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Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C

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Statement by International Educational Development [also in PDF]

International Educational Development 8124 West Third Street, Suite 105 Los Angeles, California 90048
Email: [email protected]

General Assembly
Human Rights Council
Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
Fifty-eighth session
Agenda item 2

Statement of International Educational Development, Inc.,
A non-governmental organization on the Roster
(Secretary-General's list)

International Educational Development is pleased by the attention by the Sub-Commission to military operations directed at medical facilities, transport and personnel entitled to protection as expressed in its resolution 2005/2. We are also pleased by the attention to other persons entitled to protection from military operations as expressed in its resolution 2005/12.

The widespread attacks on medical facilities in Falluja Iraq in November 2004 invoked strong condemnation by the High Commissioner and prompted the head of the British Red Cross to comment on the potential demise of the Geneva Conventions and humanitarian law. Due to the utter contempt of the Geneva Conventions and human rights law shown by these attacks, our organization joined the Association of Humanitarian Lawyers in submitting a Petition against the United States to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States. Unfortunately, the United States does not seem to be deterred by international condemnation of these attacks and continues to target protected medical facilities and personnel in Iraq. This needs to be condemned by the Sub-Commission.

While we welcome the action undertaken by the Human Rights Council in regards to attacks on protected facilities and persons under the Geneva Conventions and humanitarian law as a whole in Lebanon, the Council has not called for action regarding several other conflicts in which targeting of protected facilities and persons is equally serious. One of these is the conflict in Sri Lanka, where since the elections in November there has been the worst levels of fighting since the 2002 Cease Fire Agreement. In the past few weeks, the level of fighting has increased dramatically, as have the numbers of military operations of the government armed forces flagrantly targeting protected facilities and persons.

For example, on 6 August 2006 17 humanitarian aid workers from the French NGO Action Contre le Faim were brutally massacred in the government-controlled areas in Trincomalee, prompting 3 independent experts of the Council (H.Jilani, human rights defenders; P. Alston, extrajudicial, arbitrary and summary executions; J. Ziegler, the right to food) to issue a press release on 11 August 2006 in which they state: "the deliberate targeting of humanitarian workers is a serious violation of the basic principles of international and humanitarian law and the Declaration of Human Rights Defenders." Also on 6 August 2006, several members of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission narrowly escaped attacks from the government forces in Maavil Aaru. On 9 August 2006 government forces attacked an ambulance belonging to Nedunkerni hospital killing a doctor, 2 nurses and the driver. On 14th of August, the government forces deliberately bombed a girl's orphanage killing 60 girls and wounding 120 who were between the ages of 15 and 18. An attack on St. Philip Mary church in Allaipiddy left 15 dead and more than 100 injured.

Since the renewed fighting, there are more than 100,000 newly displaced, many without food or water. UNICEF and the UNHRC report the continued blockage by the government forces of urgently needed aid to the rapidly increasing numbers of displaced, prompting the UN officer in Sri Lanka to express concern. UNHCR reports that of the over 40,000 newly displaced in Muttar, more than half are women and children, but in a statement on 8 August 2004 indicated they were not allowed access.

The situation of Tamil civilians is made much worse because so many Tamils are still displaced by the Tsunami and because most of the international aid raised on their behalf was not allowed to be delivered. For example, the American Red Cross, that received hundreds of thousands of $$US for Tsunami victims in Sri Lanka, was told by US authorities that they could not distribute it in the Tamil areas.

The Sri Lankan government also severely restricted aid to the Tamil Tsunami victims, only allowing aid raised by the Tamil diaspora and then restricting that as well. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of Tamil refugees who have sought and obtained asylum outside of Sri Lanka, the current figures of internally displaced indicates nearly 1/3 of the entire Tamil population is displaced or in exile.

We have long indicated to the Sub-Commission that the United States geopolitical interests in ports and airfields in the Tamil areas has been a major impediment to resolving this long conflict and we invite you to consult our written statements in this regard that we submitted to both the Sub-Commission and the Commission. In light of this we were alarmed by recent pronouncements in Colombo and elsewhere by high State Department officials: in our view the US has given the government of Sri Lanka a "green light" to undertake actions that violate humanitarian law under the pretext that due to the unabated demonization of the Tamils by Sri Lankan and US authorities, no one will dare defend them, and in any case, no one will be able to do anything about it.

However, because now the UN independent experts, UNICEF and UNHCR have spoken up, and because the UN is in a process to reform its work, we hope that the Sub-Commission, which as rightly undertaken to address attacks against medical and other protected persons in time of war, will inform the Council of its concerns regarding Sri Lanka and the situation of the Tamil people and will request that the Council act.

Intervention by Deirdre McConnell, Interfaith International, Geneva, Switzerland
  • Agenda item 5(a) Racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia

Mr Chairperson,

Interfaith International is happy to note that the Sub Commission has prevention of discrimination as one of its agenda items, especially at a crucial time of this august forum.

In today's world various types of discrimination have paved the way towards Civil war, Ethnic Conflict, Armed conflict, and so on. Many of these conflicts, fought in exercise of the Right to self-determination, have as their ultimate goal, a durable solution to the political problems which are based on discrimination and xenophobia.

In the past, this august forum has heard much about the discriminatory application of law and practise of the Sri Lanka government against the Tamil people, therefore we do not need to go into much detail.

