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Sri Lanka Should be Referred to the ICC

by Tamil Centre for Human Rights, July 22, 2008

What options are left for the Tamil diaspora in foreign countries? Can the Tamil diaspora be spectators while the land of their birth is under heavy military occupation and their kith and kin are under severe and brutal military oppression? If the Tamil diaspora would like to return to their place of birth, can these foreign countries and the Sri Lankan government promise safe passage for their return?

Sri Lanka should be referred to the International Criminal Court

TAMIL CENTRE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS - TCHR/CTDH
CENTRE TAMOUL POUR LES DROITS DE L'HOMME
(Established in 1990)

www.tchr.net

Ref : GJ032/PR/2008 
22 July 2008

“To my mind, what we ought to have maintained from the beginning was the strictest neutrality. If we had done this, I do not believe we would have been on the (verge of) war at the present time”. – George William Norris, US Senator from 1913-1943

Before we make our appeal to foreign countries, we want to make it clear that in ‘no way’ does this appeal justify or request any countries to ignore law-breakers.  Right from the beginning, TCHR has always maintained the policy that the citizens or residents of any country should respect law and order, including in de-facto states.

In Ceylon, when the first colonial master, the Portuguese landed in 1505, there were three Kingdoms. One of these was Tamil, and was known as the “Jaffna Kingdom”, covering the area of the North East, the Tamils' hereditary region. The other two Kingdoms - Kotte in the South and South West and Kandy in the Centre were known as Sinhala Kingdoms. The Portuguese ruled Ceylon from 1619 to 1658; followed by the Dutch until 1795. The British took over from the Dutch and ruled until independence in February 1948. During the colonial period, all three Kingdoms were ruled separately until the British amalgamated them in 1833, under the pretext of easy administration. This is the history of the Island.

Long before the Dutch arrived on the island, the Tamil Kingdom had a separate set of customary laws, known as ‘Thesavalamai’. These laws apply mostly to land, property and social affairs and  were mainly used in Jaffna but also to a certain extent throughout the entire North.  During the same period, another set of customary laws was also in use in Batticaloa, which did not contradict Thesavalamai. Even today, the Thesavalamai is still in use.

This is to say that, prior to colonisation, the citizens of the Tamil Kingdom had all the laws they needed to settle their land disputes and social affairs connected to their culture. In any case, Tamils are, in general, obedient citizens and criminalisation is not a characteristic of the community.

Not a criminal community

Retired Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police - DIG, Mr R. Suntharalingam, who was the Superintendent of the Police of Jaffna in the late 1960s and 1970s, made a remark that there was no serious Crime in Jaffna, other than the 'theft of Bicycles'. This was the case also in other parts of the North East. This is testimony to the character of the people, but of course there are exceptions.

The Island history reveals that the Tamils were betrayed by every post-independence government and by opportunist politicians. Even prior to Independence, there had been many negotiations between Tamil leaders and Sinhala leaders to resolve the ethnic conflict, but no durable solution was found.

When independence was given by the British in 1948, even though Tamils had their separate Kingdom, then Tamil leaders thought that they could live in peace and harmony with the numerical majority Singhalese. But this proved impossible when the Singhalese obtained majority rule. The violent response by the Sinhala rulers to nearly thirty five years of non-violent protest by the Tamils against discrimination, created the conditions for the birth of the Tamil freedom struggle through use of arms – a struggle which has been going on for the last twenty five years, with the exception of a few short intervals. Sadly this is portrayed by Sri Lanka as a 'terrorist problem' to the outside world.

150 years after unification

One should not forget that, exactly 150 years after the unification of the Tamil Kingdom with the other Kingdoms, the island’s worst riots against the Tamils took place, in which over 5,000 Tamil were killed. In July 1983, Tamils were forced to seek protection in western countries including Australia, Canada and USA. In fact, this was encouraged by the government in power without realising the long term repercussions. During that time, the Sri Lanka government held the view that by reducing the Tamil population in the Island, they could suppress the Tamil Freedom Struggle. Eventually, this idea became counterproductive.

