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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Sri Lanka Accused at United Nations > UN Commission on Human Rights 1998
UN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
54th SESSIONS: MARCH 1998
- Statement by the Indian National Committee for Solidarity with Eelam Tamils of Sri Lanka
- submitted by Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer and ten Indian Members of Parliament
- Statement by Liberation
- Agenda Item 7 on " The right of peoples to self-determination and its application to peoples under colonial or alien domination or foreign occupation"
- Statement by International Educational Development
- Agenda Item 7 on " The right of peoples to self-determination and its application to peoples under colonial or alien domination or foreign occupation"
- Statement by North-South XXI
- Agenda Item on "Migrant Workers, Minorities and Elimination of Religious Discrimination
- Report of the Special Rapporteur on Torture & Other Degrading Punishment
- Agenda Item 8 on " Question of the human rights of all persons subjected to any form of detention or imprisonment, in particular: (a) Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment "
- Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
- Agenda Item 8 on " Question of the Human Rights of all Persons subjected to any form of detention or imprisonment in particular the Question of enforced or involuntary disappearances"
- Statement by Asian Cultural Forum on Development
- Agenda Item 8 on "Freedom of expression and the Question of the Human Rights of all persons subjected to any form of detention or imprisonment
- Statement by Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
- Agenda Item 8 on "The Question of the Human Rights of all persons subjected to any form of detention or imprisonment
- Statement by International Educational Development
- Agenda Item 9 on Displaced Peoples
- Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
- Agenda Item 10 on the " Question of the violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms with particular reference to colonial and other dependent countries and territories"
- Written statement by Nord-Sud XXI titled 'Obstacles to Conflict Resolution in Sri Lanka'
- Agenda Item 10 on the " Question of the violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms with particular reference to colonial and other dependent countries and territories" submitted
- Joint Written Statement by 54 Non Governmental Organisations
- Agenda Item 10 on the " Question of the violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms with particular reference to colonial and other dependent countries and territories"
- Statement by Ambassador Audrey Glover, CMG, Head of Delegation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on behalf of the European Union (EU) on 14 April 1988
- Agenda Item 10 on the " Question of the violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms with particular reference to colonial and other dependent countries and territories"
- Comment by tamilnation on Statement by Ambassador Glover CMG, Head of Delegation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on behalf of the European Union (EU) on 14 April 1988
- Statement by Humanitarian Law Project
- Response to Intervention by European Union - 14 April 1988
- Statement by Sri Lanka Ambassador S. Palihakkara, Leader of the Delegation of Sri Lanka
- Agenda Item 10 on the " Question of the violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms with particular reference to colonial and other dependent countries and territories" on 15 April 1998
- Statement by International Educational Development
- Agenda Item 12 on "Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance"
- Memorandum submitted by Tamil Centre for Human Rights
- addressed to Chairman & Members of UN Commission on Human Rights - 16 March 1998
- Situation Report on Sri Lanka
- presented by Tamil Centre for Human Rights
- Written Statement by International Educational Development
- Agenda Item 7 on " The right of peoples to self-determination and its application to peoples under colonial or alien domination or foreign occupation" - 14 April 1998
Statement by the Indian National Committee for Solidarity with Eelam Tamils of Sri Lanka
submitted by Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer and ten Indian Members of Parliament, March 25, 1998
Respected Members of the Commission
We the committee for Solidarity with Eelam Tamils of Sri Lanka wish to record our condemnation of the serious human rights violations by the Sri Lanka government and its security forces amounting to genocide, and express our disappointment at the virtual silence of the international community, barring a few exceptions.
As you are no doubt aware, there is a war going on in Sri Lanka between the Sri Lankan government, representing the Sinhala nation and the Tamil militants (LTTE) representing the Tamil nation which is fighting a war of liberation. The Sri Lankan government, whose security forces are almost all Sinhalese, has been responsible for indiscriminate bombing, shelling, and strafing of Tamil areas causing immense loss of civilian life, limb and property. Since 1983, over 50,000 Tamil civilians have been killed resulting in tens of thousands of widows and orphans. It has also resorted to indiscriminately arresting, torturing, raping and killing of Tamils. It has used rape, food and medicines as weapons of war. The embargo on food and medicines, which has been in force since 1990, has only been partially lifted.
We enclose as Annexure I, a copy of the main resolution passed at the International Convention for Solidarity with Eelam Tamils of Sri Lanka held in New Delhi on December 14 1997, which gives you a background to the problem, what is happening in Sri Lanka and an appeal to the world governments and the world community for action. The convention was attended by persons from various states of India and from a number of countries. Speakers at the convention included those from Australia, France and Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan security forces have a long history of serious human rights violations. A recently released report by the UN Working Group on Disappearances states that Sri Lanka with a total of 11,513 disappearances ranks second highest in the world. The violations of human rights have been documented in many reports such as by Amnesty International, Asia Watch, International Commission of Jurists, US Committee for Refugees, etc.
The Sri Lanka Country Report on Human Rights Practices released by the US Department of State on January 30 1998 mentioned several human rights violations. Extracts from it enclosed as Annexure II.
In a speech made at the Delhi Convention referred to earlier, Mr. J. Pararajasingham MP (for the Batticaloa district of the Northeast Province of Sri Lanka) and leader of the Tamil United Liberation Front Parliamentary group listed several human rights violations against the Tamils. A copy of his speech is enclosed as Annexure III.
In a report of February 2, 1998, Mr. Jack Arthey, Head of Christian Aid's South Asia Team, who visits Sri Lanka regularly and engages in doing refugee relief work there through 7 NGOs refers to the health crisis in Vanni as deeply disturbing. The report states that there is severe malnutrition and alarming health problems among the internal refugees of some 700,000. Night blindness strikes children and there is a high incidence of diseases such as malaria, typhoid and scabies. Hookworm infection and anaemia are common among the pregnant women. Maternity clinics are few, the roads poor, and there is no available means of transport.
Where hospital exists, one doctor is often seeing 1,200 patients a day, states the report. Essential drugs are unavailable, or outdated and ineffective as medicines are among items restricted or banned under a government embargo.
The National Peace Council of Sri Lanka, consisting of eminent Sinhalese and Tamil non-political leaders stated recently that, because of the government embargo on food and medicine stated recently that, because of the government embargo on food and medicine "the situation is both desperate and tragic, more so because it appears to be the result of deliberate policy." The Peace Council confirms the findings of Christian Aid and adds Tuberculosis to the list of diseases. Out of a sampling of 36,500 fever patients, 40% were found to have malaria, and of this 14% had brain damaging cerebral malaria. Third degree malnutrition, beyond which level children develop distended stomachs, expanded livers and skinny frames, was found to be around 40% in the Mullaitivu district of Vanni. The report states that, "the denial of basic needs of food, medicine and housing materials is morally unacceptable in a civilised society."
Despite the serious human rights violations, not one person responsible has been convicted. Most perpetrators continue in their previous positions or have been promoted, some to top leadership jobs in the security forces. As pointed out in the US State Department's report, "their attitudes and practices have been slow to change." Court cases proceed very slowly and in some cases prosecution officials failed to be present during court proceedings. Reports of Commissions of Inquiry into violations have not been made public. Because of these factors human rights continue to be violated with impunity.
The above mentioned facts have been concealed to the outside world through restrictions on visits by media and other observers, both local and foreign, to Tamil areas. Many NGOs have been banned from operating and providing medical and food relief in these areas. Most recently a law was enacted to enable the government to monitor the activities of NGOs and permit its officials to visit the offices and attend meetings of the NGOs.
The culpability of the government of Sri Lanka for these violations of international laws is even more when account is taken of the impunity it has given to the perpetrators.
The international community has, for far too long, accepted the assurance of the Sri Lanka government to improve its poor human rights record, blaming it on a few 'bad apples' in the security forces. It is clear that the government promises count for little. We believe strongly that it is time for the international community to take a firm stand against the violations of human rights.
We are appreciative of the candid assessment by the U.S. of violations in its report on Sri Lanka for 1997. We wish to point out that India and the United Kingdom have a special responsibility in this regard in view of their historical ties to the victims. We appeal to them and other world government to pressurise the Sri Lankan government to take the actions mentioned at the end of the resolution in Annexure I.
Signed by Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, Chairman
Ten MPs of MDMK & Samata Party
Statement by Liberation
490 Kingsland Road, London E8 4AE, Tel: 254 6223
- - Agenda Item on " The right of peoples to self-determination and its application to peoples under colonial or alien domination or foreign occupation"
The Tamil people have lived from ancient times within relatively well defined geographical boundaries in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka, they share an ancient heritage, a vibrant culture, and a living language which traces its origins to more than 2500 years ago. They have, in addition, acquired a subjective political consciousness of oneness, by their life together in their traditional homeland and by their struggle against oppressive alien Sinhala rule and they constitute a 'people with the right to self determination.
In the island of Sri Lanka, the struggle of the Tamil people for self determination arose in response to decades of oppressive alien Sinhala rule and as a result of successive Sinhala dominated Sri Lanka governments dishonouring agreements, such as the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam Pact of 1957 and the Dudley Senanayake - Chelvanayagam Agreement of 1965, solemnly entered into with Tamil parliamentary parties.
In August 1995, 19 non governmental organisations submitted a joint written statement at the 47" Sessions of the UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities stating:
"During the past twelve years, the UN Commission on Human Rights and the Sub Commission have heard hundreds of statements expressing grave concern at the situation prevailing in the island of Sri Lanka. The record shows that it was the oppressive actions of successive Sri Lanka governments from as early as 1956 and in 1958, and again in 1961 and again with increasing frequency from 1972 to 1977 and culminating in the genocidal attacks of 1983 that resulted in the rise of the lawful armed resistance of the Tamil people."
In March 1997, 53 non governmental organisations Made a joint oral statement at the 53 Sessions of the UN Commission on Human Rights:
"....To end the Sri Lanka - Tamil Eelam war and to provide meaningful international support to secure the aspirations of the Tamil People we urge the Commission to adopt a resolution:
1. Calling upon the Government of Sri Lanka to cease all military operations against the Tamil civilian population, to withdraw the occupying forces from the Tamil Home land lift the economic blockade in the north and east, and to allow humanitarian aid;
2. Calling on both parties to the conflict to secure a political solution to the conflict which recognises the right of the Tamil people to determine their political status and the need to assure full human rights of all persons in Sri Lanka."
