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Another New Year Dawns with Little Progress on Sri Lanka’s UNHRC Resolutions

Yet another New Year dawns almost 10 years since the worst of the genocidal onslaught against the Tamil people by the Sri Lankan state with no sign of the victims receiving justice in the near future.

More than three years after UN Human Rights Council (HRC) Resolution 30/1 on Sri Lanka, to-date Sri Lanka has taken very few steps to fulfil its obligations and none of those implemented have produced any substantive outcomes for those most affected by the war. The current President and the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka have made repeated statements rejecting some of the most important commitments Sri Lanka made in the Resolution, notably those for accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity through legal reform and a hybrid court with Commonwealth and foreign judges, prosecutors, etc.

The international community placed its hope on a regime change in 2015 to deliver justice for some of the worst international crimes of the 21st century and called upon the Tamil people to throw their crucial electoral support to the new government. The Tamil people played their part in removing a tyrannical family regime that was defying calls for justice and reform. However, as feared by the Tamil people due to long historical experience within a unitary state dominated by the Sinhalese Buddhist community, regime change has made no difference in delivering justice and reparation to the victims of war crimes and genocide.

The extension of time given to the Sri Lankan state through HRC Resolution 34/1 in 2017 has seen no substantive progress in fulfilling Sri Lanka’s commitments to the international community. On the contrary, the leadership of the present regime has been making public pronouncements to the effect that they will not honour their own commitments for an international justice mechanism. The international community will be failing the Tamil people yet again by not preparing for their next steps when the March 2019 report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Right is given with no substantive progress whatsoever.

Slow progress on HRC resolution-- the ground reality

 

There are currently 178 military camps in the Jaffna district alone, 3284 acres of land are still occupied by Sri Lankan security forces. There has been no progress made by the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) beyond that of Pres. Rajapaksa’s Paranagama Commission which received 16,000 complaints of missing persons but took no action to identify perpetrators. Over 280 skeletons, including those of children, have been discovered in the North and no criminal investigation has been initiated to find the perpetrators with the help of international forensic experts. The draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act remains intact and the issue of political prisoners held indefinitely without trial under that law remains unresolved, despite numerous promises for speedy action. In March 2016, the government said it was in the process of repealing the PTA, but the suggested replacement also does not meet international standards.

The Tamil people face a host of other issues in their daily life. The former war zones of the North and East are heavily militarized with security forces intruding into all aspects of civilian life, with militaryowned businesses and much land still occupied since the war. Increased spending for defence, poor support for resettlement of Tamils who fled from the war zone, land grabbing through government institutions (i.e.: Department of Archaeology, Forest Department, Mahaveli Development Authority), etc. are still faced by the Tamil people nearly 10 years after the end of the war.

Restructure the state by a negotiated political solution

 In order to have peace and stability in Sri Lanka, a long-term political solution that addresses the legitimate grievances of the Tamil Nation and other minorities is required. Attempts for meaningful power-sharing through constitutional reform have ground to a halt with the political turmoil in the South. The Eelam Tamils have waited for a peaceful resolution to the ethnic conflict that recognizes their fundamental and inalienable rights since independence. The chance of a new constitution that will deliver a political solution as promised by Pres. Rajapaksa to the UN Secretary General at the end of the war and promised again to the Tamil electorate by the current regime is becoming more remote as the major Sinhala parties compete for power by yet again whipping up anti-Tamil rhetoric. It appears that the Tamil National Alliance, the elected Tamil representatives who have painstakingly and patiently invested in drafting a new constitution, are beginning to feel that the Tamil people are once again becoming the victims of Sri Lankan political manipulations.

Importance of international involvement:

So far, the little progress made on human rights, media freedom and democracy are due to international involvement and the HRC process. The local institutions responsible for Law & order, Judiciary and legislature are not being sufficiently reformed due to a lack of will by the political leadership who have failed to take Sri Lanka in the right direction towards sustainable peace and ethnic harmony.

A continuing legacy of impunity and inaction on accountability are major factors which prevent Sri Lanka from acknowledging the root causes of the problem and addressing them through structural changes to its institutions of governance.

At the present times, no country should be in a position to use sovereignty as a shield to violate international treaties, covenants and international humanitarian law. For sustainable peace in Sri Lanka, the International community must set up its own effective tools for non-recurrence, implementation of the rule of law, democracy, sustainable peace and reconciliation.

As per past experience, mere fire-fighting will not ensure non-recurrence and lasting peace. There are many variable geopolitical factors determining the destiny of the Island. A pathway without transitional justice will not bring peace, reconciliation and justice.

