by Maxwin Paul Rayen, Spring 2023
I am writing to share the recent publication of my LLM dissertation, which delves into the subject of “Collective Genocidal Violence in Sri Lanka.” My work critically examines the challenges associated with establishing genocidal intent and the subsequent lack of evidence within the context of the Tamil genocide. This deficiency has been exploited to dismiss claims of genocide in international crimes. In my thesis, I address this issue from a jurisprudential standpoint and apply legal analysis to factual circumstances. The abstract provided below encapsulates the core arguments I present:
The culmination of the Sri Lankan war brought about a catastrophic loss of life, impacting hundreds of thousands of individuals. Amidst this tragic scenario, victims have come forward asserting that the atrocities perpetrated against them amount to genocide, specifically directed towards the Eelam Tamils based solely on their ethnic identity. Opponents of this claim contend that the available evidence falls short in establishing genocidal intent or the existence of coordinated plans and policies indicative of such intent. These arguments are rooted in a conventional interpretation of genocidal intent, necessitating direct proof of specific intent within the perpetrators’ mental state.
Contrastingly, Sangkul Kim’s theory of collective genocidal intent introduces an alternative perspective. According to Kim, genocidal intent encompasses two layers: collective and individual genocidal intent. The collective aspect involves an objective legal criterion that can be deduced from a “manifest pattern of conduct” and the “rationale behind targeting a group.” Both of these aspects constitute objective components of genocidal intent.
This thesis contends that both components of collective genocidal intent can be substantiated in the case of the Eelam Tamils in Sri Lanka. The presence of a manifest pattern of conduct, characterized by deliberate, recurrent, and systematic assaults on the Eelam Tamil community, bolsters the inference of collective genocidal intent. Moreover, the singling out of the Eelam Tamils solely due to their group identity serves as additional evidence of genocidal intent. This evidence is rooted in the historical and political backdrop surrounding the treatment of Eelam Tamils in Sri Lanka.
By adopting Kim’s theory and applying it to the Sri Lankan context, this thesis challenges the established comprehension of genocidal intent and furnishes a compelling legal rationale for inferring genocidal intent in relation to the Eelam Tamils. The fulfilment of both objective facets of genocidal intent lends support to the claims made by the victims and contributes to a broader comprehension of addressing and acknowledging genocide in Sri Lanka.