Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

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

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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Sri Lanka Accused at United Nations > UN Sub Commission 1990


Statement by Liberation

"The issue of detention is particularly critical in Sri Lanka. This is so because the Sri Lankan armed forces and vigilante squads do not believe that detained civilians have any human rights.

The complete lack of accountability of the Sri Lankan armed forces to the judiciary or to any responsible body has meant that detention leads to other human rights violations such as arbitrary killings and torture.

In the Sinhalese dominated South of the country, over ten thousand youths are still in detention with no prospect of release in the foreseeable future.

In the North and East, where the Sri Lankan security forces are pursuing a genocidal campaign against Tamil and Muslim people, civilians are being taken into detention from refugee camps.

On 30-6-90, eighty four civilians were detained in Veeramunai in the Amparai District and taken to the Kalmunai Army camp. Four civilians who escaped lived to tell the tale of the massacre of the remaining 80.

Refugees escaping from the Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Amparai districts are detained and subject to all forms of human degradation.

The whereabouts, let alone the well being of 200 people detained in Kallaru in the Batticaloa district on 19-7-90 is still unknown. In Valaichenai in the Amparai District, 48 refugees in a church were detained.

The unprecedented and indiscriminate bombing of the Jaffna peninsula has resulted in the death of many civilians and the destruction of the main hospital.

We urge the Sub Commission to hold the Sri Lankan government accountable for the welfare of civilians detained by the Sri Lankan security forces and state sponsored vigilantes."

Statement by International Educational Development

"International Educational Development expresses its grave concern at the lack of attention given to the situation of persons detained during armed conflicts and the inter relationship between human rights and humanitarian law in these circumstances. At this time, we are particularly distressed at the announced intention of the Sri Lanka government to uproot the entire population of the Jaffna peninsula and detain it in detention camps.

While in certain circumstances detention of some civilians may be acceptable under the rules of humanitarian law, humanitarian law does not permit military forces to remove an entire people so as to facilitate attacks on civilian population centres, nor may civilians be detained solely on grounds of their political affiliation.

Military forces must target the armed forces of the opposition forces not the civilian population. In Sri Lanka, the government is carrying out the war against civilians rather than the LTTE.

Already reliable reports indicate severe mistreatment and deaths of person detained by the Sri Lankan forces in the Sithandi refugee camp in Batticaloa and the June 5 1990 forced removal and subsequent disappearances of 10 refugees held at Vatharamullai University. According to the British Refugee Council, 600,000 persons already in camps or dispersed in the North and East of Sri Lanka suffer food and medical shortage.

The statistics regarding the treatment of recent detainees are truly alarming. We provide a few examples:

1.On June 13, 542 Tamil civilians were arrested in Colombo. 38 were subsequently shot.

2.On June 25, 1002 persons fleeing Batticaloa for Jaffna were detained. Many were mistreated.

3.On June 30, 84 Tamil civilians were arrested by the Sri Lankan Army at Veeramunai. The four who managed to escape witnessed the massacre of the remaining 80.

4.On July 2, 57 Tamil and Muslim civilians were detained by government forces in Sumanthurai and subsequently found dead.

5.On July 19, about 200 detainees disappeared in Kallaru. Following inquiries from prominent citizens in the area, members of the army claim that the detainees were give to a group called the 'Green Tigers' formed by persons from the Sinhala community.

No country should so openly defy international standards and the findings of the international human rights law bodies. If... Sri Lanka can escape censure for these grave violations, the entire regime of international protection of human rights is sorely threatened..."

Joint Statement by 17 Non Governmental Organisations

consisting of Liberation, Movement against Racism, International Commission of Health Professionals for Health and Human Rights, International Educational Development, International Indian Treaty Council, Grand Council of the Crees (of Quebec), Pax Christie International, Fedefam, International Federation for the Protection of the Rights of Ethnic, Religious, Linguistic and other Minorities, Human Rights Internet, Disabled Peoples International, International Abolitionist Federation, IMADR- InternationalMovement Against Discrimination and Racism, Human Rights in Sri Lanka, International Law Association,

UN NGO Joint Statements"We have been concerned for sometime about the Human Rights situation in Sri Lanka.

In 1987, the Human Rights Commission expressed its concern about the continuous armed conflict in Sri Lanka.

In recent months the Sri Lankan government in pursuance of the armed conflict against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has engaged in aerial bombardments of the Tamil civilian population and that hundreds of Tamils have 'disappeared' from those areas within the control of the Sri Lankan army. The Sri Lankan army is also engaged in arbitrary killings of Tamil, Sinhalese and Muslim civilians. Tamils have been forcibly evacuated from their villages and the Sri Lankan government plans to relocate the entire Tamil civilian of one million from their homes in the Jaffna peninsula to refugee camps.

In this grave situation, we appeal to the Sri Lankan government to cease any evacuation or forced relocation of the Tamil population.

It has become a matter of urgent importance to act on the reports of several Human Rights organisations on the gross and consistent violations of Human Rights in Sri Lanka and to initiate steps to satisfy the aspirations of the Tamil people within the framework of Human Rights and the Right of Self Determination.

We call upon all parties to abide by all the rules of humanitarian law governing armed conflicts, and to allow humanitarian aid operations by the International Committee of the Red Cross and other similar organisations."

