Stop Sri Lanka’s crimes by Suren Surendiran

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Thanks to Suren Surendiran who sent this to DS.  His website:

crossposted on
26 October 2009

Sri Lanka has committed nearly every form of crime against humanity. We must act against this state aggression

The US is the latest country to join the ever-growing list of nations that condemn Sri Lanka for its violations of international humanitarian law, crimes against humanity and related harms in its fight against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) is complicit in almost all the acts listed in the Rome statute of the international criminal court in its definition of crimes against humanity, according to evidence in a report published by the US state department for Congress on 22 October.

The report highlights deaths due to starvation as a result of the government’s restriction of supplies. It also indicates that the supply of medicines to the injured, disabled and sick was restricted. None were spared.

Satellite images show hospitals being targeted, and there are images which indicate heavy weapon usage, aerial bombing and cluster bombs. Eyewitness accounts outline the targeting of civilian areas and surrendering unarmed combatants being shot in cold blood. Video evidence shows alleged military executions of young naked men.

Who would argue against a damning report? Only Sri Lanka.

The country has once again chosen to react to another independent report with anger and vehement disapproval, its Ministry of Foreign Affairs saying that the allegations against the government were “unsubstantiated and devoid of corroborative evidence”.

Although the report investigates breaches of international humanitarian law by both warring parties, the defeat of the LTTE has burdened the Sri Lankan government with accountability for its actions during the final stages of the conflict.

Ian Kelly, a US state department spokesman, said: “The government of Sri Lanka has said that they are determined to establish a reconciliation process with the people of the north, but we believe strongly that a very important part of any reconciliation process is accountability.”

The US report comes a week after the European commission submitted the findings of a year-long investigation, which concluded that GoSL was in breach of commitments on human rights and good governance.

Similar reports, further investigations and political will meant perpetrators of such crime in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and recently Sudan have all been indicted by the international criminal court. Stephen Rapp, the US ambassador-at-large for war crimes, said: “We want accountability in this situation … We believe that [Sri Lankan authorities] can investigate this. We’re trusting in that commitment.”

Can a murderer investigate his own crimes and exercise clear judgment? The concept, although derisory, was made reality when Sri Lanka managed to successfully hinder any independent investigation being imposed by at a special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Following the US state department report, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has renewed calls for an independent, international investigation of possible war crimes committed during the final months of the war in Sri Lanka. But when will these independent reports, international calls and statements achieve any respite for the Tamils in Sri Lanka?

While unequivocally condemning all violations by all parties, one would certainly ask how one can defend the rights of a suppressed and oppressed community when the state is the culprit? How do we distinguish and attribute blame to a non-state, proscribed group classified as a terrorist organisation such as the LTTE, when the state – which has signed up to international conventions and charters – is the aggressor.

State aggression towards the Tamil community did not just happen during the last few months of the war but has been going on for 61 years. More than a quarter of a million Tamil civilians, treated like criminals, remain arbitrarily caged in razor-wired camps and others in the north and east continue to live in “open prisons” under military and paramilitary control.

When he was a presidential candidate, Barack Obama said that “when ethnic cleansing is happening somewhere around the world and we stand idly by, that diminishes us”.

Mr President, it is time to act. The displaced, orphaned, injured and weak Tamil children in the “internment camps” want to ask, “When will we enjoy the same freedom your children enjoy? When will we have justice for all that we have suffered?”


Shirking a moral duty to Sri Lanka by Suren Surendiran

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  1. Pingback: Noam Chomsky: West’s self-interest reduces R2P to “noble rhetoric” + Break through the Silence « Dandelion Salad

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