Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C

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Joint statement by 22 Non Governmental Organisations

UN NGO Joint Statements"As a group of twenty two Non Governmental Organisations, we wish to convey to the Commission our very serious concern regarding the violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Sri Lanka. Concerns have been identified in the oral interventions of a number of member nations of the Commission, by observer nations and by many of the NGOs present.

We make this statement together to urge the Commission to further express its collective concern regarding Sri Lanka in the form of a resolution as it has done in the case of many other countries.

The resumption of armed hostilities in June 1990 in the North-East Province between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has been accompanied by increasing human rights violations in this region.

In addition to 3,000 combatant deaths reported by the Government, local organisation have reported at least 4,000 deaths amongst the unarmed civilian population. Of particular concern is the relentless and indiscriminate aerial bombardment of the north.

The proliferation of violence has resulted in the total disruption of economic life and inadequate supply of essential services such as food, electricity and water. The population is being deprived of their human right to survive.

As of December 7th 1990 the Department of Social Services indicated that it was providing assistance to 1.2 million people displaced from their homes in the north and east. At least 210, 000 people have fled to Tamil Nadu as refugees.

In the South, too, the human rights situation continues to create grave concern. The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances still has 1,140 outstanding cases. Human rights organisations in Sri Lanka became aware of 40 disappearances in the month of January 1991 alone. The government of Sri Lanka acknowledged on December 3rd 1990 that 8,995 people remain in detention under Emergency Regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

The continuation of the state of emergency permits the state to engage in violations of many of the democratic rights of the people of Sri Lanka such as the right to freedom of association and the right of expression. The failure to safeguard the rights of all peoples on the island, the overall militarisation of society and the continuing atmosphere of violence and terror all create a situation in which democratic and fundamental rights are continually abused and violated.

As a group of twenty two NGOs we are convinced that a resolution on Sri Lanka from this 47th Session of the Commission on Human Rights would decrease human rights violations and promote fundamental freedoms in Sri Lanka. We urge you to pass a resolution which:

(i) recalls resolution #61/87 which recognises the necessity of ending armed hostilities to enable the resumption of negotiations;
(ii) expresses serious concern regarding the continuing violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Sri Lanka and
(iii) conveys its support for the role that the Centre for Human Rights and its mechanisms can play in the promotion of human rights in Sri Lanka."

Statement by the Non Governmental Organisation Liberation

''We are deeply concerned about the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation of the people of Tamil Eelam in the island of Sri Lanka.

In March 1987, the Commission called upon "all parties and groups to the conflict (in Sri Lanka) to respect fully the universally accepted rules of humanitarian law" and it " appealed to the Government of Sri Lanka to intensify its cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross in the fields of dissemination and promotion of international humanitarian law." But, four years later, the armed conflict in Sri Lanka continues to rage with increasing ferocity and the Sri Lanka authorities continue to act in breach of international humanitarian law.

It is reported that, since the renewal of the armed conflict on the 11th of June 1990, over 6000 Tamil civilians have been killed by Sri Lanka in the North-East. Over 4000 have been killed in the East alone - around half this number by Government sponsored Muslim Home Guards. Hundreds of persons 'arrested' by the Sri Lankan authorities have 'disappeared'. Some have been later found dead.

Even refugee camps have become targets for army operations. As a result of continued aerial bombardment of civilian population centres and the arbitrary extra judicial killings of Tamil civilians, around one million Tamils have fled their homes and have become displaced persons in their own home land. Around 200,000 Tamil civilians have fled to South India as refugees.

A de facto blockade, has hampered the international media from reaching the affected areas in the North-East. However the investigation team from the European Parliament which visited the South of Sri Lanka, have estimated that 60,000 Sinhalese were killed by the Sri Lankan authorities during the past 18 months. This provides a chilling indication of the degree of institutionalised violence in the Sri Lankan state and also of the probable scale of its activities in those areas controlled by the government in the North-East.

It is therefore with alarm that we note that the Sri Lankan government has rejected the unilateral declaration of a ceasefire by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, refused talks to set up a suitable monitoring mechanism for the ceasefire, and has chosen instead to resume its genocidal attack on the people of Tamil Eelam.

In this connection, we also wish to draw attention to Amnesty International's recent three month worldwide Sri Lanka Campaign, launched on the 16th of September 1990.

The systematic violations of human rights by the Sri Lanka government over a period of four decades are well documented and are, clearly, no accidental happenings. They constitute evidence of the resolute and determined effort of an alien Sinhala majority to subjugate and assimilate the people of Tamil Eelam within the framework of a unitary Sinhala Buddhist Sri Lankan state.

The people of Tamil Eelam have suffered enough and have waited long enough for their human rights. Today, they are a people who can no longer be denied their right to self determination. The views of Dr.Hector Gros Espiell in his report for the United Nations Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination of Minorities in 1980, deserve our renewed attention:

" Every people subject to any form or type of colonial or alien domination possesses the right to self determination, and no distinction can be drawn between one people and another for the purpose of recognising the existence of this right if there is evidence of colonial or alien domination of the people or peoples in question"

We also urge the Commission to give careful consideration to the comments of Professor Leo Kruper in the Minority Rights Group Report on International Action against Genocide in 1982:

"...genocide continues to be an odious scourge on mankind... there are also at the present time many immediate issues related to genocide which call for the most urgent action... (such as) the communal massacres in Sri Lanka...some of these genocidal massacres arise out of struggles for greater autonomy, and might be regulated by recognition of the right of self determination..." (Minority Rights Group Report: International Action Against Genocide)

We believe that it is a matter of immediate importance that the Sri Lankan government should be called upon to respond in a constructive manner to the peace initiative of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and to secure a political settlement of the conflict within the framework of human rights and the right of self determination of the people of Tamil Eelam.

We urge that the United Nations Commission on Human Rights should send an investigation team to the North and East of Sri Lanka to report on all violations of human rights. Such a step by the Commission will serve to halt the blatant and persistent violations of human rights in Sri Lanka and to compel the parties to the conflict to respect fully the universally accepted rules of humanitarian law.