The people who sought protection in foreign countries came forward to help their kith and kin in their homeland and also to safeguard their language, culture and properties. This included support for the political ideology of the Freedom struggle. The Tamil diaspora became the prime saviours of the Tamils suffering from humanitarian disasters, caused by the various racist policies of the government – military oppression and an imposed economic embargo which created devastating conditions in the North East. Similar policies continue even today, maintained by the government which claims that Tamils in the North East are its citizens.

Sri Lank's response in several phases

As a consequence, Sri Lanka created a series of actions against the Tamil Freedom Struggle and Diaspora Tamils.

Phase I – Sri Lanka requested arms and ammunition from foreign countries in the pretext of fighting Terrorism. Many countries which never even knew the history of the island have pumped in all sorts of military hardware for nearly two decades. But, have they wiped out so-called terrorism in Sri Lanka? Here, we would like to recall what was said by UK Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN - Lord Malloch Brown on 5 March 2008 in the 7th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. He said, “In Sri Lanka, a country facing a substantial terrorist threat, unfortunately International concern has not made any impact........”. 

Here the question arises, why has International concern not made any impact in Sri Lanka? It is blatantly obvious that the Tamil Freedom struggle is not terrorism as has been portrayed by Sri Lankan government misinformation - with the help of some allies. Without realising this fact, the international community is carrying out ONE-SIDED actions.

As a result of the failure of Phase I, Sri Lanka started a second phase - Phase II, requesting foreign countries to ban the activities of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam - LTTE. Also, Sri Lanka introduced a new international phenomenon, regarding ‘Child rights’, namely the ignoring of major human rights and welfare of children and the giving of deliberately unbalanced prominence to the issue of ‘Child soldiers’. In order to carry out this propaganda against the Freedom struggle locally and internationally, the government employed a few Tamils and some NGOs. Here, it is worth noting what Mr V Anandasangare wrote in June 2008 to Douglas Devananda, a paramilitary leader and a Minister in the present cabinet. Mr Anandasangare stated that, ‘‘...It is very unfortunate that the successive governments had made use of these members from minority Tamil parties either to capture power or to remain in power. The country as a whole is now suffering for the sins committed by some leaders in the past who acted selfishly and without any patriotic feeling’’. It is to be noted that Mr V Anandasangaree was one of the persons who travelled along with Douglas Devananda branding the Tamil diaspora who were supporting their freedom struggle as ‘terrorist supporters’ and requesting the International Community to help to free the Tamils in the North East from the “clutches” of the LTTE!

As Phase II also became a failure, Phase III started to take shape – The Sri Lankan government demanded that other countries sling mud on the Tamil Freedom struggle and the diaspora living in peace and harmony in host countries. As a result - Tamil media (TVs, Radios, News papers and Websites), community organisations, cultural and religious places and shopping centres became the target.

The Tamil media, especially Televisions managed by the diaspora, had been giving factual information supported by on-the-spot reporting of incidents taking place in the North East. This was useful not only to the Tamils but also to other peace-loving citizens and media in other languages, in the west. This factual information not only earned shame for the Sri Lankan government but also it contradicted the disinformation propaganda carried out by the Sri Lankan embassies and their troublesome allies. It is a pity that the western countries which are for free media and freedom of expression were supporting lies and deception on the situation in Sri Lanka.

We understand that a few actions taken in some countries were on the basis of maintaining law and order in those countries. But are these countries aware that accounts of their actions are promptly exaggerated and used for propaganda purposes by the Sri Lankan government and their Embassies, pro-government media and websites portraying those countries as supportive of Sri Lanka’s war against the Tamil Freedom struggle and the diaspora supporting the struggle.

