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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"....Many Tamils, including those who are struggling for a devolution of power and greater influence for the Tamils, live under constant threat of assassination by the LTTE.What baffles me is that there are still international non governmental organisations who lend their support to this movement. They are then not supporting the Tamil cause but an utterly undemocratic movement unable to contemplate peace in any form.In 1994, a new President was elected in Sri Lanka, and the government has presented a package of devolution which goes as far as any government can possibly go. There is no doubt in my mind that the President is genuine, and that many or probably most Tamils would be happy if the package could be accepted..." more

- "Mr.Eide's comments at the UN Sub Commission on 6 August may be usefully evaluated by examining the extent to which his remarks further the peace process in the island of Sri Lanka. As the International Federation of Tamils has pointed out in its appeal to the Sub Commission (today), the building blocks for peace are the building blocks of justice. And, justice is not a mantra to be repeated but a passion that must find expression our words and in our deeds...The formula of a 'multi ethnic plural society' cherished by some experts to whom self determination and secession are anathema, seeks to preserve in the island of Sri Lanka, the artificial territorial boundaries imposed (and later bequeathed) by the erstwhile British ruler. It seeks to perpetuate the colonial legacy and encourage the continuing attempt to replace British colonial rule with permanent Sinhala colonial rule..."more

Oral Statement by Nord-Sud

  • under Agenda Item 2 on the question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including policies of racial discrimination and segregation and of apartheid, in all countries, with particular reference to colonial and other dependent countries and territories: report of the Sub-Commission under Commission on Human Rights resolution 8 (XXIII).

Distinguished Chair, members of the Sub-Commission, observers and NGO representatives, North South wishes to extend its congratulations to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the occasion of its 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

There have been many gains which have been made for human rights over the last 50 years but there are some notable cases of the reverse situation, where for the same period of time the human rights situation has deteriorated dramatically.

As Sri Lanka celebrated 50 years of independence early this year, Tamil people all over the world remembered and commemorated with sadness, decades of genocide of the Tamil people.

Fifteen years ago, commencing on 23 July 1983, thousands of Tamils were slaughtered in the island of Sri Lanka by armed Sinhala gangs, led in many cases by Sinhala members of Parliament and their henchmen. It was a planned attack. But this was not the first occasion, when the Tamil people in the island of Sri Lanka were murdered by Sinhala armed gangs and security forces. A close look at documented records of the last 40 years prove beyond reasonable doubt that Tamils have been murdered and extra judicially executed in a systematic, deliberate and planned manner by the Sri Lanka authorities and their agents.

The massacres at Chunnakam, Mannar, Iruthayapuram, Akkaraipattu, Jaffna General Hospital, Valvettiturai, Saththurukkondan, Kokaddicholai, Inspector Etram Milakudiyetra, Jeyanthipuram, Navaly Church, Nagerkoil School, Kumarapuram, Puthukudyiruppu, Amparai, and Tampalakamam have now become a part of the history of the suffering of the Tamil people.

The genocidal attacks and the violations of the rights of the Tamil people in the North and East of the island, represent the Sinhala response to the struggle of the people of Tamil Eelam to free themselves from Sinhala rule. The national identity of the people of Tamil Eelam is not simply a function of decades of oppressive Sinhala rule - it is also rooted in their language, in their culture and in their heritage. And it is a togetherness that is given direction by their aspirations for a future where they, and their children and their children's children may live in equality and in freedom. The struggle of the people of Tamil Eelam is not about devolution. Alien rulers are not slow to offer (from time to time) 'consultation' and 'devolution' as ways of perpetuating their rule, pacifying their subjects and progressing the assimilation of sections of a conquered people. The conflict in the island is about the Tamil people's struggle for self determination.

Mr. Bacre Ndiaye, Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions visited Sri Lanka from 24 August to 5 September 1997. In his report of March this year, Mr.Bacre stated that although there had been a re-establishment of a government administration in the Jaffna Peninsula, the military remain in control of the city. The security forces, comprised of the army and the police force are 99% Sinhalese and do not speak Tamil which is the language of the local population, and often treat the local population with suspicion. This amplifies the sense of an army occupation and exacerbates the already existing feeling of alienation, he reported.

With regard to the cases of execution the Special Rapporteur was told that families are reluctant to claim the bodies of their relatives. Close relatives who want to claim the bodies of the victims are required to declare that the victims were terrorists. Failure to do so results in the bodies not being given to the families. Due to these conditions families are afraid to claim the bodies.

Mr. Bacre observed that the serious destabilising element of impunity permeates all parts of the Sri Lankan socio-political system and that the culture of impunity has contributed to the uncontrollable spiralling of violence.

The revelation last month of the existence of mass graves in the Jaffna Peninsula is the latest evidence of the shocking situation facing Tamils in Sri Lanka. In the Colombo High Court on July 5, the first accused, Corporal Rajapakse Somaratne in the rape and murder case of the Jaffna schoolgirl, Krishanthy Kurnaraswamy said 'We only buried the bodies, we can show you where 300 to 400 bodies have been buried. Almost every evening dead bodies were brought there and the soldiers were asked to bury them.

