தமிழ்த் தேசியம்

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

Home

 Whats New

Trans State Nation Tamil Eelam Beyond Tamil Nation Comments Search

Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Sri Lanka Accused at United Nations > UN Commission on Human Rights 1997

UN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
53rd SESSIONS: MARCH 1997


Memorandum presented by the Swiss Federation of Tamil Associations

The Swiss Federation of Tamil Association presents this appeal to the Chairperson and delegates to the 53rd Sessions of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

The genocidal war waged by Sri Lanka in the Tamil homeland in the North-East of the island of Sri Lanka causes us grave alarm and concern. It is a genocidal war which commenced in May/June 1995 and which continues today with increasing intensity.

President Kumaratunga's Genocidal Intent

In April 1995, President Kumaratunga, having used the earlier talks with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as a 'tactical episode' in her attempt to quell Tamil resistance, set about using the collapse of the talks as a legitimising cover for the planned genocidal onslaught on the Tamil people. President Kumaratunga's genocidal intent was revealed in an interview with India Today on 30 April 1995:

"Q. Where do you go from here?

A. ...To defeat the LTTE you have to launch an all out attack (which would mean a lot of Tamil civilian casualties) and the place (Jaffna) will be wiped out.

Q. Is that possible? Can the Sri Lankan forces do it?

A. Ofcourse it is possible. That is what the IPKF tried to do."

The equanimity with which President Kumaratunga contemplated the prospect of 'wiping out' Jaffna was no different from the equanimity with which President J.R.Jayawardene declared in July 1983:

"I am not worried about the opinion of the Tamil people... now we cannot think of them, not about their lives or their opinion... the more you put pressure in the north, the happier the Sinhala people will be here... Really if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhala people will be happy." (President J.R.Jayawardene, Daily Telegraph, 11th July 1983)

In the same way as President Jayawardene's remarks served as a prelude to the genocidal onslaught on the Tamil people in July 1983, President Kumaratunga's ruminations in April 1995 set the stage for the genocidal war that was launched on the Tamil people in May/June 1995.

Genocidal war in which Sri Lanka has committed gross and systematic breaches of humanitarian law and human rights

It is a genocidal war in which Sri Lanka has committed gross and systematic violations of the humanitarian law of armed conflict in the Tamil homeland in the North-East of the island during the past year. The conclusion is inescapable that Sri Lanka is trying to kill or terrorize as many Tamil people as possible.Margaret Trawick, Professor of Social Anthropology, Massey University Palmerston North, New Zealand concluded on 28 April 1996:

" I have been struggling in my mind against the conclusion that the SL government is trying to kill or terrorize as many Tamil people as possible; that the government is trying to keep the conditions of the war unreported internationally, because if those conditions were reported, the actions of the military would be perceived as so deplorable that foreign nations would have no choice but to condemn them. And this would be embarrassing to everybody. But it seems now that no other conclusion is possible... "

In a speech reported on 17 December 1996, the President of the Welfare Society of Pudukudiyiruppu in the East of the Tamil homeland said :

"A policy of exterminating as many Tamils as possible is underway in the northeast. Taken together, the government's block on food and medicine to the ... unoccupied Tamil areas and the Sri Lankan military's regular bombing raids on dense civilian villages as well as its random murders of Tamil civilians, especially youth, points to a deliberate attempt to diminish the Tamil population and impair the conditions necessary for their survival."

Sri Lanka has committed gross and systematic violations of the human rights of Tamils living in the Sinhala areas in the South of the island and in areas within its control in the Tamil homeland. Amnesty International reported in August 1996:

"The People's Alliance (PA) government has repeatedly proclaimed its commitment to human rights since it came to power in August 1994 and has introduced a number of safeguards to prevent torture and "disappearances". However, the Amnesty International delegation found that these grave violations of human rights are continuing... Moreover, there are signs that the government may be reneging on its commitment to bring to justice the perpetrators of past human rights violations..."

In the North-East, Tamil villages have been indiscriminately shelled. Hospitals destroyed. Sri Lanka's reprisal attacks, on Tamil non combatants have become routine. The U.S. Department of State, Sri Lanka Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1996, said in January 1997:

"Police (mostly STF officers) and army personnel committed extrajudicial killings in both Jaffna and the Eastern Province... In February 1996 army troops murdered 24 Tamil villagers, including 2 children under 12 years of age, in the eastern village of Kumarapuram. ... In some cases these extrajudicial killings were reprisals against civilians for LTTE attacks in which members of the security forces were killed or injured. Several such reprisals occurred during operations by the STF. In many cases, the security forces claimed that the victims were members of the LTTE. However, human rights monitors have determined that these victims were civilians. ... There were also a number of suspicious deaths attributed to the security forces, mostly involving detainees..."

