Though the resolution seeks to address alleged violations of international law, critics point to the fact that the resolution, in giving credibility to the LLRC, will only entrench Sinhala state rule over Tamil territories and provide it a fraudulent legitimacy to do so (see below). Irrespective of this, Sri Lanka is confident that the country has support from enough of the UN Council`s member states to vote against the resolution, such as China, Russia and Pakistan as well as from African states, the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) and the members of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International have just issued a report saying human rights violations remain routine in Sri-Lanka almost three years after the end of the war Ref: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/new-report-exposes-ongoing-illegal-detention-sri-lanka-2012-03-13 Channel 4 broadcast the 2nd part of their documentary of what has been happening in Sri Lanka later this evening (Wednesday 14th March 2012 - 10.55pm), alleging that several war crimes suspects are now in senior government posts. Part-1 of their investigation "Sri Lanka: The Killing Fields" broadcast on Tue 14 June 2011 showed gruesome footage of summary executions and other abuses of Tamils at the end of the war.
Sri Lanka War-Crimes Accountability The Tamil Perspective 15/01/2010
Genocide in Sri Lanka (11/04/209)
UN concealed carnage to keep Sri Lanka goodwill (30/05/2009)
Bloodbath unfolding in Sri Lanka (13/05/2009)
Sri Lanka Gov't capture last Tamil Tiger territory/Blood & Dishonour
The civil war in Sri Lanka which reached it's crescendo in May 2009 when the Sri Lankan military claimed victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) killed an estimated 100,000 people, mainly Tamil civilians. At the time, in the face of the Sri Lankan Government's blockade of independent media and international monitors into Northern Sri Lanka, reports and evidence emerged from independent investigations conducted by "War Without Witness" that Sri Lankan military forces used banned arms such as cluster bombs and chemical weapons (including Phosgene and Mustard Gas) in their attacks leading to what the UN estimates to be 25000-30000 civilian deaths in the last week of fighting alone. Owing to the Sri Lankan Government's continued blockade of independent media and international monitors into the Northern regions of the country, at the time, the international media reported a laughable estimate of the maount of civilian casualties having been as low as 7000 between January - March 2009. Media blockades in the country continued for over 18 months after the end of the war (and remain to a large extent) which has meant that the truth of the extent of the humanitarian crisis has been largely shielded from the world.
The Sri-Lankan government's version of events in the immediate aftermath of the
conflict were largely accepted by the western media (over time decreasingly so, and, apart from Tamil media, only majorly contradicted by Channel-4 News whose investigative reports have been met with silence by other media outlets, most notably the BBC). The Sri Lankan government's version of what happened was principally that Tamil civilians were being held hostage by the LTTE in the military standoff. While this has been shown to have been true to an extent, the use of chemical weapons and aerial bombing of a captive civilian population including the targeting of hospitals in the so-called "no-fire zone" and the withholding of supplies of food and medical aid and water supply to a captive population points to systematic war crimes on a wide scale by the Sri Lankan Government forces, authorised at the highest level of the Sri Lankan government. There were consistent accusations of the use of cluster bombs and shelling
There were also widespread reports the SLA used chemical
Sri Lankan airforce Generals who said they do not target civilians, publicly stated that if they are being hurt, it is not because the SL army have been raining down artillery shells upon them, but because of Tamil Tigers (LTTE) who were continuing to resist the forces of law and order. Reports of the use of Tamil civilians as human shields by the Tigers were rife but is more credibly explained by the fact that many civilians who are family members of LTTE fighters were intent on staying with their loved ones to the last.
There were also widespread allegations of rape and torture in 'welfare centre' camps by government forces. Over 280,000 displaced civilians were held in prison camps - living in dire conditions with poor sanitation, without adequate security, with reports disease was rife and that young girls being abducted from the camps. Read report here:
Amnesty International received consistent reports of serious human rights violations, including enforced disappearance, extra-judicial executions and torture and sexual violence. Read their report here:
Despite massive international pressure, on Wed 27th May 2009, the United Nations
Human Rights Council refused calls to investigate allegations of war crimes by both sides. Instead it supported Sri Lanka in handling the humanitarian crisis under it's own initiative. The session had been called because of alarm over the high number of civilian casualties as well as the island's treatment of displaced Tamil civilians. The call by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay for aid agencies to be given free access to the camps so they can provide the Tamils with critical relief was not agreed.