Sri Lanka 'enormously grateful' to France and the UK

On 13th June 2008, during the discussion on the report of the Universal Periodic Review on Sri Lanka (8th Session of Human Rights Council in Geneva), the Secretary to the Ministry of Human Rights and Secretary General of the (SCOPP), Rajiva Wijesinha said ‘‘…..some countries like France and the United Kingdom have been WONDERFUL on trying to stop terrorist funding and we are ENORMOUSLY GRATEFUL, but we realise that other countries DON’T…’’. (quoted from the UN Human Rights Council Webcast) If this can happen in a UN public forum, one can imagine how the Sri Lankan government and its media are using references to these countries in local and regional propaganda.

As a result of the Sri Lankan propaganda, actions carried out by those host countries gave a very bad impression about the Tamils to their fellow citizens in Western countries. Fellow citizens started to look at Tamils as people who are supporting something equal to Al Qaida or Bin Laden! This is completely false. As we said at the beginning, anyone who does not respect law and order should be brought to justice without reservation. But this should not be turned into a rejection of a  whole community. Every community has good and bad individuals.

What options left for the Tamil diaspora in foreign countries?

What options are left for the Tamil diaspora in foreign countries? Can the Tamil diaspora be spectators while the land of their birth is under heavy military occupation and their kith and kin are under severe and brutal military oppression? If the Tamil diaspora would like to return to their place of birth, can these foreign countries and the Sri Lankan government promise safe passage for their return?

We doubt whether this is possible! Firstly, horrible human right violations continue and the UN and other International NGOs are unable to help the 700,000 IDPs. Secondly, the Sri Lankan government is unlikely to accept this idea, especially in a situation where it is carrying out propaganda regarding 'Child soldiers’ in the North East. Then the Sri Lankan government would presumably have to create another new phase on ‘Elderly soldiers’ and ‘Foreign returned soldiers’. In such a situation, some NGOs may be happy to expand their business as well.

It is sad that many foreign countries which value democracy, peace and security have decided to punish the Tamil diaspora as a whole, openly giving a green light to a brutal regime. Do we have to remind these countries about the appalling human rights record of Sri Lanka? What is the consolation these countries are giving to the oppressed and victimised people in the North East?

Is this not terrorism?

Sri Lanka is in no way qualified to talk about terrorism or the fight against it because this was the 1st country in the world which gave a hero’s welcome to the hijacker of an Alitalia Boeing 747 with 340 passengers on 30 June 1982. Also Sri Lanka turned down the request from the Italian government that the hijacker be handed over to them. 

Those who talk about terrorism in Sri Lanka should know what the International Community did to Libya when the Libyan authorities refused to return the suspects of the Lockerbie bombing of Pan American Flight-103 that took place on 21 December 1988.

Why was Sri Lanka was exempted from these international procedures?

Is there any country in the world which tries to assassinate a visiting State leader, especially while the guard of honour was being given by a host country? On 30 July 1987, when the Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was inspecting the guard of honour given by the Sri Lankan Navy in Colombo, a sailor struck Rajiv Gandhi forcefully with the butt of his unloaded gun attempting to assassinate him. 

It was well known that then Prime Minister Premadasa and the JVP were behind this attempted assassination of the Indian Prime Minister. This sailor was released under a general amnesty granted after Premadasa became President.

The government smuggled another Paramilitary leader Karuna (Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan) to London, UK, on a forged Diplomatic passport, on 18 September 2007;  while harbouring and supporting the activities of the Paramilitary groups, not to mention its own forces responsible for kidnapping and mass killings of innocent civilians. Is this not terrorism?

Is fund raising through Sri Lankan embassies to buy arms and ammunition for a war to suppress another Nation, not terrorism? This fund-raising is well-promoted in all pro-government media and websites.

It is a puzzle!

What happened to the mandate given by the people from the North East in the July 1977 general election? In this free and fair election, the Tamil people gave a mandate to exercise the “right to self-determination” in the North East. If the Tamils had rejected their right to self-determination, today this fact would have been at the top of the agenda of the Sri Lanka government and the international community.