Numerous cases of arbitrary arrest, beatings and death due to torture have been reported in the areas of the Tamil homeland occupied by the Sri Lanka army. Over 300 cases of disappearance after arrest have been reported during the second part of last year alone. The British Refugee Council Publication, Sri Lanka Monitor, said in August 1996:

"Human rights agencies say safeguards in the law are being circumscribed by authorities. In the north-east arrested persons are held for 60 days under Emergency regulations and then under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) which provides for 18 months detention without being produced before a court."

The interrogation process is brutal, with those suffering the worst harm, both physically and mentally, being those who remain honest in their refusal to submit. The U.S. Department of State, Sri Lanka Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1996, declared in January 1997:

"Torture remained a serious problem.. Members of the security forces continued to torture and mistreat detainees and other prisoners, both male and female, particularly during interrogation. Although the number of torture reports was somewhat lower than in previous years in the Colombo area, the situation in Eastern Province did not improve. Torture also emerged as a problem in the newly recaptured Jaffna Peninsula. In November a Supreme Court judge stated publicly that torture continued unabated in police stations in spite of a number of judicial pronouncements against its use. Pro government Tamil militants in the east and north, directly responsible to the security forces, also engaged in torture...

"Methods of torture included electric shock, beatings (especially on the soles of the feet), suspension by the wrists or feet in contorted positions, burning, near drownings, placing of insecticide, chili powder, or gasoline-soaked bags over the head, and forced positions. Detainees have reported broken bones and other serious injuries as a result of their mistreatment..."

Ever since the Sinhala military occupation of the Tamil homeland the student population of Jaffna lives in fear. Reports abound of army abductions of young people at random and these are frequently being accompanied by details of rape, torture and brutal murder. The majority of arrests and detentions remain unacknowledged. Sri Lanka has also used shadowy para military groups to abduct and torture Tamils.

The Sinhala army has gang raped Tamil women and murdered them with impunity. There have been over 150 reported cases of rape during the past year. Amnesty International reported in August 1996:

"Amnesty International has documented several cases of rape by members of the security forces. Because many women are reluctant to give testimony about their treatment by the security forces, Amnesty International believes that these testimonies represent only a fraction of a widespread pattern of human rights violations. "

Human Rights for Tamils (HURT) London reported on 17 November 96:

"Selverajah Theenuka is a 10 year old Tamil Hindu girl, living in Pathmeni, Atchuvely on the Jaffna Peninsula. A 5th grade student, she was on her way to school last Tuesday (12th November 96). At 8.15, she was abducted by Sri Lankan soldiers and taken to the Sri Lankan army's Puttur V.C. camp. There, she was stripped and raped repeatedly by Sinhala soldiers. When they had finished, the soldiers released the child. The principal of her school went to Atchuvely-Atchelu main army camp to register a formal protest. He took Thenuka with him. The camp commanders made no attempt to investigate the complaint or give an apology. The principal and Theenuka were then forcibly taken off the camp."

The 'broad front' strategy adopted by the Sri Lanka army to 'steam roller' their advance in to the Tamil homeland has devastated acres of cultivable land, destroyed homes and forced hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians to flee their homes and seek refuge in the areas of the Tamil homeland remaining in the control of the Tamil resistance movement.

Sri Lanka has imposed an economic blockade on these areas and in breach of humanitarian law, food and medicine have been used as weapons of war.U.S Committee for Refugees, Washington reported on December 16, 1996:

"...There are an estimated 400,000 displaced persons in the Vanni-jungle region in the north of Sri Lanka that is largely under the control of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). According to NGOs and local government officials, many of the displaced possibly as many as half do not receive government assistance, allegedly because the government views the group as possible LTTE supporters.

Impunity

Sri Lanka has failed to investigate hundreds of incidents of gross violations of human rights and humanitarian law by its armed forces and this failure has encouraged them to persist in such violations with impunity.

Amnesty International reported in August 1996:

"Impunity for those responsible for human rights violations remains a serious concern. Progress in a few court cases against members of the security forces charged in connection with "disappearances" and extrajudicial executions is slow; as are investigations into many other cases..."

U.S. Department of State, Sri Lanka Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1996 declared:

"Impunity for those responsible for human rights abuses remained a problem... the investigations or judicial processes were inactive, giving the appearance of impunity for those responsible for human rights violations."

Press Censorship

At the sametime, the Sri Lanka government has imposed a tight press censorship and has sought to keep the conditions of the war unreported internationally. It is impossible for journalists to enter Jaffna without prior approval from the Government.