Reply by Sri Lanka Delegation

Sri Lanka's PrevaricationsMr. Chairman, a speaker claiming to represent the Non Governmental Organisation called Liberation speaking on Item 9 yesterday, made certain references to the situation in the Northern and Eastern part of Sri Lanka, a situation engendered by terrorist violence initiated by an armed group called the LTTE.

In the context of agenda item dealing with the right of self determination the burden of the speaker's argument appears to have been that there is a form of colonial or alien domination prevailing in Sri Lanka. Quite apart from the absurdity of this line of argumentation, it also brings to the fore a dangerous trend signifying efforts to give sanctity to various terrorist and separatist movements around the world under the guise of right to self-determination. It is evident that this erroneous concept of self-determination runs solely against the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. One only has to look around the globe today to see how such postulates can encourage the tripartism of drug trafficking, terrorism and weapons proliferation.

What the speaker failed to mention however was the fact that the armed group in Sri Lanka which she had referred to has been the very entity that denied their own Tamil community the right to determine in free and fair elections, who their representatives should be, by systematically eliminating all opposing Tamil parties through murder and terrorism, by continually insisting only that group by themselves can determine who the representatives of the Tamil community should be, and by continually refusing to sit down with other Tamil political parties, the Government and indeed with political parties of other communities to evolve a national consensus for a political solution to the problems that we face in Sri Lanka.

Mr. Chairman, my Government has always worked towards a political solution to the problems we face in Sri Lanka. It remains committed to that objective and will continue to work towards it. Indeed there are ongoing negotiations with all other democratic political parties of the Tamil community and others with that aim in mind. The speaker referred to a de facto blockade and in fact accused not only the Government but also the Muslim community in the North and East of deliberate killings of Tamil civilians. My delegation rejects these unfounded allegations.

Anyone including journalists are free to visit any part of the country and in fact many journalists and non-governmental organisations have done so. Some in fact continue to function there. I do not intend to trade charges here but would only like to invite the attention of the speaker to what was stated at the last Sub-Commission meeting by various members concerning the atrocities committed by the LTTE including the murder of Muslim civilians praying at a Mosque and innumerable subsequent terrorist attacks an innocent civilians of all communities.

The LTTE has also continued its policy of ethnic segregation by expelling Muslims and other communities from their places of residence. These actions together with forcible conscription and extortions carried out by the LTTE has in fact resulted in a massive exodus of people to other parts of the country for whom Government with the assistance of international and national organisations is deploying a massive relief effort.

Mr. Chairman, my Government has always accepted constructive criticism from all parties, nationally and internationally, as indeed it should be the responsibility of an elected Government accountable to its electorate. My Government cannot however accept that a terrorist group espousing the dismemberment of the country on racist or ethnic lines, can be given the sanctity of 'the novel" concept of self-determination.

No responsible Government can indeed accept such a notion particularly when a terrorist group which refuses to negotiate with all parties continue to deny by force of arms the people of their own community, the right to elect their representatives. The Government of Sri Lanka is neither a colonial power nor an alien entity but one elected democratically by all communities in Sri Lanka including the Tamil community through universal adult franchise. The overwhelming majority of Tamil community wants lasting peace and amity in a multi-religious and multi-ethnic polity, for which, the Government and all other democratic parties are striving hard to find a national consensus through political negotiations.

Statement by Sri Lanka Ambassador Neville Jayaweera

Sri Lanka's PrevaricationsMr. Chairman, with the democratic changes that have been gathering momentum throughout the world in recent years, the responsibility of this Commission for promoting human rights internationally has assumed a greater relevance and urgency. Therefore at the very outset, I would like to make two categorical statements.

Firstly, I affirm Sri Lanka's continued readiness to cooperate fully with this Commission in its task. In sharing this responsibility, we hope to bring to this Commission, perceptions and insights which we hope will also enrich our collective understanding of the problems of human rights observance.

Secondly, I want to reiterate that my government deeply regrets and will not condone violations of human rights under whatever circumstances they occur.

In this Statement I shall look at Sri Lanka's human rights problem primarily from the point of view of the progress we have made in dealing with it since this Commission discussed it at its 47th Session.

However, I shall first go over familiar ground with a few broad strokes.

This Commission is fully aware of the history of the human rights issue in my country. How, for over 60 years we had nurtured a vigorous democracy, and how we have faithfully maintained the institutions and processes fundamental to it are known to the world. How two political groups, ideologically committed to violence and terror, namely the JVP and the Tigers, threatened that democracy and how they set about systematically to dismantle it and violate human rights with impunity, are also well documented.

The response of the government to that challenge, how for a long time it offered a negotiated settlement as an alternative to armed conflict, and how both terrorist groups misread these conciliatory gestures and responded by raising the level of violence and terror, are equally well-known. Finally, caught on the horns of a dilemma, on the one hand of ensuring the governance of 16 million people and on the other of allowing a minuscule minority of terrorists to subjugate them, how the government asked the security forces to restore law and order and in the process incurred a terrible social cost in the form of human rights violations, are also widely known.

I shall not go over that terrain again today. Rather, I propose to address the question of what the government of Sri Lanka has done, and is doing now, to solve the problem of human rights within its territory. I shall enumerate seven specific steps we have taken.

1. We have firstly, opened our society totally to the international community so that they may see for themselves the magnitude and complexity of our problems and also appreciate the steps we are taking to deal with them We have invited the UNCHR, the UNHCR, AI, and ICRC to look at our problems and to help us. We have opened our society equally to all the wire services and to foreign TV and press journalists so that they may make their own evaluations and keep the international community informed. We did these things even though we knew we ran the risk of biased reporting against us, through an inadequate understanding of the complexities they were addressing.

2. We have studied carefully the report that Amnesty International submitted after visiting Sri Lanka and have confirmed we will implement 30 of their 32 recommendations. Furthermore, we have invited AI to return to the country this year to look at the progress we have made on implementing their recommendations.

3. We are now looking at the report of the UNCHR Working Group on Disappearances, and hope that this Commission will make it possible for us to invite the Working Group to return to Sri Lanka this year to see how far we have implemented their recommendations as well.

4. We have also invited the Special Rapporteur on Summary or Arbitrary Executions to visit Sri Lanka and to report back to the UNCHR.