In June 2010, the UN chief asked a panel of experts to advise him on the evidence available relating to the conduct by both sides in the closing months of the war. In a report published in April this year, the panel of experts concluded that there was credible evidence that up to 40,000 people were killed in the final months of the civil war between the Tamil Tigers and Government forces.
The UN report called for the creation of an international mechanism to investigate alleged violations of international humanitarian and international human rights laws committed by Sri Lankan Government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
The Sri Lankan government rejected calls for an independent international inquiry but, under pressure from the international community, instead on 15 May 2010, nearly a year after the end of the civil war, President Rajapaksa appointed the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission to look back at the conflict. President Mahinda Rajapakse handpicked the commissioners to ensure no genuine inquiry took place. Such was the scope of the war crimes that the LLRC could not endorse the government’s lie that no civilians had been killed by the military. The LLRC concluded, however, that any civilian deaths were accidental and blamed the LTTE for preventing people from leaving territory under its control. The LLRC findings contradicted international reports, including from an expert committee appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The UN panel found “credible evidence” of war crimes that implicated the government, senior state officials and top military commanders. It concluded that the Sri Lankan military had killed tens of thousands of civilians in the final months of the war to May 2009, including by deliberate attacks on hospitals and aid posts. See: "Sri Lanka: When will they get justice? Failures of Sri Lanka's Lessons
Learnt and Reconciliation Commission"
On the 7th March, the United States submitted the draft resolution against Sri-Lanka to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) at its 19th session in Geneva, which began on February 27. The resolution notes that Sri Lanka has failed to implement the reconciliation measures recommended by the country’s own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and calls for Sri Lanka to take more concrete actions towards reconciliation and especially, addressing the accountability issue and implementing the recommendations put forward by the LLRC.
Though the resolution seeks to address alleged violations of international law, critics point to the fact that the resolution, in giving credibility to the LLRC, will only entrench Sinhala state rule over Tamil territories and provide it a fraudulent legitimacy to do so (see Tamilnet article below).
The Obama administration is pushing the resolution as a means of pressuring the Rajapakse government to accommodate US interests, as a convenient device to put pressure on Colombo to shift away from the closer diplomatic and economic ties established with Beijingm, and those of India, which has also been demanding the implementation of the LLRC recommendations. New Delhi is pushing for a “political solution”—that is, a power-sharing arrangement between the island’s Sinhala and Tamil elites—to contain the anger in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu over the treatment of Tamils in Sri Lanka.
Despite backing Rajapakse’s war against the LTTE in January 2009, with the extent of the SLA devastating assault on the Tamil civilian population in the North and North-West of the island, the US supported European countries in putting a resolution to the UNHRC on human rights in Sri Lanka. The resolution was defeated after Sri Lanka obtained the support of China and Russia (who both have a security council veto) and India, as well as other countries.
While the USA and Sri Lanka and their respective blocs at the UNHRC squabble whether the LLRC mandate has to be left to Sri-Lanka or internationally monitored in implementation, thousands of Eezham Tamils have been gathering outside the UN in Geneva since the February, denouncing the deceptive deliberations and demanding international investigation on the genocide, recognition of the sovereignty of the nation of Eezham Tamils and called for a UN-sponsored referendum among Tamils in the island and in the diaspora.
LLRC will only legitimise Sinhala occupation of Tamil homeland: British Academic
[TamilNet, Monday, 12 March 2012,]
Even as some diaspora groups who went to Geneva have unwittingly welcomed the US resolution and ‘constructive recommendations’ of the fundamentally flawed LLRC set-up to cover the protracted genocide of the Eezham Tamils, Dr. Andrew Higginbottom strongly affirmed that the LLRC will only entrench Sinhala state rule over Tamil territories and provide it a fraudulent legitimacy to do so. Speaking at Geneva last Monday, Dr. Higginbottom, lecturer in Politics and Human Rights at Kingston University, London, criticized the injustice of the powers that are pro-LLRC. “The debate should not be whether the cup is half full or half empty, which is the debate taking place between the two blocs at the UN. The problem is that what is in the cup is poison, it really does not matter so much if it is a bit fuller or not,” he said, noting that what drives the US is not humanitarianism but power politics.
Criticising the support given by countries like Cuba and Venezuela to Sri Lanka, he said that “The socialist tradition is to support the right of nations to self-determination and to see national liberation as a progressive force. The right of nations to self determination applies to peoples and their right to form an independent state, not to states as such,” and appealed to socialist countries to support the Eezham Tamils.