On 3rd August Amnesty International appealed to the Attorney General of Sri Lanka to allow the Criminal Investigation Department and the Human Rights Commission to carry out investigations of the site of Chenmmani, Jaffna with the help of leading forensic experts. Amnesty asked the Attorney General to ensure that the investigations, including exhumation was impartially and independently conducted in such a way that any evidence collected was admissible in courts They said it is the experience of leading forensic experts around the world that the exhumation of bodies piled on top of each over in restricted places, such as lavatory pits and wells, is one of the most complex forms of exhumations to carry out.

Killings of Tamil civilians continue. There have been over 1800 victims of landmines in Jaffna. Dr. N Selvarajah of the University of Jaffna said in a seminar jointly organised by the University of Jaffna and UNICEF on 6 July 98 that between 80 and 100 victims of pressure mines are reported every month in Jaffna. These landmines are believed to have been buried by the security forces for their security in the Jaffna peninsula.

Mr. Chairman, further to the flagrant abuse of civil and political rights of the Tamil people of which the above is only a small part (since disappearances, arbitrary arrests, torture and rape as a weapon of war remain also serious issues of harass rights violations by the Sri Lankan security forces.) we feel it relevant to speak also of the systematic abuse of the Economic and Social Rights of the Tamil people.

We would like to draw attention to points raised by experts at the 18th Session of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in April, earlier this year. One expert said that there had been marginalization of Tamils in their homeland since independence. Concerning discrimination against ethnic groups an expert said available data did not prove it did not exist as the Sri Lankan government delegation claimed. One expert said that the core statistics in the Sri Lankan Government's report to the committee on causes of low birth weight did not include figures from the North and East of Sri Lanka.

The government could not blame the conflict for not addressing problems, the expert said, otherwise the fighting was justified. If practical reasons were the cause for she lack of statistics, how had it been possible to hold elections in the Jaffna Peninsula but not health surveys ?

Figures showed that the Sinhalese population was better treated and provided for than other ethnic groups. One expert said the delegation insisted that there had been improvement in the quality of life but statistics showed that Sinhalese children were in better health than non Sinhalese. He was concerned about the correlation between non-Sinhalese and cases of malnutrition among children. Other issues raised included the fact that the Government is using food as a weapon of war against the Tamil population and Tamil refugees.

In this very room during the Commission on Human Rights in 1997 a priest who was a victim and witness of the horrendous mass exodus from Jaffna in October 1995 as the town was invaded by the Sri Lankan Amy, spoke of the bombing and artillery shelling of the North and East of the island. He said that more than eighty shells were dropped within one minute. and this was confirmed later by a Sri Lankan official himself. His devastating experience was shared by another half a million Tamil people who likewise fled the oncoming Sri Lankan army. Since then thousands more Tamils have been displaced as a result of more Sri Lankan army operations They live in appalling conditions in the Vanni, subjected to the food and medicine embargo or the government

Mr. Chairman visits by two Special representatives of the UN Secretary General, a special Rapporteur on Extra Judicial Killings and two visits by the UN Working Group on Disappearances have expressed a degree of concern at the serious situation of human rights. With all these interventions and additional appeals the human rights situation has not improved in fact it is going from bad to worse and deteriorating.

Sri Lanka has the habit of giving vague and false promises and resorting to fiction in order to mislead the UN Human Rights Sessions and NGOs. In the past the international community and the UN mechanisms have been deceived by the government of Sri Lanka.

We call upon the government of Sri Lanka to cease all military operations against the Tamil civilian population, to withdraw the occupying forces from the Tamil homeland, to lift the economic blockade in the North and East and to allow humanitarian aid.

We urge this Sub-Commission and the High Commissioner for Human Rights to appoint a Commission to investigate into the unauthorised and illegal burial of the several hundreds of bodies in the Jaffna peninsula.

Thank you. Mr Chairman.

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Oral Statement by International Educational Development/Humanitarian Law Project

  • under Agenda Item 2 on the question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including policies of racial discrimination and segregation and of apartheid, in all countries, with particular reference to colonial and other dependent countries and territories: report of the Sub-Commission under Commission on Human Rights resolution 8 (XXIII).

Fifteen years ago the world witnessed the massacre of thousands of Tamil people in the island of Ceylon at the hands of Sinhala gangs, led in many cases by Sinhala members of Parliament. This massacre was identified at that time as an act of genocide by the International Commission of Jurists, many international scholars and other highly knowledgeable and credible groups. A month after the massacre, the Sub-Commission adopted resolution 1983/16 in which it expressed its concern over the 'severe loss of lives and property' that occurred.

Since that Sub-Commission resolution, the genocide has continued against the Tamil people. The war between the 98% Sinhala Sri Lankan military forces continues against the Tamil people. And let there be no mistake in any ones mind: in this conflict, it is primarily Tamil civilians who die - 50, 000 of them. Not Sinhala civilians. Certainly some members of the Sinhala army die. Some members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam die. But by far the majority of the dead and wounded, the tortured and disappeared, the abused and the maimed, the displaced, uprooted and scattered into a new international diaspora are Tamil civilians.

Who is killing, wounding, arresting, 'disappearing', torturing, uprooting these Tamils? Other Tamils? To say so is the same as saying that the Tutsi in Rwanda or the Croatians in the former Yugoslavia did it to themselves.

