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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Sri Lanka Accused at United Nations > UN Sub Commission 1998
UN SUB COMMISSION ON PREVENTION
OF DISCRIMINATION AND PROTECTION OF MINORITIES
50TH SESSIONS: AUGUST 1998
- Appeal presented by the International Federation of Tamils - 10 August 1998
On the 15th anniversary of Sri Lanka's Genocide'83 and on the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and on the historic year of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the International Federation of Tamils (with constituent membership in Great Britain, United States of America, Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, Norway, Australia, Malaysia, Tamil Nadu, Africa and the Middle East) appeals to the United Nations Sub Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, to secure Peace and Justice for the people of Tamil Eelam.
International Criminal Court
The International Federation of Tamils draws strength from the provisions of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, adopted on 17 July 1998, with its proclaimed goal of 'Peace and Justice'. The statement by the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan at the signing ceremony draws attention to the historic nature of the Rome Statute.
"This is indeed a historic moment. Two millennia ago, one of this city's most famous sons Marcus Tullius Cicero, declared that 'in the midst of arms, law stands mute'. As a result of what we are doing here today, there is real hope that that bleak statement will be less true in the future than it has been in the past.
Until now, when powerful men committed crimes against humanity, they knew that as long as they remained powerful no earthly court could judge them...
Now at last... we shall have a permanent court to judge the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole: genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes...
For the United Nations, this decision has special significance. We never forget that our Organization has its origins in a global struggle against régimes which were guilty of mass murder on a horrendous scale. ... The establishment of the Court is ...a gift of hope to future generations, and a giant step forward in the march towards universal human rights and the rule of law."
Sri Lanka's genocidal war
Sri Lanka's gross violations of international humanitarian law have now been rendered justiciable under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Significantly, Sri Lanka refused to vote in favour of its adoption - a refusal that is not surprising, given Sri Lanka's chilling record of crimes against humanity during the past two decades and more.
Fifteen years ago, in 1983, the Sub-Commission expressed its 'deep concern' about the violence against the Tamil people and requested 'the Secretary General to invite the Government of Sri Lanka to submit information on the recent communal violence in Sri Lanka, including its efforts to investigate the incidents and to promote national harmony', and recommended 'to the Commission on Human rights that it should examine the situation in Sri Lanka in the light of all available information.'
During the succeeding 15 years, the violence directed against the people of Tamil Eelam has progressively increased and has assumed genocidal proportions. The genocidal intent of the Sri Lanka government is proved by -
the 'broad front steamrollering' attack launched on the Jaffna peninsula in 1995/96;
the deliberation with which the Sri Lanka security forces have killed Tamil non combatants, shelled densely populated Tamil villages, destroyed Tamil homes and cultivable land, bombed Tamil schools and places of worship, and blocked the supply of essential food and medicine to the Tamil homeland;
the persistent and frequent breaches by Sri Lanka authorities of the laws and regulations relating to arrest and detention;
the systematic use of torture and rape as instruments of state terrorism;
the use of Tamil civilians as human mine detectors and as forced labour;
the imposition of a press censorship which went beyond any needs of 'national security ';
the murder of Tamil prisoners whilst in the custody of Sri Lanka authorities (please see annex F) ;
the unprecedented number of 'disappearances' and reports of mass graves in Jaffna
the public pronouncements of President Kumaratunga and her ministers, together with the 'victory' ceremony on establishing 'Sinhala rule' of Jaffna; and
the failure of President Chandrika Kumaratunga and her government to condemn the gross and systematic violations of humanitarian law by the forces under their command and the impunity afforded to the offenders.
Furthermore, Sri Lanka has persisted in its refusal to acknowledge the applicability of the Geneva Conventions to the conflict and has sought to categorise the lawful armed resistance of the Tamil people as an 'internal disturbance'. It has refused to take prisoners of war. The record shows that under cover of this refusal to acknowledge the law, the Sri Lanka security forces (acting on the implicit or explicit authorisation of its commander in chief, President Chandrika Kumaratunga) have committed gross violations of the international humanitarian law which demands that -
the civilian population shall enjoy general protection against the dangers arising from military operations;
the civilian population shall not be the object of attack;
acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population shall be prohibited;
starvation of civilians as a method of combat shall be prohibited;
hospitals shall not be object of attack;
it shall be prohibited to attack, or destroy objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as food stuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works; and
it shall be prohibited to commit any acts of hostility against places of worship.