5. We have set up a Presidential Commission to investigate disappearances that are alleged to have occurred after January 1991 and this Commission is now in session. We have extended its mandate beyond 1992.

6. We have also set up a separate Human Rights Task Force under the Chairmanship of a retired Supreme Court Judge, to monitor how persons in detention are being treated by the authorities. This body also maintains a computerised register of detainees. The office of this Task Force is operational 24 hours of the day to register complaints of illegal arrests and is now in the process of setting up branch offices throughout the country to enable people to gain easy access to redress.

This task force also engages in rehabilitation work such as providing suspects with vocational training so that when they return to society they can integrate themselves with the rest of the community and engage in productive work. Of the original 19,000 persons held in detention more than 14,000 have been returned to society and only some 4,700 hard-core suspects are still in detention.

7. We have also constituted a separate Presidential Commission to investigate allegations of indiscriminate shootings by personnel of the security forces in a village called Kokaddicholai in the Eastern Province. This Commission has already entered an interim verdict indicting several personnel of the security forces and they are now likely to face a Courts-Martial.

We took these steps as specific initiatives for addressing the immediate issues of violence. But our government has also gone beyond merely addressing immediate issues and is boldly confronting the underlying reality. The underlying reality is economic stagnation. Human Rights violations in our country are not the outcome of deliberate government policies and are in no way structured into our political or legal systems. Rather, they are mostly the end result of decades of economic stagnation. Recognizing this, the government of President Premadasa has undertaken a number of other initiatives to create an environment in which the conflicts that breed human rights violations will not recur. For instance:

1. Sri Lanka is dismantling rapidly its centrally planned economy of over 40 year lineage. It has fully liberalised the economy and has lifted controls. It is encouraging foreign investments on the most attractive terms possible. It is rapidly slimming down its state sector and is privatizing a large number of public sector enterprises. These reforms have produced a sudden spurt in the economy which during the past two years, has grown at 6.5% and 5.9%. Inflation has come down from 21% to 12% and unemployment from 22% to 14%. The reactivation of the economy has begun to neutralise the economic factors that generated human rights violations. Given another five years of economic expansion at the current rate, and a stable environment, we should be able to remove some of the fundamental causes of human rights violations in our country, in the near future.

2. While tackling the fundamental problem of growth we are also addressing simultaneously the problem of rural poverty, so as to ensure that the benefits of growth do not adhere only at one end of the social spectrum. The government has launched a comprehensive poverty alleviation programme which aims to bring into the productive sector considerable layers of our rural unemployed youth.

3. Realising that violent social and political conflicts often result from the lack of adequate opportunities for participation in the political process, the government has also set up an All Party Conference, over and above the regular mechanisms available under the constitution of the country, to facilitate participation. The APC provides an opportunity to parties not represented in the Parliament to participate in the political process, along side parties already in it.

4. Fourthly, Mr. Chairman , Parliament itself has set up a Special Select Committee comprising representatives from all parties in it, to develop a consensus solution to the national question, involving the devolution of power to the North and the East. This Committee is now looking at various proposals that its constituent members have submitted to it.

5. We are also amending chapter 3 of the Sri Lankan Constitution to limit the derogation or restriction of fundamental rights on the plea of national security. Simultaneously, we are enshrining in the Constitution the Right to Life as one of the fundamental rights of our citizens

6. Lastly, in addition to the mechanisms I have already referred to, we are also legislating for a Permanent Human Rights Commission under Article 156 A of the Constitution. This Commission will have general powers to create the conditions necessary for protecting human rights and to initiate remedial action immediately upon the receipt of allegations that human rights have been violated. It will also have powers to establish separately other mechanisms for eliminating discrimination within our society and to take steps to resolve conflicts peacefully.

You will see Mr. Chairman, that we have mobilized a whole array of instruments, to reverse the trends of the past decade.

There are three other matters I would like to emphasise at this point. The first is that it is only 18 months since we took these initiatives. When observers comment on the lack of results, they tend to forget this fact. Our problems are incredibly complex and their roots stretch back for decades. But it is only during the past 18 months that we have started systematically to deal with them. The deep-rootedness and complexity of our problems inevitably prescribe caution. Furthermore, the very fact that we are a democracy, denies to us the advantage of seeking to solve problems by fiat. The government's initiatives have constantly to be accountable to the people, who exercise their right of scrutiny through the democratic process, such as public meetings and the press. We wish the international community would appreciate these constraints when expressing opinions about the speed at which we are moving.

Secondly Mr. Chairman even though the pace of progress has not been rapid as we would have liked it to be, our gains have been quite impressive. In the south of the country, for instance where alleged disappearances numbered in the hundreds in the previous years, they were down to less than 40 during the past six months. Except for a few instances of residual violence the south is now almost totally normal.

Thirdly, Mr. Chairman and most importantly, these initiatives have created during the past one and a half years a climate conducive for the preservation of human rights. There is now a greater awareness among the people of human rights issues. They now have much more opportunities to articulate their grievances and more access to legal remedies. NGO's engaged in human rights work now have unfettered opportunities to pursue their concerns. In short during the past one and a half years we have greatly expanded the space available to human rights activists, both national and international, to advance their goals.

My statement under item 12 will not be complete without a reference to the tragic conflict in the North and the East of the country. The persistence of this conflict has spawned human rights violations in these areas. The only permanent answer is to achieve a durable peace as soon as possible. Let me assure this Commission, Mr. Chairman, that our government does not doubt for a moment that the only way to ensure a durable peace is through a negotiated settlement. This has always been the policy of the Premadasa Government.

Indeed, it was in the pursuance of this policy that one and a half years ago even when it was clearly inexpedient for him so to do, President Premadasa declared a ceasefire and entered into negotiations with the Tigers. Unhappily, they rewarded his trust by unilaterally breaking off negotiations and launching a series of vicious attacks on isolated garrisons manned by the security forces who, lacking arms and ammunition surrendered and were brutally murdered by their captors. The memory of that horrible atrocity is always with the security forces. Notwithstanding Mr. Chairman, we remain firmly committed to a negotiated settlement and are convinced that the Parliamentary Select Committee will soon come up with a workable formula.