In 1986, Senator A.L.Missen, Chairman, Australian Parliamentary Group of Amnesty International stated:

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

Ten years later, Margaret Trawick, Professor of Social Anthropology, Massey University Palmerston North, New Zealand states:

"I have been struggling in my mind against the conclusion that the Sri Lanka government is trying to kill or terrorise as many Tamil people as possible; that the government is trying to keep the conditions of the war unreported internationally, because if those conditions were reported, the actions of the military would be perceived as so deplorable that foreign nations would have no choice but to condemn them. And this would be embarrassing to everybody. But it seems now that no other conclusion is possible..."

It would seem to International Educational Development that the Tamil people are not viewed as worthy of attention and this must be viewed as rank and despicable discrimination. What other conclusion is possible when in the face of this long and protracted war, neither the Commission nor the Sub-Commission has issued a resolution since 1987? Have these bodies not paid any attention to the reports of the Commission's Working Groups and Rapporteurs? Are these bodies unaware that Sri Lanka is just behind Iraq in disappearances and that almost all the disappeared are Tamils?

Are the Tamil people not as fashionable as the Bosnians? Is the fact that the Tamil people are historically Hindu a problem, seeing that so few other countries are Hindu? Is it because certain foreign powers have such an interest in Trincomalee harbour (in the Tamil areas) for their geo political control of the region? Why is it that the international community imposes sanctions on the Republic of Yugoslavia because of the practically identical situation in Kosovo and says not a word about Sri Lanka?

As bad as the violations against the Tamil people are, however, the real question is the struggle of the Tamil people for independence. The struggle of the Tamil people is not about devolution. The Sinhala people are alien to the Tamil. British rule was 'benevolent' and even 'just'. But British rule was alien. To ask the Tamil people to live under Sinhala rule is to require the French to live under Italian rule, or the Norwegians to live under Spanish rule.

The national identity of the people of Tamil Eelam is not simply a function of genocidal Sinhala rule - it is also rooted in their language, in their culture and in their heritage. and given direction by their aspirations for a future where they, and their children and their children's children may live in equality and in freedom. The genocidal attacks by the Sri Lanka authorities have only served to strengthen the Tamil resolve for freedom and to consolidate their togetherness. And this should be applauded and respected. After all, did the international community want the majority population in South Africa to 'cry uncle' and acquiesce to apartheid? Why should the Tamil?

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Oral Intervention by Asbjorn Eide

  • Agenda Item 2 on the question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including policies of racial discrimination and segregation and of apartheid, in all countries, with particular reference to colonial and other dependent countries and territories: report of the Sub-Commission under Commission on Human Rights resolution 8 (XXIII).

"The Commission and ECOSOC has consistently mandated us, since 1968, to bring to the attention of the Commission any situation which the Sub-Commission has reasonable cause to believe reveals a consistent pattern of gross violations of human rights in accordance with paragraph 6 of the Commission resolution (XXIII). This is what we are examining under this agenda item. But it is only a limited part of our mandate; we have at least 10 other substantive agenda items, and the totality of our efforts should be to move towards the goal which is set out in the UDHR article 28:

'Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realised.'

In 1998- thirty years later - the Commission has initiated a process aimed at the enforcement of the effectiveness and efficiency of its mechanisms and procedures. We are engaged in a similar process at this Sub-Commission. In so doing, we should give particular attention to the way in which we deal with this particular item on the agenda, in the light of the other mandates we have and in the light of the way in which we best can use our expertise.Our role should not be to point fingers based on superficial review of selective facts, but to contribute to a deeper process of investigation with a view to make a constructive contribution towards the realisation of human rights for those who live in that particular society.

Our efforts under this particular agenda item is therefore only part of a larger endeavour, consisting of a multitude of efforts, including dialogue, technical assistance and advisory services. Most important is the dialogue, on all levels - international dialogue between governments, a dialogue between ourselves as experts representing different cultures and traditions but united in our common concern for human rights, which is our field of expertise. One important aspect of that dialogue are the contributions now made by the NGOs to bring to our attention the situations they think reveal a gross and systematic violation, and the discussions we as expert members hold among ourselves on how to approach these issues, when we see it in the context of the wider function of the United Nations as a whole....

(There are those) here long enough to remember that I, in 1983, was the first to criticise the government of Sri Lanka for its lack of effective measures to investigate the authors of the massacres against Tamils in the summer of 1983, including the killing of political prisoners in the Welikade prison. I know also that many in Sri Lanka subsequently regretted that they did not listen to the suggestions we then made, which were to take prompt actions to restore law and order, to punish those responsible, and to involve the International Committee of the Red Cross.

But very much has changed since 1983. Among the Tamils, an extremely militant group calling itself the Tigers, abbreviated LTTE. Its leadership has developed an almost paranoid garrison mentality. That movement or particularly its leadership respects no human rights. It engages in the most heinous crimes, using female, male and possibly even child suicide bombers to create havoc and fear. Its killing is directed not only at Sinhala enemies, including civilians, and their religious temples, but also against its Tamil opponents including the courageous Tamil woman who was until recently the Mayor of Jaffna until assassinated by the Tigers. Many Tamils, including those who are struggling for a devolution of power and greater influence for the Tamils, live under constant threat of assassination by the LTTE.