The war that Sri Lanka is waging against the Tamil people who are struggling to assert their right to self determination is unlawful and unjust and the recent withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechenya draws attention to the urgent, imperative need for Sri Lanka to withdraw its military forces from the Tamil homeland and advance a meaningful peace process.
Long ago in its resolution 1983/16, the Sub-Commission expressed deep concern over the communal violence in the island. Three years later, the Commission, in its resolution 1987/61, called upon the parties to the conflict "to respect fully the universally accepted rules of humanitarian law" and appealed at the Government of Sri Lanka to allow humanitarian activities.
We urge the Commission to adopt a resolution:
- call upon the government of Sri Lanka to Recognise the Right of the Tamil people self-determination
- and find a political solution to the inter-national armed conflict
International Educational Development
8124 West Third Street-Suite 105, Los Angeles, California 90048,
Phone: (213) 653-6583 Fax: (213) 653-2741
- - Agenda Item on " The right of peoples to self-determination and its application to peoples under colonial or alien domination or foreign occupation"
"As we show in the 1998 edition of our annual review of the world's wars, viable self-determination claims are a substantial factor in 17 of today's 34 major wars. Self-determination claims are also made in nearly half of the 20 near-wars. In his preface to our 1997 review, Lord Avebury cited former secretary-general Perez de Cuellar's Agenda for Peace (1992) in which Mr. Perez de Cuellar stressed the need to identify at the "earliest possible stages" situations that could lead to war and to "engage in peacemaking aimed at resolving the issues that have led to the conflict" when a war is already at hand. Lord Avebury noted the "still no coherent framework of policies to deal with [these] matters."
A glaring failure of the international community to address the role of self-determination in so many wars may be part of the reason for the absence of a framework. And the failure to even address self-determination may be a result of an extreme current tendency to reduce self-determination to political whims of the member states rather than afford it its proper due as a forceful, viable legal and factual basis of so many of the wars.
In our view, it is foolhardy to attempt to stifle viable claims through a rigid, glaringly political stance. We applaud secretary-general Kofi Annan's statement of 6 February 1998: "there is no formula which should be imposed" in addressing self-determination. The reality of the wars in Sri Lanka, East Timor, the Israeli Occupied Territories (including Southern Lebanon), Turkey and the tinderbox situations in Chechnya, the Moluccas, Burma, Cyprus, and now Kosovo are already taking their toll. Failure to address these in light of the viable claims of self-determination involved in each case will guarantee a failure to resolve them.
Yet it is even more foolhardy, if not totally inept to fail to address today self-determination claims that were made and accepted by the United Nations years ago but that become side-tracked due to political manoeuvres. The situation in Kashmir is a prime example. Beginning in 1949 the United Nations promised the people of Kashmir the right to determine their political future by means of a plebiscite under United Nations auspices. That plebiscite has not taken place, despite efforts by the United Nations in the early 1950s to ensure that it would. Does any member of the Commission or indeed any one in this room seriously think that the people of Kashmir will forget the promises made by the United Nations and abandon their claim to self-determination merely because India has 700,000 troops occupying their territory in direct defiance of the United Nations Security Council?
The United Nations also set up a process under its auspices to address the dissolution of the former Netherlands East Indies. The United Nations Commission on Indonesia and its predecessor "Good Offices" commission were part of the process leading to the Round Table Conference agreement whereby the component parts of what was to become the United States of Indonesia had the right to opt-out in light of the principle of self-determination. The Moluccas opted out in 1950; Acheh never agreed to be part. Indonesia invaded independent Republik Maluku Selatan and has sought to annex it ever since. The Moluccans have resisted since, and now have formed governments in exile. The Acheh people have also resisted since that time. Perhaps Indonesia's illegal seizure and annexation of East Timor in 1975/76 was a result of the failure of the international community to come to the aid of the Moluccans and Acheh people: Indonesia thought it could get away with it, and as of today, it has. It is not unreasonable to think that other situations -- the illegal seizure and occupancy of part of the Republic of Cyprus for example -is also due to the glaring failures with Kashmir and with territories seized by Indonesia.
The uneven work of the United Nations regarding self-determination has caused senseless prolongation of many crises. For example, the right of the Tibetan people to self-determination was recognised by the General Assembly in 1959/60. This is now 1998 and China still occupies Tibet.
Secretary-General Annan's call for flexibility in addressing self-determination as well as a cohesive and unpoliticized will of the member states of the United Nations could go a long way to resolving these many wars.. The importance of the role of racism in many situations will have to be addressed in order to reach dependable solutions. For example, the racism inherent in the situation in Sri Lanka must be addressed as part of an over-all peace process. Some situations will require complete independence, others a confederation or other structure that provides sufficient guarantees for effected populations. Even in Sri Lanka, for example, it may be possible to obtain agreements between the Tamil people and the Sinhala government as has been suggested recently by LTTE leader Pirabaharan. The agreement between Russia and Chechnya granting Chechnya autonomy and providing for final determination of political status by the end of the year 2000 may prove a useful model for Sri Lanka.
The Commission on Human Rights should play a much larger role in the seeking solutions to wars involving self-determination claims. We urge the Commission, in conjunction with the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary-general, to establish a permanent mediation group as one step.
Statement by North-South XXI
- Agenda Item on "Migrant Workers, Minorities and Elimination of Religious Discrimination, 30 March 1998
JOAQUIN MBOMIO, of North-South XXI, said discrimination against certain religious communities continued in Sri Lanka: some 1,800 Hindu temples had been destroyed by Sri Lanka's military, and several Hindu priests had been arrested during the course of the war. In addition, there had been reports of Catholic and Protestant places of worship being destroyed and Christian priests being taken into custody. This targeting of non-Buddhist places of worship, and arrests and murder of priests underscored the pivotal role played by militant Buddhism in Sri Lanka's conflict; this clear case of religious discrimination and intolerance had first come into being shortly after Sri Lanka's independence. On 25 January this year, just ten days before the 50th anniversary of Sri Lanka's independence, the Buddhist shrine known as the Temple of the Tooth and of great symbolic value to the militant Buddhists had been bombed, and among the 13 people killed it was reported that there were three kamakazi bombers belonging to the Tamil rebel army. North-South XXI condemned the bombing of places of worship by all parties in the Sri Lankan conflict. (UNCHR Press Release, 30 March 1998)
Report of the Special Rapporteur on Torture, Mr. Nigel S. Rodley
- submitted pursuant to Commission on Human Rights resolution 1997/38 - Agenda Item 8 - Question of the Human Rights of all Persons subjected to any form of detention or imprisonment, in particular: Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment - Addendum - Summary of cases transmitted to Governments and replies received (E/CN.4/1998/38/Add.1 - 24 December 1997)
In a letter of 10 July 1997, the Special Rapporteur transmitted allegations concerning the cases summarised below.
On 17 March 1997, Velan Rasamma and her sister, Velan Vasantha, were allegedly raped repeatedly at their home in Mayilampaveli Colony, Batticaloa district, by four soldiers from the Mayilampaveli army camp who were said to have forced their way into the home. Complaints were made to the local police at Eravut and the Joint Operations Commander.
Murugesupillai Koneswary was reportedly subjected to harassment by officers of the Central Camp police station after she had made a complaint that the officers had stolen timber from her residence in 11th Colony village. On 17 May, persons believed to be police officers allegedly entered her home and raped her, after which they threw a grenade at her genitals, which resulted in her death. An inquiry reportedly ordered by the President of Sri Lanka into the alleged rape and killing was said to be under way by the Criminal Investigation Department.
Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
- Agenda Item 8 on "The Question of the Human Rights of all persons subjected to any form of detention or imprisonment (E/CN.4/1998/43 - 12 January 1998)
341. During the period under review, the Working Group transmitted 695 newly reported cases of disappearances to the Government of Sri Lanka, 77 of which reportedly occurred in 1997; nine were sent under the urgent action procedure.
342. Since the establishment of the Working Group in 1980, 12,208 cases of disappearance alleged to have occurred in Sri Lanka have been reported to the Working Group. The cases occurred in the context of two major sources of conflict in that country: the confrontation of Tamil separatist militants and government forces in the north and north-east of the country, and the confrontation between the People's Liberation Front (JVP) and the government forces in the south. Cases reported to have occurred between 1987 and 1990 took place mostly in the Southern and Central Provinces of the country, during a period in which both security forces and the JVP resorted to the use of extreme violence in the contest for State power. In July 1989, the conflict in the south took a particularly violent turn when the JVP adopted even more radical tactics, including enforced work stoppages, intimidation and assassination, as well as targeting the family members of the police and army. To thwart the JVP military offensive, the State launched a generalised counter-insurgency campaign and the armed forces and the police appear to have been given wide latitude to eliminate the rebel movement and restore law and order in any way they saw fit. By the end of 1989, the armed forces had put down the revolt.
343. Cases reported to have occurred since 11 June 1990, the date of resumption of hostilities with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE), have taken place primarily in the Eastern and North-Eastern Provinces of the country. In the north-east, the persons most often reported detained and missing were young Tamil men accused or suspected of belonging to, collaborating with, aiding or sympathising with LTTE. Tamil persons internally displaced owing to the conflict and staying in informal shelters such as church or school centres were particularly at risk of detention and disappearance. The most frequently utilised method of detention in the north-east was the cordon-and-search operation in which the army, often in conjunction with the police, and particularly the Special Task Force, went into a village or a rural area and detained scores of persons. Many were released within 24 to 48 hours, but a percentage of the persons remained in custody for questioning.
344. Out of concern at the situation of disappearance in Sri Lanka, and at the invitation of the Government, the Working Group undertook two missions to that country from 7 to 18 October 1991 and from 5 to 15 October 1992. The reports of the Working Group are contained in documents E/CN.4/1992/18/Add.1 and E/CN.4/1993/25/Add.1.
345. The vast majority of the newly reported cases occurred during 1996 in Jaffna, Batticaloa and Mannar districts, frequently in the context of so-called round-up operations by military personnel. The number of disappearances in Sri Lanka increased steeply following the resumption of hostilities in 1995. The persons concerned were mostly young Tamil men, many of them poor farm labourers, fishermen or students from Trincomalee.