In conclusion Mr. Chairman, may I stress that the government of President Premadasa is neither defensive nor evasive about the human rights problem. We realise we have a serious problem on our hands, and we are doing all we can, within the realities of the situation, speedily to reverse the trends of the past decades. We welcome any form of assistance that the international community may have to offer us, except of course judgement or censure. We ask the international community to help us maintain the momentum of our endeavours, and to do so in a manner that is consistent with our dignity.

Statement by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Geneva

"....From Sri Lanka, too, we have received disturbing reports about the way in which more than 1.2 million persons displaced as a result of the internal conflict are being treated, and would like to draw your attention to the basic needs and rights of these persons.

Many women have been killed as a result of state violence and non- state armed groups, especially since 1987. As usual, the sexual abuse of women is one of the most terrible consequences of the war and civil conflict.

Many who have witnessed killings and abductions have been silenced. Fear and intimidation are used by both state and non-state armed groups. People who dare to speak out against this injustice have been brutally assassinated. Rajini Thiranagama, a well known human rights activist, was shot in cold blood in Jaffna in September 1989, shortly before the publication of the book the Broken Palmyrah, which she co­authored. The book condemned human rights violations committed by the armed forces of the Sri Lankan and Indian governments, and by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. In the same month, Gladys Jayawardena, chairperson of the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation was shot dead in Colombo for having defied a JVP- Peoples Liberation Front edict prohibiting the import of essential drugs from India.

The brutal manner in which the Sri Lankan Armed Forces have treated women taken into custody for alleged involvement in "subversive' activity, has been well documented. One woman testified that she had seen bodies of raped and sexually brutalised women floating down the river near her home. There are many women on the lists of disappeared persons.

In recent months, several cases of the disappearance of released detainees have been brought to our attention. Many family members of the disappeared have been threatened not to proceed with inquiries or with habeas corpus cases. Reports of threats and intimidation of persons who have filed cases alleging violation of their fundamental rights have reached us.

These examples show that there is little justice for victims of human rights violations in Sri Lanka at present. We are concerned that the mothers, wives, and daughters of those who have been killed, abducted, disappeared or detained in the past are today being intimidated and targeted.

Despite all efforts to silence them, the Mothers' Front of Sri Lanka held its first national meeting on 19 February 1991. More than 10,000 women came together to affirm their commitment to peace, negotiation among all parties to the conflict, and unity in demanding justice from the government. We appeal to this Commission to urge the Sri Lankan government to facilitate the visits to Sri Lanka in 1991, of the Working Group on Disappearances and the Special Rapporteur on Executions and to guarantee protection to all who speak out against violations of human rights.

Mr. Chairperson, ..., there are non-violent alternatives to war. These alternatives begin with the cessation of hostilities and the gross violations of human rights that accompany armed conflicts, and the initiation of negotiations to settle the conflicts peacefully. States are furthermore obliged to promote respect for political and civil, as well as economic, social and cultural rights to create conditions favourable to the realization of the right to development."

Intervention by the International Council of Voluntary Agencies, Geneva

"....The cohesion and. sustainability of multicultural societies depends on the ability of people of different ethnic origins, religions and traditions, to live together in mutual respect and equality. The sad state of communal relations in Fiji and Sri Lanka, in both of which a significant ethnic community has been subjected to systematic discrimination, tragically illustrates the social, moral and economic disintegration that does or can occur when these norms are ignored. The breakdown of communal relations in these societies is a challenge to multiculturalism everywhere....

The seven year conflict in the north of Sri Lanka between the Sri Lankan Government and the Tamil forces flared again in June 1990. In the few short months since then, at least 5,000 people have been killed and one million displaced1 such has been the ferocity of the conflict. Both the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have proclaimed their intention to "fight to the finish" despite the large scale suffering inflicted on the civilian population; both the Sri Lankan Government and the Tigers have perpetrated the very serious human rights violations to pursue vengeance, create chaos and serve political and military objectives.

ICVA calls on the Commission on Human Rights to urge both parties to the conflict to stop the fighting and violations of human rights immediately and urges this Commission to appoint a Special Rapporteur for Sri Lanka to report on the human rights situation. Further, ICVA endorses the proposal that the Commonwealth mediate a negotiated settlement, and urges the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE to cooperate with this initiative..."

Statement by World University Service, Geneva under Agenda Item 12 on the 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 [ref7/2/H]

".....Mr. President, the continuing crisis in Sri Lanka has taken a heavy toll in human lives, particularly in the University student population both in the north and the south. It has also eroded the rule of law which is in a dire state in the entire country, and it is this feature we wish to focus on.

In a praiseworthy attempt to arrest this trend, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka intervened and undertook the filing and prosecution of habeas corpus cases and fundamental rights petitions. This move was necessitated by the high incidence of death and intimidation among human rights lawyers (16 killed by unknown gunmen) and a large number (over 35) fleeing the county from death squads. But the violence to the rule of law could not be protected from further attack: two lawyers, nominated by the Bar Association, who appeared in human rights cases, were threatened by "unknown gunmen" and they fled the country last December.

A more disturbing trend, even more serious for the survival of the rule of law, seems to be silently working its way into the administration of justice: judges are harassed and threatened anonymously in cases involving security personnel. The most recent case, was when Mr. Justice (Dr.) Ranjan Amarasinha, in open court, declared that he had been threatened in a case where he had issued a rule against a police officer on why he should not be punished for contempt of court vis-à-vis his conduct in a fundamental rights application. Mr. Justice Amarasinha transferred the trial of the case to another bench of judges on the correct grounds that there should be no room for suspicion that he was in any way influenced by the threat.

But the psychological, though unintended, impact of this incident, may be detrimental to the fair, speedy and impartial administration of justice - particularly on the minor judiciary. The unseen threat hanging over the heads of judges, and magistrates, administering justice in distant p arts of the county, is that they have to be constantly conscious of their security - which is totally dependant on the police and/or security forces operating in the area. No aggrieved party may have the confidence to complain against a police officer before a magistrate in the same area and hope to obtain a fair and impartial judgment.

