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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Sri Lanka Accused at United Nations > UN Sub Commission 1992
UN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
48TH SESSIONS: JANUARY - MARCH 1992
- Statement of Chairman of Human Rights Commission
on behalf of all the member countries of the Commission, 27 February 1992
- Statement of International Educational Development " The Tamil population of the Northern and Eastern parts of the Island of Ceylon clearly meet the definition of "peoples" set out under international standards..."
- Statement made by Liberation "Arbitrary arrests, detention and disappearances continue to occur in the island of Sri Lanka. Most significant is the failure of the Sri Lankan government to accept responsibility for the human rights violations committed by its security forces, vigilante groups, home guards and other non-military groups such as Delta Force and the Special Force Brigade who have been armed and trained by the government and put into operation..."
- Statement by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom "...Recent promotions in the police force, in which certain officers linked to allegations of human rights abuses were granted promotions, lead us to fear that members of the security forces will continue to act in the belief that 'impunity' for their acts is assured..."
- Intervention by the Third World Movement against the Exploitation of Women under Agenda Item relating to gross violations of human rights, 27 February 1992 "It is ..our considered view that the government of Sri Lanka has failed to fulfil its obligations under the international covenants. Moreover given the scale and extent of the gross violations of human rights, we urge you to appoint a Special Rapporteur to report on the situation in Sri Lanka to the 49th Session of the Commission on Human Rights."
- Joint Statement by 25 Non Governmental Organisations, 27 February 1992 "...Summary executions and enforced disappearances have run into tens of thousands, and prolonged detentions without trial, torture and deaths in custody have become commonplace..."
- Oral Intervention by the World Council of Churches "The continuing and bloody tragedy of Sri Lanka is a source of anguish for the ecumenical community..."
- Oral Statement by Article 19, the International Centre Against Censorhip ''The Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (has concluded)... that over 1,000 disappearances were reportedly committed in 1991 by government or government supported forces, 40 of which were in the South. While a number of criminal cases were pending against members of the security forces, there was no evidence of any convictions for grave human rights violations committed in the course of counter insurgency operations... it is clear that these violations are only the tip of the iceberg and that various domestic procedures by which Sri Lankans may seek redress are virtually useless.''
- Statement of the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) ''In the North, in predominantly Tamil areas, civilians have been bombed and shelled. In April 1991, air raids, long range artillery shellings and helicopter strafings were launched against Karainagar, Kayts and Vavuniya, forcing 80,0000 civilians to flee to Jaffna. In October islands of Jaffna were carpet bombed and shelled by Chinese built fighter bombers... ICVA recommends that the Commission... prevail on Sri Lanka to act in accordance with the humanitarian law of armed conflict and to desist from arbitrary killings and aerial bombardment of civilians.''
- Statement of International Educational Development "...The Sri Lankan government, perhaps encouraged by international inaction, continues to wage a violent war against not just the LTTE but the Tamil civilian population.The government admits to the massacre of nearly 200 Tamil civilians in June 1991 in Batticaloa district. Schools and civilian centers continue to suffer indiscriminate aerial bombardments.."
- Statement by Mr.Ron Walker, Leader of the Australian Delegation, under Agenda Item 12 on the Question of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, 25 February 1992
- Statement by Ms. Anne Park, Head of the Delegation of Canada, under Agenda Item 12 on the Question of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, 25 February 1992
- Statement by the Government of Finland
- Statement by Nikolaus Scherk, Alternative Representative of Austria, under Agenda Item 12 on the Question of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, 25 February 1992
- Statement by the Government of Norway
- Statement by the Government of United Kingdom
- Statement by Ambassador Katsumi Sezaki, Representative of the Japanese Delegation under Agenda Item 12, 26 February 1992
- Statement by Amabassador Goncala de Santa-Clara Gomes, Head of Delegation of Portugal, on behalf of the European Community and its member States, under Agenda Item 12 on the Question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, 20 February 1992
- Press Release of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam "... The conclusion is inescapable that the Sri Lanka Government is engaged in a determined effort to starve out the Tamil people and bend them to its will..."
Statement by Chairman of Human Rights Commission
- on behalf of all the member countries of the Commission, on the Human Rights Situation in Sri Lanka , 27 February 1992
"I have been requested to make the following statement on behalf of the Commission.
The Commission acknowledges the measures taken by the government of Sri Lanka to address the human rights situation throughout the country, particularly the establishment of institutions and other mechanisms to monitor and inquire into reports of disappearances and other human rights violations, and that these measures have led to an improved human rights situation for the civilian population.