Likewise, he came down heavily on the UN for being “a system has proven worse than useless, totally morally bankrupt because it cannot be independent of state power politics” and said that the slaughter of the Tamil people was a shame to the UN system.
He also appealed to the Eezham Tamils to move beyond lobbying to popular mobilization. “Get articles in local and national newspapers. Go to the social movements. Talk to the people in the classroom, at work, in the neighbourhoods, go onto the streets again and again,” he said.
Excerpts from his speech follow:
“I start by honouring the memory of Marie Colvin and recognising the contribution of Channel 4, Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka and TamilNet for reporting on the terrible truths of what has been happening. I also commend the brave stands taken by Tamil civil society groups who remind us that Tamils as a nation are entitled to national self-determination, as well as that of the Jaffna University Students Union speaking out against the LLRC. They have shown us the lesson to learn. The lesson is that only a genuinely independent international inquiry will do, nothing less.”
“The debate should not be whether the cup is half full or half empty, which is the debate taking place between the two blocs at the UN. The problem is that what is in the cup is poison, it really does not matter so much if it is a bit fuller or not. We refuse to drink the poison of victor’s justice! The LLRC will entrench Sinhala state rule over Tamil territories and its fraudulent legitimacy to do so.”
“An international independent inquiry must address the ongoing assaults on the Tamil people. The accusations to be brought to an international inquiry concern the rape of Tamil woman by occupying forces; the continued detention and torture of Tamil militants; the grabbing and colonisation of Tamil lands; the threats to life and disappearances of Tamils. All of these continuing human rights violations are taking place behind a veil of national and international impunity.”
“Sivaram was right when he said 'the Tamils unfortunately occupy the area that is very important'. The US and its competitors covet Trincomalee harbour, they know that Sri Lanka's strategic location overlooking the Indian Ocean sea lanes is crucial to keeping control of the shipments of Middle Eastern oil. What drives the concern of the US, or for that matter India or China? Their concern is not humanitarianism but global power politics.”
“We oppose both the terrorism of the Sinhalese state and the imperialist powers that have been its principal ally, both historically and in terms of the proximate cause, the steps that triggered the final solution onslaught on the Tamils from 2006 onwards. That is why it was right that at the Dublin Tribunal raised alongside the charge of genocide the charge of crimes against peace. The US and UK broke the peace process and ensured that Sri Lanka turned back to war against the Tamils.”
“The shock is not the posturing of the imperialist powers, it is position adopted by the socialist countries left in the world today. The socialist tradition is to support the right of nations to self-determination and to see national liberation as a progressive force. The right of nations to self determination applies to peoples and their right to form an independent state, not to states as such.”
“We have exhausted to possibilities of the international state system and while there remain decent people working with it, the UN as a system has proven worse than useless, totally morally bankrupt because it cannot be independent of state power politics. We have to go outside the state system, we have to go to the people and to social movements that might respond to the sufferings of Tamil civil society.”
“What is our lesson? The spirit of Tamil Eelam is inside every one of you. You know it! Take your knowledge, your suffering and go out to the people of world. You have the power to bring about the inquiry.”
“No more human rights violations! End the occupation!
Forward to an independent international inquiry!
Mobilise the people for truth and justice!
Long live Tamil Eelam!”
The island of Sri Lanka (known as Ceylon until the promulgation of the new Republican Constitution in 1972) is the historical homeland of two ancient civilisations – the ancient Dravidian (Tamil) population, who greeted the arrival of the Sinhala people who arrived on the island with their legendary Prince Vijaya from the `city of Sinhapura in Bengal' in the 6th century BC. When the Portuguese first landed on the island in the beginning of the 16th century, and the Dutch after them, both imperial powers governed the Tamil nation as a separate kingdom, recognising the Tamil homeland and the ethnic identity and integrity of the Tamil people. The British occupied the island from 1796, and in 1833 merged the Tamil and Sinhala nations into one unit for administrative convenience. Between the 1840s and 1850s, a million people were imported – mainly poor, oppressed castes from Tamil Nadu.
The historic root to the ethnic conflict stems from a legacy of British colonialism which forcefully amalgamated two separate kingdoms of two nations of people and bestowed upon the higher-caste Tamil population a disproportionate share in the state administration under a notorious strategy of divide and rule, with the high caste Tamil population adopted the English educational system, festering a lifetime of resentment amongst the Sinhalese population that later sparked the fires of Sinhala chauvinism and propelled the emergence of Sinhala nationalism.