346. Serious concern has been expressed to the Working Group at the increase in the number of reported cases of disappearances during the past year. Reportedly, since the security forces regained control over the Jaffna peninsula in late 1995, the total number of disappearances is said to be the highest since 1990. It is alleged that the security forces resort to disappearances in reprisal for attacks on the security forces by members of LTTE. Reportedly, such disappearances frequently occur after the persons concerned are taken into custody during so-called round-up operations. It is further alleged that the Prevention of Terrorism Act and Emergency Regulations facilitate such violations, as does the failure of the government to bring the perpetrators to justice. Concern was also expressed to the Working Group that the payment of compensation to affected families continues to be very slow.
347. During the period under review, the Government of Sri Lanka provided information on 56 individual cases. The vast majority of persons concerned had been released from prison or were out on bail. Five persons were reportedly detained and one is said to have been killed. The Government also informed the Working Group that the number of alleged disappearances decreased during 1997 due to the efforts of the Government to protect human rights. It said that the International Committee of the Red Cross is present in Jaffna and other parts of the country and has free access to places of detention, as does the newly established Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka. In the reports of the three presidential commissions which investigated past allegations of disappearances, the Government has stated that the perpetrators will be prosecuted. The Government further informed the Group that constitutional reforms had been tabled in Parliament to protect the right to life and ensure that detained persons have the right to contact a relative or friend and to consult a lawyer. The Government also provided information on the issue of compensation, in reply to the Working Group's letter of 27 June 1997. This information is contained in chapter I.F of the present report.
348. The Working Group wishes to express its appreciation to the Government of Sri Lanka for the information which it has provided during the course of the year, and for its efforts to investigate and clarify the fate of the many thousands of persons who disappeared in the past. Nevertheless, it is alarmed at the recent re-emergence of the systematic practice of enforced disappearance in Sri Lanka, and notes that it is the country with the highest number of disappearances reported to have occurred in 1997. In addition, it remains concerned at the fact that notwithstanding the efforts of the Government, very few cases on the Working Group's files have been clarified.
349. The Group wishes to remind the Government of its obligations under article 10 of the Declaration to hold persons deprived of liberty only in officially recognised places of detention, to bring them promptly before a judicial authority and to make accurate information on the detention of such persons promptly available to their family members, their legal counsel, or to any other persons having a particular interest. The provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Emergency Regulations currently in force do not correspond to these rights and the Working Group therefore wishes to repeat its request that the necessary legal amendments be made by the Government in order that it may comply with its obligation to prevent new cases of enforced disappearances.
350. The Working Group also wishes to remind the Government of its obligation to investigate all outstanding cases of enforced disappearances and in this respect looks forward to receiving the reports of the three presidential commissions of inquiry.
Statement by Asian Cultural Forum on Development
- Agenda Item 8 on "Freedom of expression and the Question of the Human Rights of all persons subjected to any form of detention or imprisonment
Asia-Pacific Human Rights NG0s Facilitating Team, Secretariat: P.O. Box 26, Bungthonglang PO, Bangkok 10242, Thailand Tel. ++ (662) 377-9357/370-2701, Fax ++ (662) 374 0464, email:[email protected]
Thank you Mr. Chairperson,
The Asian Cultural Forum on Development (ACFOD) on behalf of the Asia Pacific Human Rights NGO Facilitating Team, a coalition of over two hundred NG0s in the region, takes this opportunity to express its serious concern about the infringement of Freedom of Expression in Asia, particularly in South Korea, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia.
The right to freedom of expression is essential in a democratic society and the media has an important function to fulfil. Without the right to freedom of expression and freedom of opinion, democracy is a cruel hoax. This includes access to unmanipulated, non-censored information.
The Asia-Pacific NGOs notes with concern that the Special Rapporteur has been able to take up only a fraction of the cases that have been sent to him. He has stated that this is due to paucity of resources made available to him. We hope that this session of the Commission is able to address this problem....
The Sri Lankan Government has targeted Sri Lankan journalists belonging to the Tamil media and also subjected foreign journalists to intimidation, harassment and expulsion to hide continuing human rights abuses in Sri Lanka.
On 29 November 1997, three journalists of the Tamil language newspaper "Virakesari" were harassed, threatened, and humiliated and their photographic record of events destroyed by the police. This incident took place when two reporters, Mr Gajan and Mr M. Dunstan, and photographer Mr S. Surendran were covering the transfer of detainees from the Welikada Prison in Colombo to another place of detention at Kalutara.
The Sri Lankan Police also raided the hotel room of Indian journalist, Ms Sudha Ramachandran, of the "Deccan Herald" of India, forcibly seized photographs taken by her and questioned her for several hours about alleged connections with the LTTE. Ms Ramachandran is a foreign journalist who had been duly accredited by the Department of Information and the Foreign Ministry, and had obtained clearance from the Ministry of Defence to travel to the Jaffna Peninsula in the North, which is under military control, and carry out her journalistic work there.
The Sri Lankan Government also expelled one Chinese journalist.
In conclusion, Mr Chairperson, allow us to reiterate the Special Rapporteurs call to all Governments to review all "laws specifically intended to protect national security but also ordinary criminal laws which may be used to infringe the rights to freedom of opinion and expression and information." We also urge the Governments of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea and Vietnam to extend an early invitation to the Special Rapporteur to visit their countries....
Statement by Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
- Agenda Item 8 on "The Question of the Human Rights of all persons subjected to any form of detention or imprisonment"
Consultative Status with United Nations ECOSCC. UNCTAD and UNESCO: Special Consultative Relations with FAO, ILO, and UNICEF, International Secretariat: 1, rue de Varembé, C.P. 28, 1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland, Telephone. (+41 22) 733 61 75. Fax: (+41 22) 740 10 63. Cables: WILLIF, Geneva. , Postal Account 12-1869-9. Email - [email protected]
The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom would like to take this opportunity to draw the attention of this Commission to the reports of the Special Rapporteur on Torture and of the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, with specific reference to the situation in Sri Lanka and Sudan, in view of the ongoing conflict in these countries.
This Commission is well aware that the grave situation with regard to disappearances in Sri Lanka led to two visits by the Working Group, in 1991 and 1992. Since then, Sri Lanka has featured regularly in the reports of the Working Group. In the report that is before the Commission this year, Sri Lanka goes on record as the country with the highest number of disappearances reported to have occurred in 1997.
The investigation of allegations regarding disappearance has been one of the key recommendations of the Working Group in both 1992 and 1993. In response, successive Sri Lankan governments have set up special Presidential Commissions of Inquiry into Disappearance. Although these Commissions have submitted several interim reports since they were set up in 1994, no action has been taken to pursue prosecution of those implicated in the testimonies given before these Commissions.
On the contrary, over the past year, members of the Sri Lankan security forces implicated in several key cases of abduction, assassination, disappearance and torture have been acquitted and released due to failure on the part of the Attorney General's Department to proceed with prosecution. The 6 Police officers accused in the Wavulkeley case, the 22 members of the Special Task Force who were taken into custody over the floating bodies in Bolgoda Lake, the two Police officers charged with abduction and murder in Hokandara are among these....
We would therefore focus the attention of this Commission on the failure on the part of .... Sri Lanka to investigate allegations of disappearances, to prosecute those responsible for disappearances and to provide redress including compensation to the families of the disappeared.
In respect of the report of the Special Rapporteur on Torture that is before this Commission, the cases reported from Sri Lanka are about the rape of women in the north and east of the island which are the areas in which the conflict rages. In recent months, there have been other cases reported, from Chavakachcheri in the northern peninsula and from Valaichchenai in the Eastern Province. In all these cases, members of the armed forces have been implicated. In two of the cases, the officials involved have been taken into custody. In the others, there has not even been complaint filed, due to intimidation of the victim and witnesses. Even where prosecution proceeds. things move slowly, and unsatisfactorily. In March, for example, two of the principal accused in one key case escaped from the courts complex in Colombo....
The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom calls on this Commission to make a strong statement condemning the use of rape and sexual violence against women as forms of torture by government troops and state security personnel. We also call on this Commission to take up the issue of the impunity of perpetrators of human rights abuse who are state security officials with the governments of Sri Lanka .... It is only the knowledge that perpetrators of human rights abuse will be prosecuted that can protect innocent and unarmed civilians, especially in situations of conflict, from becoming the victims of all forms of gross human rights abuse including abduction, torture and disappearance.
Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Bacre Waly Ndiaye, on Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions - Full text of Report on Sri Lanka
- Agenda Item 10 on the " Question of the violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms" (E/CN.4/1998/68 - 23 December 1997 ; E/CN.4/1998/68/Add.1 - 19 December 1997)
.......The Special Rapporteur further presents three addenda to the present report. Addendum 1 describes 86 country situations, which include in summary form the information transmitted and received by the Special Rapporteur, including communications received from the Government, as well as the Special Rapporteur's observations where considered appropriate. Addendum 2 contains the report on the Special Rapporteur's visit to Sri Lanka from 25 August to 5 September 1997....
........The Special Rapporteur remains extremely concerned about the high number of civilians and persons hors de combat killed during internal armed conflicts in all regions of the world. Many thousands of persons not participating in armed confrontations have lost their lives as a result of the use of indiscriminate or disproportionate force, the utilisation of anti-personnel mines or the blockage of goods and services, including relief assistance, in countries such as Afghanistan, Colombia, the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sri Lanka.
From Addendum I - Sri Lanka
368. The Special Rapporteur undertook a visit to Sri Lanka from 25 August to 5 September 1997 to examine in situ the situation of the right to life. His findings, conclusions and recommendations with regard to the visit can be found in the second addendum to his report to the Commission on Human Rights (E/CN.4/1998/68/Add.2). Communications between the Special Rapporteur and the Government concerning the visit are also reflected in this document.