The Commission welcomes the full and valuable cooperation accorded by the government of Sri Lanka to the Working Group ion Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.
The Commission is, however, seriously concerned over the human rights situation in Sri Lanka indicated, inter alia, in the report of the Working Group (E/CN.4/1992/18/Add.1), particularly the large number of disappearances recorded by the Working Group, and concerned that, whilst there has been an overall decline, incidents of disappearance continue to be reported.
The Commission calls upon the government of Sri Lanka to further intensify its efforts to ensure the full protection of human rights and further calls upon all parties to respect fully the universally accepted rules of humanitarian law.
The Commission urges the government of Sri Lanka to continue to pursue a negotiated political solution with all parties, based on principles of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, leading to a durable peace in the north and the east of the country.
The Commission urges the government of Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations of the Working group, and expresses its satisfaction at the willingness of the government of Sri Lanka to take the necessary steps to implement the recommendations of the Working Group.
The Commission welcomes the decision of the government of Sri Lanka to invite the Working group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to again visit Sri Lanka for the purpose, inter alia, of evaluating the progress of the implementation of its recommendations during the course of 1992.
The Commission looks forward to considering the Working group's report of its follow-up visit to Sri Lanka at the 49th session of the Commission on Human Rights.
It is the wish of the Commission that this statement appear verbatim in the Report of the 48th session of the Commission on Human Rights."
Statement of International Educational Development
- under Agenda Item relating to the rights of peoples to self determination and its application to peoples under colonial or alien domination or foreign occupation, 31 January 1992
"International Educational Development has closely followed the events of the past year in which a number of new states were created due to the aspirations of their people to realize their self-determination. Recently, a number of governments have recognized the right of the peoples of Croatia and Slovenia to their independence and the full realization of self-determination. Western Sahara is now finally on the way to its realization of self-determination. The Baltic states now sit here as independent governments.
"All people have the rights to self-determination" declared the two Covenants of international human rights law. Our organization would like to emphasize the word ALL. This word does not mean that only certain peoples, such as those who are favourites of one government or another, have the right. This word does not mean that only white, Eastern Europeans have the right. This word does not mean that only those who fight for the right or only those that do not fight for the right have it. The word all means all.
A number of United Nations Resolutions indicate that the right to self-determination may be a prerequisite to the realization and enjoyment of all other human rights. We support this view. In the words of legal scholar Professor Chen, the right to self-determination is "an expression of human dignity [and indeed] is deeply rooted in the concept of human dignity."
He maintains that self-determination has as its heart the peoples' wish to be "active agents of their own history". Self-determination is the other side of the coin of democracy.
Regardless of the high esteem that the international community has afforded the right to self-determination in international instruments, the same international community has been reluctant to apply the principle or, most appallingly, has applied it in a biased way.
Part of the problem has been the natural tension that arises between peoples and governments - a number of governments, including those that no longer exist, have been threatened by the application of the principle to them. Some governments have tried to resolve tensions by suppressing them and the people in question. Self-determination threatens territorial integrity they claim.
But, as observes Elena Bonner, widow of Andrei Sakharov, the principle of territorial integrity should not be used as an excuse to suppress the legitimate demands of an indigenous population.
Another problem for the international community has been how to define "peoples". Most governments want to define peoples in a way that eliminates the application of self-determination to their territory. On this problem we have dispositive guidance from the International Court of Justice, which in the Western Sahara Case (I.C.J. Reports 1975) identified the elements of "people": subjective and objective factors coupled with a relationship to identifiable territory.
There are two situations which we would like to present which warrant discussion under this agenda item and which have generated discriminatory reactions: Sri Lanka.
The Tamil population of the Northern and Eastern parts of the Island of Ceylon clearly meet the definition of "peoples" set out under international standards.
And, most importantly, their relationship to their territory was specifically recognized by the government of Sri Lanka in the Bandaranayake-Chelvanayagam Pact. The Tamils have their own language, a religious and cultural basis distinct from the Sinhala majority, and increasingly, are united by a passionate yearning for autonomy if not independence from Sinhala domination. The intensity and urgency of their demand for their full self-determination has only increased under the Sri Lankan government's actions that threaten their very physical survival.