What baffles me is that there are still international non governmental organisations who lend their support to this movement. They are then not supporting the Tamil cause but an utterly undemocratic movement unable to contemplate peace in any form.

In 1994, a new President was elected in Sri Lanka, and the government has presented a package of devolution which goes as far as any government can possibly go. There is no doubt in my mind that the President is genuine, and that many or probably most Tamils would be happy if the package could be accepted. But the LTTE does not want it to happen.

At present, the LTTE is battling for the minds and the money of the expatriate Tamil community. In order to continue its fruitless and endless war, the Tigers depend on this external financial support from which to purchase weapons and other means.The international community, the international NGOs and governments should now seek to convince the Tamil communities in their respective countries that the way to achieve Tamil human rights is through an accommodation based on equality for all in the island of Sri Lanka, full respect for the cultures of the Sinhala, Tamils, Muslims and others, and a devolution of power which makes it possible through peaceful democratic means to ensure conditions for the survival and reproduction of the Tamil culture."(see also A Response To Asbjorn Eide by Nadesan Satyendra)

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Statement by International Educational Development

  • Agenda Item 3 - Comprehensive examination of thematic issues relating to the elimination of racial discrimination: (a) Situation of migrant workers and members of their families; (b) Xenophobia.

... The Sub-Commission should appeal to the United States to eliminate anti-migrant xenophobia and to ratify the Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers as soon as possible...

We must also comment on the intensity of anti--Tamil propaganda carried out by of course the government of Sri Lanka and echoed by certain others. There has been the suggestion that non-governmental organisations are somehow controlled or duped by the Tamil opposition group the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (named because the tiger was the symbol of the historic Tamil kingdom).

This "accusation" arises because 53 UN credentialised organisations called upon the parties to the conflict to abide by humanitarian law, and called on the international community to urge the parties to the conflict to seek a negotiated political settlement of the long-standing dispute. NGOs expressed concern over targeting of the Tamil civilian population by the Sri Lankan forces; disappearances, torture, extra judicial killings, rape, arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention of Tamil civilians; an embargo of subsistence food and essential medicine in contravention of humanitarian law; and the plight of the 850,000 displaced persons at risk now of starvation and death. 95% of the victims of this war are Tamil civilians -- killed, tortured, raped by government forces.

We think that the international NGO's are right in their appeals, and we urge the Sub-Commission to yield to them. Should not the international community work to find a solution to this war as it has in other wars? We consider condemnation of NGO concern for Tamil victims to be politically motivated using racist and xenophobic tactics.

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Statement by Liberation (incorporating the Movement for Colonial Freedom)

  • Agenda Item 10 - The implementation of the human rights of women: (a) Traditional practices affecting the health of women and the girl child; (b) The role and equal participation of women in development.

The Beijing Platform for Action reaffirmed that the protection and promotion of the Human Rights of women in all spheres and at all times. The full and effective implementation should be seen as a priority objective of the United Nations. Under the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, States are committed to do away with violations of Human Rights. It is incumbent on States in war situations and armed conflict to prevent impending violations of human rights affecting civilian populations, The commonest of these violations are rape of women and other forms of torture to obtain confessions and intimidate women and their communities. Despite becoming signatories to International Conventions, some States have yet to provide constitutional guarantees on women's rights.

Liberation is concerned that several States are failing to fulfil their commitments. In some cases human rights violations are so severe that they impede women's equal participation in development.

In certain war situations the state security forces have not protected the girl child and women. In particular, women have been subjected to sexual violence in Rwanda, former Yugoslavia and in Sri Lanka because international laws protecting women have not been implemented nationally.

The international community has set up War Crimes tribunals for human rights violations committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. The nature of human rights violations in Sri Lanka is as serious as those in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia and thus the situation in Sri Lanka also needs the attention of this Sub-Commission. Unless we address the conflict in Sri Lanka and the human rights abuses, women will find it difficult to assert their rights to equal participation in development.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Extra Judicial Executions, Mr Bacre Ndiaye in his report of March 1998 (E/CN.4/1998/68/Add.2) described how, in Sri Lanka, the national provisions which guarantee a number of fundamental rights, on the one hand, take away the rights to equality and non discrimination and the freedoms of expression, association of movement and peaceful assembly on the other. He also stated that the national provisions in Sri Lanka allow for the application of the Emergency Regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act which give the security forces wide powers of preventative detention, where those arrested can be detained incommunicado without charge, or trial for long periods, which could be a source of torture, cruel inhumane and degrading treatment, disappearances and extra judicial executions.

Currently over 500 Tamil women are languishing in prisons in Sri Lanka without being charged with any crime.

Mr. Ndiaye further stated that the Prevention of Terrorism Act provides that "confessions made to police under torture or threats may be admitted" (into courts as evidence). He also implied that any inquests into death are dependent upon the police or security officers, who can decide whether or not post-mortems are undertaken, and can also decide what evidence should or should not be taken into account by the Magistrate.

We are aware that in war situations that many states security forces use Emergency and Prevention of Terrorism Acts provisions to practice with impunity the systematic rape of women and other forms of violence against women.