Information received and communications sent
369. During the period under review, the Special Rapporteur transmitted allegations regarding violations of the right to life of the following persons:
(a) Krishanthy Kumaraswamy, Rasammah Kumaraswamy, Prenaban Kumaraswamy, aged 16, and Kirupaharan Sithamparan, allegedly killed by members of the armed forces in Jaffna. According to the information received, Krishanthy Kumaraswamy was taken into custody on 7 September 1996, gang-raped and then killed. Her mother, her brother and a friend of the family reportedly disappeared the same day when they went to search for her. Their bodies were reported to have been discovered in shallow graves approximately 1½ months later;
(b) Suppiah Rasendiram and Arumugam Subramaniam, reportedly killed on 23 February 1996 in Kanniya, Trincomalee, by members of the armed forces who had stopped them together with two colleagues when the four of them were on their way home from work;
(c) An employee of the Jaffna Teaching Hospital and an employee of the Jaffna Municipal Council, reportedly shot and killed on 1 October 1996 by members of the armed forces at the army checkpoint at Thattatheru in Jaffna town;
(d) Naresh Rajadurai, reportedly taken into custody by members of the Special Task Force of Sri Lanka in Colombo on 26 June 1996. His body was reported to have been found some weeks later;
(e) A young Tamil woman, who reportedly died as a result of injuries sustained when she was raped and tortured by members of the armed forces on 30 July 1996 in Madduvil, Jaffna;
(f) A father and his daughter, reportedly stabbed to death by members of the armed forces on 7 August 1996 in Kalvayal, Thenmarachy. It was also alleged that the daughter was gang-raped before she was killed;
(g) A student, reportedly gang-raped and stabbed to death on 15 August 1996 by members of the armed forces in Madduvil.
Statement by International Educational Development
- Agenda item 9 on Displaced People
8124 West Third Street-Suite 105, Los Angeles, California 90048, Phone: (213) 653-6583 Fax: (213) 653-2741
International Educational Development/Humanitarian Law Project is concerned that the important issue of mass movements of people lacks focus at the Commission, in part because different aspects of this topic -- displaced persons, migrants, mass exoduses and refugees are currently addressed by the Commission under three different agenda items. All movements of people, whether internal or to the exterior, whether motivated by war, famine, economic betterment, racism, incipient genocide or any other cause should be addressed together. Separation of the issue of mass movements of people is especially damaging to the internally displaced and to mass exoduses because under item 9 they compete with a dizzying array of unrelated, though important issues. Surely in terms of sheer human misery this topic warrants a separate agenda item.
In Sri Lanka there is a continuing crisis due to the hundreds of thousands of displaced persons throughout the north and east of the country. The reports of the Special Representative Mr. Francis Deng have documented this crisis, especially his report following his visit in 1994 (U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/1994/44/Add.1).
The situation has deteriorated since that report and the government of Sri Lanka seriously hampered efforts of the rest of the international community to assist these people. At a recent meeting of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Committee of the Red Cross, Oxfam, CARE and Medicines Sans Frontieres, there was agreement that provisions for the displaced in Sri Lanka were grossly insufficient. International pressure is not reaching the government, which in its callous disregard for the plight of these Tamils appears to be mired in a policy that approaches genocide.
How mindless that the government even labels concern for these Tamils the work of "ethnic entrepreneurs", quoting a racist term that has been soundly repudiated. While peaceful coexistence between the Tamil and Sinhala was the rule on the island of Ceylon for many centuries, it was a coexistence of two separate kingdoms, not a coexistence of a majority and minority under one political roof.
The Commission and the international community must insist that the government of Sri Lanka fully comply with the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and provide for the basic subsistence needs of the displaced Tamil population. If that government is unwilling to do so the international community must insist on the right to provide it itself and must charge the government for failure to carry out its obligations under humanitarian law. The Commission must also insist that the Sinhala - Tamil war on the island be resolved with a negotiated settlement under international supervision. It must make it clear that it will not be resolved by Sri Lanka government starving hundreds of thousand of displaced Tamil civilians....
Joint Statement by 53 Non Governmental Organisations on the 'Sri Lanka-Tamil Eelam War'
- Agenda Item 10 on the " Question of the violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms with particular reference to colonial and other dependent countries and territories" The Secretary General has received the following written statement which is circulated in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1296 (XLIV) [E/CN.4/1998/NGO/120, 21 April 1998]
- - signed by 1. Franciscans International 2. Worldview International Foundation 3. International Peace Bureau 4. International Association Against Torture 5. Society For Threatened People 6. International Work Group For Indigenous Affairs 7. North-South XX1 8. African Commission of Health and Human Rights Promotion 9. International Indian Treaty Council 10. International Organisation of Indigenous Resource - Development Category 11. The Saami Council 12. Federation Internationale des Journalistes Libres 13. International Right to Life 14. International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples 15. International Education Development 16. World Society of Victimology 17. Liberation 18. REDHRIC 19. World Federation of Democratic Youth 20. Movement contre le Racisme et pour Amitie des Peuples 21. FEDEFAM 22. International Association of Democratic Lawyers 23. AZADHO Association de Defense de Droits de l`Homme 24. World Muslim Congress 25. World Federation of Trade Unions 26. American Association of Jurists 27. Agence des Cites Unies pour la Co-operation Nord-Sud 28. Parliamentarians for Global Action 29. Asian Women`s Human Rights Council 30. International Federation of Human Rights Leagues 31. International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development 32. International Human Rights Association of American Minorities 33. Change 34. Commission for the Defense of Human Rights in Latin America 35. New Humanity 36. World Alliance of Reformed Churches 37. Human Rights Internet 38. Felix Varelar Centre 39. Centre for European Studies 40. International Federation of Journalists 41. General Arab Women Foundation 42. World Movement of Mothers 43. International League for Human Rights 44. Movimento Cubano per la Paz 45. International Human Rights Law Group 46. Canadian Council of Churches 47. Pax Romana 48. World Confederation of Labour 49. International Commission of Jurists 50. Arab Lawyers Union 51. World Organisation Against Torture 52. International Org for the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination 53. Arab Organisation for Human Rights 54. Association for World Education
"We are gravely concerned by the continued Sri Lanka-Tamil Eelam war and by the increasing genocidal dimension of that war as evidenced by: (a) targeting of the civilian population by the Sri Lankan forces; (b) epidemic proportions of disappearances, torture, extrajudicial killings, rape, arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention of Tamil civilians; (c) a sweeping embargo in the North and East of subsistence food and essential medicine in contravention of humanitarian law; (d) the existence of more than 850,000 displaced persons living in appalling conditions at risk now of starvation and death.
In his message to the Tamil people on National Heroes Day in November 1997, LTTE leader Mr. Velupillai Pirabaharan stated that any political solution should take into account the following four points of the Thimpu Conference of 1985 to which all Tamil political parties agreed:
- Tamil people are a national entity and have a distinct language, culture and customs;
- Tamil people have historically inhabited a contiguous territory in the North-East of Sri Lanka which is their homeland;
- The Tamil people have the right to decide their political destiny based on the right to self-determination of peoples;
- All Tamils, including the Plantation Tamils, should enjoy full rights in the island.
To contribute to resolution of the Sri Lanka-Tamil Eelam War and to provide meaningful international support to secure the aspirations of the Tamil people we urge the Commission to adopt a resolution that
- calls on the government of Sri Lanka to withdraw all its armed forces from the Tamil homeland;
- calls on both the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to secure a political solution that allows the Tamil people to realise its right to self-determination and that establishes full human rights to all the people of Sri Lanka; and
- appoints a Special Rapporteur with a mandate to investigate the situation and monitor a peace process.
Statement by Ambassador Audrey Glover, CMG, Head of Delegation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
- on behalf of the European Union (EU) on 14 April 1988 under Agenda Item 10 on the " Question of the violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms with particular reference to colonial and other dependent countries and territories"
"...The EU calls on all parties to the conflict in Sri Lanka to make every effort to reach a negotiated settlement. The EU condemns terrorist attacks by the LTTE, in particular the bombing of the Temple of the Tooth Relic on 25 January, which appears to have been carried out in the hope of provoking communal hostility.
The EU welcomes the continuing efforts of the Sri Lankan government to restore normality to the Jaffna peninsula, and their efforts to provide relief supplies to those in the Vanni displaced by the conflict, but is concerned by reports that insufficient food and medical supplies are getting through to these refugees.
The EU welcomes the Sri Lankan government's commitment to improve its human rights record, including the establishment of the Human Rights Commission.
The EU notes the significant reduction in 'disappearances' in the North and the East since 1996, but remains concerned over continuing ill treatment of detainees, some disappearances, cases of intimidation of journalists, the killing of Tamil civilians in Ampara and Thampalakamam, and failures in many cases to prosecute violators. We urge the Government of Sri Lanka to address these issues."
Comment by tamilnation:
It will be instructive to examine the several statements by Ambassador Audrey Glover - separately.
1. "The EU calls on all parties to the conflict in Sri Lanka to make every effort to reach a negotiated settlement"
The call by the European Union for a negotiated settlement is to be welcomed. But the EU call is directed to 'all parties to the conflict' in the island. Who are these parties? For several years now, many non governmental organisations have recognised that there is in existence an armed conflict in the island and that the parties to the armed conflict are the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Sri Lanka government. There are no other parties to the armed conflict in the island.
Why then is the EU silent on the question as to who are the parties to the conflict in the island? A call for a negotiated settlement of the armed conflict, whilst at the same time refusing to recognise one of the two parties to the armed conflict, suggests that the EU's call for a 'negotiated settlement' may simply provide a cover for Sri Lanka to impose its own unilateral 'settlement' on the Tamil people.
2. "The EU condemns terrorist attacks by the LTTE, in particular the bombing of the Temple of the Tooth Relic on 25 January, which appears to have been carried out in the hope of provoking communal hostility."
The attack on the Temple of the Tooth Relic on 25 January was a clear violation of the humanitarian law of armed conflict in that the target was a civilian target. But, the EU categorisation of the attack as a 'terrorist attack' may be somewhat more problematic.
For instance the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki may have terrorised Japan into surrender, but the European Union is unlikely to categorise that attack as a terrorist attack. Again those countries stockpiling nuclear bombs are not categorised as holding out a 'terrorist threat'. The ends sought to be achieved appear to influence the standards by which the means employed to achieve those ends, are judged.
It is right to condemn terrorism, but such condemnation will have more credibility if at the same time efforts are made to address the political issues that have led to the armed conflict in the island of Sri Lanka - and, in particular, to openly recognise that the struggle of the people of Tamil Eelam for freedom from alien Sinhala rule is both lawful and justified. Only a free people can negotiate.