This Commission has heard compelling testimony on the gravity of human rights violations occurring against the Tamil peoples for years. In 1987, the Commission, in it's resolution 1987/61, took note of the evidence of human rights violations and called upon the parties to "pursue a negotiated political solution, based on principles of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms,"
There have been many tragic events in the Tamil-Sinhala conflict since then, and the Commission, though not its rapporteurs, has been silent, Now, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the military force defending the rights of the Tamil People, has again called for,a ceasefire and a process of negotiation in order to realize the rights of self-determination of both the Tamil and Sinhala peoples in a peaceful manner.
It appears that the government of Sri Lanka intends to continue to pursue a military victory over the Tamil people and their armed forces, and to go against the wise counsel of United States President Woodrow Wilson who stated that self-determination is an imperative principle of action which statesmen will henceforth ignore at their peril.
We call upon the Commission to heed these sage words and to place the legitimate call of the Tamil people for their self-determination on an equal basis that of others now recognized by the international community."
Statement made by Liberation
- under the Agenda Item relating to involuntary disappearances and detention
"Arbitrary arrests, detention and disappearances continue to occur in the island of Sri Lanka. Most significant is the failure of the Sri Lankan government to accept responsibility for the human rights violations committed by its security forces, vigilante groups, home guards and other non-military groups such as Delta Force and the Special Force Brigade who have been armed and trained by the government and put into operation.
The disappearances take place under the protection of Emergency Regulations and Prevention of Terrorism Act. An arrested person can be kept in detention without trial indefinitely .
In the South over 60,000 persons have disappeared for last few years by the action of the security forces and government sponsored armed groups. As recently as on 8.10.91 three Sinhalese youths have disappeared after being kept for some time at Thalawala detention camp. The modus operandi is clear.
The three youths were released and later in the night they were abducted by the same people who released them but in plain cloths. Unidentified 3 charred bodies were found in the jungle in Dikkapitiya, Welimada.
In another incident on 21.10.91 five youths were detained at Kituwala temporary detention camp at Kalutara. They were released and again abducted. One Kingsley Karunathilaka was killed, two have disappeared without any trace, another youth was warded at Nagoda hospital with injuries. Over 25,000 persons are kept incommunicado in detention camps like Boosa, Punani, Pelwatta and Thelavala. The conditions in the detention camps are deplorable. The essentials like Food, Clothing, Water, Sanitary Facilities and Medical attention are barely available.
In the Tamil homeland over 3,000 Tamils have disappeared in the government controlled areas, apart from arbitrary killings of over 10,000 people since June 1990. Most of them have been killed in a brutal manner and their bodies were set on fire.
After the government forces took control of a small island in the Jaffna peninsula, 210 Tamils have disappeared and 365 persons have been massacred. The bodies of some of the persons were dumped into wells and covered with manure and compost. Several women were carried away to army camps and raped. Death by torture in prisons is common in Sri Lanka.
Over hundreds of Tamil youths in the up country areas like Badula and Pasara have been arrested and kept incommunicado. The independent reports speak of torture during the time of interrogation of the youths.
In order to prevent the recurrence of these violations, the Sri Lankan government should;
(1) repeal the Emergency Regulation and Prevention of Terrorism Act:
(2) repeal the Indemnity Act that shields the perpetrators from prosecution.
(3) establish an independent commission of inquiry to look at the disappearances since 1983. The terms of reference and the level of resources to the commission should be adequate.
(4) ratify the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant On Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against torture and other cruel inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment."
Statement by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
"The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom would like to make use of this opportunity to focus attention on the situation in Sri Lanka, in view of the fact that the report of the visit of the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances to Sri Lanka is one of the documents that has been submitted to this gathering.
As you well know, in past years this Commission has directed its attention to the Sri Lankan case because of the many reports received by member states as well as by non-governmental organisations dedicated to the cause of human rights regarding the many abuses and violations of the basic human rights of the Sri Lankan people.
Last year, at the forty-seventh session of this Commission, the Sri Lankan government invited the United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances to visit Sri Lanka during the course of the year 1991 and we are happy to note that this visit has taken place.
However, the report submitted by the Working Group makes it clearer than ever that the battle for the restoration of peace and dignity to the Sri Lankan people is far from won.
As the report states, they have recorded an unprecedented number of over 12,000 cases of disappearances in Sri Lanka up to 1991; as paragraph 192 of the report says, this is by far the highest number ever recorded by the working group in its 12 years of existence.
Despite a dramatic lessening in the number of cases, 'disappearances' still, remain a daily phenomenon in Sri Lanka. In fact, on October 8, 1991, while the Working Group members were in Sri Lanka, three youths, ex-detainees, were abducted from their homes in the south-eastern province; their bodies were found burning by the roadside on October 9...