Mr. President, the decline in the process of this rule of law in Sri Lanka, and its replacement by the rule of the pun, is surely happening - with military suppression in the north and increasing quantities of arms being distributed by the state to home guards. This is a matter of grave concern and anxiety to law-abiding Sri Lankans and the international community who are hoping for the restoration of peace and justice in Sri Lanka. We appeal to the Commission to use all means to urge the Sri Lankan government to end the armed hostilities and also to express its serious concern about the continuing violations of human rights in Sri Lanka..."

Aerial Strikes at Civilian Targets - Memorandum of International Federation of Tamils

"A news report datelined the 13th of February 1991, in the London daily, The Independent, states that Sri Lankan forces have resorted to widespread bombing of civilian targets to quell insurgents in the north:

'While round the clock sorties continue in the Gulf, a longer lasting but much less publicised bombing campaign has been going on in northern Sri Lanka, where the Tamil Tigers are fighting for a separate homeland. With the Tigers in control of the entire area, apart from three government bases, Sri Lankan forces have resorted to aerial strikes which have destroyed many civilian targets.

Last week the army bombed and shelled Jaffna, the largest town in northern Sri Lanka, for four days. In further incessant attacks, almost 300 bombs were dropped on Velvettiturai, birthplace of Velupillai Pirabaharan, the Tiger leader, and the second most densely populated town in northern Sri Lanka. In the attacks, 500 houses and two large schools were reduced to rubble and more than 100 other buildings, including two historic Hindu temples were damaged beyond repair.

Bombers also hit a crowded market place in another town south of the Jaffna peninsula, with a 90 percent refugee population killing 22 people and seriously wounding 13. A refugee camp in a girls school, six miles outside Jaffna, was almost totally destroyed, killing two people and wounding four...

The military claims that it only bombs known Tamil Tiger targets but admits it uses aircraft - Sia Marchetti single engine training planes, adapted to carry two bombs underneath, Chinese Y-8s and Y-12s and British Avros, small cargo planes from which home made bombs are pushed out of the back - which do not permit accuracy.

The bombs - oil drums filled with gelignite or flammable gas and rubber tubes, which stick to the skin like napalm - have no ballistic stability. 'Sometimes we ourselves are mortally afraid of where they are going to land' said an army colonel.

The Jaffna Citizens Committee estimates more than 70,000 buildings in the north and east have been destroyed, more than 6,000 people have been killed or are missing, and more than 1.2 million are now displaced. Damage is estimated at well over £600m.

The pressures of war are acute. There is no cash economy, fishing has stopped and essential drugs are not available. Petrol costs £20 a gallon, 13 time more than in the south. There is no electricity, paraffin for lamps costs ten times the Colombo price and matches are unavailable.

Food shipments to the north have been diverted or delayed - in the last three months, only 3 percent of deliveries have got through. "People are on the brink of starvation. They are dying in silence" said the local government agent.

Northern Tamils comprise less than 16 percent of the 16 million population and large numbers are opting for the promise of liberation offered by the Tigers. The bombing of civilian targets, in particular refugee camps, schools and hospitals, has convinced Jaffna's inhabitants that the Sinhalese majority in Sri Lanka is trying to commit genocide. "This is a war to kill all Tamils", said Dr. K.Shanmugasunderam, head of the Velvettiturai Citizens Rehabilitation Committee.

"We are fighting a war and we are fighting it to the finish" declared Sri Lanka's Deputy Defence Minister, Ranjan Wijeratne. "The people of Jaffna must move out. We are going to finish this war and fast."..."

The British Refugee Council's Sri Lanka Monitor, commented in its January 1991 issue that 'Civilian targets are an easy option' to the Sri Lankan airforce.

Extracts from the comment appear below:

"This is a low tech conflict, lacking the laser precision of the Gulf video game war. Bombs are trundled on trolleys through the open doors of ageing Chinese transport planes onto "terrorist held" buildings.

''After five days of bombing Valvettiturai, hundreds of houses on the coast road are destroyed, while the LTTE camp remains intact with flag flying. It is not just inaccuracy. Sri Lankan aircraft will not venture too close to the Tigers' primitive anti aircraft artillery and civilian targets are an easy option.

''Food stocks in Jaffna are again critical and much of the forthcoming harvest north of Killinochi has already been pilfered by farm labourers, close to starvation. There is no tea, milk powder and little sugar. Vegetables are Rs.60 a kilo, kerosene Rs.200 a bottle and petrol Rs.500 a bottle - 15 times the Colombo price. District Medical Officer, K.Sathiyaseelan says Killinochi hospital sees 400 out patients a day and there is an acute shortage of drugs and dressings.

NGOs say medical supplies are routinely confiscated from relief convoys to the North at Army checkpoints. A two mile log-jam of lorries carrying vital food supplies waits outside Thandikulam, north of Vavuniya, to cross over into Tiger territory."

The indiscriminate aerial bombardment of Tamil population centres, including hospitals and schools , amounts to a gross violation of the law of armed conflict as set out in the Geneva Conventions, and is a war crime.

"The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians shall not be object of attack...Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited. Indiscriminate attacks are those which are not directed at a specific military objective (and) those which employ a method or means of combat which cannot be directed at a specific military objective"- Article 50(4) of the 1977 Protocol to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949."

Appeal to the Commission by 8 Tamil Organisations

"We (8 Tamil Organisations) seek to bring to the urgent notice of the Commission the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in Sri Lanka.

You will recall that in March 1987, the United Nations Human Rights Commission considered the situation in Sri Lanka and resolved:

"The Commission on Human Rights, guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the universally accepted rules of international humanitarian law,... noting also that more than a hundred new cases of alleged disappearances in Sri Lanka have been transmitted to the Government by the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances ...

…calls upon all parties and groups to respect fully the universally accepted rules of humanitarian law... (and) appeals to the Government of Sri Lanka to intensify its cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross in the fields of dissemination and promotion of international humanitarian law and invites the Government of Sri Lanka to consider favourably the offer of the services of the ICRC to fulfil its functions of protection of human rights standards..." (Resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, co-sponsored by Canada, Norway and Argentina and unanimously adopted on 12th March 1987)

But the attack by Sri Lanka against the people of Tamil Eelam continues today with increasing ferocity...