The Sri Lankan governments, including the present Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government, accepted the LTTE as the sole representatives of the Tamils and had talks in Geneva in February and October 2006, then promptly returned home and claimed that the LTTE is not the sole representatives of the Tamils. Thus, the government tried to deny that LTTE has mass support from the people. It also tried to misinform the world saying that Tamils, their freedom struggle and the LTTE are not inter-linked! However, Tamils are proving that they do not agree with this government position.

Demonstrations which have taken place in foreign countries in support of the Freedom Struggle and the LTTE have always been attended by thousands. There have been demonstrations in Canada, Brussels, Geneva and London with more than ten thousand participants. If the Tamil Freedom struggle is a ‘Terrorist problem’ would all these people come forward in public?  Could these demonstrators be brought forcefully? In reality, the foreign countries are failing to consider the mass support by the Tamils for their Freedom struggle in the island and instead believe the 'Mickey Mouse' talk of the Sri Lankan government.

At the same time, Sri Lankan government embassies sponsored anti-Tamil Freedom Struggle demos which had no more than one hundred participants. This statement can be verified from the authorities in any country.

Furthermore, the government arbitrarily divided the North Eastern province, held a fraudulent election and installed a Chief Minister who is a paramilitary leader directly responsible for many killings in 2004 onwards, including those of Parliamentarians and Academics.

Here we give figures of the latest demonstrations organised within the last two months by the Tamil diaspora.  Despite various difficulties - jobs, transport, climate and responsibilities of family affairs, a fairly good number of the 500,000 Tamils in foreign countries has participated in these demonstrations in support of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the freedom struggle. In addition to the above mentioned difficulties, one has to bear in mind that the Sri Lankan embassies and their informants carry out intimidation and harassment of the Tamil diaspora, behaving like local police in these countries.

These are serious realities for consideration by impartial decision-makers of democratic and peace loving countries.

Could these demonstrators be brought forcefully, to  support  ‘terrorism’,  in foreign countries?

Pongu Thamil demonstration participation 2008

Country

Participant

Date

Canada

+75,000

05/07/2008

United Kingdom

+40,000

12/07/2008

Germany

+8,000

28/06/2008

France

+7,000

18/06/2008

Switzerland

+4,000

05/07/2008

Denmark

+3,000

14/06/2008

Norway

+3,000

14/06/2008

Australia-Melbourne&Sydney

+4,000

05&06/07/2008

Italy – Milano & Palermo

+1,500

15&29/06/2008

Netherlands

+1,000

22/06/2008

South Africa

+500

21/06/2008

New Zealand

+350

14/06/2008

Sweden

+300

28/06/2008

Belgium

+200

23/06/2008

Finland

????

00/06/2008

 

...

Sri Lanka should be referred to the International Criminal Court

There is ample evidence to prove that the Sri Lankan government is committing genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in the North East. The evidence shows that the Sri Lankan government masterminded and implemented a plan to destroy the North East, in sustained acts of ethnic cleansing. The Sri Lankan government pursues the people. The motives are political and their intent is genocide. Sri Lankan security forces have attacked residents, schools, religious places, public places, and villages and destroyed them, too. The internally displaced people are subjected to conditions calculated to bring about their destruction and the government obstructs international assistance. Members of the Sri Lankan security forces, paramilitary and home guards are raping and gang-raping Tamil women and young girls in the North East.

For more than two decades, the Sri Lankan government has been denying these crimes. They are preventing the truth about the crimes from being revealed; concealing their crimes under the guise of a ‘counter terrorism strategy’, or ‘inter-ethnic clashes’. The Sri Lankan government promoted and provided impunity to the members of the Security forces, the paramilitary and the home guards, in order to secure their willingness to commit genocide.

In addition to using all sorts of military hardware to commit genocide, food and rape are also being used as weapons of war.