The State of Emergency and the Prevention of Terrorism Act, both pieces of legislation under which prolonged and incommunicado detention are permitted, still remain in place despite repeated appeals for their withdrawal.
In this connection, we welcome recommendation (e) of the report of the Working Group which demands that the Sri Lankan government bring its emergency regulations and the PTA into compliance with accepted international standards regarding due process and the treatment of prisoners.
We also welcome recommendation (d) which calls for the maintenance of registers of all detainees at all detention centres and for such registers to be made available to civilian authorities.
Although the Indemnity Act which secured protection from prosecution for state officials and members of the security forces for acts committed in 'good faith' formally lapsed in 1988, the dangerous precedent created by this enactment continues to provide members of the security forces with some degree of confidence that they may freely abuse and violate the civil and democratic rights of the Sri Lankan people.
Recent promotions in the police force, in which certain officers linked to allegations of human rights abuses were granted promotions, lead us to fear that members of the security forces will continue to act in the belief that 'impunity' for their acts is assured.
The independence of the judiciary and the freedom of the press are two further areas in which we believe confidence has to be restored if there is to be truly a move towards eliminating human rights abuses by the Sri Lankan government.
WILPF would also like to express its deep concern regarding the generalised state of militarisation in Sri Lanka...
Since the latest outbreak of war in June 1990, it is estimated that close to one thousand civilians have been killed as a direct result of the war, while over 1.7 million persons have been displaced from their homes in the north and east of the country where fighting is taking place.
These displaced persons have been living in conditions of utter degradation and below subsistence levels for over 18 months now, with little hope of returning to their homes. Attempts to restore peace and 'normalcy' to some towns in the east and north-central provinces have so far been restricted to very small geographical areas; the repatriation of Tamil refugees from South India in the past month has also been a cause for concern, given that the situation on the ground in the eastern province holds out no long-term possibilities for the re-settlement of refugees as yet.
The political violence that wracked the south of the island in the years from 1987 to 1989 also left over 20,000 women widowed and thousands of other families destitute. These women who have lost their husbands, fathers and sons to the death squads that roamed the country with impunity in those years are economically destitute, socially ostracised and emotionally and psychologically traumatised.
The Sri Lankan government, who, we believe, should bear responsibility for the wellbeing of all those persons who have been affected by the military conflict and political violence in the country, has yet to undertake any concrete steps to ensure at least basic facilities and services for these people.
Whether they come from south, north or east, whether they be Tamil, Sinhala or Muslim, the women of Sri Lanka have paid the most bitter price for the political conflicts that grip the island up to the present day.
And it is on their behalf that we address this appeal to the forty-eighth session of the UN Human Rights Commission.
We ask that the international community support a process whereby the parties to the conflict in Sri Lanka could move towards a negotiated political settlement of the ethnic conflict in the country through the involvement of an international mediatory body such as the Commonwealth.
We also ask that the Human Rights Commission take adequate measures to ensure that the recommendations of the UN Working Group are implemented byu the Sri Lankan government and that the necessary mechanisms for that purpose, including a second visit by the Working Group to Sri Lanka during the course of 1992 to monitor the implementation of their recommendations as well as the progress of the human rights situation in Sri Lanka are proposed and endorsed by this meeting.
We hope that the Sri Lankan government will continue to extend its cooperation to the UN Human Rights Commission and to all its agencies and thereby reaffirm its commitment to the basic principles of democracy and human rights that are enshrined in the Sri Lankan Constitution, and appeal to this meeting to ensure that the Sri Lankan government receives the suppport it needs to implement the decisions contained in the report of the UN Working Group on Disappearances."
Joint Statement by 25 Non Governmental Organisations, 27 February 1992, under Agenda Item relating to gross violations of human rights -
- consisting of the Third World Movement against the Exploitation of Women, Pax Romana,International Fellowship of Reconciliation, SOS Torture, World Conference on Religion and Peace International, International Movement for Fraternal Union Among Races and Peoples, World Confederation of Labour, Human Rights Advocates, World University Service, International Federation Terre Des Hommes, International Union of Students, Womens Internatioanl League for Peace and Freedom, Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples, American Association of Jurists, International Council of Jewish Women, International League for theRights and Liberation of Peoples, Union of Arab Jurists, Pax Christie International, Regional Council for Human Rights, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, International Movement of Mothers, Centre Europe-Tiers Monde, Habitat International Coalition, World Social Prospects Association, and International Federation of Rural Adult Catholic Movements.