Thus far, over 6000 Tamil civilians have been killed by the Sri Lankan military operations in the North-East since the commencement of the war on the 11th of June 1990. Over 4000 civilians have been killed in the East alone - around half this number by Government sponsored Muslim Home Guards.

Hundreds of persons 'arrested' by the Sri Lankan authorities have 'disappeared'. Some have been later found dead. Even refugee camps have become targets for army operations. As a result of continued aerial bombardment of civilian population centres and the arbitrary extra judicial killings of Tamil civilians, around one million Tamils have become displaced persons in their own home lands. More than 200,000 Tamil civilians have fled to South India as refugees.

The Sri Lankan armed forces have engaged in an inhumane and barbaric attack on Tamil civilians with the intention of terrorising the Tamil population. Hacking to death is common. Tyre necklace burning, dashing the heads of infants against walls are some of the methods used by the armed forces. Some of the villages in the East including Veeramunai, Sorikalmunai, Pandiruppu in the Amparai District have been totally wiped out.

Widespread and indiscriminate aerial bombardments, including napalm attacks, have caused hundreds of civilian casualties. We forward herewith a detailed statement of the arbitrary extra judicial killings during the period August to December 1990.

The attacks have been carried out with care and premeditation so as to avoid the attention of international observers. A de facto blockade, has hampered the international media from reaching the affected areas and collecting information about the flagrant breaches of international humanitarian law.

It is significant that the investigation team from the European Parliament which visited the South of Sri Lanka estimated that 60,000 Sinhalese were killed by the Sri Lankan government forces... This provides some indication of the degree of institutionalised violence in the Sri Lankan state and also of the probable scale of its activities in those areas controlled by the government in the North-East.

Faced with this genocidal attack on the people of Tamil Eelam, in breach of the humanitarian law of armed conflict, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam announced a unilateral declaration of ceasefire, with an indefinite time frame, with effect from the 1st of January 1991.

But the Sri Lankan government failed to respond in a constructive manner to the LTTE peace initiative, rejected the ceasefire and resumed intensive offensive operations against the people of Tamil Eelam with renewed vigour.

Recently, on the 12th of January 1991, bombs dropped by the Sri Lankan airforce on a crowded bazaar area at Killinochi in the North killed 9 villagers. The dead included a five year old child. This has been followed by attacks on Vadamaratchi and several other areas in the North and confronted with this murderous onslaught, the Liberation Tigers were compelled to withdraw their unilateral declaration of ceasefire with effect from the 24th of January.

The Sri Lankan Government has continued to block on the spot investigations by local human rights activists as well as by international human rights organisations have been blocked by refusing permission to visit 'war affected areas'. The team of the Sub Commission on disappearances has not visited Sri Lanka yet. Furthermore, relief work by local and international organisations to help the displaced the Tamil civilian population has been hampered and blocked by the Government on the ground that 'a war is going on'.

At the same time, Sri Lankan President Premadasa, in a recent press release dated the 3rd of January 1991, declared that "...The Government does not, has not, and will not wage war against the Tamil people..." However, reports by independent observers, such as are available despite the information blockade by the Sri Lankan Government, clearly belie its protestations:

"Hundreds of people in northeastern Sri Lanka have reportedly 'disappeared' after being detained by Sri Lankan security forces since 21 June 1990. Bodies, some of which have been identified as those of prisoners, have been dumped in several places.

…In Kalmunai, over 70 people were reportedly detained and then 'disappeared' after the soldiers reclaimed the town from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam... Over 30 bodies were dumped in a burnt out shop in Kalmunai, including the body of 23 year old Chandrikumar, who had been earlier taken by the security forces..

In Vavuniya on the 13th or 14th June, government forces reportedly shot and killed defenceless civilians... about 15 bodies were found on the road... hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes as fighting intensified: in early August there were over 300,000 refugees in Jaffna District alone, and fears of food shortages". (Amnesty International Report of the 10th of July 1990)

"Barrel bombs - 210 litre cast iron barrels packed with explosives, rubber and saw dust - rain down on residential areas with the most devastating effect; each bomb can destroy 20 houses. By its haphazard bombing of civilian targets in the Northern peninsula of Jaffna, the airforce is imposing an unofficial blockade which is bringing some parts to starvation. Helicopters, equipped with rockets and machine guns hover day and night over Jaffna city and the surrounding towns and villages, ready to strafe any moving civilians or vehicles...

The hospital has also been bombed and three weeks ago, a helicopter fired into the operating theatre, killing a doctor... It is hard to sleep as the night sky is lit up with explosions, and the vibrations from bombs can be felt four miles away. The city centre has been flattened, with Jaffna railway and bus stations, shops, hotels and homes desolated... After one nights bombing I visited areas which had been hit. Six people had been killed, a row of houses was reduced to rubble and the smell of burning flesh hung in the air. Clothes, family photographs and furniture were scattered among the ruins. 'We ran into the bunkers when we heard the bombers coming' said a resident '...

..The Sri Lankans are just killing civilians at random... In an effort to dent civilian morale, they have also been showering the area with human and animal excrement." (The London Daily Telegraph, 13th September 1990)

"...In one week, Jaffna was subjected to what its inhabitants called 'shit bomb' attacks. Jaffna smelt like a drain and the city's frightened inhabitants suspected they were being subjected to some sort of crude experiment in biological warfare...' (Torment of Jaffna, London Independent Magazine, 3rd November 1990)

We believe that it is important for the Commission to note that the present actions of the Sri Lankan government are in accordance with government's own pronouncements during the past several years and constitute evidence of a determined attack on the people of Tamil Eelam.:

"... You must understand that in a war, civilians get killed. We are fighting a war..." (Sri Lanka Defence Minister Ranjan Wijeratne, 24th August 1990, reported in Sri Lanka Island)

"I am winning this war... I have come to realise that only success matters. I do not care what New Delhi, London or any other country says... Now I have more weapons. Countries like Pakistan are training my men... My airforce is also being trained by people from abroad." (President J.R.Jayawardene, London Times, 27th January 1986)

"...The Tamil problem is more a military problem and any military problem has to be tackled militarily." (PresidentJ.R.Jayawardene, India Today, 15th December 1985)

"...The President conceded that 'terrible things' were happening in Sri Lanka. Asked if he would set up an inquiry commission to go into the atrocities committed by the army against the Tamils, he said:' Did the British appoint a commission during the war?'..." (President Jayawardene in an interview with Kuldip Nayar: Island, 17th February 1985)

In this connection, we also wish to draw the attention of the Commission to Amnesty International's recent three month worldwide Sri Lanka Campaign, which was launched on the 16th of September 1990 - a campaign which served to focus the attention of the international community on the horrendous forty year human rights record of the Sri Lankan authorities - a forty year human rights record which is one of the worst, if not the worst in the world.