Liberation welcomes the prosecution and conviction of members of the security forces of Sri Lanka for the rape and murder of 18 years old Krishanthy Kumarasamy and the murder of three others including her mother and younger brother. We have learnt that this is the first time such a conviction for crimes against Tamil women has been carried out in decades. We had hoped such a such a serious trial and conviction would certainly check the behaviour of the security forces. But sadly this is not the case as further violations against women have been committed. The pattern of frequency of violations against Tamils by the security forces remains unchanged.

Liberation urges this Sub-Commission to encourage positive action and that sufficient measures be adopted by Sri Lanka to combat violence against Tamil women in particular where there is a large presence of armed security forces in civilian habitations and at army check points.

In occupied territories, violence against women by the security forces affects women's freedom of movement and they often stay confined to their homes. But mothers who accompany their children to school have no choice and they face regular sexual abuse by soldiers in broad daylight for all to see including their children.

In such situations it is often the case that the same military which is responsible for the human rights abuses against women are the only authority to whom the victim call report the acts of violence. This means that in practice women have little recourse to whatever national and international mechanisms which exist for them to exercise their rights in Sri Lanka.

Many homes have been razed to ground to make way for military operations and army occupation. Women who are displaced from these affected areas have been unable to return to their own homes. Thus the role and equal participation of women in development is severely hindered in the occupied areas.

The role and the equal participation of women in development in Tamil controlled areas where large displaced Tamil populations are located, is gravely affected by the imposition of an economic embargo and its dire consequences for the last 8 years. Also, the military frequently targets civilians in its air raids and artillery shelling, causing immense hardships. Many women are displaced repeatedly which denies them any opportunity for equal participation.

Sri Lanka became a signatory to the Geneva Conventions and the various conventions concerning women's human rights. Despite this the rights guaranteed to women under these laws have not been implemented in practice as evidenced by the records of continuing human rights abuses of women.

Finally, Mr.Chairman, Liberation urges the Sub-Commission to recommend that a Special Rapporteur be sent to investigate countries including Sri Lanka where war situations and armed conflicts exist, and to report on the state of implementation of international human rights laws for the protection of women and their equal participation in development.

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Statement by the World Organisation Against Torture

  • Agenda Item 5 - The implementation of the human rights of women: (a) Traditional practices affecting the health of women and the girl child; (b) The role and equal participation of women in development.

Mr Chairperson,

Since the elaboration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a complex system for the protection and promotion of human rights has been developed under the auspices of the United Nations. However, violations of women's human rights, including torture directed against women, have suffered from historic neglect by the various international bodies and mechanisms responsible for their promotion and protection.

The international community openly acknowledged in 1993 during the World Conference on Human Rights that the body of international laws and mechanisms to promote and protect human rights had not properly taken into account the. concerns of women. The final document, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, stressed that "the equal status of women and the human rights of women should be integrated into the mainstream of United Nations system wide activity." They called on the United Nations bodies and mechanisms to regularly and systematically address the equal status of women and the human rights of women, including gender-specific abuses.

However, the World Organisation Against Torture. (OMCT) has noticed that certain mainstream human rights mechanisms and bodies, including the Committee against Torture, still tend to ignore matters of fundamental concern to women, often because of the absence of gender-sensitive approach in their work. The marginalisation of the human rights of women at the international level illustrates in fact the subordinate position of women at the country....

...Violations of women's rights often go unrecognised and in case they are recognised, they often go unpunished and without any remedies. Gender inequality gives rise to difficulties in the investigation prosecution and sanction of the crime of rape. In addition to being an especially traumatic form of torture for the victim, rape perpetrated by a State official has serious related consequences. Women may be reluctant to seek redress by reporting a rape because of fear and shame, of the severe social repercussions that may follow therefrom and/or reprisals from or reprisals against their relatives. Consequently, when rape or, sexual assault against a woman constitutes a torture method, the impunity of the torturer is disproportionately higher than is the case with other torture methods.....

OMCT would also like to draw the attention of the Sub-Commissions to the situation of Tamil women in Sri Lanka, who are subjected to a similar pattern of violence. Sri Lankan soldiers have raped both women and young girls on a massive scale, and often with impunity, since reporting often leads to reprisals against the victims and their families.

An example. On the 25th of June 1998, the army chief of the Mirusuvil army camp in the Jaffna area, ordered Kanthasamy Kalanithy, a 26-year old Tamil woman, to marry one of his Sinhalese soldiers. He forced her to stand in front of ten Sri Lankan soldiers and to choose one of them, When she refused to respond he ordered one of the soldiers to put a pottu (a red spot signifying her marriage to him) on her forehead. When she screamed in protest, she was gang-raped and then killed. The army refused to hand over her body for examination and they have attempted to threaten her parents into silence.

The failure of governments to prevent, condemn or punish rapists allows rape and other forms of sexual torture to become tools of military strategy. When this type of violence is not recognised at the national level, it should however not lead to the negation of this violence at the international level. It should lead to a clear commitment to find means to put an end to such crimes.

Finally in the context of the current revision of the United Nations human tights mechanisms and procedures, it is essential that the Sub-Commission insists that all United Nations human rights mechanisms and bodies pay special attention to gender specific forms of violence and collaborate actively with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women to find concrete means to put an end to such practices.

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Intervention by Womens International Democratic Federation

  • - Agenda Item 5 - The implementation of the human rights of women: (a) Traditional practices affecting the health of women and the girl child; (b) The role and equal participation of women in development.