"We ( the Third World Movement Against Exploitation of Women) would like to address the next part of our intervention to the case of gross violations of human rights in Sri Lanka on behalf of twenty-five (25) NGOs who are joint-signatories of this statement.
Sri Lanka has been ruled under a continuing State of Emergency declared in May 1983 under which many of the basic democratic rights and freedoms guaranteed by the country's Constitution have flagrantly been violated.
Summary executions and enforced disappearances have run into tens of thousands, and prolonged detentions without trial, torture and deaths in custody have become commonplace. These violations, together with callous disregard shown for the norms set by international human rights and humanitarian law in the presently ongoing armed conflict between government forces and the LTTE, in our view deserve urgent consideration and action by this Commission.
This commission has before it the benefit of one of the most comprehensive reports (Doc: E/CN.4/1992/18/Add.1) of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.
The report states, among other things, that the case of disappearances in Sri Lanka is the worst among 40 odd countries, that security forces have resorted to the tactic of "exemplary killing" to instill fear among the people, and that the security forces and "death squads" linked with the army have been responsible for most of the disappearances and killings...
Mr. Chairperson, we wish you to take serious note of the human cost of the ongoing armed conflict in the northeast between government forces and the LTTE in which thousands of civilians have perished and an estimated million people have been displaced.
Women have suffered most. In this conflict, government forces have resorted to a sustained campaign of indiscriminate aerial bombardment which has resulted in the tremendous loss of life and property. A virtual economic blockade has been in operation since June 1990, depriving the people of the north of essential supplies including food, medicine and fuel.
The Working Group noted that the Sri Lanka army came back to the northeast publicly vowing that the same strategy which they followed in the south in dealing with the JVP was going to be used in the northeast. This has led to mass killings and arrests, and to large-scale roundups of non-combatant Tamil civilians, including those in refugee camps. The Working Group has observed that many of those taken from refugee camps have later "disappeared".
As wives and mothers of the disappeared, as heads of households left without their breadwinners, as victims of rape and sexual harassment at the hands of hostile armed groups, the women of Sri-Lanka, Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala have been the worst affected by the gross and flagrant violations of human rights taking place in the country
Mr. Chairperson, in our view the conditions which permit the occurrence of the persistent violations of the human rights of not only the womenfolk but of all the Sri Lankan people continue to exist. Among them are:
- the continuing state of emergency under which the security forces are afforded virtually unlimited powers of arrest and detention
- the impunity with which the government forces are allowed to operate;
- the readiness with which the government uses the situation of conflict to curb many of the basic rights and freedoms of the people including media personnel political opponents and human rights activists on the alleged ground of national security; and
- the totally inadequate measures adopted by the government of Sri Lanka to deal with violators of human rights.
Mr. Chairperson, in this context, we believe that the ending of the military conflict in Sri Lanka.. is an essential first step towards restoring respect for human rights in these countries.
In the case of Sri Lanka, we call upon the parties to the conflict in the northeast to respect all norms of international humanitarian law, and call upon this Commission to use its good offices to urge the parties to effect an immediate cease-fire and enter into meaningful negotiations to settle the conflict.
It is also our considered view that the government of Sri Lanka has failed to fulfil its obligations under the international covenants.
Moreover given the scale and extent of the gross violations of human rights, we urge you to appoint a Special Rapporteur to report on the situation in Sri Lanka to the 49th Session of the Commission on Human Rights.
Finally Mr. Chairperson, we further urge the Commission to look into the plight of women in the areas of armed conflicts."
Oral Intervention by the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches
"The continuing and bloody tragedy of Sri Lanka is a source of anguish for the ecumenical community. The World Council of Churches has sent a number of missions there, and made staff visits to the country. We are fully aware of the complexities in the confrontation between the government and those calling for regional autonomy in the North and East...
The report of the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances has added weight to our own information of the continuing pattern of gross violations of human rights by the Sri Lankan government. Therefore, we support moves to arrange for a second visit of the Commission Working Group to Sri Lanka. This is the very least that should be done. We urge that the Commission further demonstrate its concern by the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on Sri Lanka.
We also draw the attention of the Commission to the recent repatriation of 3,000 Tamil refugees from India to Sri Lanka. In view of the continuing instability around Trincomalee and opposition of the LTTE, we believe the resettlement processes should be closely monitored and that future repatriations, which the Indian Government has so far declined to allow the United Nations to monitor, should be strictly voluntary."