The gross, consistent and continuing violations of the human rights of the people of Tamil Eelam, by the Sri Lankan authorities, have been well documented by innumerable reports by human rights organisations as well as by independent and impartial observers of the Sri Lankan scene. We forward herewith a publication which brings together extracts from some of these reports.

The reports speak for themselves and that which emerges is that the present actions of the Sri Lankan Government are part of a chilling pattern of a forty year genocidal attack on the Tamil people...

As long ago as 1975, Minority Rights Group Report on Tamils of Sri Lanka stated:

" It would a pity if Sri Lanka's leadership waited for bombs to explode, and for the prisons to fill up again before conceding that the Tamils need reassurance that they have a place in the future of the island."

Eight years later, the Minority Rights Group Report warned:

"...The makings of an embattled freedom movement now (1983) seem assembled: martyrs, prisoners and a pitiful mass of refugees. Talk of Biafra which had sounded misplaced in 1975, seemed less unreal a few years later...As this report goes to press in September 1983, the general outlook for human rights in Sri Lanka is not promising. The present conflict has transcended the special consideration of minority rights and has reached the point where the basic human rights of the Tamil community - the rights to life and property, freedom of speech and self expression and freedom from arbitrary arrest have in fact and in law been subject to gross and continued violations. ..

The two communities are now polarised and continued repression coupled with economic stagnation can only produce stronger demands from the embattled minority, which unless there is a change in direction by the central government, will result in a stronger Sinhalese backlash and the possibility of outright civil war." (Walter Schwarz: Minority Rights Group Report on Tamils of Sri Lanka, 1983)

Again in December 1983, the Review of the International Commission of Jurists concluded that the 'evidence points clearly' that the 'violence of the Sinhalese rioters amounted to acts of genocide':

"The impact of the communal violence on the Tamils was shattering. More than 100,000 people sought refuge in 27 temporary camps set up across the country.... A government spokesman has denied that the destruction and killing of Tamils amounted to genocide. Under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, acts of murder committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such are considered as acts of genocide. The evidence points clearly to the conclusion that the violence of the Sinhala rioters on the Tamils amounted to acts of genocide." (The Review, International Commission of Jurists, edited by Niall MacDermot, December 1983)

In February 1985, a Working Group Chaired by Goran Backstrand, Swedish Red Cross reported that there was a general consensus that the Tamils do not have the protection of the rule of law and that 'the country was on the brink of civil war':

"There was a general consensus that within Sri Lanka today, the Tamils do not have the protection of the rule of law, that the Sri Lankan government presents itself as a democracy in crisis, and that neither the government, nor its friends abroad, appreciate the serious inroads on democracy which have been made by the legislative, administrative, and military measures which are being taken. The extreme measures which are currently being adopted by the government inevitably provoke extreme reactions from the other side...

The normal life of the (Tamil) population of the North has been seriously affected. People either have great difficulty or find it completely impossible to continue with their employment and there is a severe shortage of food and basic necessities...Many Tamils are daily fleeing across the Palk Straits to Southern India. The continuing colonisation of Tamil areas with Sinhalese settlers is exacerbating the situation... and the country is on the brink of civil war." (Report of Working Group Chaired by Goran Backstrand, Swedish Red Cross at Second Consultation on Ethnic Violence, Development and Human Rights, Netherlands, February 1985)

And, in March 1986, Senator A.L.Missen, Chairman, Australian Parliamentary Group of Amnesty International declared that the killing of some 6000 Tamils were 'not accidental' but 'the result of a deliberate policy on the part of the Sri Lankan government':

"Some 6000 Tamils have been killed altogether in the last few years...These events are not accidental. It can be seen that they are the result of a deliberate policy on the part of the Sri Lankan government...Democracy in Sri Lanka does not exist in any real sense.

..The democracy of Sri Lanka has been described in the following terms, terms which are a fair and accurate description: 'The reluctance to hold general elections, the muzzling of the opposition press, the continued reliance on extraordinary powers unknown to a free democracy, arbitrary detention without access to lawyers or relations, torture of detainees on a systematic basis, the intimidation of the judiciary by the executive, the disenfranchisement of the opposition, an executive President who holds undated letters of resignation from members of the legislature, an elected President who publicly declares his lack of care for the lives or opinion of a section of his electorate, and the continued subjugation of the Tamil people by a permanent Sinhala majority, within the confines of an unitary constitutional frame, constitute the reality of 'democracy', Sri Lankan style.' (Senator A.L.Missen, Chairman, Australian Parliamentary Group of Amnesty International, Australian Senate Hansard, 13th March 1986)

We urge the Commission to give its compassionate and fair consideration to the comments of Professor Leo Kruper in the Minority Rights Group Report on International Action against Genocide - comments which have today, clearly, assumed an urgency and an immediacy for the people of Tamil Eelam:

"...genocide continues to be an odious scourge on mankind... there are also at the present time many immediate issues related to genocide which call for the most urgent action... (such as) the communal massacres in Sri Lanka...some of these genocidal massacres arise out of struggles for greater autonomy, and might be regulated by recognition of the right of self determination...there is a great need for delegations of member states with a strong commitment to human rights, and for non governmental organisations with consultative status, to continue their efforts to recall the UN to its responsibilities for international protection against genocide and consistent violations of human rights. These efforts would include attempts to develop norms for humanitarian intervention, for the exercise of the right of self determination..." (Minority Rights Group Report: International Action Against Genocide)

It has become a matter of urgent importance that the United Nations Commission on Human Rights should act on the reports of Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists, the Lawasia Human Rights Standing Committee, the International Human Rights Law Group, and the United Kingdom Parliamentary Human Rights Group, on the gross and consistent violations of human rights in Sri Lanka and the present flagrant breaches of the international humanitarian law of armed conflict. We commend to each member of the Commission the words of David Selbourne in 1984 - words which retain their relevance and urgency today:

"...everyone who possesses an elementary sense of justice has no moral choice but to acquaint himself fully with the plight of the Tamil people. It is an international issue of growing importance. Their cause represents the very essence of the cause of human rights and justice; and to deny it, debases and reduces us all.."