Again the EU is ofcourse entitled to conclude that the bombing 'appears to have been carried out in the hope of provoking communal hostility'. But it may have been more constructive for the EU to have gone beyond 'appearances' and looked at the political reality of Sinhala Buddhist fundamentalism, which impelled President Kumaratunga to use the precincts of the Temple (in the manner of the Sinhala Buddhist Kings of yore) to serve party political ends - a course of action which had invited the condemnation of even the Sri Lanka Sinhala opposition leader.
In the light of the EU's stated objective of securing a negotiated settlement of the armed conflict in the island, the EU may have found it useful to adopt a more cautious approach, build credibility as an unbiased neutral, and not rush into easy condemnations, particular when it was not willing to use the same 'condemnatory' language in respect of the genocidal actions of Sri Lanka's security forces.
3. "The EU welcomes the continuing efforts of the Sri Lankan government to restore normality to the Jaffna peninsula, and their efforts to provide relief supplies to those in the Vanni displaced by the conflict, but is concerned by reports that insufficient food and medical supplies are getting through to these refugees."
The EU undoubtedly has its own reliable sources of information about that which is happening in the Tamil homeland, particularly in the Vanni, despite the blockade on the press imposed by Sri Lanka. The EU is 'concerned by reports that that insufficient food and medical supplies are getting through' but the EU chooses to refrain from condemning Sri Lanka for the war crimes that it continues to commit in this regard.
4. "The EU welcomes the Sri Lankan government's commitment to improve its human rights record, including the establishment of the Human Rights Commission."
The confidence that the European Union has expressed in the Sri Lankan government's commitment to improve its human rights record may at best be an exercise in quiet diplomacy but the harsh political reality is that quiet diplomacy has not worked during the past several years and impunity remains the largest single obstacle to any improvement. The EU may have usefully examined the charge that over the past several years, Sri Lanka's laws have actually encouraged state terrorism.
5. "The EU notes the significant reduction in 'disappearances' in the North and the East since 1996, but remains concerned over continuing ill treatment of detainees, some disappearances, cases of intimidation of journalists, the killing of Tamil civilians in Ampara and Thampalakamam, and failures in many cases to prosecute violators."
After thousands are extra judicially executed, and the people are intimidated and suppressed, it is not uncommon that the need to kill becomes less and for 'disappearances' to drop. President Suharto supervised the killing of around 5 million Chinese in Indonesia and thereafter the 'disappearances' and 'killings' significantly dropped. The 'disappearance' of Tamils in the North followed the pattern set by previous Sri Lanka government in suppressing the rebellion in the South and the European Union may have found the comments in Human Rights Solidarity (The Newsletter of the Asian Human Rights Commission - December 1997 Volume 7, Number 7) instructive. The EU which condemned the attack on the Temple of Tooth, is only 'concerned' about the 'continuing ill treatment of detainees', 'some' disappearances, the extra judicial killings of Tamil civilians, and the failures in many cases to prosecute violators. The failure of the EU to condemn these actions of those under the command of Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga sends a message to those responsible for these war crimes that they may continue torture and murder Tamil civilians with impunity.
Response by Humanitarian Law Project, International Educational Development
- response to observations made about Sri Lanka in the Statement by Ambassador Audrey Glover, CMG, Head of Delegation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on Behalf of the European Union (EU) - 14 April 1988 - Agenda Item 10
We were shocked by the grossly misleading assessment about Sri Lanka in the Statement by Ambassador Audrey Glover, speaking on behalf of the EU, 14.04.1998. Before proceeding further, we quote the relevant section in full.
Para 48. "The EU calls on all parties to the conflict in Sri Lanka to make every effort to reach a negotiated settlement. The EU condemns terrorist attacks by the LTTE, in particular the bombing of the Temple of the Tooth Relic on 25 January, which appears to have been carried out in the hope of provoking communal hostility. The EU welcomes the continuing efforts of the Sri Lankan government to restore normality to the Jaffna peninsula, and their efforts to provide relief supplies to those in the Vanni displaced by the conflict, but is concerned by reports that insufficient food and medical supplies are getting through to these refugees.
The EU welcomes the Sri Lankan government's commitment to improve its human rights record, including the establishment of the Human Rights Commission. The EU notes the significant reduction in 'disappearances' in the North and the East since 1996, but remains concerned over continuing ill treatment of detainees, some disappearances, cases of intimidation of journalists, the killing of Tamil civilians in Ampara and Thampalakamam, and failures in many cases to prosecute violators. We urge the Government of Sri Lanka to address these issues."
We must express strong reservations to the statement of the EU as follows:
1. The EU uncritically repeated the Sri Lankan government's disinformation that the bombing of the Temple of the Tooth Relic was carried out to provoke communal violence.
2. The EU Statement turned a blind eye to the draconian media blockade mounted by the Sri Lankan government in the North for many years. All print and electronic media are prevented from freely entering and reporting on the conditions in the Jaffna peninsula and the Vanni. Indeed the farcical "conducted tours" organised by the Government to transport periodically selected journalists to the peninsula underlines the cynical "management" of information by the Government.
To restrict the flow of information, even the personnel attached to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are forbidden to carry cameras or film rolls into the north. In the absence of independent verification, the EU Statement merely regurgitates the Government's assertions about the alleged return to normality in the peninsula or the degree of efficacy of relief supplies to the displaced population in the Vanni.
3. We are amazed that the EU has accepted at face value the Sri Lankan government's self-proclaimed "commitment" to improve its human rights record. The mere establishment of the Human Right Commission means little. Evidently the EU Statement has ignored the March 1998 Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions (E/CN.4/1998/68/Add.2) in which the Rapporteur expressed deep concern about the "paralysis of State institutions" which effectively ensures "impunity" to the perpetrators of human rights violations (para 157).
Moreover, "the systematic absence of investigations either civil or military into violations of the right to life facilitates impunity. Investigations are rarely conducted and when they are, they do not lead to the appropriate convictions or penalties" (para 120). The Rapporteur added: "this culture of impunity has led to arbitrary killings and has contributed to the uncontrollable spiralling of violence" (para 119). In other words, the Government has deliberately applied State terror and provided protection to its death squads by using government-appointed human rights bodies as a cover and alibi for the violations of human rights of Tamils. It is naïve in the extreme to believe that the "commitment" is anything more than lip service to international norms of democratic governance.
4. We are particularly concerned that the EU Statement has used the word "ill-treatment" rather than torture, apparently to downplay systematic torture and rape of detainees. Then it employed the word "killing" rather than massacres of Tamil civilians. Yet even newspapers in Colombo referred to the "killing" as "massacres".
5. Lastly, the Government's professed endeavour to reach a negotiated settlement cannot be taken seriously. Article 76 of the Constitution is the primary obstacle to a negotiated settlement. It specified that the "Parliament shall not abdicate or in any manner alienate its legislative power and shall not set up any authority with legislative power" (Art 76(1)). The devolution of power, which is the only viable basis for a negotiated settlement, has thus been made unconstitutional.
Not surprisingly it is the long-standing demand of the Tamil people that the Article must be repealed if negotiations are to bear fruit. In fact, the Government explicitly admitted the necessity to repeal Article 76 (para IX) in its August 1995 President Kumaratunga's Devolution Proposals. However, the Government has stubbornly reproduced Article 76 almost word for word as Article 92 of its October 1997 Draft Constitution: "Parliament shall not abdicate or in any manner alienate its legislative power and shall not set up any authority with any such legislative power (Art 92(1)). This is an unfortunate deception on the part of the Government.
Clearly, the Government is neither willing nor able to reach a negotiated settlement.
6. The irresponsible Statement of the EU will embolden the Sri Lankan government to escalate its military adventure in the North-East Province (NEP), in the knowledge that the EU tacitly approves the Government's hypocritical "war for peace" strategy. The consequences will be profound. There will be a massive escalation of human rights violations against the Tamil people. The humanitarian disaster will approach genocidal proportions. And there will be a fresh wave of refugees who will seek sanctuary in foreign lands.
7. We urgently call upon the member-countries of the EU and the Central and Eastern European countries associated with the Union, who have aligned themselves with the Statement read out by Ambassador Audrey Glover, to re-evaluate their position on Sri Lanka in order to improve the chance of a just and lasting peace.
Statement by Sri Lanka Ambassador S. Palihakkara, Permanent Representative and Leader of the Delegation of Sri Lanka
- Agenda Item 10 on the " Question of the violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms with particular reference to colonial and other dependent countries and territories", 15 April 1998
My delegation is particularly pleased to address the Commission at a time when the ongoing activities for the 50th anniversary of UDHR coincide with Sri Lanka's own 50th anniversary of Independence. Sri Lankans take pride in the fact that as a small developing country with a relatively modest per capita income, Sri Lanka has succeeded in fostering and nurturing its democratic traditions and egalitarian ethos through an uninterrupted exercise of people's free franchise for over half a century. By following an equity-based development model, we have also been able to promote economic, social and cultural rights of our people. This has facilitated open and democratic governance in the country and high Human Development Index rating as well as sustained economic growth which reached 6% last year.
My statement today reaffirms our continued and consistent policy of openness and co-operation in the field of human rights including with the relevant United Nations mechanisms. This policy is an extension of Sri Lanka's abiding commitment domestically to country's electorate to whom the Government is primarily accountable and responsible. We are also mindful of the fact that the international human rights treaty commitments, which my Government has freely undertaken, empowers us to do so.
This statement will therefore focus on progress we have made on a number of important human rights matters as well as issues that require further action by the Government. We believe that sustaining a national and international dialogue, rather than parochial platitudes and simplifications, is the true and practical basis to address and redress even the most complex human rights issues. Our forthright participation in the work of the Commission is very much a part of that policy.
Given the time constraints, the statement will be presented in summary form and the full text will be available to delegations.
The 50th anniversary of Independence for Sri Lanka was also an occasion for sober reflections. On the one hand, the Government of Sri Lanka has been able to develop and launch an integrated strategy for peace and accelerated development encompassing constitutional, security and human rights measures. On the other hand, acts of brazen terrorism perpetrated by the LTTE have continually sought to undermine that process.
The LTTE, sustained mostly by funds raised from abroad, have recently increased the tempo, intensity and brutality of its terrorist campaign reflecting perhaps its increasing desperation in the face of diminishing support from the people it claims to represent. This intensification of mindless terrorism was designed to sabotage the on-going peace process by unsuccessfully trying to provoke communal violence in the country.