Effective action is needed to make Sri Lanka honour its commitments to the international community. UN member states should adopt effective vetting procedures that would deny travel privileges to those accused of serious wartime violations and should give serious consideration to exercise universal jurisdiction as strongly recommended by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2017. We also call upon the UN member states to consider implementing calibrated military and economic sanctions as a means of impressing upon Sri Lanka the consequences for not meeting its international commitments.

We, the undersigned organisations, call for the establishment of a viable UNHRC mechanism to monitor Sri Lanka’s progress on implementation of HRC Resolution 30/1, with parallel planning for alternate UN processes, including either a referral to the ICC or the establishment of a Special International Criminal Tribunal when Sri Lanka fails to deliver on its commitments by March 2019.

 

S. Sivam, President, USTPAC

T: +1 202 595 3123

Website: www.ustpac.org

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Twitter: @UstpacAdvocacy

 

S. Sangeeth, BTF

T: +44 (0) 7412 435697

Website: www.britishtamilsforum.org

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Twitter: @tamilsforum

 

M. Manokaran, Chairman,  ATC

T: +61 300 660 629

Website: http://www.australiantamilcongress.com

Twitter: @austamilcongres

 

The Australian Tamil Congress calls upon the UNHRC and the International Community to impress on Sri Lanka the need to address the issue of missing persons urgently

The Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) expresses deep concern over the lack of concerted actions by the Government of Sri Lanka on addressing the issue of the missing persons, as the continuous protest by their relatives has gone past one hundred days. The reports of intimidation and disruption of the peaceful protests by the Sri Lankan armed forces is deeply troubling.

Despite its commitments made to the member states of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein at this year’s session in March, the Government of Sri Lanka has barely made any progress in ascertaining the whereabouts of the tens of thousands of persons missing – including those who have been made disappeared during the last days and after the end of war in May 2009. The Office of the Missing Persons (OMP), legislated in August 2016 has yet to become operational, and the government has not demonstrated ‘a comprehensive strategy … … to pursue the different transitional justice processes in a coordinated, integrated and appropriately sequenced manner.’

The UNHRC Resolution 30/1 adopted in September 2015 and the follow-up Resolution 34/1 adopted in March 2017 requested the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to continue to assess progress in the implementation of its recommendations in respect of Sri Lanka.

With impassioned protests by the relatives of the missing for the past 100 days in Killinochchi (and other places) reaching a breaking point, statements by the Governor of Northern Province stating no inquiries could be held regarding missing persons and  lack of any actions from government leaders are making matters worse.

We, therefore, earnestly request the OHCHR to send high level representatives to talk to the protesters directly, defuse the situation, and offer assistance with the setting up of a credible mechanism that will help ascertain the fate of the missing persons speedily.

ATC also calls upon the international community, in particular the Australian Government, to raise the missing persons issue at the highest levels of the Sri Lankan
Government, impress on Sri Lanka the need to operationalise the OMP promptly, and facilitate its functioning effectively.

 

Global Tamil Forum urges UN Human Rights Council to adopt new resolution reflecting High Commissioner Zeid’s call to closely monitor Sri Lankan compliance with the resolution of 2015

The Global Tamil Forum (GTF) welcomes High Commissioner Zeid’s report on Sri Lanka released on 3 March in Geneva. We commend the High Commissioner and his office for their forthright and thorough assessment, and concur with their observation that ‘stronger, tangible results needed to be forthcoming without further delay to prevent any further dissipation of hard-earned trust.’

While acknowledging the Sri Lankan Government’s constructive engagement with United Nations’ human rights mechanisms; visible progress on constitutional reform process; positive developments on the broader human rights agenda; and commendable efforts on consultations towards establishing transitional justice measures, the report was emphatic that the ‘fulfilment of transitional justice commitments has been worryingly slow and the structures set up and measures taken were inadequate to ensure real progress.’

The report was categorical that the Government has not moved fast enough with tangible measures – viz. restitution of the land held by the military; resettlement of internally displaced persons; repealing the Prevention of Terrorism Act; effective conclusion of the cases of the remaining security detainees; formulating effective victims and witness protection arrangements; and stopping security force surveillance, harassment and torture – that would immensely help build confidence among victims and the Tamil community.

The report analysed a number of emblematic cases involving security forces covering a period of over ten years with no decisive progress to-date and reiterated High Commissioner’s view that ‘international participation in accountability mechanisms remains a necessary guarantee for the independence, credibility and impartiality of the process and an integral part of the commitments of the Government under Human Rights Council resolution 30/1.’ It is in this light that we are dismayed and reject the statements from the Sri Lankan leaders, including a recent statement from Prime Minister Wickremesinghe that argue participation of international judges would require constitutional amendments with approval from country wide referendum.