Statement by International Educational Development

"At what point does persistent discrimination and non fulfilment of the human rights of a minority generate a right to self determination of that minority and a loss of the right to self determination of that minority and a loss of the right to govern the minority on the part of the majority government?...

This issue is perhaps best illustrated by the situation in Sri Lanka. Prior to colonial rule, the island of Ceylon contained two separate states, one Sinhalese and one Tamil - each with its territory, language, religion, culture and racial origins. The colonial power, not the Tamil and Sinhala rulers, established unitary rule.

The decolonisation process resulted in a continuation of a unitary state rather than a return to the pre colonial status. This new unitary state has a Sinhalese majority and a Tamil minority. The lands that had been part of former Tamil governments were subsumed into the jurisdiction of the unitary government heavily dominated by Sinhalese people. The Tamil people were no longer in charge of their affairs in their traditional lands."

"Unfortunately, the succession of Sinhala majority governments have not adequately attended to promotion and protection of the rights of the Tamil people - now converted into a small minority. A systematic and insidious pattern of discrimination and communal unrest developed rather early on in this forced marriage with the predictable result of numerous periods of peaceful protests, and when demands were not met, open hostilities.

As hostilities have increased, so have large scale violations of the rights of the Tamil people, including arrests and detentions of thousands of Tamils. The Tamils then came to be converted into a 'subversive' element according to the Sinhala dominated government, which in turn has resulted in a more and more militant position on the part of the Tamil population. For the past 8 years, there has been a more or less continuous state of civil war between the Sinhala dominated government and the Tamil population and its militant factions. The conflict became internationalised for the one and half years of the entry of the Indian Peace Keeping Force into combat."

"The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that all persons, including members of minority groups, have the right to the full realisation of their human rights and to an international order in which their rights can be realised. The Sri Lanka situation has shown that for the past forty years, the Sinhala controlled government has been unwilling and unable to promote and protect the human rights of the Tamil population, and the Tamil population has accordingly lost all confidence in any present or future willingness or ability of the Sinhala majority to do so.

Are people in this situation required to settle for less than their full rights. Can the international community impose on a people a forced marriage they no longer want and in which they can clearly demonstrate they have been abused? We conclude that in order for the human rights of the Tamil people and others in a similar situation to be realised, the international community must invoke the principle of self determination as it arises from persistent non fulfilment of the rights of minorities who have been subsumed into larger states.

This solution is eminently just and sound, yet is not without some boundaries. An obvious issue in invoking the principle of self determination as a practical means of solving persistent conflicts involving minorities is (1) how bad does the discrimination need to be to ripen to a right? and (2) how long must the minority seek remedy through traditional democratic processes before a majority government loses the right to govern the minority?

We consider that in the case of Sri Lanka, 40 years is clearly enough for any group to wait for their human rights. But what about 3 years? 10 years? 15 years? How long a people are required to seek internal remedy may reflect the kind of violations at issue - for instance, a people threatened by genocidal acts may invoke the principle of self determination sooner than a people facing severe and persistent discrimination in employment.

Regarding the 'democratic' process, we note that even given the best of circumstances, a minority population such as the Tamil population would be perpetually out numbered given the traditional one person one vote rule, rendering domestic legislative remedy extremely unlikely if not futile. And, in a distressing number of countries, the judiciary is unlikely to either rule or be able to enforce a ruling ordering minority rights...''

Statement by Pax Christi International

''All too often governments transfer peoples for political and strategic reasons. By changing the demographic composition of disputed or occupied territories, governments accelerate assimilation of an alien people into the colonial or dominant framework and change the outcome of referenda or elections in their favour...Population transfer often leads to tensions and even violence... the colonisation of Tamil areas of Sri Lanka by the dominant Sinhalese greatly contributes to the conflict between the two peoples''

Intervention by International Commission of Jurists

'' We are greatly troubled by the deteriorating human rights situation in Sri Lanka. We do not suggest that the government is responsible for all the violations occurring. Far from it, but the government must, nevertheless, accept responsibility for the actions and inactions of its security forces, despite the many losses they have suffered.

Hundreds of people have reportedly 'disappeared' after being detained by security forces, and extrajudicial executions have also been reported in areas where government forces have regained control from the Liberation Tigers...

The security forces response to extra judicial executions has fallen short of international standards. Only in exceptional cases are extra judicial executions the subject of judicial investigations.

In one such case, in July 1990, we sent an observer to witness a magistrate's inquiry into the death of a well known journalist, Richard de Zoysa, who was abducted from his home in February of this year. His body was found in the sea the next day with gun shot wounds in the head and neck. His mother, who had been present at the abduction, claimed to have identified a Senior Superintendent of Police in Colombo as one of the abductors.

Nevertheless the authorities have failed to suspend him from duty pending further investigations or transfer him to an area where he was less likely to influence potential witnesses and the course of police investigation. In fact though the Magistrate herself ordered his arrest and production before the Court, the police refused to carry out the order. The inquiry is now adjourned to 30 August.

As the established investigative procedures have been found inadequate, we strongly recommend the appointment of an independent Commission of Inquiry into the circumstances of Richard de Zoysa's death.''

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