The LTTE is desperate to provoke communal violence, once again, to mask its own myopic pursuit through terror, of an ethnically segregated separate state and to undermine the Government's constitutional reform process that seeks a pluralistic and devolved system of governance acceptable to all communities in Sri Lanka. The Government is happy to state that those efforts have failed. No communal 'backlash' has taken place despite terrorist bombings and cold-blooded attacks on passenger trains, passenger ships carrying Tamil civilians, public buildings such as the Central Bank, World Trade Centre, and most recently a suicide bombing of a UNESCO designated World Heritage site, a Buddhist Shrine venerated throughout the world.
Meanwhile, the Tamil voters of Jaffna refused to pay heed to the LTTE bomb threats against local government elections and went to vote in January 1998. The turn-out (200/o) was admittedly low by Sri Lanka standards. The successful election was nevertheless an emphatic 'no' to violence and a resounding 'yes' to the democratic process.
Tamil people of Jaffna, a city I myself visited a few weeks before I arrived in Geneva, have demonstrated in unmistakable terms that they wish to express their right to self determination through the only method that is familiar to them, namely through the free exercise of universal adult franchise. They in fact elected the first woman Mayor of Jaffna - the distinguished lady candidate of the oldest Tamil Parliamentary party in Sri Lanka, the T.U.L.F. For over 10 years, elections in Jaffna have been prevented by the LTTE terrorism. Peace and democracy have once again taken root in the Jaffna Peninsula.
There has also been a ground-swell of international opinion against terrorism perpetrated by the so-called 'Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam' which is now recognised as one of the most ruthless terrorist organisations. The LTTE stands banned in several countries. Other countries have found the LTTE guilty of murdering their political leaders. Some Governments have branded the LTTE as a terrorist organisation.
Despite the acts of terrorism and calculated provocations by the LTTE, the Government and all the democratic political parties including those representing Tamil, Sinhala and Muslim communities have striven to sustain the momentum of the peace process. The far-reaching constitutional proposals the Government has put forward are being intensely debated throughout Sri Lanka. The intensity of the debate has engaged a wide variety of views. It is patently clear that the people of all communities in the country are speaking strongly in favour of a sustained peace effort based on devolution of power and human rights.
These positive developments will collectively and cumulatively demonstrate to those perpetrators of violence that their way is wrong. The year 1998 is therefore a critical year for us as we need the support and understanding of the international community to bring the peace process to fruition and to bring an end to terrorism. Whilst demonstrating to the terrorists that they cannot hold the people and the security of Sri Lanka to hostage, the Government has pledged its unwavering commitment to a negotiated political solution based on far reaching constitutional reforms towards which it is working in partnership with the Parliamentary parties.
The President of Sri Lanka has emphatically reiterated the Government's consistent policy while the Government will ensure that the people of Sri Lanka will not live in the shadow of LTTE terror, the Government remains committed to pursue negotiations with the LTTE towards a political solution in the event the LTTE gives up terrorism and, seriously and sincerely enters the main-stream democratic process - a process in which all other political parties are now engaged. The ban on the LTTE is an imposition brought upon itself by the LTTE - in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. The ban will not stand in the way of a negotiated political solution.
Speaking on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Sri Lanka's Independence, President Chandrika Kumaratunga stated:
" We must continue to commit ourselves to end the ethnic strife, while defending the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. We must have the statesmanship and the courage to succeed in our quest for lasting peace, which could be attained through the negotiated political solutions we have proposed."
Admittedly, the path towards peace is certainly not a smooth one. Given the high state of political consciousness of our people and, the range of political parties active in Sri Lanka, a wide variety of views - divergent views, moderate views, even extreme views - manifest themselves in the national debate on constitutional reform and the devolution of power put forward by the Government. Divergent views do not necessarily mean that such interaction will retard the peace process.
On the contrary, the Government believes that a lasting solution needs to be evolved through an open and democratic dialogue involving all the people. This is more so since the issues involved naturally evoke a great deal of political, legal, security, and at times, emotional reactions. The entrenched democratic institutions of Sri Lanka, we believe, will benefit from this on-going debate.
The Government is confident that its Constitutional reform proposals will be processed through the Parliamentary procedures including through a referendum to consult the views of the people. The Government is determined to follow this due process whilst ensuring that the LTTE is not allowed to undermine the peace effort through indiscriminate terrorism. International co-operation against LTTE fund raising and arms smuggling is an imperative that is integral to this peace effort as this group is increasingly relying on expatriate sustenance as its domestic support base has greatly eroded.
With regard to specific human rights questions, my delegation has made available to interested delegations full details of the measures the Government has taken on a broad front to implement legislative, administrative and investigative efforts both to promote and protect human rights as well as to address a number of reported abuses attributed to the security forces. Of these, I would like to briefly outline some measures relevant to areas which are of particular concern to my Government and the people of Sri Lanka.
The proposed new Constitution provides further enhanced safeguards against human rights violations. The absolute nature of the right to life, freedom from arbitrary arrest and torture, and freedom from self incrimination, the special rights for children etc. have been specifically entrenched fully consistent with international norms. The proposed Constitution would also make these fundamental rights applicable to any person, not only to a citizen of Sri Lanka. Public interest litigation has been incorporated for the first time. The time limit for filing fundamental rights applications have been extended. In what would be a landmark development, the new Constitution empowers the Supreme Court to review future legislation. Independence of the judiciary is guaranteed by shifting the administrative competence over the Judiciary away from the Executive.
Central to the proposed Constitution are its provisions for unprecedented devolution of governmental power. These provisions assure that people of all regions, irrespective of their ethnic origin, are empowered through devolved authority, to administer their own affairs and develop their socio-economic potential. In defining the nature of the State in a devolved framework and transferring specified powers to the regions, the new Constitution seeks to address the root causes of the ethnic issues which have given rise to several of the human rights concerns voiced nationally and internationally. The prime objective of the new constitutional framework is therefore to entrench for ever, the democratic value systems in all political institutions as well as promotion of sustainable regional development in a balanced and equitable manner.
These concerted efforts were an outcome of a long drawn out and consciously developed policy. It is based on the need perceived by the people of Sri Lanka to evolve a consensual and human rights based approach to the national issues the post independence Sri Lanka has faced.
I wish to reiterate that the Government is committed to move forward with these important constitutional proposals this year.
Moving now on to more specific areas of human rights, which are integral to the overall peace strategy of the Government, a most significant step taken since the meeting of the last CHR has been the Human Rights Commission (HRC) of Sri Lanka becoming fully operational. The Government is pleased to state that the HRC has commenced entertaining public petitions. I would like to place on record our appreciation of the inputs we have received from several Governments and organisations, including the Human Rights Centre.
The Commission has undertaken over 700 visits to police stations and further visits are on-going. It has taken charge of a number of human rights concerns which were handled by its predecessor bodies. The Supreme Court has commenced referring cases to the Human Rights Commission. With the opening of a regional office of the Human Rights Commission in Jaffna on 8 January 1998, the Commission has established a network of offices on an island-wide basis.
For the year 1998 a budget of Rs. 28 million has been provided to the HRC. The General Treasury has assigned priority to provide the necessary funds for the Commission to fully discharge its responsibilities. The Government considers the mandate of the Human Rights Commission central to the operationalisation of the purposes and fundamental rights provisions enshrined in the proposed draft Constitution.
We are particularly pleased to state that Sri Lanka deposited its instrument of ratification to the Optional Protocol of the ICCPR last October. Along with the establishment of the national Human Rights Commission, our ratification of the Optional Protocol has further consolidated Sri Lanka's open policy on human rights.
Although Sri Lanka is buffeted by a vicious propaganda campaign of a well funded terrorist organisation, the LTTE,, this fact did not deter the Government from voluntarily providing information on human rights issues for international scrutiny. The Government is confident that the institutional, legislative and political framework that is being put in place and the envisaged political solution to the ethnic issues will demonstrate the falsity of such malicious propaganda to justify violence or to misuse these procedures for political reasons.
It is also the belief of my Government that human rights are too important a subject to be left at the mercy of terrorist propaganda. The people of Sri Lanka are entitled to Government's accountability through national as well as international means. Sri Lanka is pleased to be among the few countries which are party to this important international instrument.
Another area of concern to the Government has been reports of alleged disappearances. My delegation had occasion to discuss openly and freely with the Commission and the Working Group on Disappearances the progress we have made as well as the problems we have encountered in clarifying and investigating these cases. Consistent with the undertaking the present Government gave in its election manifesto, the three independent Commissions (relevant to the period of 1980's) have completed their exhaustive work.
The Government has published these Commission reports and has also shared these reports with the UN Working Group on 'Disappearances'. An Inter-disciplinary Committee has been appointed to implement the Commission's recommendations, including the question of compensation and prosecution of identified offenders. The Attorney-General's Department has already established a dedicated unit to handle these cases and initially they are building up the prosecution data bases with regard to cases which have been referred to it by the CID.
The Government will be discussing with the UN Working Group action it can take in co-operation with the Working Group to clarify these cases. A visit by the Working Group is under consideration by the Government.
Whilst taking investigative and prosecutoral action with regard to the past cases, the Government has taken a series of measures to prevent any future abuses as well. A number of security forces personnel have been placed under arrest and in certain cases expeditious trials have been arranged, including through trial-at-bar procedure, to demonstrate that no excesses by the security personnel will be tolerated under any circumstances.
Allegations concerning reported disappearances in Jaffna have diminished significantly, particularly during the second half of 1997. The Army's Directorate of Humanitarian Law and the Field Commanders are implementing a series of measures to make arrest, detention and treatment of suspects transparent and accessible to all concerned. Nevertheless, certain interested organisations have sought to exaggerate the magnitude of the so-called disappearances without paying due regard to the fact that out of about 765 verified complaints made, 203 persons have already been traced.
The Government was aware that certain concerns have been expressed with regard to the slow pace of prosecutions against certain security officials. The Government is committed to ensure there is no room for any notion of impunity in the country. In 1997, 325 Police personnel, 79 Army personnel and 3 Navy personnel were charged in the Supreme Court in relation to alleged human rights abuses by them. Similar action was taken against 171 Police personnel, 63 Army personnel, 5 Prison officials and 3 Air Force personnel in 1996. In a number of other prominent cases security personnel who are on operational duty have been brought before the courts, including through the trial-at-bar procedure, which is being invoked only for the fourth time in the legal history of Sri Lanka.
