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Intervention to UN Special Advisor on Genocide

by International Educational Development, 7th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, March, 2007

Former Secretary-General Annan sagely observed that whenever there is an armed conflict with ethnic dimensions, the world must be alert to the possibility of genocide...

There are far more Tamil civilian casualties than combatants of either side, with many of these deaths caused by specific targeting of Tamil civilians, their institutions and their religious facilities...

In our many years addressing the conflict, the risk of genocide has never been higher. More than one third of the Tamil people have, in fact, fled due to the unbearable conditions for them in Sri Lanka. More than one third of the remaining Tamils in the Tamil areas live in camps for internally displaced, where food and medicine are completely blocked for periods of time..

UNITED NATIONS
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

7th session

Item 4

Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Prevention of Genocide

International Educational Development welcomes the presence of the Special Advisor to the Secretary-General at the Council. Former Secretary-General Annan sagely observed that whenever there is an armed conflict with ethnic dimensions, the world must be alert to the possibility of genocide. We have been alerting the international community about Sri Lanka since 1983, after the third genocidal massacre of Tamil civilians by Sinhala mobs shocked the world, and when after 34 years of efforts by the Tamil community to protect its lands, people, culture and human rights, they finally resorted to active rebellion against tyranny and oppression. An ethnic war has been raging ever since. There are far more Tamil civilian casualties than combatants of either side, with many of these deaths caused by specific targeting of Tamil civilians, their institutions and their religious facilities.

We have sent the Special Advisor and his predecessor communications about the current genocidal policies and rhetoric of the Government of Sri Lanka and Sinhala political parties directed at the Tamil people. In our many years addressing the conflict, the risk of genocide has never been higher. More than one third of the Tamil people have, in fact, fled due to the unbearable conditions for them in Sri Lanka. More than one third of the remaining Tamils in the Tamil areas live in camps for internally displaced, where food and medicine are completely blocked for periods of time, and which are, at best, grossly inadequate to sustain health. According to UN agencies present in Sri Lanka, most Tamil children in the North and East, including in areas under Sinhala control, are moderately to severely malnourished. Government practices regarding access to food and medicine meet the definition of the crime of extermination under the Statute and Elements of the International Criminal Court.

In the past few years, leading Tamil political figures, journalists, religious and educational leaders, and more than 60 persons seeking to provide humanitarian relief to Tamils have been assassinated. We view this as genocidal.

Rather than seeking a just resolution of the conflict, the authorities have embarked on an international anti-Tamil campaign, accusing many critics of helping “terrorists” – as if what is clearly an armed conflict is terrorism and counter-terrorism. The intention is to demonize Tamils at home and in the diaspora to avoid attention to violations of humanitarian law and to intimidate those who might protest or act. We view this as genocidal.

            We urge the Special Advisor to undertake effective and urgent action to protect the Tamil people from genocide. We urge the international community to avoid complicity in genocide and to respect its obligations to prevent it and properly to apply humanitarian law.  This is clearly a situation that invokes the “responsibility to protect” as set out by the Security Council.

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Further comment:

The Facts Support a Claim of Genocide

            A. Elements of genocide: (1) killing; (2) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (3) deliberate infliction of conditions calculated to bring about the whole or partial physical destruction of the group; (4) imposing measures to prevent births; (5) forced transfer of children.

            B. An element of the crime of extermination under the State and Elements of the International Criminal Code is the blockage or blockade prevention of food and medicine to the civilian population. See ICC, Rome Statute, Articles 7 (1)(b) and 7(2)(b); ICC Elements, Article 7(1)(b).

            Commentary: There are so many actions by the GoSL, including it military, to defend a claim that they intend  to kill Tamils or drive them out of Ceylon. The large numbers of violations of the Geneva Conventions and other instruments and principles of humanitarian law fully support a conclusion of genocide. Tamil civilian areas are regularly bombs or subject to military actions. Food and medicine are subjected to blockages and blockades. Conditions of life are so impossible that Tamils leave their homes for camps for internally displaced or to leave the island.  The numbers that have left are significant. Further, those who have sought safety outside of Sri Lanka are still being pursued by the government and its anti-Tamil propaganda machinery. The anti-Tamil rhetoric and the national and international demonizing of the Tamil people can be viewed as actions seeking to keep any international sympathy from aiding the Tamil people on the Island, thereby making the conditions of life even more precarious. This includes targeting of the providers of humanitarian aid and trying to freeze the assets of groups or drive them out. These actions further support an intention to destroy the Tamil people.The GoSL and its allies have been so successful, that the Tamil people appear to be the only people internationally with no outside support such as solidarity groups or big-time celebrities.    

In this regard, please see our written statement A/HRC/5/NGO/12: “We urge the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food to investigate as a matter of the highest priority the use of food as weapon of war against Tamils. In addition to the serious disruption of fishing and farming in the Tamil areas, the government continues to block the land routes into the Tamil areas, especially Route 9 to the North. International aid providers are in a constant crisis mode, as supplies run low and it becomes increasingly difficult to provide even subsistence levels. The Tamil people are near starvation; their children are stunted and mal-nourished. We draw particular attention the Statute and Elements of the International Criminal Court, which provides that restricting food and medicines for the civilian population is part of the crime of extermination. See ICC, Rome Statute, Articles 7 (1)(b) and 7(2)(b); ICC Elements, Article 7(1)(b).” Providing humanitarian relief is further impeded due to the startling number of humanitarian aid providers have been killed by government actors in the past two years, with the current toll at more than 60. Many other aid providers have left due to safety considerations.