The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has given careful consideration to the draft resolution on Sri Lanka proposed at the 25th sessions of the Human Rights Council by the United States of America, the UnitedKingdom, Montenegro, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Mauritius. The TNA is committed to the achievement of permanent peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka, which will enable all Peoples in Sri Lanka to live with dignity, equality and justice. We believe that tangible progress on accountability andgenuine reconciliation are necessary ingredients to the achievement of a peaceful, united Sri Lanka. To this end, it is paramount that the truth should be ascertained, an acceptable political solution evolved and swift action taken to terminate and reverse the harmful trajectory on which the government has set the country.
Of particular concern to the Tamil people is the mass scale appropriation of land by the military, the overbearing presence of the military in civilian life, and the increasing reports of sexual violence targeting Tamil women in the North and East. The Sri Lankan government is also aggressively engaged in changing the demographic composition of the Northern and Eastern provinces and debasing the cultural and linguistic identities of these areas. These actions do not create a conducive atmosphere for reconciliation and do not inspire the confidence of the Tamil people in the state. Further, the government has colluded in and presided over an appalling increase in religious violence and intimidation of religious minorities. The breakdown of the rule of law and independence of the judiciary has exacerbated these problems by depriving victims of the protection of the law.
We therefore welcome the fact that the draft resolution envisages the establishment of an international investigation led by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, both in respect of war-time abuses committed by both sides and violations of human rights throughout the country since the end of the war. We look forward to the co-sponsors effecting revisions to the draft over the following weeks that will clarify and strengthen the scope of the forthcoming investigation. We will remain engaged with the international community to this end, and also to ensure that the outcome of the resolution will be overwhelmingly positive for all Sri Lankans, particularly for victims of grave abuses committed during and after the war.
The passage of a resolution on the lines of the draft under consideration will be a significant next step by the Human Rights Council toward reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka. The TNA will continue to urge the international community to move expeditiously towards mandating an international commission of inquiry in respect of past violations committed by both sides as well as ongoing violations throughout the country.
R. Sampanthan Justice C. V. Wigneswaran
Leader, Tamil National Alliance Chief Minister, Northern Province
TNA Response to UNHRC Report – February 26, 2014
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) welcomes the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka to the 25th session of the Human Rights Council. The High Commissioner’s report contains a comprehensive and accurate depiction of the serious human rights issues facing Sri Lanka. The Report has benefited from the High Commissioner’s visit to Sri Lanka, where she was able to observe first-hand the issues of concern to victims and survivors in the Northern and EasternProvinces.
The High Commissioner has raised a number of serious concerns in her Report which alsopertain to the entire country: the treatment of former combatants and detainees; attacks on religious minorities; the attack on dissentand the freedom of expression; the government’s dismal record in implementing LLRC recommendations; and the government’s disinterest in making progress on accountability. The TNA is particularly concerned over the impact of the high levels of militarization on the security of women in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. There are mounting and credible reports of systematic patterns of sexual harassment and violence in highly militarized areas, and we ask that the Human Rights Council take cognizance of this reality in its deliberations on Sri Lanka.
We also take serious note of the High Commissioner’s observations on the impermissibility of amnesty provisions in respect of international crimes and gross violations of human rights. We observe that the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka made similar observations, and that the Government of Sri Lanka’s own written submissions to the Panel of Experts viewed amnesty provisions as inappropriate for the reason that they “intrinsically encourage a culture of impunity”. The TNA has and continues to articulate victims’ demands for truth, justice, just resolution of land issuesreparations and guarantees of non-recurrence; the undesirability of blanket amnesty provisions; and the need to give effect to the duty to prosecute international crimes and gross human rights abuses.
The TNA also unequivocally supports the High Commissioner’s recommendation that the Human Rights Council establish an international inquiry mechanism to further investigate alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws, in addition to monitoring any domestic processes for accountability initiated by the Government of Sri Lanka.We believe that such a mechanism is necessary inthe light of the government’s unwillingness to take steps towards accountability.
We also note that the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which we have consistently opposed, vests in the President virtually exclusive powers over key public appointments. Thus the deep politicization of civil institutions,together with the widely acknowledged erosion of judicial independence,seriously undermines any prospects of a credible domestic process for accountability.
We are mindful of the important need for all communities in Sri Lanka to reckon with the past in a spirit of reconciliation. We sincerely believe that an international Commission of Inquiry into allegations against both sides will provide our communities the space and environment to come to terms with crimes committed in our respective names. The TNA remains committed to leading the Tamil people through a painful process of introspection, and encourages the government to use the opportunity of an international inquiry to break with the past and meaningfully pursue reconciliation.