We request the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to call upon the Sri Lankan government to respond to the peace initiative of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

We also request the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to send an investigation team to the North and East of Sri Lanka to report on all violations of human rights. Such a step by the Commission will serve to halt the blatant and persistent violations of human rights in Sri Lanka and to compel the parties to the conflict to respect fully the universally accepted rules of humanitarian law."

Statements by Government Delegations

"..The European Community is extremely concerned about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, in particular with respect to disappearances and extra-judicial executions. The Community welcomes the Sri Lankan authorities' decision to grant the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances access to its national territory in September 1991. We recognize the difficulties facing the Sri Lankan Government in coping with the civil war raging in the country. We are, however, alarmed by reports that death squads and other groups are indulging in extortion and killing. There have been allegations that these groups are organized by, or at the very least enjoy the tacit support of, the Sri Lankan authorities. The Twelve call on the Sri Lankan Government to respect human rights even in the course of operations to maintain peace and order. In this connection, the Twelve were disturbed by the way in which citizens wishing to submit documents of denunciation had been obstructed, in violation of Resolution 1990/76 of this Commission. Against this background, the Twelve condemn all intimidatory retaliatory measures against Sri Lankan citizens.

The Community welcomes the setting up by the Head of State or a special working party on human, rights and hopes that its work will produce concrete, objective results. The European Community calls on the Government of Sri Lanka to do everything in its power to ensure that the humanitarian activities of the ICRC and Medicins Sans Frontieres can be carried out under the best possible conditions..."

"...Sri Lanka has been beset by brutal insurgencies. Although the JVP -- which some observers have compared to Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge - was crushed by early 1990, violent Tamil separatists continue to wage a bloody guerrilla war against the Sri Lankan Government. Still, it is important to note that there have been human rights abuses by all parties to the conflict, including violations committed by government forces. The United States applauds the decision of the Sri Lankan Government to establish a human rights task force, and we commend its efforts to maintain communal harmony and promote military discipline while fighting a violent insurgency. Sri Lanka, a practicing democracy, must conduct vigorous investigations of extrajudicial killings and disappearances, and must bring those responsible to justice..."

"...Praise is due, and praise should be given by this Commission, to those Governments which have cooperated with the Working Group; especially, perhaps, to those Governments which have arranged visits by the Group to their countries. In this connection, we particularly welcome the projected visit by the Group to Sri Lanka, where the problem of disappearances has, unfortunately, been painfully acute and where one particularly blatant case, which occurred during last year's session of this Commission, has troubled many of us deeply. We look forward to the Working Group's report on that visit being before us next year..."

"...The report (of the Working Group on Disappearances) reserves quite a few pages for a situation that deservedly has preoccupied the Group for a number of years already. I am referring to the situation of disappearances in Sri Lanka. In fact, the whole of the human rights situation is of continuing concern to my Government. We appreciate that the Sri Lankan Government is co-operating with the Working Group and that a visit has been planned for the summer of this year. By contrast, in September last year, Sri Lankan authorities confiscated over 500 reports on disappearances as well as other documents and photographs which were supposed to be given to the Group. The Group rightly protested to this, while referring to resolution 1990/76, which as members are aware, not only deals with the question of access to human rights procedures but also with reprisals. Even though most of the documents were returned to the Group, the fact itself remains reprehensible. Hopefully, the Group's visit to the country will not be marred by any similar deficiencies..."

"...Canada is most perturbed that there has been no lessening of hostilities in Sri Lanka over the past year and that violence continues at a very high level. Little has been done by the government over the past year to apply new initiatives to resolving the situation. Canada deplores the continuing appalling human rights situation in which it is apparent that civilians have been indiscriminately bombed and attacked by government forces and by secessionist forces. We urge the Government of Sri Lanka to exert all possible efforts to bring about a cessation of fighting and to open a dialogue process leading to a negotiated settlement and a durable and equitable peace. Canada calls upon the government to ensure that it forces give serious respect to the safety and human rights of civilians, and that the distribution of food, medicine and shelter is in no way hindered...."

"..We welcome some recent developments, including the invitation to the Commission's Working Group on Disappearances to visit Sri Lanka, the setting up of an independent Commission of inquiry into missing persons and the appointment of a special task force to report direct to the President on violations of human rights. We hope these measures will be effective. We also hope for an early political settlement for Sri Lanka's problems, under which its people will be assured full enjoyment of their human rights. Australia will continue to take a close interest in the situation in Sri Lanka..."

"....Regarding Sri Lanka, my delegation is concerned over reports of extra-judicial execution and disappearances of its citizens. Although we are fully aware of the difficult political situation in the country, we call on the Government to make strenuous efforts to restore justice and social stability. In this respect, some commendable steps have been taken in Sri Lanka. Among others, we welcome the establishment of a Special Task Force to look into issues concerning protection and violations of human rights. We appreciate its agreement with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) under which the ICRC representatives visit prisons and other detention centers to observe their conditions. We are also aware of its dialogue with the Working Group of enforced or involuntary disappearances. However, we appeal to the Government of Sri Lanka to comply with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sri Lanka is a state party..."

"...In Sri Lanka the human rights situation in the North and East remains precarious.The most recent upsurge in the armed conflict is regrettable. We appeal to all parties and armed groups to show restraint and again seek a negotiated settlement to the conflict. In this respect we commend the government for having established a task force on human rights..."

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