The Non Governmental Organisation Article 19 reported in its publication 'The Silent War' that the broad scope of the censorship 'went far beyond any legitimate interest in protecting national security or public order'.

Government censorship and restrictions on access to the north not only kept the public uninformed, but also made the process of providing humanitarian assistance to the victims of war more difficult and have concealed violations of humanitarian and human rights law.

BBC correspondent Flora Botsford, in Colombo commented on 6th January, 1997 - in the BBC Outlook Programme:

"Recently, some journalists were taken up to an area in the North which the government had recently captured from the Tamil Tigers and none of the international media were invited. Only local journalists were invited....and they were really.....it was spelt out very clearly to them... that this was to be used as an example to boost the army recruitment drive and certainly some of the journalists weren't very happy with that."

Violence institutionalised in Sinhala body politic

President Kumaratunga has coupled her genocidal war of aggression against the Tamil people with an attack on the human rights of her Sinhala opponents as well. Violence has been insitutionalised in the Sinhala body politic. The Sinhala opposition United National Party, which was itself guilty of horrendous crimes against the Tamil people during its period of power from 1977 to 1994, has now complained about the killings and murders of its supporters by President Kumaratunga's Sri Lanka Freedom Party members and supporters.

Genocide is an international crime

Under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, killing, causing serious bodily or mental harm, and inflicting conditions of life, with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group are considered as acts of genocide.

The deliberation with which the Sri Lanka security forces indiscriminately killed Tamil non combatants, shelled and destroyed hospitals, Tamil homes and cultivable land, bombed Tamil civilian population centres and places of worship, and blocked the supply of essential food and medicine to the Tamil homeland; the public statements by President Kumaratunga and her ministers, together with the 'victory' ceremony on establishing 'Sinhala rule' of Jaffna prove the genocidal intent of the Sri Lanka government.

Genocide is a crime which transcends national frontiers. President Kumaratunga, and Deputy Defence Minister Anuraddha Ratwatte, and the Sri Lanka security forces under their command, are guilty of crimes against humanity and should be charged and punished according to law. Justice demands that Sri Lanka should submit itself to an international inquiry by an independent tribunal into these war crimes so that the perpetrators may be arraigned before the bar of world opinion and punished.

Sri Lanka's genocidal intent against the Tamil people also shown by its denial of the existence of an armed conflict

Sri Lanka's genocidal intent is further shown by its cover up of the existence of an armed conflict in the island and by its attempt to justify its actions by treating Tamil resistance as an 'internal disturbance' and labelling it as 'terrorism'. Sri Lanka's denial of the existence of an armed conflict in the island flies in the face of international law, the Geneva Conventions 1949 and the Additional Protocols. By its denial, Sri Lanka seeks to give a legitimising facadeto its intensified genocidal onslaught on the Tamil people.

The undeniable fact is that even Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga admits that she is waging war, albeit a 'war for peace' and Sri Lanka has mobilised a 150,000 Sinhala army backed by a sophisticated air force and naval gun boats to pursue this war.

The conflict in the island is an international armed conflict

The conflict in the island is an armed conflict, in international law, because the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are, admittedly, an organised armed force, under responsible command exercising control over a part of the territory of the island, and able to carry out sustained and concerted military operations.

In February 1988 the LTTE announced that it would abide by the provisions of the Geneva Conventions 1949 and its Protocols I and II. The existence of an armed conflict in the island has also been recognised by the Commission and in several statements made by non governmental organisations at sessions of the Commission as well of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities during the past several years.

Furthermore, the armed conflict in the island is an armed conflict in which the Tamil people are fighting against alien occupation in the exercise of their right to self determination and accordingly it is an international armed conflict within the meaning of that expression in the Geneva Conventions 1949 and the Additional Protocols.

The armed struggle of the Tamil people for self determination and against alien occupation is lawful and just

The record shows that the lawful armed struggle of the people of Tamil Eelam for self determination and against alien Sinhala occupation arose in response to decades of oppressive alien Sinhala rule and the failure of Tamil parliamentary agitation and non violent protests.

Tamil Eelam is a fourth world nation struggling for freedom from the alien rule of a third world state, namely Sri Lanka.

The genocidal belligerence of the Sri Lanka government and the impunity with which its armed forces have acted, despite the grave concerns expressed in hundreds of statements during the past several years at sessions of the Commission and the Sub Commission, is a matter for grave and serious alarm.

The war that Sri Lanka is waging against a people struggling to assert their right to self determination is unlawful and unjust.Furthermore, the ferocity of the current genocidal onslaught on the Tamil people and the untold suffering that it has caused hundreds of thousands of Tamils calls for an urgent and compassionate response from the international community.