The High Commissioner’s assertion that unclear and often contradictory messages delivered on transitional justice mechanisms by the President, the Prime Minister, and various members of the cabinet, as a factor contributing towards contradictions in policy development and public messaging around transitional justice and reconciliation, need to be acted upon with utmost seriousness by the highest levels of the Sri Lankan government.

GTF calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to make every effort to implement all of the recommendations presented in the High Commissioner’s report, which include: ‘present a comprehensive strategy on transitional justice, with a time-bound plan’; ‘invite Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to establish a full-fledged country presence’; ‘adopt legislation establishing a hybrid court, which should include international judges, defence lawyers, prosecutors and investigators’; and ‘operationalise the Office of Missing Persons Act and provide the Office of the Missing Persons with sufficient resources and technical means’

The High Commissioner’s recommendations to the member states ‘urge the Human Rights Council to continue its close engagement to monitor developments in Sri Lanka’, ‘investigate and prosecute those responsible for serious human rights violations under universal jurisdiction wherever possible’ and ‘ensure respect for the principle of non-refoulement in the case of Tamils who have suffered torture and human rights violations’. These recommendations are timely and need to be heeded.

In a press release by the OHCHR, High Commissioner Zeid said, “This critical opportunity in Sri Lankan history cannot be missed. I urge the Government and people of Sri Lanka to prioritize justice alongside reconciliation to ensure that the horrors of the past are firmly dealt with, never to recur.” GTF calls on the Government to do just that by publicising and acting on a comprehensive reform and transitional justice plan.

Trevor Grant gave strong voice for the rights of refugees, advocated against torture, and exposed the injustice meted out to Tamils in Sri Lanka- ATC

The Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) mourns the passing of Trevor Grant, a veteran sports journalist and ardent human rights advocate, after succumbing to a two-year battle with cancer last Sunday. After retiring in 2009 from 40 years of active journalism, Grant took up the cause of refugees who arrived on the shores of Australia by boats fleeing tyrannical governments around the world. His particular interest in the plight of Tamil refugees escaping war-torn Sri Lanka inspired him to be a compassionate speaker, writer and radio broadcaster on matters of discriminatory practices and torture that prevailed in the country.

A fearless personality to the end, Grant was honest in his condemnation of brutal regimes that inflicted immense suffering on its citizens, uncompromisingly radical in standing up for justice, and gave his all for the upliftment and human rights of the oppressed.

His passionate campaign against the indefinite detention of refugees by ASIO on grounds of national security, and relentless opposition to the incarceration of asylum-seekers in offshore detention centres is well known.

The ATC is grateful for his unique contribution to the rights and wellbeing of the Tamil refugees in Australia, and for bringing awareness of the long fought just cause of the Tamils in Sri Lanka.  At the loss of this true friend of Tamils, we extend our deepest sympathies to all his loved ones.

Australian Tamil Congress

 

In Solidarity with People of Tamil Nadu

n Solidarity with the people of Tamil Nadu

Dear Fellow Tamils

As most of you are aware, Chennai has been devastated by the worst torrential rains in history and flash-floods have caused hundreds of deaths and untold misery to millions of people in several parts of Tamil Nadu.

While more rain is expected over the week, thousands of people still remain stranded. And despite the best efforts of the TN Government and NGOs, many are left without basic supplies of food, drinking water, clothes, blankets, etc.

Even as we pray for an end to this unforseen natural calamity, we believe we should do the least we can to bring some immediate relief to the affected.  

For decades the people of Tamil Nadu had continued to rise in support of the Tamils in Sri Lanka, and many of our people have taken refuge in Tamil Nadu for so long. It is now our chance to help them in whatever measure we can.

The Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) urges all Australian Tamils to be generous enough to donate and show our solidarity with our Tamil Nadu brethren at a time of their dire need.

Please use the below link to donate immediately to this urgent relief fund. ATC will donate the funds to Gandhiya Makkal Iyakkam* in Chennai who is already involved in coordinating the relief work. We will provide the donors with feedback as we receive.

A friend in need is a friend indeed.

Please click here to donate and show our solidarity.

With great expectations,

Executive Committee
Australian Tamil Congress

*Gandhiya Makkal Iyakkam is a non-governmental organisation, whose President - Thamilaruvi Maniyan - had visited Australia a few times before. 

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