Sri Lanka achieved independence in 1948. The Tamils, an ethnic minority making up 24% of the island's population, were mainly concentrated in the north and east of the island. Independence from British rule resulted in the transfer of political power to the Sinhalese majority. From the start, the Tamil people found themselves increasingly excluded from both the governance of the country as well as victims of a wider discrimination. The Sinhalese government introduced discriminatory policies including: anti-Tamil employment rules; unfair education laws; stripping Tamil plantation workers of their citizenship; and making Sinhala, the language of the Sinhalese majority, the island's official language. Sinhalese national chauvinism reigned supreme and fuelled a
vicious and violent form of state oppression against the Tamil people. Over the years, there have been various riots and attacks on the Tamil population and their interests by Sinhalese mobs, which have consistently been tolerated with impunity, with a history of rape against Tamil women having particularly been used as a weapon. State oppression has a continuous history of more than half a century since independence and has been practiced by successive Sri Lanka governments, which is what led to the military independence struggle of the LTTE. A wave of extra-judicial killings including several Tamil MPs elected in 2004, and the discovery of mass graves in Jaffna between 1999 & 2004 indicated the escalation of state repression by the SL government.
It was this series of events plus a consistent incidence of violence against the Tamil population which gave birth to the Tamil Tiger guerrilla movement in 1976 and the growth of the armed resistance campaign of the Tamils. In the words of journalist John Pilger: "The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have spilt their share of blood and perpetrated their own atrocities. But they are the product, not the cause, of an injustice and a war that long predates them. [And] neither is Sri Lanka's civil strife as unfathomable as it is often presented: an ancient religious-ethnic rivalry between the Hindu Tamils and the Buddhist Sinhalese government." Tamil civilians have borne the brunt of Sri Lanka's civil war violence.
Prior to the latest episode in what has been an ongoing civil war, in 2000, major military gains by the Tigers and the dire state of the Sri Lankan economy as a result of the war were the key factors that forced the Sri-Lankan government to respond positively to unilateral LTTE ceasefires declared in 2000 and 2001. The February 2002 Norwegian-mediated ceasefire agreement has been the longest-lasting attempt to bring peace.
In negotiations the LTTE sought the establishment of an interim self-governing authority in the north-east to facilitate human rights protection as well as "resettlement, rehabilitation, reconstruction, and development in the north-east, while the process of reaching a final settlement remains ongoing". But far from offering the Tamil people anything in negotiations that could lead to a lasting peace, the United National Party (UNP) Government failed even to implement the provisions of the ceasefire agreement.
It failed to allow Tamils to return to their homes in the "high security zones" occupied by the SLA, or have the SLA vacate public buildings in Tamil towns. It also failed to disarm the pro-Government paramilitary death squads.
As a result, the LTTE suspended its participation in negotiations in 2003. The UNP was replaced in 2004 elections, which were boycotted almost totally by the Tamil population, by the even more chauvinist Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Several Tamil MPs elected in the last parliamentary elections in the country in 2004 have been murdered, including Mr Maheswaran and Nadarajah Raviraj. Veteran Eastern Province Parliamentarian Joseph Pararajasingham was shot dead last year at the St. Mary's Cathedral in Batticaloa during midnight mass at Christmas, 2004.
The latest escalation in the conflict recommenced when the Sri Lankan government launched major offensive operations in April 2006, displacing over 40,000 Tamil civilians in 3 days. Their offensive stepped up a notch in mid-2007 when it ordered international NGOs out of Vanni. Five thousand Tamils in `controlled zones' disappeared. All this happened despite the fact that the LTTE called for a ceasefire and peace talks in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
Sri Lankan Air Force bombers destroyed the Ponnampalam Memorial Hospital in the town of Puthukkudiyiruppu in northern Sri Lanka on February 6. According to Tamilnet.com, 61 patients were killed in the attack.
By February 2009, there were approximately 495,000 conflict-displaced persons in Sri Lanka. Of this number, 281,698 were displaced after April 2006 and approximately 214,000 from the period before. The biggest number of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in 2008 were in the Vanni where, due to access restrictions, getting accurate figures was impossible. The UN was estimating around 230,000 IDPs in the Vanni area as of November 2008; the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies estimated around 300,000 IDPs; the government in some cases was suggesting a figure as low as 100,000. By April 2009, the majority of IDPs in Sri Lanka were in the government-controlled areas where they had fled from Vanni.