Untold suffering of the people of Tamil Eelam
There is an urgent need to end the untold suffering of the people of Tamil Eelam in a war without witness. In a recent statement circularised to non governmental orgainsations, Sri Lanka has declared:
"The Government of Sri Lanka has set in place an administrative and infrastructural operation in order to ensure the continued supply of food and medicine to the Vanni area. A number of international and local NGOs as well as UN agencies, the ICRC etc are assisting the government in this process..."
But Sri Lanka's claims are belied by the National Peace Council report in Human Rights Solidarity (the Asian Human Rights Commission Newsletter) of March/April 1998:
"There has been an economic blockade in the Northern Province in Sri Lanka ever since 1990. In 1995 since the resumption of the Eelam war, the government of Sri Lanka has forbidden non governmental organisations (NGOs) from distributing food and, with the exception of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), distributing medicine.
Stringent controls have also been imposed on the ICRC in the medicines they can provide. Thus, the government took upon itself the full responsibility of tile distribution of food and medicine to the war-torn districts of the Vanni (Mullaitivu, Kilinochi and Mannar). Instead of providing for its people, the government has pursued a policy of deprivation. It does not allow any outsiders to visit the area so that this information is not disseminated. It imposes severe controls on the NGOs that are allowed to work there. For instance, NGO personnel are not allowed to carry cameras or even rolls of film."
The genocidal attack against the Tamil people continues to the present day - and it is taking place under the cover of a press censorship. It is a genocidal attack that is taking place with impunity because the Sri Lanka government and its President have refused to admit to or publicly condemn the terrorist actions of those under their command.
Alien Sinhala rule
It is an attack directed to terrorise the Tamil people to submit to alien Sinhala rule. It represents the Sinhala response to the struggle of the people of Tamil Eelam to free themselves from alien Sinhala rule.
The conduct of the Sri Lanka armed forces has shown yet again the truth of the words of a respected political scientist in the 19th century:
""Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. An altogether different set of leaders have the confidence of one part of the country and of another. ... Above all, the grand and only effectual security in the last resort against the despotism of the government is in that case wanting: the sympathy of the army with the people. Soldiers to whose feelings half or three fourths of the subjects of the same government are foreigners, will have no more scruple in mowing them down, and no more reason to ask the reason why, than they would have in doing the same thing against declared enemies."
The struggle of the people of Tamil Eelam is about democracy. If democracy means the rule of the people, by the people, for the people then it must follow, that no one people may rule another. The right of self determination provides the framework within which democracy may flower. Every people have the right to freely determine their political status and the terms on which they may associate with another people. Democracy and the right to self determination go hand in hand - one cannot exist without the other. The struggle of the people of Tamil Eelam is about their democratic right to rule themselves.
The International Federation of Tamils appeals to the Sub Commission to ensure that immediately upon the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court becoming law, the independent prosecutor of the Court is called upon to investigate the crimes against humanity, committed by the Sri Lanka authorities and to bring the Sri Lanka war criminals to justice.
The International Federation of Tamils urges that in the meantime, the Sub Commission brings to an end the suffering of the Tamil people and the continuing genocide, by calling for the immediate withdrawal of the Sri Lanka armed forces from the occupied areas of Tamil Eelam.
'Peace and Justice' are inseparably interlinked. The International Federation of Tamils urges the Sub Commission to recognise that the building blocks for peace are the building blocks of justice and justice demands
1. that the genocidal war against the people of Tamil Eelam be ended
2. that the Sri Lanka war criminals be brought to justice
3. that the Sri Lanka army withdraw from the Tamil homeland
4. that the Tamil Eelam struggle for freedom be recognised; and
5. that the people of Tamil Eelam and the people of Sri Lanka together structure a polity where the two peoples may associate with each other in equality and in freedom.
It is legitimisation, recognition and negotiation that will pave the way for a stable peace in the island of Sri Lanka.
The Building Blocks for Peace are ....
1. Stop the genocide of the Tamil people
2. Bring Sri Lanka War Criminals to Justice 3. Withdraw Sri Lanka Army from Tamil Eelam 4. Recognise Tamil Struggle for Freedom 5. Structure a polity where Tamil Eelam & Sri Lanka may associate with each other in equality and in freedom
....the Building Blocks of Justice