The Government has strongly condemned an act of widely published harassment directed against a journalist who is said to have contributed some articles critical of the defence authorities. Initial investigations on the complaint made by the journalist concerned were conducted by the Police and on January 25, the Ministry of Defence instructed the CID to take over the investigations which are currently proceeding. Freedom of expression is a constitutionally guaranteed and jealously guarded right in Sri Lanka. The Government has stated in unequivocal terms that all will be done to promote and protect that right. Further information will be made available to those who are interested, including the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, on any outcome of the investigations once the investigations are completed.
Sri Lanka is now party to 13 key international human rights instruments. We continue to fulfil our reporting obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, CERD, Convention on the Rights of the Child, CEDAW and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Our report under Economic, Social and Cultural Rights will be considered at the ICESR Committee Meeting scheduled at the end of this month.
Our report under the Convention against Torture has already been submitted. With the enactment of the Convention against Torture Act No.22 on 25 November 1994, the Convention against Torture is now in force for Sri Lanka. This Act further strengthens the legal mandate of State prosecuting authorities to take action to investigate and prosecute offenders.
The CAT Act designates and defines torture as a specific crime and vests with the High Court of Sri Lanka the jurisdiction over any violation thereof in and even outside Sri Lanka. The Act has amended the extradition law to provide for "an extradite and prosecute regime" as envisaged in the Convention. The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka under its fundamental rights jurisdiction has also taken an active role in dealing with complaints of torture under the Convention. In 1995, the Supreme Court has heard 70 cases and held with the petitioner in 15 of those cases. Details of these cases have been provided to the Committee against Torture. The Government of Sri Lanka is committed to use the full force of the new anti-torture legal regime of CAT Act No. 22 to prevent and counter any acts of torture.
Turning now to some of the humanitarian issues engendered by the terrorist initiated violence in the North and East, the Government of Sri Lanka has continued its productive partnerships with a number of United Nations and other International Organisations as well as Non-Governmental Organisations in providing essential services and supplies to the civilian population in the North and East.
The Government expects soon to restore the land route to Jaffna in order to further augment the supplies to the North. Meanwhile, it will continue to work in partnership with the local and international organisations in providing these supplies for the welfare of the civilians.
In the year 1997 alone the Government has incurred an expenditure of approximately Rs.2 billion for the supply of these goods and services with the full knowledge that a considerable percentage of that is being robbed by the LTTE for use by its own cadres who engage in terrorism.
The Government has invited the International Committee of Red Cross, the UNHCR, the World Food Programme, Medicine Sans Frontiers and other Organisations to assist the Government's supply effort in the areas affected by terrorist violence. They are given the necessary access to these areas even at some strategic disadvantage to the security forces who are engaged in counter terrorist operations.
This is being done in order to ensure that the civilian population has access to essential services and supplies. International organisations such as WFP, MSF and Oxfam conduct nutritional surveys in affected areas.
The LTTE apologists abroad and their front organisations, including some here in Geneva, indulge in sheer fabrications by claiming massive food shortages in the Wanni. Independent figures provided by the World Food Programme clearly indicate that a monthly average of 5.8 million kgs. food supplies was maintained to the four districts of Vavuniya, Mannar, Kilinochchi and Mullativu over the last two years. The MW has acknowledged that the supply situation is satisfactory and is only 30/o less than the targeted quantity of 15 kgs. per person.
On an invitation extended to him by the Government of Sri Lanka, the Special Rapporteur Mr Bruce Ndiaye visited Sri Lanka few months ago. The Special Rapporteur was given full and free access to all information and to people he wanted to meet. The relevant authorities in Sri Lanka also shared with him information on progress we have achieved as well as concerns that remain within the framework of the Government's programme for promotion and protection of human rights. The Special Rapporteur has acknowledged this fact. We have also conveyed to the Special Rapporteur our first reactions based on preliminary reading of his report which we have just received.
While acknowledging some of the forthright comments the Special Rapporteur had made in his presentation of the report, we find certain generalisations and sweeping statements made in his report as not reflecting the fullest appreciation of the complex issues involved, particularly the implications such simplified comments will have for the principles of the United Nations Charter such as the territorial integrity of States. The Government will undertake a careful study of the report and will continue the dialogue with the Rapporteur.
These are some of the measures that the Government has taken on a broad front to address the underlying causes of ethnic issues as well as their human rights manifestations. These are being pursued under exceedingly difficult circumstances brought about by senseless acts of terrorism perpetrated by a terrorist organisation propagating a suicide bomb culture among Tamil children who are thrown into mindless acts of violence.
The Government has invited the UNSG's Special Representative Olara Otunu to visit the country next month to launch a programme with the Government of Sri Lanka to address the problem of Tamil children forced into battle by the LTTE. Concerted international action against LTTE terrorism; the rejection by the Tamil people themselves of the path of violence as was demonstrated in the recent elections in Jaffna; and the sheer desperation with which this terrorist organisation indiscriminately attacks civilian targets have demonstrated the futility of terrorism and the utility of political negotiations.
The people of Sri Lanka have remained calm and unprovoked despite the intensified terrorist outrages consecutively perpetrated against them. The people and the Government derive courage and inspiration from the fact that nationally and internationally, these terrorist acts have been condemned and peace process has been upheld.
The Government is confident that these developments will synergistically move the peace process forward. The considerable socio-economic development Sri Lanka was able to achieve and consolidate over the last 50 years would be further enhanced when this peace building process is underway.
The political compromises that are necessary to realise this objective are admittedly difficult to make. This is particularly so in an open democratic system buffeted by the vagaries of the development process and the brutal force of terrorism. Democratic interaction and consensus building are the best way forward in that difficult task. There is no alternative to peace making. In order to sustain peace, a process of constant consultation for peace building must be undertaken the necessary confidence building for that exercise must inevitably come from the rule of law, accountability and good governance. This should also take place in an environment conducive to human rights.
To this end my Government has laid the political, constitutional and administrative foundation to build that complex structure of governance. I have sought to describe various elements of that structure with candour and I have to state that no one, certainly not the most intransigent terrorist group in the world, can detract the people and the Government of Sri Lanka from this exceedingly difficult but patently indispensable task.
Statement by International Educational Development
- - Agenda Item 12 on "Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance"
International Educational Development has welcomed the appointment of the Special Rapporteur Mr. Glele-Ahanhanzo. We urge the Rapporteur to increase his investigations of racism against Asians and present several compelling cases.
During World War II the United States abducted and detained 2264 Latin Americans of Japanese ancestry from 13 countries in Latin America, held them in hard labour camps in Panama or in camps in the United States and sent about 850 to Japan during the war in exchange for Japanese-held Americans. Another 900 were sent to Japan after the end of the war. Of the nearly 1800 abducted from Peru, most were Peruvian citizens. At no time was the United States at war with Peru or the other Latin American countries from which persons were abducted. The Latin American countries acquiesced to this plan.
In 1988 the United States established a mechanism by which Americans of Japanese ancestry could receive compensation for the United State's war-time detention programme. The Latin American Japanese have been for the most part unable to receive due compensation under that program, in spite of the fact that the violations of their rights was a graver violation of then - existing humanitarian law norms than the detention of American citizens of Japanese ancestry. We submitted a written statement on this issue, available as Commission document 1998/NGO/90 which we attach to this statement.
STILL NO COMPENSATION FOR JAPANESE WORLD WAR II VICTIMS
IED is convinced that the failure of the Allied powers to require Japan to pay compensation to its World War II victims (the millions of Chinese massacred, the Korean forced. labourers, the so called "comfort women", the victims of medical experimentation and others) is in part due to the fact that the majority of victims were Asian. This contrasts dramatically with the international pressure on all parties to pay compensation and other funds due to victims of the European Holocaust. We urge the Special Rapporteur to investigate the racism against Asians and persons of Asian ancestry inherent from the failure to seek and obtain adequate compensation for World War II crimes.
RACISM AGAINST TAMIL PEOPLE IN SRI LANKA
Racism against Asians can also occur in Asian countries. The anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights coincides with the anniversary of rampant oppression of the Tamil people by successive Sinhala governments on the island of Ceylon. Some responsibility for this lies with the United Kingdom, which upon leaving its colonial empire in the region did not return Ceylon to its pre-colonial status of separate Tamil and Sinhala nations. The Tamil people became a minority in a Sinhala-dominated political system, more and more oppressed. One early act of the Sinhala government was to impose the Sinhala symbol -the lion - as the symbol for the whole country. A government truly committed to political equality would also include the tiger -- the ancient Tamil symbol. The government made the Sinhala language the "official" language (1956) and gave the country the Sinhala name Sri Lanka (1972). A series of acts disenfranchised the Tamil people and led to state sponsored discrimination in all areas of life. In 1956, 1958, 1961, 1977 and 1983 the Sinhala government fomented massacres of Tamil people.
Hanging on to a fragile hope that the country would be truly multi-cultural and multi-national, the early Tamil leadership sought through political strategies to defend their people. By 1976, they unanimously agreed that unity was not possible and that only realisation of their inherent right to self-determination would allow the Tamil people to enjoy human rights. By 1983, a state of war began and continues to this day.
Now the Sinhala government has an army of 100, 000 almost exclusively Sinhala carrying out military attacks that can only properly be described as genocidal -- the war is not only against the military forces of the Tamil people but against Tamil people themselves, their religious and cultural artefacts, their schools and hospitals and on the providers of humanitarian aid. The government seeks to engage the rest of the world in anti-Tamil rhetoric. Our organisation is appalled when the international community overtly engages in what can only be termed racist attitudes towards the Tamil people while not studying the historical background to this conflict or the grave physical situation of hundreds of thousands of displaced Tamil civilians.
We urge the Commission to heed the call of the Anglican Church of Australia urging a political solution that "recognises the right of the Tamil people to determine their political status and the need to assure full human rights of all the people of Sri Lanka."