The fundamental rights and freedoms of the people of Tamil Eelam are of direct concern to the international community, which is entitled and duty bound to ensure that these rights are respected, particularly when they are openly breached by one of its member states.

Refugees in Switzerland and other European Countries

The Swiss Federation of Tamil Associations urges the authorities in Switzerland and other European countries to pay heed to the prevailing situation in the island of Sri Lanka and the genocidal war launched by the Sri Lanka government and its agencies on the Tamil people.

The Swiss Federation of Tamil Associations urges the authorities in Switzerland and other European countries to reconsider any arrangements that they may have entered into for the repatriation of Tamil asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka. The repatriation of Tamil asylum seekers at this time will put the returnees at grave risk - both in respect of their lives and their freedom. Here the editorial comment of the Sinhala owned Sunday Leader on 1 December 1996 is directly relevant:

" The national newspaper pages pathetically record ever increasing stories of rape, murder, beatings, political killings and counter-killings, and suicides apparently motivated through fear or mental inability to contend with the fear of an unrestrained violent reprisal. ..This is the tragic and true state of affairs as far as law and justice are concerned in Sri Lanka... Campaign promises have turned out to be empty, insincere, hypocritical slogans aimed at weaning votes away to win an election by hook or by crook. The track record amply underscores this promise. Liberal democracy has been reduced to an absurdity as far as serious discussion is concerned. Justice has fled the entire system...."

In the name of humanity, we urge the 53rd Sessions of the Commission,

1. to express the revulsion of the international community by condemning the genocidal actions of President Chandrika Kumaratunga's government; and

2. to call upon Sri Lanka to stop the genocide and withdraw its armed forces from the Tamil homeland in the north-east of the island of Sri Lanka.

3. to call upon the authorities in Switzerland and other European countries to reconsider any arrangements that they may have entered into for the repatriation of Tamil asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka as such repatriation will put the returnees at grave risk - both in respect of their lives and their freedom


Joint Statement by 8 non governmental organisations

UN NGO Joint Statements1. In the island of Sri Lanka, the struggle of the Tamil people for self determination arose in response to decades of oppressive alien Sinhala rule and as a result of successive Sinhala dominated Sri Lanka governments dishonouring agreements, such as the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam Pact of 1957 and the Dudley Senanayake - Chelvanayagam Agreement of 1965, solemnly entered into with Tamil parliamentary parties.

2. In August 1995, 19 non governmental organisations submitted a joint written statement at the 47th Sessions of the UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities stating:

"During the past twelve years, the UN Commission on Human Rights and the Sub Commission have heard hundreds of statements expressing grave concern at the situation prevailing in the island of Sri Lanka. The record shows that it was the oppressive actions of successive Sri Lanka governments from as early as 1956 and in 1958, and again in 1961 and again with increasing frequency from 1972 to 1977 and culminating in the genocidal attacks of 1983 that resulted in the rise of the lawful armed resistance of the Tamil people."

3. The Tamil people have lived from ancient times within relatively well defined geographical boundaries in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka, they share an ancient heritage, a vibrant culture, and a living language which traces its origins to more than 2500 years ago. They have, in addition, acquired a subjective political consciousness of oneness, by their life together in their traditional homeland and by their struggle against oppressive alien Sinhala rule and they constitute a 'people' with the right to self determination.

4. The war that Sri Lanka is waging against the Tamil people who are struggling to assert their right to self determination is unlawful and unjust and the recent withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechenya draws attention to the urgent, imperative need for Sri Lanka to withdraw its military forces from the Tamil homeland and advance a meaningful peace process.

5. Since the last session of the Commission the war has forced hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians to flee the Sri Lanka army and seek refuge in the areas of the Tamil homeland remaining in the control of the Tamil resistance. Sri Lanka's continuing economic blockade of these areas, violates humanitarian law rules regarding food and medicines for the civilian population.

6. Tamil villages have been indiscriminately attacked by ground fire and aerial bombardment. Tamil women have been raped by Sri Lanka troops, and arbitrary arrests, torture and custodial deaths are widely reported in the areas of the Tamil homeland under Sri Lankan military control.

7. In the best interests of peace and realisation of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to self determination, the Commission should:

A) call upon the government of Sri Lanka to withdraw its military forces from the Tamil homeland in the North-East of the island of Sri Lanka; and

B) call upon the two parties to the armed conflict to secure a political solution with full recognition of the right of the Tamil people to freely determine their political status.