The present constitution of Sri Lanka states that ALL citizens irrespective of their ethnic group, religion, caste, social group etc. are EQUAL. This constitution was enacted in 1978. Despite this, the ordinary people of Sri Lanka live in dire poverty and the country has been torn apart by civil war since 1977. Throughout this time, successive Sinhalese-dominated governments in Sri-Lanka has been consistently able over the years to deflect criticism and further investigation into allegations of brutal subjugation because the tendency has been to not hesitate to conflate Tamil civilians with the LTTE, as well as cynically presenting any independent agent - including NGOs, aid agencies or
even UN negotiators in international mediation efforts - as tantamount to support for the Tigers. This conflation has conveniently averted attention from the excesses of discrimination which Sri Lankan governing administrations have exacted on those who the government sought to subjugate (the Tamil minority).
There is a moral obligation to pursue any allegations of war crimes in accordance with the Geneva Convention and the Declaration of Human Rights. Britain as former colonial power, who sold the nation short, have a moral obligation to ensure the Tamil population is protected in a country where, when they originally conquered it, the Tamil kingdom existed in it's own right until Britain amalgamated the 3 kingdoms into one for administrative purposes in 1833 after having first occupied the island in 1796.
However, the government of Sri Lanka has been consistently able over the years to deflect criticism and further investigation into allegations of brutal subjugation because it does not hesitate to conflate Tamil civilians with the LTTE, and has cynically presented any independent agent - including NGOs, aid agencies or even UN negotiators in international mediation efforts - as tantamount to support for the Tigers. In a report published by Amnesty International entitled, `Twenty Years of Make-Believe: Sri Lanka's Commissions of Inquiry', Amnesty International accuse the Sri Lankan government of "failure in delivering justice for serious human rights violations over the past twenty years", which they describe as having "trapped the country in a vicious cycle of abuse and impunity."
Since January 2009, the Sri Lankan government advanced and took over large swathes of Tamil Tiger (LTTE) territory across the north of the country, pushing Tamils into narrow strip of northern coastline measuring 10 sq km in the north-east of the island - LTTE's last remaining enclave in Vanni. An unquestionable brutal military offensive of a captive Tamil civilian population is already shown to have been a clear violation of various UN conventions on human rights. More than 300,000 Tamils have been under siege by the Sri Lankan forces. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which rarely makes public comment, called this conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil rebels, 'nothing short of catastrophic'.
The Sri-Lankan government's version of events in the immediate aftermath of the conflict were largely accepted by the western media (over time decreasingly so, and, apart from Tamil media, only majorly contradicted by Channel-4 News whose investigative reports have been met with silence by other media outlets, most notably the BBC). The Sri Lankan government's version of what happened was principally that Tamil civilians were being held hostage by the LTTE in the military standoff. While this has been shown to have been true to an extent, the use of chemical weapons and aerial bombing of a captive civilian population including the targeting of hospitals in the so-called "no-fire zone" and the withholding of supplies of food and medical aid and water supply to a captive population points to systematic war crimes on a wide scale by the Sri Lankan
Government forces, authorised at the highest level of the Sri lankan government. There were also widespread allegations of rape and torture in 'welfare centre' camps by government forces.
The Sri Lankan state & military mindset was formed by the knowledge that Israeli attacks against similarly confined civilians go with impunity. It is estimated around 100,000 people died in the conflict, with accusations of genocide rife. That it appears the western media largely acquiesced in their own censorship, as in the `war on Gaza,' western media organizations were denied access to the Tamil enclave surrounded by government forces.
Sri Lankan airforce Generals who say they do not target civilians, publicly state that if they are being hurt, it is not because the SL army have been raining down artillery shells upon them, but because of Tamil Tigers (LTTE) who are continuing to resist the forces of law and order. Reports of the use of Tamil civilians as human shields by the Tigers were rife but is more credibly explained by the fact that many civilians who are family members of LTTE fighters were intent on staying with their loved ones to the last.
Despite massive international pressure, on Wed 27th May 2009, the United Nations Human Rights Council refused calls to investigate allegations of war crimes by both sides. Instead it supported Sri Lanka in handling the humanitarian crisis under it's own initiative. The session had been called because of alarm over the high number of civilian casualties as well as the island's treatment of displaced Tamil civilians. The call by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay for aid agencies to be given free access to the camps so they can provide the Tamils with critical relief was not agreed.