Memorandum submitted by Tamil Centre for Human Rights
- addressed to Chairman & Members of UN Commission on Human Rights - 16 March 1998
TAMIL CENTRE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (Estd. 1990)
9, Rue des Peupliers
95140 Garges Les Gonesse
16th March 1998
Tamil Centre for Human Rights wish to place before you the appeal and situation report on Sri Lanka on the occasion of your fifty fourth session.
We wish to place.... our latest situation Report on the violations of human rights and denial fundamental freedoms perpetrated by the Sri Lankan Government and its armed forces on innocent Tamil civilians, whose hereditary land in the North and East of Sri Lanka have been plundered, devastated and destroyed by long years of war and military occupation.
The Sri Lankan Government's genocidal war in the North and East against the Tamils, has escalated to such an extent that the war wearied Tamil civilian population is facing untold hardships for its survival and denial of their basic rights particularly the right to life. There are growing symptoms of widespread famine and disease striking the Tamil Nation due to the Government's persistent refusal to maintain supply of food, medicine and other essential goods into the occupied territory. While the little that is siphoned at irregular intervals are also blocked by the army reaching its destination.
There is now an imminent danger of infectious diseases among the civilian population as the result of the lack medicine, equipment and medical care for the past several months. Under-nourished children, expectant mothers and old people have fallen malaria. Malnutrition and exposure are added elements that are to the are also contributory factors in raising the mortality rate in these regions.
All the fervent pleas to the Sri Lankan Government for relief on humanitarian consideration from responsible Government officials, international relief agencies and non governmental organisations have fallen on deaf ears! Added to all these difficulties, the Government's interdiction of local and international news reporters from entering regions under army occupation is further aggravating the situation. However, travellers from these regions to Colombo, the capital have reported vast increase in arrests, detention, disappearances, torture, rape, extra-judicial killings and other crimes that had been committed by armed services.
Since 1995, military operations code-named Leap Forward, Riversa, Rivil Kirana, Seda Pahara, Sathjaya, Singing Fish, had caused the displacement of more than one million civilians from their permanent homes. The recent military operations code-named Edibala and Jayasikuru had wreaked irreparable damage and destruction to several town and villages in the Vanni region. The town of Omanthai, Nedunkerni, Mankulam, Puliyamkulam, Oddusuddan and Puthukudiyiruppu had to face the brunt of the recent military operations that caused wanton destruction to life and property.
We had submitted thousand of affidavits to the Working Group on enforced or Involuntary Disappearances for necessary action. The response from the Sri Lanka Government is extremely minimal.
This state of affairs remains unchanged even today, the position was same last year too as has been confirmed by statements made by the US delegation and NGOs to the 54rd Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights. The situation is worse now than last year.
We appeal to the Commission to note that ongoing conflict and disregard for human rights observance by the security and police forces continue to cause great suffering to the Tamil people.
We do sincerely hope that the 54th Session of the Commission would take positive steps to bring about a change over its treatment of civilians, by Sri Lankan government by your direct intervention in the form of a Resolution.
Written Statement by International Educational Development
- Agenda Item 7 on " The right of peoples to self-determination and its application to peoples under colonial or alien domination or foreign occupation" - 14 April 1998 (E/CN.4/1998/NGO/113)
Self determination is deeply noted in the notions of human dignity and human rights. Self-determination means that a nation can decide its own destiny freely. Self-determination allows people to preserve and transmit their national identity and to guarantee the participation in the national decision -making process. The primacy of the concept of self -determination is exemplified by its position as the first article of the Human Rights covenants and the observation of the human rights committee, that self- determination is a prerequisite to the enjoyment of other human rights. The link between self-determination and human rights is also established in the Helsinki Act.
The enjoyment of individual rights presupposes the realisation of external self-determination because if a people is oppressed individuals cannot really be free to exercise their basic rights and freedom. When people are subject to oppression they are not in a position to have any of their individual rights fully protected.
As George Selle, the prominent French international lawyer, stated in 1957 : "tyranny, absolutism and dictatorship are both a violation of the rights of the individual and an infringement of the right of the people." The purpose of self-determination is to protect communities from oppression and to empower them. The intervention of the UN to protect the Kurds in Iraq is also a manifestation of the realisation that systemic and gross violation of group rights of an entity within a state is a threat to international peace
Self-determination is synonymous with the principal that the government must be based on the consent of the governed. Self-determination and democracy are two sides of the same coin.
As Professor Chen has observed: incumbent upon the right of people to elect their rulers is the equal right to determine the polity in which the people choose to live. Further, democracy requires a society mobilised for political action. For Rousseau, the democratic state was itself a community and democratic deliberations could get nowhere unless citizens were sufficiently identified with the entire polity to think only of the public interest. As the UN Charter states self-determination is a premise upon which friendly relations between nations and peace is based.
According to the 1970 Declaration on friendly relations, states are prohibited from using force to deny the right of self-determination of people. According to Antonio Cassese this ban on the use of force by states constitutes a novel departure from a general prohibition laid down in Article 2 subsection (iv) of the UN Charter. He further noted that the importance of this normative development should not be underestimated. This is a major achievement: it is the first time that international law has enjoined states to refrain from using force in their own territory against a part of their own population. It also should be added that states are duty bound to refrain from giving military or economic assistance to powers which are forcibly denying self-determination.
While, international law prohibits the use of force by states in the denial of self-determination it clearly authorises the liberation movements to use force as a last resort towards the realisation of the right to self-determination.
This right is also premised on the fundamental tenant enshrined in the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 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."
Also, this applies mutatis mutandis to ethnic and other groups. In the words of President John F. Kennedy, "those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." It is also interesting to note the observation made by Antonio Cassese that states normally characterise the use of force by liberation movements as an act of terrorism.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (the "LTTE) is a national liberation movement, which is presently involved in armed conflict with the government of Sri Lanka in order to realise the right of the Tamils of Sri Lanka for self-determination on the island of Sri Lanka.
The formation of the Tamil armed resistance movement was in response to the repression and violence of the Sinhala-dominated Sri Lankan government. It should be analysed within the context of the historical development of the Tamil struggle for self- determination. The Tamil struggle for self-determination has an evolutionary history of nearly half a century. It is a history characterised by state repression and the ensuing resistance by Tamils. The political struggles in the early periods were peaceful, democratic non-violent campaigns which later assumed the form of armed resistance as the military repression by the state intensified to genocidal proportions.
Following the independence of the island in 1948, Sinhala State repression against the Tamils began to manifest itself in earnest. Through discriminatory legislation, and various other unconstitutional measures, successive Sinhala majority governments unleashed a systematic form of oppression that deprived the Tamils of their linguistic, educational and employment rights. In addition, the aggressive state aided colonisation, by the Sinhalese, of Tamil areas not only deprived the Tamils of their rights to their historical lands, but also changed the national composition in the Tamil regions rendering them a minority. traditional Tamil regions.
The Tamils took up arms when they were presented with no alternative; when peaceful forms of democratic political agitation were violently repressed; when constitutional paths and parliamentary doors were effectively closed. The event which climaxed the constitutional process to oppress the Tamil people was the new Republican Constitution of 1972 which was adopted, in a constitutional conference outside the Parliament without the support of elected Tamil representatives.
By this unilateral action, which eliminated the protection for Tamils included in the Soulbury Constitution, Sri Lanka broke the covenant which the Tamil people made with the Sinhala people and the British when Sri Lanka became independent in 1948.
The secular position of the state was changed in favour of Buddhism, the religion of the Sinhalese. Since 1961, after Satyagraha, a non-violent civil disobedience campaign by the Tamils, the Tamil areas came under army occupation.
The response of the Tamil people to these oppressive measures was to assert their inalienable right to self-determination. This right entails the freedom as a people to determine their own political status. In the 1977 election, the last free election held in the north-east, the Tamil nation gave an overwhelming mandate to establish: the "independence of Tamil Eelam by peaceful means, direct action or by struggle".
The LTTE emerged as a response to these conditions; and with the emergence of the LTTE, the mode of the Tamil political struggle underwent a radical change. The armed struggle became effectively institutionalised as the political struggle of the Tamil people; and also as a measure of self-defence in the face of the brutalization of the Tamils by the Sri Lankan government.
The LTTE's armed struggle is based on a clearly defined political program. The LTTE is committed to the position that the Tamils constitute themselves as a People or a Nation and have a homeland. A well defined contiguous territory embracing the Northern and Eastern provinces to be the historically constituted habitation of the Tamils. Since the Tamils have a homeland, a distinct language and culture, a unique economic life and lengthy history extending over three thousand years, they possess all the characteristics of a nation or a people.
Sri Lanka has consistently denied the right to self-determination of the Tamils and refused to recognise the Tamils as a people. By constitutional amendment Sri Lanka has prohibited even peaceful promotion of the Tamil demand for self-determination as unlawful. Furthermore, it has unleashed a full-fledged war against the Tamils to suppress their struggle for political independence. The Sri Lankan government's action is clearly in violation of the 1970 Declaration on Friendly Relations and is illegal. And any power that gives military or economic assistance to perpetuate this war which is being conducted to deny the Tamils right to self-determination is also in complicity with this illegal war. The armed struggle of the Tamils is for the right to self-determination and is thus a legitimate political struggle for independence under international law.
Human Rights Violations and War Crimes by Sri Lanka.
In the war to suppress the Tamils, successive Sri Lankan governments have used their security forces to commit massive human rights violations and war crimes against the Tamils. These violations have included extra-judicial killings, disappearances, torture, rape, mass arrests, detention, assault, and harassment. In addition, there has been indiscriminate aerial bombing and heavy artillery shelling of civilians. The denial of food, fuel, electricity, medicine and other essential supplies through an economic embargo since 1990, as well as the intentional disruption and destruction of agricultural production, have been used as instruments of war. These actions have caused deaths, a great deal of suffering and undue hardships for the Tamil civilian population of the North and East. The army has even desecrated the final resting places of Tamil freedom fighters in areas it invaded in 1995 and 1996.
It is gratifying that these violations are now receiving some recognition from the international community despite desperate cover up efforts by the Government through censorship and denial of access to the NorthEast. Recent reports by the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR), the British Refugee Council and Amnesty International have noted the sharp deterioration in the human rights performance of the Government. Tamils will continue to be a "people in distress" unless the international community intervenes. The Sri Lanka government continue to bomb and shell indiscriminately. LTTE will continue to deter the Sri Lanka government from committing such atrocities and other human rights offensive against the Tamils.