There is ample evidence to prove that the Sri Lankan government, instead of assisting the people of North East, has mobilised the entire state apparatus, including the armed forces, the intelligence services, the diplomatic and public information bureaucracies - locally and internationally, and the justice system, to subject the 700.000 IDP’s to extreme oppression, and many of the 500,000 who sought protection in foreign countries to unacceptable conditions.

The Sri Lankan Executive President is the Commander in Chief.  He is using the whole state apparatus, all members of security forces, paramilitary and home guards and they all report directly to him and to his own brother the defence secretary.

Therefore, we the Tamil Centre for Human Rights – TCHR, appeal to foreign countries that the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in the North East – committed by the Sri Lankan government should be referred to the International Criminal Court through the good office of the UN Security Council.

COUNTRIES IGNORING REALITIES

AUSTRALIA

Australian citizens, VVIPS like Prof Philip Alston of the United Nations and Prof John Whitehall, a Paediatrician and Director of Townsville Hospital's Neonatal Unit, were accused of supporting the LTTE because they spoke about the realities in Sri Lanka. The Tamil Freedom struggle is in no way different to East-Timor’s struggle for right to self-determination.

CANADA

Oppressed Tamils trusted the democracy and hospitality of Canada and moved there in large numbers for their safety and security. Neither democracy nor politics in Sri Lanka are the same as in  Canada. In Canada the people of French speaking Quebec were offered a referendum to decide their political destiny. Whereas in Sri Lanka, for the last sixty years, there has been an ongoing drama about devolution of powers but nothing whatsoever has been implemented. Each time the international community insists on devolution of powers, the government in power uses Tamils as a scapegoat and dodges the request of the international community.

Some Canadian VVIPs belonging to important international organisations – dignitaries like Ms Louis Arbour and Alan Rock, were accused of supporting the LTTE because they spoke about the realities in Sri Lanka. If the international community believes this politically-motivated talk of the Sri Lankan government then many VVIPs around the world will be seen as ‘Terrorists’ and ‘Terrorist supporters’.

CHINA

Mao Tse-tung overthrew Chiang Kai-Shek’s Kuomintang (KMT) regime in October 1949. The government which captured power in a revolution from an aggressor is supporting a brutal regime which is denying the right to self determination of Tamils.

CUBA

This is another government which captured power in a revolution and is supporting a brutal regime which is denying the right to self determination of Tamils.

Cuba supported the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and the Palestinians especially while Nelson Mandela and Yasser-Arafat were known to the world as ‘terrorists’. We believe that Cuba is misinformed about the Tamil Freedom struggle.

We do not think that Cuba would have forgotten so quickly the recent gimmicks of Sri Lanka. In 2006, in an election for membership in the UN Security Council, President Mahinda Rajapaksa promised personally to the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in New York that Sri Lanka would vote for Venezuela. When the election came they ignored Venezuela and President Chavez was totally disappointed with the behaviour of Sri Lanka.

FRANCE

During World War II, when France was occupied by Germany, the Vichy regime in France collaborated with Nazi Germany, headed by Marshal Philippe Pétain, and branded all the “Resistance movement’s” activities as “Terrorism”. Eventually Philippe Pétain ended up in French modern history as a “Traitor”.

The question of who is a terrorist and who is the saviour of the Tamils is decided by the masses - not by the government which disseminates disinformation propaganda.

Two VVIPs from France Dr. Bernard Kouchner, present Minister of Foreign Affairs and Judge Jean-Pierre Cot saw the stark reality while they were members of the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons – IIGEP.  The IIGEP terminated its functions, unable to carry out its mandate in Sri Lanka.

Even after two years, no inquiry has been conducted into the case of the 17 humanitarian workers who were killed while on duty working for the French NGO, Action Contre la Faim – ACF. This is one of thousands of cases happening to the Tamils in the island.

It is to be noted that Sri Lanka has included France in their propaganda, as one of the countries which is doing ‘wonderful’ help for them!