Statement of the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA)
The continuing horrific and vicious communal war in Sri Lanka and the failure of the internationa1 community to secure the protection of basic rights in that country is a matter of deep concern to ICVA.
Grave human rights abuses have continued in Sri Lanka over the last 12 months, perpetrated both by the Sri Lankan Government, now a member of this Commission, and by the LTTE. These violations are concentrated in the areas of conflict, particularly the Northern and Eastern Provinces, but occur in other parts of the island as veil. The incidence of disappearances in both the south and the northeast has reached alarming levels and has affected all communities, including the Muslim community. Large scale extrajudicial. executions have occurred. Even human rights defenders such as lawyers and clergy suffer these unpardonable abuses. In the north, in predominantly Tamil areas, civilians have been bombed and shelled. In April 1991, air-raids, long-range artillery shellings and helicopter strafings were launched against Karainagax, Kayts and Vavuniya, forcing some 80,000 civilians to flee to Jaffna. In October, islands of Jaffna were carpet-bombed and shelled by Chinese-built fighter bombers.
The appalling human rights situation, in Sri Lanka should receive the full attention of this Commission, in the interests both of the Sri Lankan people and the, credibility of the Commission itself. Ssteps taken by Sri Lanka to address the situation, including a visit by the Commission's Working Group on Disappearances, are welcome but clearly not adequate. ICVA recommends that the Commission:
1. condemn the murderous abuse of human rights in Sri Lanka by both the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE;. .
2. prevail on Sri Lanka to act in accordance with the humanitarian law of aimed conflict and to desist from arbitrary killings and aerial bombardment of civilians;
3. urge the Sri Lankan Government 'and the LTTE to cease fire and to negotiate a permanent solution to the conflict respectful of the legitimate aspirations and rights, of the Tain7il people;
4.. take concrete steps to implement the ~recommendations of the report of the Working Group on Disappearances;.
5. direct the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions to visit Sri Lanka and report' on the situation;
6. urge governments and arms suppliers to cease supplying anus and military equipment to both protagonists in the conflict.
Statement of International Educational Development
Another country in a civil war situation is Sri Lanka. IED has commented for several years on the armed conflict between the government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In our view, a large cause of the gross violations of human rights in Sri Lanka has been linked to that conflict. The Sri Lankan government, perhaps encouraged by international inaction, continues to wage a violent war against not just the LTTE but the Tamil civilian population.
The government admits to the massacre of nearly 200 Tamil civilians in June 1991 in Batticaloa district. Schools and civilian centers continue to suffer indiscriminate aerial bombardments.
Since August 1991, the government's The Emergency (Restriction on Transport of Articles) Regulations No. 1 forbids transport of inter alia printing paper, printing machines, surgical equipment, medicines, school bags, soy-based food and soap to the Tamil areas. These acts constitute grave breaches of humanitarian law. Needless to say, the nearly one million persons in the North and East jammed into welfare centers and refugee camps suffer terribly due to the government's continued reliance on the Army to address long-standing differences with the Tamil people and their leaders.
The Commission has not taken action on the situation of Sri Lanka since 1987.
Since that time, the atrocities against the Tamil people have escalated dramatically. Since that time, the people may have lost any acceptance of Sinhala rule and indeed have a clear case for self-determination based on historical reality and on the persistent refusal of the Sinhala majority to address aspirations and goals of the Tamil people within the context of national integrity. Since that time, the Sri Lankan government has been on the rampage, not only against the Tamil people, but also against Sinhala opponents in the South. Since that time, the cases of disappearances have grown from 136 to 2879 in 1989 and 1576 in 1990, as set out in the excellent-report of the Working Group on Disappearances (E/CN.4/1992/18/Add.1). And these are only cases brought to the attention of the Working Group. These findings support what we have been reporting, but only look to one issue out of the many.
The Commission cannot fail the people of Sri Lanka yet again. We urge the Commission to call upon the government and the LTTE to agree to international mediation with an aim to settling the armed conflict within the context of human rights and self-determination. We urge the Commission to appoint a Rapporteur to investigate the situation of human rights in Sri Lanka as a whole.
Statement by Mr.Ron Walker, Leader of the Australian Delegation, 25 February 1992
"The great majority of the Working Group's caseload is of disappearances which have occurred in Sri Lanka. It is especially disturbing to learn that although the Sri Lankan Government has introduced a number of recent measures to monitor and inquire into disappearances in that country, disappearances on a large scale in the North-East continue to be reported to the Working Group.... The scale of the problem demands further action by the Sri Lankan authorities and warrants scrutiny by this Commission."
