Press release

Worldwide Tamils’ New Year Pledge: Work for an International Investigation into Sri Lanka’s Genocide

January 1, 2014

People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL) is one of 55 organizations across 10 countries that participated in a united 2014 New Year Pledge to continue to advocate for an independent international investigation into the genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka. The coalition is made up of Tamil human rights and Diaspora organizations that work tirelessly to prevent and punish mass atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan Government against Tamils.

The Pledge notes that there is clear support from Tamils living in Sri Lanka for an international investigation, and an unequivocal consensus that Sri Lanka’s domestic inquiry mechanisms – such as the feckless Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission of 2011— have been proven intentionally ineffectual. Only an investigation conducted by the international community will be fair, impartial, and truly reveal the anguish and aspirations of the Tamil people.

Though 2009 saw the end of Sri Lanka’s decades-long war, the ethnic conflict has persisted in pernicious ways against the Tamil community. PEARL remains steadfast in its work to educate, inform, and pressure policymakers to recognize the Tamil genocide and establish accountability mechanisms to bring Mahinda Rajapakse, Sri Lanka’s genocidaire president, and his cronies to justice. PEARL also works to support a political solution that embraces and effectuates Tamils’ right to self-determination. The current Sri Lankan State, in accordance with successive previous States, retains centralized control over Tamil affairs, including land and police powers, which should rightfully be vested with the Tamil people.

PEARL’s Advocacy Director, Valli Sanmugalingam said, “In addition to the Pledge’s call for an international investigation into the Tamil genocide, PEARL independently supports a political solution that fully respects Tamil self-determination. Without full recognition and respect for fundamental Tamil freedoms, Sri Lanka will never experience lasting peace. In 2014, it is PEARL’s goal to see that the international community meaningfully invests in the path toward justice for the Tamil nation. We hope that policymakers will note the united Pledge coming from Tamil human rights and Diaspora organizations and take action to establish an international investigation and a political solution that embraces Tamil rights.”

The full text of the joint Pledge can be viewed here.

Suspend Sri Lanka from the Commonwealth

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Photo: Reuters

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April 24, 2013

Suspend Sri Lanka from the Commonwealth

Sri Lanka's war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide against Tamils, which peaked in 2009 and continues today, requires that Sri Lanka be suspended from the Councils of the Commonwealth. The next key Commonwealth event, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2013 (CHOGM), is due to be held in Sri Lanka this November. Holding CHOGM in Sri Lanka, amidst blanket impunity for Sri Lanka's mass atrocities against Tamils in 2009 and escalating human rights violations occurring today, would be an egregious embarrassment to the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth Law Conference held recently in South Africa with 27 Chief Justices, unanimously passed a resolution asking the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) to place Sri Lanka on the agenda of the next meeting on April 26, and suspend it from the Councils of the Commonwealth for serious and persistent violations of the Commonwealth's fundamental values. The resolution also called upon Commonwealth countries to reconsider holding CHOGM in Lanka, and blamed the SL government for its role in impeaching Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake in defiance of the judgments of the highest courts in Sri Lanka. Justice Bandaranayake was unlawfully impeached in January by a parliamentary committee, after Sri Lanka's Supreme Court held her impeachment proceedings to be unconstitutional.

Suspending Sri Lanka from the Commonwealth will send a clear message to the Sri Lankan government as well as other oppressive regimes around the world, that the Commonwealth is willing and able to take decisive action in the face of the world's worst crimes. If CMAG does not decide to suspend Sri Lanka from the Commonwealth, it should at least move the venue of the upcoming CHOGM. Though a change of venue will not in itself bring accountability or justice to the island, to hold CHOGM in Sri Lanka would effectively endorse a state that willfully falls far short of the Commonwealth's vision. As Human Rights Watch stated: The Sri Lankan government's blatant disregard for the Commonwealth's principles of human rights and democratic reform makes it a poor host for this important event. Unless the government urgently addresses abuses and ends impunity, the international recognition it will gain by hosting the Commonwealth summit while repressing its key values will be an embarrassment to the Commonwealth and its member countries.

We are also deeply concerned that in addition to hosting CHOGM 2013, Sri Lanka will also hold the chairmanship of the Commonwealth from 2013 to 2015. Granting Sri Lanka leadership of the Commonwealth, at a time when the state has allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and ongoing human rights violations levelled against it by a United Nations Panel of Experts and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, would reflect poorly on the Commonwealth's stated commitment to human rights.

Thus, we urge you to immediately suspend Sri Lanka from the Commonwealth. In the alternative, we request that you to shift the venue of CHOGM from Sri Lanka to a country that upholds the values of the Commonwealth.

48 hours to stop the flight to hell

This Alert is from the Sri Lanka Campaign

Tomorrow 65 Tamil refugees will be deported from the UK back to Sri Lanka. This is despite a report published yesterday which showed that Tamils who are forcibly returned are often raped - and that we know this happened in two cases from the UK [1].

Please sign this Avaaz petition to Stop the flight. And please read this piece by Frances Harrison on why the deportations should be stopped:

UK Deportation Flight to Include Tamil Women & Men Who Say they were Raped & Sexually Abused
Among a group of about fifty asylum seekers due to be deported from Britain to Sri Lanka on Thursday afternoon is a young woman who’s already been subjected to sexual abuse in custody and has been declared a suicide risk. Doctors who’ve examined the asylum seeker have declared her unfit to travel because of the risk she will try to kill herself again.

The woman, who was a student in Britain, says she was detained on a visit to Sri Lanka in 2011 and taken to a police station in the capital. There she describes being beaten, kicked, striped naked, burnt with cigarette butts several times on her thighs and back and having her head put inside a plastic bag full of chilli powder, before being made to sign a statement in a language she couldn’t understand. She says her interrogators wanted information about members of the Tamil diaspora and her brother who had been a member of the Tamil Tiger rebel group, defeated militarily by the Sri Lankan army in 2009.

Court documents describe this woman as very distressed and tearful, with persistent nightmares. A letter from a forensic specialist confirms she has eight burn marks on her body, which she says were made by the lit cigarettes.

Kulasegaram Geetharthanan of Jein Solicitors, which is representing some of the cases due for return, said among those facing deportation were at least two women and two men who’d been raped as well as another woman who’d suffered sexual abuse.

On Tuesday Human Rights Watch issued a shocking report detailing seventy-five cases of rape in Sri Lanka – mostly by the security forces and significant numbers well after the end of the country’s civil war. Since this data was gathered from among asylum seekers, the likelihood is this only represents the tip of the iceberg since most women are unable to flee the country. Among the cases cited by Human Rights Watch were two Tamils who’d been deported from Britain and then said they’d been subjected to sexual abuse upon return to Sri Lanka.

For more information see The Channel 4 blog[2] & The Independent [3]

Frances Harrison is the author of Still Counting the Dead: Survivors of Sri Lanka's Hidden War published by Portobello Books in 2012.


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Killing Fields Video - from Channel 4