Oral Statement by Liberation

"Despite the absolute nature of the prohibition against torture and ill treatment, Liberation is disturbed by continued reports of its use, particularly against so called minority communities... In Sri Lanka we have noted the practise of custodial violence, targeted particularly against civilians. The Prevention of Terrorism Act and Emergency Regulations have facilitated the huge number of disappearances in the region. Of particular concern are accounts of death squads."


Oral Statement by Eric Sottas, the Director of the World Organisation Against Torture

"The credibility of international mechanisms to guarantee the protection and promotion if the fundamental rights rests on the ability of the United Nations, and in particular of this Commission, to put an end to the practice of torture, summary execution and forced disappearances.

If in the course of the last decades, norms have been internationally accepted and both conventional and thematic procedures have been initiated, the effectiveness of these instruments remains, at best open to question.

Victims, their families, human rights defenders are waiting for national and international authorities to restore and assure their rights, to compensate their suffering and to take action against the offenders.

Many resolutions and recommendations expressed by both conventional and constitutional mechanisms remain widely ignored and are of little practical use. At the national level, the recognised universal judicial competence to sanction torture, is seldom used,

It is therefore not surprising that our work in the eyes of the public opinion is assumed to be more like some oft repeated mantra, rather than anything of any concrete value.

Some situations which the Commission examined over the past few years and in which the World Organisation Against Torture intervenes regularly, illustrate dramatically the shortcomings of international action in the matter.

The Sub-Commission adopted in 1983, a resolution concerning Sri Lanka, a resolution of which the content was repeated in 1987, by this Commission. Nevertheless, in the course of the past year, cases of torture, violation, summary executions and forced disappearances have continued to be denounced by the human rights organisations.

Some months ago, we planned to have one of the many victims present a testimony of the atrocities before this body. The fear, unfortunately justified, of reprisals against their family has meant that his submission can not be made. This lack of confidence that the people that we are supposed to be defending have in the single most important international body with responsibility for the protection and promotion of human rights, speaks volumes."


Statement by International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples

"Year after year since 1983 the League has appealed to this Commission and to the Sub Commission to give urgent consideration to the conflict in the island of Sri Lanka and to recommend suitable remedial measures to end the gross violations and the misery of the people.

We regret to bring to the notice of this Commission that although the Sri Lanka government has repeatedly proclaimed its commitment to human rights since it came to power in August 1994 and has introduced a number of safeguards to prevent torture, arbitrary detention and "disappearances", reliable human rights organisations have found that gross violations of human rights are continuing with increasing frequency and ferocity.

Safeguards in the law are being circumscribed and members of the security forces continued to torture and mistreat detainees and other prisoners, both male and female, particularly during interrogation.

Numerous cases of arbitrary arrest, beatings and death due to torture have been reported in the areas of the Tamil homeland occupied by the Sri Lanka army. Over 300 cases of disappearance after arrest have been reported during the second part of last year alone. The majority of arrests and detentions remain unacknowledged. Sri Lanka has also used shadowy para military groups to abduct and torture Tamils.

Methods of torture included electric shock, beatings (especially on the soles of the feet), suspension by the wrists or feet in contorted positions, burning, near drownings, placing of insecticide, chilli powder, or gasoline-soaked bags over the head, and forced positions. Detainees have reported broken bones and other serious injuries as a result of their mistreatment

Though the Sri Lankan government had given assurances to international fora that it will prosecute offenders, apart from a few high profile instances, there is no sign or indication that the Sri Lankan government has taken effective measures to ensure an end to the climate of impunity which has prevailed among the members of its security forces for a number of years.

On the contrary, the press restrictions imposed by Sri Lanka which have gone far beyond any legitimate interest in protecting national security or public order, have had the effect both of concealing and encouraging arbitrary detentions, torture and gross violations of humanitarian and human rights law.

We regret that Sri Lanka has rejected offers of mediation and insists on treating the conflict as an internal matter. It is our humble view that it will be an impossible task to make significant progress against human rights violations in Sri Lanka until the war and the civil war situation is brought to an end and this may not be possible, without external mediation.

The International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples(LIDLIP) appeals to the members of this Commission to take urgent measures to end the genocidal situation existing in Sri Lanka today where there is no respect for human lives or the limbs of the people."


Statement by International Indian Treaty Council

"....In Sri Lanka, torture of Tamils during detention has become endemic and requires urgent attention. Reports of judicial medical officers have corroborated accounts of serious ill treatment suffered by Tamil detainees at the hands of the security forces.. For example, Miss. Shanthini Sivaloganathan age 24, accused of complicity in the Joint Operations Command bomb blast in Colombo, was acquitted on the basis of cigarette burns on her arms and scars on her body corroborating her account that she was tortured by four high ranking police officers.