".. In Sri Lanka, Tamil women are treated as booty of war and many cannot give their testimonies because of intimidation against their family and children."

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Statement by International Educational Development

  • - Agenda Item 5 - The implementation of the human rights of women: (a) Traditional practices affecting the health of women and the girl child; (b) The role and equal participation of women in development.

International Educational Development is pleased with Sub Commission attention to the situation of government led violence against women, in particular rape and other severe forms of torture and violence in the context of armed conflict. We were pleased to co sponsor and chair a round table on this topic during this Session with the participation of several members of the Sub-Commission....

... The situation of Tamil women in Sri Lanka also merits the serious attention of the Sub-Commission. As most are aware, there has been an armed conflict in Sri Lanka since at least 1983, when Sinhala militants massacred, raped and pillaged the Tamil community in Colombo. The war should properly be carried out by the military forces of each side -- the military forces of the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Unfortunately, the Sri Lankan military forces target the civilian Tamil population far more then it does the LTTE -- 95% of casualties in this war are Tamil civilians.

The consistent policy of rape and violence against Tamil women that we have documented for many years is a fundamental military tactic of the Sri Lankan forces. The Krishanthy case has been well documented here, and the Sri Lankan government has used this case to show that perpetrators of rape are prosecuted. Of course, this is the only case in which perpetrators have been prosecuted. And the defendants were given the death sentence which does not exist in Sri Lanka. Is this a show trial? We think so. The government military forces are still raping Tamil women with impunity. Many of the victims disappear, as part of the grim statistics making the Commission's Working Group on Disappearances note with alarm that Sri Lanka leads the list in 1997 for disappearances.

Women also comprise the majority of the displaced, where in addition to the extreme hardships on them, they must care for the children and the elderly. International aid is not reaching them, as the government has recently expelled most humanitarian groups helping them and severely restricts food, medicine and potable water. The Sub-Commission should not be silent to this catastrophe, and can even play a useful role in encouraging the parties to the conflict to enter into meaningful dialogue with international observers to finally end this long war.

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Oral Intervention by Pax Romana

  • Agenda Item 5 - The implementation of the human rights of women: (a) Traditional practices affecting the health of women and the girl child; (b) The role and equal participation of women in development.

"......Reports about Tamil women being raped by the army are an the rise. Only one of the thousands of rapes which have been reported, has resulted in a conviction. Victims are frightened of reprisals and there seems to be little point in reporting their cases, since the only place to lodge a complaint is with the very same security forces who commit the rapes. There also seems to be little point to expect justice on the basis of the constitution since the constitution itself provides the mechanisms and justifications for the commission of these war crimes and encourages impunity. Let us only refer to one incident of a 26 year old Tamil woman. On 25 June 1998 the young, Tamil woman from Mirusuvil in Jaffna peninsula resisted to be forced into marriage to a Sinhala soldier and 10 Sri Lankan army soldiers therefore gang raped and murdered her.

We therefore urge the Sub-Commission to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur of systematic rape, sexual slavery and slavery-like practises during war time, Ms. McDougall for a one year period. The Special Rapporteur could then schedule to visit the above. mentioned countries and support the setting up of a fact finding commission on systematic rapes...."

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Statement by Nord-Sud XXI

  • 14 August 1998 - Agenda Item 6 - Contemporary forms of Slavery.

Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the Sub-Commission, observers and NGO representatives. North South XXI welcomes the report of Ms. Gay Mc.Dougall and appreciates the concern over the past years of the Sub-Commission regarding the situation of systematic rape and slavery-like practices during wartime.

Some of the important questions to be considered on the issue of systematic rape in wartime are, who is doing the raping? And who are they doing it to? The answers to these two questions usually throw light on the deeper issues involved; the motivations behind systematic rape and the effect of systematic in wartime on the victims.

For example if we take a situation where the question of racism arises, where a dominant group of one race uses rape as a weapon of war against women of a disempowered or excluded group of another race, we can see that this inevitably makes rape systematic. This is especially the case when the perpetrators are themselves on the state payroll and when the state does not prevent, investigate nor punish the perpetrators.

UN Special Rapporteur on Extra Judicial Killings reported earlier this year on the situation in Sri Lanka after his long awaited visit. He stated in his report (E/CN.4/1998/68/Add.2) that he is "..concerned about certain laws and regulations which have been enacted in Sri Lanka and which allow impunity to persist and which in some cases grant security officers immunity from prosecution." He also stated that "The systematic absence of investigation, either civil or military, into violations of the right to life facilities impunity." He concluded that the "impunity enjoyed by human rights violators in Sri Lanka is very pervasive."

The scenario in Sri Lanka is that the dominant group are the Sinhalese who not only numerically outnumber the Tamils but who also have step by step over the decades politically, economically and socially disempowered and excluded the Tamil people. The Tamil speaking people at the time of independence made up almost a third of the population of the island , but today it is quite clear that the policies of the dominant Sinhalese in government have brought about a situation where Tamils have absolutely no democratic power to change the security situation for Tamil women even in their own homeland.

