was formally wound up on December 16, the government announced its plans for settling Sinhala people in predominantly Tamil areas of the north and east to reflect the nationwide population ratio of 75% Sinhalese to 25% other ethnic groups. This can hardly be an act of a government which was serious about the resolution of the ethnic problem through decentralisation.
The government also announced plans for training and arming the Sinhalese newly settled in Tami]. areas. In fact pictures appeared in the Sri Lankan press showing the Minister of National Security giving lessons to some new settlers in the use of guns. This act of arming one section of the people as agaiUst another minority section of the population can hardly constitute an act in furtherance of reconciliation and harmony between the two communities. On the contrary, what the government has done is deliberate incitement and encouragement to civil war.
In his long intervention, the distinguished delegate from Sri Lanka never even attempted to rebut the several charges by Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists of gross violations of human rights including the charge of summary executions of-innocent civilians. An attempt was made to cloak the flagrant abu3~s of human rights in Sri Lanka under the pretext of combating terrorism. labelling and maligning organisations and individuals concerned with the. protection of human rights as supporters or confederates of "terrorists" is a familiar exercise indulged in by those governments which want to cover-up their abuse of human rights.
The issue of human rights violations in Sri Lanka will no doubt be considered again at the 42nd sessions of this Commission. Many member and observer countries have already expressed sympathy during these sessions to the plight of the affected people in Sri Lanka. Sympathy, Mr. Chairman, was in plentiful supply. But sympathy alone will not suffice.
I have been listening to lengthy speeches studded with nice phrases from distinguished delegates from both member and observer countries about how this Commission should protect basic human rights of people throughout the world.
May I respectfully submit that speeches and conceptual expositions and discourses on human rights mean nothing to a people whose cries of agony and desperation do not find a way to move this august forum to concrete action.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in its third preamble stated that, "it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, then human tights should be protected by the rule of law". And that protection must be in actual practice and not in the glossy handouts of the United Nations or of its member countries. If it were not the case, and a peoples' inalienable human rights and fundamental freedctns are continued to be violated in the most flagrant manner, with the international community remaining in the sidelines as a silent spectator, then such people are bound to lose confidence in the rule of law and adopt whatever course they may find appropriate to defend their rights and freedoms.
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU)
Agenda Item 12 Question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world, with particular reference to colonial and other dependent countries and territories
My organisation is very concerned to watch developments in countries such as the Dominican Republic, Sri Lanka, Colombia and Peru which have had a solid human rights record so far but where we are now witnessing a concrete risk that the clock is being turned back step by step. We hope that, this Commission will be able to follow the vents in these countries in an equally -objective and determined manner as it has done in cases like Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, where international guidance and pressure emanating from bodies such as thin Commission on Human Rights have made a significant contribution towards the democratisation process which has taken place in these countries in the recent past.
Pax Christi International - International Catholic Peace Movement
Agenda Item 12 Question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world, with particular reference to colonial and other dependent countries and territories
As we have shown in detail in our communication to the Sub-Commission in August 1984, and again in a memorandum drafted by 9 NGOs and. distributed to the delegates at thie Commission, the situation in Sri Lanka deteriorated immediately after the closure of the 40th Session of the Commission in March 1984. The Sri Lankan government appears to have renounced its policy of a negotiated settlement to the ethnic conflict and opted for a military solution. The government has called on foreign advisors and mercenaries, among them Israeli experts.
In the Tamil regions the population is being expelled from their traditional lands, whereas colonies of Sinhala. people are being created based on the model of' colonisation of the occupied territories in Palestine. Summary
executions are numerous. The new settlers are armed and form para-military groups which attack the Tamil population. Such a policy can hardly be considered a policy of reconciliation. The murder of leaders of several confessions, among them Father Mary Bastian killed by the security forces on 6 January l985~ demonstrate this regrettable option of force on the part of the authorities.
Agenda Item 19: Report of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities
During the 37th Session of the Sub Commission, Pax Christi International intervened on two issues which continue to concern us. They are the situation in Turkey and that in Sri Lanka. ...With regard to Sri Lanka, the acts of the armed forces against the civilian population, the militarisatjon of the country and the failure of the attempts toward reconciliation should allow the Commission to conclude that the Sri Lankari authorities have not seized the opportunity offered to them by the Commission during its 40th Session, and that consequently stronger initiatives are to be envisaged.