The IITC urges that the Working Group on Detention and Special Rapporteur on Torture request visits to Sri Lanka immediately, and the long awaited visit of the Special Rapporteur on Extra Judicial Executions be permitted. Additionally we urge the Sri Lanka government to provide the Committee on Torture with their first report....."


Statement by North-South XXI

North South XXI is concerned with the effects and causes of discrimination and human rights violations. One aim is through the dissemination of information on specific country situations to contribute to the promotion and understanding of human rights in those countries.

Discrimination on the basis of sex is contrary to the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. The Fourth International World Conference on women: Action for equality, Development and Peace in Bejing September 1995 also promoted the human rights of women and the girl child.

Mr. Chairman, determined international efforts must be made to prevent discrimination and gender-based violence against women. North South XXI wishes to bring to your attention the grave situation prevailing in the Tamil homeland in the North-East of the island of Sri Lanka, where in the Sri Lanka-Tamil Eelam war, the human rights of Tamil women are being systematically violated by the occupying Sri Lanka army.

The consequences of these violations are gender specific in nature. Despite strong family and community pressures that prevent reporting incidents of rape, local NGOs have been able to document thirty three cases of rape by Sri Lankan security personnel in the North and East of the island alone, between August 1994 and March 1997. 150 cases of rape by Sri Lankan security forces were reported to human rights groups in the South of the island.

The existence of secret places of detention set up by the security forces has been documented in the British Refugee Council Report of February 1997. Women detainees held in Colombo have been hung naked, upside down, beaten and raped. Some have been held in detention for over six months and have not received visits from the ICRC.

Rape of women belonging to a racial or ethnic group which suffers discrimination constitutes racial discrimination as well as violation of women`s human rights and of their rights to integrity of the person. As in various other situations of armed conflict, women, in this case Tamils, being members of a particular national group are the targets of rape and sexual assault by the opposing alien Sinhala security forces. The abuses are directed at Tamil women, in order to terrorise and subjugate the Tamil people.

At least three reported cases have raised the question of the fundamental or inherent right of right to life. These three cases involved not only rape but also summary execution. Krishanthi Kumaraswamy, a school-girl and Rajani Velauthapillai and Ranjani, two young women gang-raped and executed by the Sri Lankan security forces. Relatives who attempted to find the whereabouts of Krishanthy were themselves murdered.

Mr. Chairman, whose heart and soul would not be moved by this callous and mindless brutality directed against a defenceless schoolgirl and young women? One case did engender a brief international outrage but the other cases caused no such wave of concern. Ranjani, aged twenty four, was preparing to leave for Canada to be married when she was dragged into a house by soldiers who told the elderly inhabitants to get out. She was tortured, gang-raped and summarily executed. The tragedy of these cases surely merits more than an occasional expression of concern about human rights in Sri Lanka.

The violations of Tamil women`s human rights have often gone unrecognised. When they have been recognised, they have gone unpunished. In several cases reported from  Batticaloa district in early 1997, the initial investigations have not resulted in any effective legal action against the alleged  perpetrators. In those exceptional cases where perpetrators have been brought to trial, victims of rape have failed to appear  in court because of fear for their lives. The supposed availability of legal remedies becomes meaningless in this climate of fear and impunity. Displaced Tamil parents are refusing to return to their homes in the army-occupied Jaffna Peninsula especially if they have daughters.

These widespread pattern of rapes, assault and murder can no longer be explained away as individual acts of indiscipline or excesses by the Sinhala soldier. It is difficult not to conclude that the current "war for peace" waged by the Sri Lankan government is genocidal in intent and that Sri Lanka is using rape as a weapon of war.

The only real remedy to the continuing gross violations of Tamil women`s human rights in the island of Sri Lanka, is the withdrawal of the alien Sinhala army from the Tamil homeland and the pursuit of a genuine sustainable peace through political settlement.

We urge the Commission to deplore the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war in the genocidal onslaught on the Tamil nation by the Sri Lanka government armed forces and call for the withdrawal of the occupying Sri Lanka army from the Tamil homeland as a necessary first step towards advancing a meaningful peace process.


Statement by Liberation

Mr.Chairman,

In the general context of the genocidal situation that has developed in the island of Sri Lanka, we wish to bring to the attention of the Commission, our particular concern about the systematic attacks by the Sri Lanka security forces and para military groups on Tamil women.