Since Independence, Sinhala dominated governments brought much systematic discriminative legislation against Tamil people.

As soon as Sinhala leaders obtained power in 1948, the Tamils working on the tea plantations were disfranchised and their citizenship was denied. A one language Act (Sinhala only) was forcefully introduced by the Sinhala politicians and nine (1956, 1958, 1961, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1981, 1982 and 1983) state sponsored anti-Tamil pogroms destroyed the economy and the cultural heritage of the Tamil people. In the meantime, the Tamil politicians of the day protested - against these denials of political rights, Sinhala colonisation in the Tamil regions and destruction of Tamils properties, demanding justice, by non-violent methods, for nearly thirty-five years.

However these struggles in and outside of the parliament were continuously suppressed by the Sri Lankan security forces made up of 95% Singhalese. In 1972, discrimination in the education system (standardisation) where Tamil students had to gain more marks than the Singhalese students for University entrance, gave birth to the Tamils' militancy in the island.

During this period, in the 1977 general elections, the Tamil people in the North East overwhelmingly voted to exercise their right to self-determination. As the Singhala dominated government ignored this democratic mandate and continued to implement their racist policies, an armed conflict was born in the island in 1983.

After a long struggle and massive civilian casualties, a defacto government covering 70% of the Tamil hereditary land has been in existence, that is, for the last 15 years. Since 2002, this has been well acknowledged by many foreign dignitaries and diplomats who have visited the NorthEast.

The Tsunami natural disaster which struck mostly the Tamils areas, caused severe casualties to the Tamil people. Again the people in the North East received discriminatory treatment by the Sri Lankan government. The aid which was sent by the international community was never distributed equally and even the P-TOMS Post-Tsunami agreement for reconstruction of the Tsunami affected areas was blocked by the Sinhala judges in the South.

Mr Chairperson,

It is now four and a half years since the Ceasefire Agreement was signed between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam - LTTE and the government of Sri Lanka. There are still 800,000 internally displaced people who are prevented from resettling due to the Sri Lankan military occupation of their land.

The current situation in the island is alarming, human rights violations over the last 10 months have increased disturbingly. A further 60,000 displaced people in the Trincomalee area are being denied food and aid in an embargo imposed by the government. More than 700 Tamil civilians have been killed by the security forces and the paramilitaries working with them since November 2005. In the last week it appears that once again the government has declared war on the Tamil people. The ceasefire agreement has been violated several times, especially since last April with the beginning of Aerial bombardment of Tamil areas by the Sri Lankan air force.

On Monday 14 August 2006, sixty-one school girls were killed and 129 seriously injured in the brutal and callous deliberate bombing of a children's home in Mullaitivu in broad daylight, by the Sri Lanka Air Force. Soon after this bombing the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), and UNICEF personnel, visited the spot and confirmed that it is a children's home known as Sencholai and not a military installation as claimed by the Sri Lanka Government.

The shelling and bombings from land, air and sea by the Sri Lankan security forces in the Tamil regions have caused severe destruction to Tamil homes and lives, property, public buildings, and cultural places. These and many other actions of the Sri Lanka government are persistently in serious breach of the Geneva Conventions.

On Saturday 5th August, 17 Tamil humanitarian workers, from the French International Non-Governmental Organisation Action Contre la Faim, were massacred at point blank range by government security forces. UN VIPs in the field of human rights, the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders, Hina Jilani; the Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial, arbitrary and summary executions, Prof Philip Alston and the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler, jointly made a statement on 11 August, expressing serious concerns and calling for a vigorous independent investigation to be held and the perpetrators to be brought to justice. They urged the government to render the findings public.

Attacks on Tamil journalists, parliamentarians and human rights defenders have escalated. Journalists following up human rights violations have been killed with impunity, by the security forces. Those defending Civil and Political rights and those defending Economic, Social and cultural Rights are also being killed by the Sri Lanka armed forces.

In a stark incident on 06 August 2006 the SLMM was nearly bombed by the government Air Force which attacked, despite an agreement being in progress concerning the irrigation issue in Trincomalee. This shows how the international monitors are being treated.

When speaking from Colombo about the killing of the 17 humanitarian workers, the SLMM Head, Maj. Gen. Ulf Henricsson, told Reuters on 11 August:

"I have experienced this in the Balkans before. When you're not let in, it's a sign that there's something they want to hide. You have a lot of time to clear it up"……….."They are denying us access to the whole area, so we cannot monitor. There were journalist trips arranged to Muttur last Saturday and Sunday. That was possible, but we had no access. Why? For security reasons? Of course not. There are other reasons. I have recommended to the facilitator -(Norway) to at least consider a withdrawal."

SLMM's monitors say there is evidence that Sri Lankan troops have been involved in extrajudicial killings of Tamils in the North and East. According to information coming out of the latest fighting in Jaffna, the Tamil people are being prevented from fleeing to safety, by the Sri Lanka security forces.

Mr. Chairperson,

The ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka started because of the Sri Lankan government's discriminatory policies and refusal to accept the Tamils as equal citizens of the island.

The present attitude of the Sri Lanka government clearly indicates that this is a war of aggression with destructive and genocidal intent against the Tamil people in the island.

We appeal to the dignitaries and members of civil society internationally to monitor and pressurise the Sri Lankan government not to carry out genocidal attacks on the Tamil people.

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