Statement by the Government of Finland
"..The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has in its extensive report on Sri Lanka noted the complexity of the country's social structure in which the seeds of the present violence are embedded. As Sri Lanka ranks as number one on the list of countries where enforced or involuntary disappearances have occurred, the government is urged to take effective measures to prevent them."
Statement by Ms. Anne Park, Head of the Delegation of Canada, under Agenda Item 12 on the Question of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, 25 February 1992
"Canada remains deeply concerned about the situation ion Sri Lanka. We welcome recent actions of the Government of Sri Lanka which appear to signal a willingness to address a number of human rights issues, including the establishment of the Parliamentary Select Committee on the northeast conflict. However, despite these positive signs, much remains to be done to address the continuing serious level of human rights abuses - and in particular the high level of disappearances - resulting from the actions of the police and military armed groups. A durable peace in Sri Lanka can only be achieved through dialogue and negotiation which recognizes the legitimate rights and aspirations of all Sri Lankans, regardless of ethnic background or religion. The international community needs to take more notice of the situation in Sri lanka, and encourage the efforts being made by the Sri lanka government to address it."
Statement by Nikolaus Scherk, Alternative Representative of Austria, under Agenda Item 12, 25 February 1992
"The situation of human rights in Sri Lanka has gravely deteriorated over recent years, due to armed insurgencies and ethnic strife. The recording by the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances of up to 12,000 cases of disappearances since 1983 and of over 1,000 such cases in 1991 is indeed cause for serious concern. Our gratitude goes to the members of the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances who, once again supplied us with a comprehensive general report and, furthermore, with a detailed presentation of the alarming situation in Sri Lanka.... we cannot but join in the appeal expressed by the members of the group to the Government of Sri Lanka to take more effective measures to prevent disappearances, to pursue their clarification more rigorously, to encourage more official condemnation of this practice and, finally, to protect witnesses and relatives of disappeared persons against any form of intimidation or reprisal."
Statement by the Government of Norway
"My delegation has carefully studied the report of the Working group on Sri Lanka. The human rights situation in that country still gives reason for serious concern. Although disappearances were less frequent in 1991 than in previous years and also seem to have been decreasing throughout the year, the number is still alarmingly high... We urge the Government of Sri Lanka to take even further action, as recommended by the Working Group."
Statement by the Government of United Kingdom
The Working Group on Disappearances has again produced an excellent report, based on a serious and methodical study and reinforced by an invaluable statistical analysis... It is clear - and this Commission must not shirk its duty to say so - that there have been some appalling violations of human rights in Sri Lanka in recent years, with disappearances playing a prominent part in them.
Statement by Ambassador Katsumi Sezaki, Representative of the Japanese Delegation under Agenda Item 12, 26 February 1992
My delegation welcomes the full and valuable cooperation which the Government of Sri Lanka extended to the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances when they visited Sri Lanka in October 1991.It also appreciates the positive measures the Government of Sri Lanka took to improve the situations of human rights which included the recent establishment of several institutions to monitor and inquire into human rights, an invitation to the afore-mentioned Working Group of the Commission on Human Rights in October 1 991 , and the decision to accept a large number of recommendations made by Amnesty International in November 1991.
However, my delegation shares concern with other members of the Commission over reported disappearances, detentions and arbitrary executions. My delegation understands the difficulties the Government of Sri Lanka faces to solve the human rights violations due to military and political causes in Sri Lanka.
My delegation hopes that the Government of Sri Lanka will strengthen its efforts to ensure human rights by, for example, accepting the recommendations of the Working Group and addressing the problems relating to the fulfillment of obligations under the Covenants on Human Rights to which Sri Lanka is a party. And, at the same time, we appeal to all parties and groups in Sri Lanka to respect human rights.
Statement by Ambassador Goncala de Santa-Clara Gomes, Head of Delegation of Portugal, on behalf of the European Community and its member States, under Agenda Item 12 on the Question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, 20 February 1992
I have the honour to address the Commission on Human Rights on behalf of the European Community and its Members States on item 12 of its agenda. As the Under-Secretary General for Human Rights, Mr. Jan Martensori, said on the opening of this session "we are witnessing what. could be referred to as a worldwide Human Rights revolution"...
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights remind us that "it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law". Indeed, we cannot forget that tensions and conflicts arising from flagrant and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in one country or in a specific region are often also a threat to international peace and security on grounds of allegedly subversive activities, including human rights defenders...