Pax Romana - International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs International Movement of Catholic Students
An ethnocidal conflict between the Sinhala and Tamil communities continues to be at the root of a. lack of respect of fundamental human rights. In December 1984 there were brutal attacks against the Tamil population, in particular, in the Jaffna and Killinochchi zones. These areas have been declared Security Zones. A passage along the coastal areas has been prohibited condemning to hunger the inhabitants whose main economic livelihood is fishing. It is evident that the government is forcing a. "military solution". The only way to peace is unavoidably through a political solution...
Procedural Aspects of International Law Institute
In response to the situation in Sri Lanka and similar situations elsewhere three respected non governmental organisations (the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights, the International Peace Research Institute of Oslo, and the Collegio de Mexico) have recently formed an informal Forum on Ethnic Conflict, Development and Human Rights. The Forum was concerned by the recent events in Sri Lanka, particularly the recent breakdown of the All Party Conference, the apparent failure to prevent human rights violations by the security forces and the escalation of violence against civilians by opposition groups, all of which have led to increased polarisation rather than reconciliation as hoped for after the assurance given by the Government to the Commission at its fortieth session. The Forum will encourage and coordinate research into ways and means in which such conflicts may be peacefully resolved and may also establish ad hoc or emergency committees on urgent situations, such as that referred to above, where concerned nonpartisan attention and analysis may be helpful.
Statements by Governments
In examining human rights situations in the Asian region, the Sub Commission has in recent times referred to Sri Lanka, a country in our region with which we have close and valued relations. We have maintained a close interest in the situation in Sri Lanka. and have on several occasions expressed our concern about the human rights situation which has developed since the communal disturbances in 1983. We would welcome any information the Sri Lankan Delegation can provide, perhaps in this debate, as an earnest signal of the Sri Lankan Government's continuing commitment to cooperate with this Commission.
Federal Republic of Germany
Let me mention again at this juncture the initiative of the Federal Republic of Germany for the promotion of "international cooperation to avert new flows of refugees". Huge movements of refugees in the last few months, a human tragedy for hundreds of thousands of individuals, underline the necessity for us to design preventive measures for international cooperation and implement them to help stem the tide of such refugee movements and maintain stability and peace in the regions affected. Violent conflicts in Sri Lanka has resulted in sufferings of the population which in turn lead to a flow of asylum seekers also to my country.
I wish to turn now to the situation in Sri Lanka, which, since the tragic events on July 1983, has given cause for grave concern. We appreciate the difficulties facing the Sri Lankan Government in its efforts to deal with the mounting problem of terrorism. We believe, nevertheless, that it is the duty of the authorities to ensure that the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Sri Lanka citizens are fully safeguarded. We are therefore deeply disturbed at the numerous reports of human rights violations committed against the Tamil population by members of the security forces. These have included the indiscriminate killing citizens and widespread destruction of property. It has been said that they have been the work of indisciplined members of' the security force. It is, however, the Government which trains and deploys these forces, and, it is the Government which remains responsible for their actions.
We are also concerned that the violent actions of the terrorist elements among the Tamil population, and the efforts of the Government to seek a military solution to the problem, are contributing to a spiral of violence from which it is difficult to escape and which, if allowed to continue unchecked, will result in continued suffering on the part of the innocent civilian population. To avoid this outcome and prevent the increasing alienation of the Tamil population, it is necessary that their legitimate aspirations and grievances be met within the framework of the Sri Lankan state, so removing the resentment on which the terrorist elements thrive.
We believe that the problems facing Sri Lanka. spring from a. complex mixture of socio economic, cultural, ethnic and historical factors which can only be solved by the Sri Lankans themselves. We therefore regret that the All- Party conference convened by President Jayewardene to seek a. political solution to the Tamil problem has not been successful. We hope, nevertheless, that all parties in Sri Lanka will continue efforts, through political negotiation, to seek national reconciliation, and harmony among the peoples of Sri Lanka.