Even whilst this Commission is sitting, Tamil women continue to be gang raped by the Sri Lanka army and its shadowy para military death squads. On 17 March 1997, two Tamil sisters were admitted to hospital in Batticaloa after being gang raped by four Sri Lanka soldiers. Armed soldiers from the Mailampaveli camp had broken into the women's home at around 11 at night and the rapes were carried out at gunpoint. The sisters, were left heavily bruised and covered with soldiers' teeth-marks. A few days later a Tamil girl working in a garment factory in Batticaloa in the East was raped by a member of a para military squad.

There have been over 150 cases of reported rape and sexual assault by Sri Lanka army during the past year. Reliable human rights organisations have pointed out that because many women are reluctant to give testimony about their treatment by the security forces, these reported incidents represent only a fraction of a widespread pattern of rape and murder.

Despite a couple of investigations into well publicised incidents, impunity for those responsible for such gross violations is a matter not only of increasing concern but also for growing alarm. In one incident, on 11 February 1996, 13 Tamil women were killed by the Sri Lanka and Sinhala home Guards shouting "death to the Tamils" in the village of Kumarapuram in the East of the island. Among those women killed was a woman in an advanced stage of pregnancy. Her womb was ripped open by a machete, the unborn foetus was wrenched out and hacked to death.

In another incident on 12 November 1996, a ten year Tamil girl in Atchuvely, on her way to school, was abducted and gang raped by Sri Lankan soldiers. When the Principal of the school complained at the main Atchuvely Army camp, no investigation was made into the complaint but the complainant was forcibly removed from the premises.

The conclusion seems inescapable that these rapes are not simply misdemeanours of undisciplined soldiers but are a part of the systematic attempt made by Sri Lanka to terrorise and subjugate the Tamil people and extend its military rule over the Tamil homeland in the North-East of the island.

These rapes and sexual assaults on Tamil women, constitute gross violations of the humanitarian law of armed conflict and Liberation fears that such violations will continue so long as the Sinhala army continues to occupy the Tamil homeland.

Liberation recommends that the Sri Lanka Army be withdrawn from the Tamil homeland and urges that the special Rapporteur on Violence against Women visit the north-east and report to the Commission her findings.

Mr. Chairman,

We are also gravely concerned that the 'broad front' strategy adopted by the Sri Lanka army to 'steam roller' their advance in to the Tamil homeland has devastated acres of cultivable land, destroyed homes and forced hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians to flee their homes.

In November 1995, UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali expressed deep concern at the massive displacement of around 400,000 Tamils in the north of the island. Since then these numbers have increased and today around 825,000 Tamils have fled from their homes in the North-East as a result of continued indiscriminate shelling and aerial bombardment of Tamil villages and Sri Lanka's reprisal attacks on Tamil non combatants.

Non governmental organisations have also been hindered from providing their own humanitarian assistance by way of food and medical supplies to the displaced. Sri Lanka's refusal to allow free movement of food and essential supplies to the North-East is a continuing violation of the rules of the humanitarian law of armed conflict.

Taken together, the government's block on food and medicine to the displaced and the Sri Lankan military's regular bombing raids on civilian population centres as well as its rape and murders of Tamil civilians, especially youth, appear to point to a deliberate attempt to diminish the Tamil population and impair the conditions necessary for their survival.

Mr. Chairman,

The ferocity of the current genocidal onslaught on the Tamil people calls for an urgent and compassionate response. We urge that the Commission call upon the Sri Lanka government

1) to lift the economic blockade and lift the embargo on essential food, fuel, farm inputs, medical supplies and cash; and

2) to permit local and international press, relief agencies and NGOs to make an objective assessment of conditions in the conflict areas and to provide independent humanitarian relief.


Statement by Rev.Dr.S.J.Emmanuel, International Peace Bureau

  • under Agenda Item on the further promotion and encouragement of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the question of Human rights, mass exoduses and displaced persons
  • made on 2 April 1997
  • The International Peace Bureau has long been disturbed by the persistence and gravity of the conflict in Sri Lanka and is therefore pleased to be able to present the following first hand testimony of the suffering caused to displaced people in the North and East of my country.

    I am the Vicar General of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jaffna in Sri Lanka, and as a victim of many tragic events during the past few years in my country, I come here to give testimony to the suffering, death and destruction experienced by my people. These sufferings are the direct result of the mass exodus and displacements, caused by the violations of the rules of war by the Government of Sri Lanka. By this testimony, I want to make a fervent and urgent appeal to this UN Commission on Human Rights, to help us survive as a people, with rights to life, security and freedom.

    Since the Report (E/CN.4/1994/44/Add. 1) of Mr. Francis Deng on Internally Displaced Persons in Sri Lanka to the 50th UN Commission on Human Rights in 1994, the situation has dramatically deteriorated. Besides the 50,000 civilians killed in this prolonged conflict and the massive destruction of properties in the North and East of my country, the inhuman exodus and displacements have increased and still continue.