INDIA

On 30 July 1987, when the Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited Sri Lanka to sign the Indo-Lanka accord and while he was inspecting the guard of honour in Colombo, a Navy sailor struck him forcefully with the butt of his unloaded gun attempting to assassinate him. 

It was well known to the world that then Prime Minister Premadasa and the JVP were behind this attempted assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and that the naval officer who attacked Rajiv Gandhi became a political hero in Sri Lanka. This sailor was released under a general amnesty granted after Premadasa became President.

In fact, the present government in power, especially the Sri Lanka Freedom Party to which President Mahinda Rajapaksa belongs, was totally against the Indo-Lanka accord signed in 1987.

In 1971, during the India-Pakistan war, the Colombo airport in Sri Lanka was used by Pakistan to wage war against India.

As an anti-Indian move, in 1987, Bombay onion and Mysore dhal were renamed in Colombo as ‘Big onion’ and Red dhal by the people who are today in power.

ITALY

Alitalia Boeing 747 hijacked -  where is the hijacker?

Alitalia Boeing 747 with 340 passengers on 30 June 1982 was hijacked by one Sepala Ekanayake, a Singhalese from deep South of Sri Lanka while the aeroplane was between New Delhi and Tokyo. The plane was forced to land in Bangkok airport. After 35 hours of drama there, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Thailand personally went to the airport and assured Sepala that he could go to Sri Lanka without any fear.

Sri Lanka allowed the hijacker into the country, with 300,000 US dollars that the hijacker received as ransom from Alitalia. Sri Lanka took no action on this hijacker for several weeks, until international pressure was mounted. Also Sri Lanka turned down the request from the Italian government that the hijacker be handed over to them. 

This hijacker of Alitalia Boeing 747 is a strong supporter of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party and worked hard in Pollanaruwa, Anuradhapura and Matalan districts during the recent elections. 

IRAN and PAKISTAN

These countries are member states of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) which fully supports a de-facto state in Cyprus, the right to self-determination of Kashmiris and the independence of Palestine.

The present Iranian government has forgotten that it came to power by a revolution against what was considered a repressive monarchy and today is holding hands with an aggressor in Sri Lanka who is denying the right to self-determination of Tamils.

USA

In 1984, soon after the armed conflict started in Sri Lanka, two Americans known as the 'Alan couple' from Ohio in USA were kidnapped in Jaffna by the Douglas Devananda group. Douglas Devananda of the EPDP, is a Minister in the present cabinet in Sri Lanka.

Until today the Sri Lankan government has not taken any action against him, but continues to use the labels of ‘terrorism’ and ‘terrorists’ about others. How does the international community see this action?

Can any difference be seen between Mahinda Rajapaksa and Sadam Hussein of Iraq? Sadam Hussein also had elections in Iraq! Does it mean then that his government was democratically elected?

UNITED KINGDOM

People of the United Kingdom fully endorsed the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, even though the ANC’s military wing MK - Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) was accused of several bombings in South Africa. Despite this, the people of Britain supported it because apartheid created hell on earth.

It is worth considering that the UK has residual colonial responsibility, which on an ethical basis should prevent it from taking sides in the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. This year is the 175th year of amalgamation of the Tamil Kingdom along with other Sinhala Kingdoms by UK government in 1833. Today the Tamils are facing permanent consequences arising from that amalgamation.

Many VVIPs from UK - Sir John Holmes of the United Nations and UK Parliamentarians were accused of supporting the LTTE because they spoke about the realities in Sri Lanka.

It is to be noted that Sri Lanka has included United Kingdom in their propaganda as one of the countries which is doing ‘wonderful’ help for them.

It is very hard to see any active neutrality in many of these countries.

HEAD OFFICE:
Tamil Centre for Human Rights - TCHR/CTDH
9, rue des Peupliers - 95140 Garge les Gonesse - FRANCE
Contact person : S. V. Kirubaharan – General Secretary
Tel/Fax: + 33 1 42 67 54 36 - Email: tchrgs@hotmail.com /
tchgs@tchr.net

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