During the last session my delegation addressed briefly the situation in Sri Lanka. Developments over the past year such as outbursts of violence resulting in deaths continue to cause concern. My delegation sincerely hopes that the Government of Sri Lanka will do all that is possible to .prevent the situation from deteriorating. My delegation realizes that this will not be easy. However, it is convinced that reasonable solutions for the problems of Sri Lanka can be found if the political will to find. them is firm. My delegation hopes that the Government will pursue diligently a course of reconciliation.
Although we are &ware of the difficult internal problems of both Peru and Sri Lanka, it is important to be Conscious of the risks of the present situations in these countries. Reports of severe violence against civilians and. frequent disappearances are signs that matters are getting out of hand. Such practices should be prevented at the earliest possible stage.
Pax Christi International Press Release, 18 March 1985
Information given to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights clearly demonstrates that the situation in Sri Lanka is deteriorating alarmingly. In the first week of March alone an estimated 7,230 refugees, mainly fishermen accompanied by children and pregnant women, have arrived in the tiny South Indian town of Rameshwaram. Each day over one thousand boat people leave Sri Lanka for a 29 km perilous journey in the high seas.
Several speakers in the Commission expressed their deep concern at the escalating violence resulting from the military solution pursued by the Sri Lankan government. The non governmental organizations listed below are greatly disturbed by the ongoing massacres and continuing exodus of refugees. A major preoccupation is the fate of Tamil refugees seeking asylum in Western Europe.
The Question of Refugees
Many in the Commission expressed concern about the increasing flow of Tamil refugees seeking asylum in India and Western Europe. Dr G. S. Dhillon, leader of the Indian delegation, pointed out that India had over 50,000 Tamil refugees, and that since February alone a further 15,000 boat people have arrived in Tamil Nadu.
The representative of the Federal Republic of Germany, where over 10.000 Tamils have fled for refuge, stated "Violent conflicts in have resulted in sufferings of the population which in turn lead of asylum-seekers, also to my country. "
As the exodus of refugees continues unabated fears were voiced among the participants on the fate of Tamil refugees in Western Europe who have applied for asylum.
The Debate at the Commission
Non-governmental organisations submitted a joint report on recent developments in Sri Lanka. Their report described government measures which "make plain that a policy of 'collective responsibility' for the acts of the militants is being applied to the Tamil population as a whole."
Emergency Regulations introduced in November 1984 established Prohibited Zones and a Security Zone in the Tamil. areas, displacing some 200,000 people living along the coastal areas, Fishing has been banned affecting the livelihood of about 22,000 families. Movement of persons and vehicles has obeen restricted in the Security Zone, disrupting completely the economic and social life of the people and creating severe shortages of food, medicines and fuel.
The report also refers to the organized colonisation of Tamil areas with Sinhalese settlers. It notes that these settlers are being armed and given military training by the Sri Lankan government.
Ireland, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Netherlands, India and Sweden voiced their concern about human rights violations committed against the Tamil civilian population by the government security forces. Ambassador F. M. Hayes (Ireland) blamed the Sri Lankan government for the indiscriminate killing of citizens and destruction of property: "It is the government which trains and deploys these forces, and it is the government which remains responsible for their actions." He also expressed concern at the violent actions of some militant groups, but added that "efforts of the government to seek a military solution to the problem, are contributing to a spiral of violence from which it is difficult to escape."
The International Commission of Jurists and Amnesty International referred to several incidents where hundreds of Tamil civilians many of them old men, women and children, have been shot dead by security forces. The International Commission of Jurists had received copies of 108 signed affidavits relating to 74 incidents during August - December 1984 alone. One legal office in northern Sri Lanka has filed dossiers of 500 missing Tamils.
Many were concerned about the military solution pursued by the Sri Lankan government with the aid of Israeli military advisors and British Special Air Services (SAS) officers.
Arab Lawyers Union, International Federation of Human Rights, International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, International Movement for Fraternal Union among Races and Peoples, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, Pax Christi, Pax Romana - International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs International Movement of Catholic Students, World Student Christian Federation
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