Although the human rights situation in Sri Lanka has improved the European Community and its Member States remain deeply concerned about the ongoing civil strife in the Northern and the Eastern parts of the country, and about continued reports of numerous killings and disappearances. The Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances has recorded over twelve thousand disappearances since 1983. Although we recognize the difficulties facing the Sri Lankan authorities in coping with civil strife, we remain seriously concerned about the persistence of impunity in regard to those responsible for killings and disappearances and urge the Sri Lankan Government to bring them to justice. We condemn the use of violence by the LTTE.
We strongly urge the Government of Sri Lanka to adopt all necessary measures to ensure that human rights are fully respected. We welcome the authorization given to the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to visit the country and we hope that its recommendations will be fully implemented.
Press Release of International Secretariat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
- titled 'LTTE secures rule of law in Tamil homeland' circulated on 3 February 1992
"The International Secretariat of the LTTE has taken note of the observations in the Sri Lanka Amnesty Report of September 1991, and in the recent report by the Working Group on Disappearances of United Nations Commission on Human Rights as well as the concerns of some other non governmental organisations, about violations of human rights, in areas within the control of the Sri Lanka government and to a lesser extent in areas within the control of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
In so far as the alleged violations of human rights in areas within the control of the LTTE are concerned, we would like to point out, at the outset, that whilst it is true that the LTTE is in control of territory in the Northeast, the extent and nature of that control is not the same in all parts of the Northeast. In some of the areas, the control exercised by the LTTE is not exclusive and in certain areas, control changes from day to night - and sometimes from day to day. Further, even in those areas within the control of the LTTE, the character of the control exercised by a guerilla organisation, which is in the process of establishing an administrative structure, cannot be equated to the control exercised in a well established state structure, such as Sri Lankan state, in areas within the latter's control.
The reality on the ground is that the lawful armed struggle of the Tamil people is taking place under conditions of unbelievable hardship. On the one hand the Sri Lanka Army seeks to occupy the Tamil homeland by launching offensive operations and planned massacres of civilians, which has assumed genocidal proportions. The Air Force continues with its indiscriminate bombardment. On the other hand, an economic blockade has been imposed to secure military ends. Again, emergency regulations which prohibit the transport of 'soya based food, sweets and confectionery' to LTTE controlled areas on the ground that such items are 'capable of being used in a manner harmful to national security' have been stringently enforced. The conclusion is inescapable that the Sri Lanka Government is engaged in a determined effort to starve out the Tamil people and bend them to its will.
Well armed Sinhala settlers have been brought into border areas and housed in fortified settlements. Sinhala and Muslim 'Home Guards' have been trained and armed by the Government and function as a para military force. The attacks by the LTTE on these para military forces and armed settlers are then sometimes falsely described as attacks on 'civilians'. Some Tamil groups are actively engaged along with the Government forces and have been sent to infiltrate the areas within LTTE control and gather intelligence and it has become necessary to apprehend such spies.
However, despite these conditions of hardship, in several areas the LTTE has succeeded in establishing a stable civil administration and helped to provide the necessary infra structure for agriculture, fishing and small scale industrial activities. Education and cultural activities have also been cared for.
Adequate law enforcement machinery has been put in place. Prisons have been established. Prison guards have been recruited. Prisoners will be permitted visits by relatives and by human rights and humanitarian organisations. Prisoners are kept in custody under conditions which accord with both local and international law and they will at all times be treated humanely.
In June last year, a Tamil Eelam Police force started functioning. The Tamil Eelam Police headed by its Chief of Police, Mr.Nadesan, is responsible for the maintenance of law and order in the Tamil homeland. The police force includes both men and women. The main office of the Tamil Eelam Police is situated in Jaffna and six other branch police stations, including one at Chunnakam have been established. Complaints made by individuals are investigated and action taken according to law.
The rule of law will be secured in the Tamil homeland. The LTTE has taken steps to ensure that the fundamental principles of natural justice are followed in all matters relating to punishment. Permanent courts and tribunals for administering justice are in the process of being set up. Persons arrested for committing a crime will be entitled to a fair trial in accordance with international legal standards.
In 1988, the LTTE pledged to abide by the Geneva Conventions relating to armed conflict, and its Additional Protocols. The LTTE is mindful of its obligations as a combatant in an armed conflict which has won recognition in international law and the LTTE does recognise the importance of acting, at all times, in accordance with the humanitarian law of armed conflict. It has taken care to instruct its cadres accordingly and breaches in this regard are inquired into and suitable punishment meted out."