Today there is a war going on in the areas where Tamils have lived for many centuries. The war is carried out in the Tamil areas against the Tamils, against the civilian population as well as the Tamil resistance movement, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The war is carried out by the state security forces which are predominantly Sinhalese. There is a Sinhalese army occupation of areas of the Tamil homeland which has been going on a very long time.

So when we look at who is doing what to whom, we can see in this war situation that rape is being carried out by Sinhalese armed forces on the state payroll, on Tamil women. It is a clear case of racial domination. In this context we can see that rape is being used as a weapon of war by the dominant group which has the backing of state authority, resources and power, against Tamil women who are disempowered and excluded.

Sri Lanka has signed up to various conventions including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention against Torture. It has managed quite successfully to present its progress in the Sinhalese dominant group. By doing that it has been quite easy to give the impression that violence against women is not really much of a problem in Sri Lanka. However, if we look at the situation of Tamil women the picture is startlingly different.

In the Tamil homeland areas we have a situation where the Tamil population was not and is not co-operating with the Sinhalese dominant group in government because they had been disempowered and excluded. Systematic rape therefore has been used and is still being used by the Sinhalese state security forces as a way to break Tamil women and their community.

There are deliberately no mechanisms put in place for women to report rape to any impartial and independent authority. For women who are living under Sinhalese army occupation the only place to report rape is to the same military which is perpetrating rape. UN Special Rapporteur Mr Bacre Ndiaye said that "Torture is reportedly used by the armed forces ..to intimidate the population".

Mr. Bacre Ndiaye's report indicates that the legal provisions that exist in Sri Lanka allow the security forces to arrest, torture, rape, kill and bury bodies with impunity.

In one highly publicised case an 18 year old schoolgirl was abducted on her way home from school where she had just done her A level Chemistry paper. Krishanthy was abducted at an army checkpoint by a gang of soldiers. Later her mother, younger brother and a neighbour were also abducted at the checkpoint when they went to find her. There was an international protest about the disappearances because Krishanthy had relatives in Colombo and London. When the Sri Lankan government was forced to produce the bodies they had to exhume them from a place where 300 to 400 other bodies were also buried. Krishanthy had been raped by eleven members of the security forces and her body had been torn in pieces and so had her younger brother's. Her mother and the neighbour had been strangled.

The Sri Lankan government was forced to put on a serious trial with the eyes of the international community watching closely. They eventually convicted some soldiers to 30 years in prison and others were given the death penalty. But no change was made at all in the legal provisions that allowed the security forces to arrest, rape, kill and bury Krishanthy without a post-mortem.

What the Sri Lankan government did with Krishanthy's case was to make it into a showpiece, so that the Government can answer any difficult questions about the human rights situation for Tamil women. If you take a look at all the cases of rape, sexual abuse, sexual torture and sexual mutilation of Tamil women by the Sinhalese security forces there is no change at all in the pattern. If we look at the data for a whole year before, and a whole year after, the beginning of the trial of Krishanthy's rapists, there is no change in how persistently and continuously the Sinhalese security forces raping Tamil women.

Particularly brutal cases are these: Last September, a six-year old Tamil girl was raped by a gang of Sinhalese soldiers in the North as she passed an army checkpoint on her way to school, in October a Tamil woman's body was washed up on the shores with both her breasts cut off, in October a 49 year old woman was raped and murdered by Sinhalese armed forces, her son told how they had butchered her genitals after gang raping her. In January, a 17 year old Tamil girl was gang raped by Sinhalese soldiers and she was found physically paralysed from her waist down because of the raping. There is case after case, and sometimes women have died from the raping.

Rape of women living under army occupation is a terrifying experience, the brutality of the street enters the home, enters a woman's most sexually intimate places. This brutalisation of women's sexuality, the place of life creation, is unbearable for many Tamil women. They do not kill themselves because of a social stigma, they kill themselves because they cannot live with the psychological destruction that rape by the army has brought on them, rape at the point of a gun, a rape that can be repeated any time of day or night, a rape that no one can protect them from.

Mr. Chairman, Systematic rape of Tamil women living in their homeland by the Sri Lankan armed forces has been going on for decades. Before the Sinhalese armed occupation of the Tamil homeland, the security forces were organising pogroms against the Tamils, where Sinhalese men gang-raped hundreds of Tamil women before burning them alive. The pogroms happened regularly throughout the last fifty years, and the rapings and murders were never punished by the Sinhalese state, each pogrom bigger than the last, until the all out war began.

Why is it that the international community rarely hears about the systematic rape of Tamil women by the security forces? Because generally we do not hear about excluded and disempowered nations in a multi-nation state. And when a racial dictatorship is covered by the formal democratic procedures it is very easy for that government to talk on behalf of the people it oppresses, as if everything was fine.

As it can be seen the perpetrators of systematic sexual violence are able to carry out the violation because of the armed occupation by the racially dominant group. In view of this it seems the most reasonable course of action to request the withdrawal of the Sri Lankan armed forces from the areas of the Tamil people's homeland.

We strongly recommend that the sub-commission takes decisive action on this situation and that Ms McDougall be given another year to further her report on systematic rape. We urge the sub-commission members to propose a fact-finding mission by Ms McDougall to the North and East of the island of Sri Lanka in order that she may ascertain for herself as an expert the situation faced by Tamil women.

Thank you, Mr Chairman.

Statement by Liberation

  • Agenda Item 10 - Freedom of movement: (a) The right to leave any country, including one's own, and to return to one's own country, and the right to seek asylum from persecution; (b) Human rights and population displacements.
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Mr. Chairperson, Liberation welcomes the Principles on Internally Displaced Persons that the Special Representative of the Secretary General Mr. Francis M Deng proposes. In his report of February 1998 he recognised that internal displacement is one of the most tragic phenomena of the contemporary world, affecting some 25 million people world-wide.

No where is it more tragic than in Sri Lanka. According to a report of a European humanitarian aid agency, it is estimated that today in Sri Lanka, there are one million internally displaced people, and of these, about 700,000 live in the Jaffna peninsula and the northern Vanni district.

There have been cycles of displacement of Tamils following the anti-Tamil riots in 1956, '58, '77, '81 and '83. In the past few years, several Sri Lankan military offensives have displaced over several hundred thousand of Tamils. There were 12,000 internal refugees in 1957-1958, in 1983 - 35000, in 1986 - 205,000, in 1994 525,000, in 1995 - 1017,180 in 1996 - 768,356 and in 1998 it is now estimated to more than one million.

The large numbers of displaced persons represent almost a third of the Tamil people. The resultant humanitarian crisis in the island has been kept hidden from the international community by the Sri Lankan Government's comprehensive and long-standing news-blackout and now there is a complete military censorship in the Island.

The displacements themselves have taken place as the Sri Lankan security forces launch large scale military offensives in Tamil areas, resulting in the deaths of large numbers of civilians, and the destruction of civilian dwellings, as well as hospitals, schools, more than 1,500 Temples and churches.

The Sri Lankan Government had on numerous counts, violated most of the proposed Principles on Internal Displacement. An eight-year economic embargo banning food and medical supplies to Tamil areas of the island continue. At the ECOSOC meeting held in Geneva in April 1998(HR/ESC/98/3) Food First International Action, quoting a study by UNICEF and NGOs have reported that the government uses food and medicine as weapon of war against the Tamil people and Tamil refugees, mainly the displaced persons in the Vanni area and the Tamil resistance group.

Prof. Jordan J. Paust, in his essay in the Vanderbilt Journal of Transitional Law, May 1998, states that

"intentional withholding of medicine and medical supplies from LTTE controlled areas, as recognised by the US State Department, is a clear violation of Article 3 of the 1949 of the Geneva Convention and a war crime...... He continues to say that medicine and medical supplies are neutral and protected property in time of armed conflict and may not be withheld."

Mr. Chairman, Liberation would like to make the observation that Sri Lanka has abstained from voting for the International Criminal Court in Rome, in July 1998.

Disappearances, torture, rape, detention without trial, extrajudicial killings, reprisal and denials of freedom of movement, travel and emigration, by the Sri Lankan security forces are widespread in the areas where the displaced people have sought shelter. These are also war crimes.

We appeal to the Sub-Commission to request the Special Representative on Internally Displaced People to make a return visit to the island of Ceylon to investigate the plight of the one million internal refugees. We also appeal to the Sub-Commission and the Special Representative to call upon the Government of Sri Lanka to adhere to his recommendations and to remove all existing impediments that cause severe hardship and suffering to displaced persons.

Refugees Right to seek Asylum from persecution

Liberation is very concerned about some authorities in host countries treating refugees inhumanely, who seek asylum in their countries and often deporting them back to the very situations they were forced to flee.

Mr. Chairman, there is a war in Sri Lanka. Since the present government came to power the defence forces have doubled. According to Air Vice Marshal Harry Gunatilleke, in 1997 there was a total of 247,500 Sri Lankan Security Forces. These forces are backed up by bomber planes, helicopter gun-ships, artillery and mortar fire, tanks and warships. "Safer world" in its publication of 10th May 1998 classified as Sri Lanka - Tamil Eelam war as one of "High Intensity Armed Conflict".

There are significant numbers of reports by UN rapporteurs, i.e. UN Doc. E/CN.4/1998/68/Add.2 and many NGOs conclusively prove war crimes such as torture, extrajudicial killings and other gross violations of human rights of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka.

As a result, more than 500,000 Tamil people have sought asylum in many countries around the world. No country may send a person back to a country at war. Especially where there are violations of the Geneva Conventions such as occurring in Sri Lanka. Furthermore no countries that are party to the Torture Convention can send Sri Lankans back to the Island because Article 3 of that Convention forbids it.

Some countries continue to deport Tamil people to Sri Lanka. On 15 May 1998, one country seized Mr. Subas Chandrabose at 10pm while he was preparing his meal. He was hand cuffed, his legs were chained and he was forcibly taken from his home and sent to Sri Lanka within 24 hours. On arrival he was arrested. Many such deportees have "disappeared". Relatives are not informed to meet them because they do not know they are arriving.

Liberation requests the Sub-Commission and international community to consider the Tamil people's safety. Actually the Tamil people want to return to their mother land but they are unable to do so because of the war. Tamil people wish to invite the members of the Sub-Commission and the international Community to visit the Tamil home land to ascertain the situation for themselves.

Liberation appeals to the Sub Commission to insist in all countries that no refugees including Tamil ones are forcibly returned to their countries from where they were forced to flee in the first place.

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