    FIRST MASS EXODUS OF OCTOBER 1995

    After having driven us to the margin of existence by a prolonged and inhuman economic blockade against us, the so called "war for peace" was launched on us. The series of five military operations which started on the 7th. of July 1995, uprooted thousands of people from their homes, deprived them of their livelihood, and chased them as displaced destitute in their own homeland.

    On the 17th of October 1995, another series of military operations called Riviresas were launched for the capture of Jaffha. With aerial bombing and artillery shelling, even during nights, the whole peninsula vibrated It thundered, shuddered and we all trembled and shivered. By the 30th. of October, we could not stand any more. We fled for our survival from our homeland, literally threatened and chased by the bombs of an advancing Sri Lankan Army.

    With half a million people, I too was displaced from Jaffna on the night of the 30th. of October 1995. It was the worst that has happened in the whole history of the country and in the history of our people for the last 2000 years. We survived the Portuguese, Dutch and British colonial conquests for nearly 450 years, but we had to flee from the inhumane Sri Lankan Army for survival.

    RAPING OF JAFFNA CITY

    The Sri Lankan Army did a historic rape of our ancient and proud city of Jaffna. They not only planted an alien flag to symbolize their conquest of our city but also celebrated that imperial victory both in Jaffna over a dead city devoid of its population and in the capital Colombo with a state ceremony presided by the President. They bombed more than 80% of the houses, as admitted later by Government representatives from Colombo, destroyed cultural heritage of the Public Library by burning it down, broke down the historic monuments, even of the last King Sangilian of Jaffna, cut down the palmyrah and coconut trees by their thousands and took revenge on their dead opponents by even bull-dozing their war-cemeteries!

    FORCING THE DISPLACED

    In an effort to force the displaced back into this "conquered and raped city" of Jaffna, the Sri Lankan Forces started a new military offensive on the 19th. of April 1996, bombing hundreds of boats on the Kilali lagoon, thus preventing the people from running away from them and forcing the displaced to return into Jaffna.

    Today with daily curfew, a strong military presence oppressing free movement of people, with frequent rapes of girls and young women by soldiers and the disappearances of hundreds of youth arrested by the army, the Sri Lankan Army is literally a Sinhala foreign army of occupation in my homeland.

    SECOND EXODUS OF JULY 1996 INTO THE JUNGLES

    After stopping even the minimum supplies of materials to the NGOS, from the 18th. of July, the Sri Lankan Government announced a curfew on the 25th. of July, forbidding any movement, even of the NGOs, The NGOs immediately moved out of the areas as their presence was meaningless and ineffective without materials and movement. When the Forces started their "Sathjaya" operation on the 26th. of July, bombing and shelling, the people fled into the open jungles. There were neither the NGOs to offer any help nor any buildings to take shelter. nor any wells for drinking water. I am a witness to the starving thousands under the trees.

    OPERATION EDIBALA

    At a time when the people of Wanni were badly affected by the economic blockade and waiting hopefully to harvest the fruits of their labour, the Sri Lankan Army conducted its "Broad Front" operation called "Edibala" and destroyed thousands of acres of paddy fields ready for harvest and sent almost 15,000 people as displaced destitute into the jungles around Madhu,

    EXODUS OF TAMILS OUT OF SRI LANKA

    I would like to draw your attention, Mr. Chairman, also to the plight of the 800,000 Tamils who have fled away from Sri Lanka into many foreign countries since the holocaust in July 1983. This exodus and dispersion of Tamils have taken place under tragic circumstances of loosing lives, of selling all their possessions to get away from frightening situation at home, loosing all their wealth to unscrupulous smugglers, loosing relations and friends, courting imprisonment and humiliation in the hands of foreign and unfriendly governments, facing an alien world with an alien climate etc.

    Worse still is the memory of those thousands dead in their attempt to flee from the cruelties of the Sri Lankan Army.

    Thousands are anxiously hoping and waiting to return to a peaceful homeland..

    OUR APPEAL

    The immense suffering, death, destruction and displacements caused by this "war for peace behind closed doors calls for immediate action by the international community-

    Hence I appeal to this Commission fervently,

    1) to condemn this war unequivocally and to discourage all international aid for this war, by way of personnel, finance and arms.

    2) to send immediately a fact-finding mission into the North and East of the country, and to take immediate measures to save the still surviving people from the slow-death they are facing.

    and 3)) to impress upon the Government of Sri Lanka, to stop this war and with the help of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to create conditions suitable for peace-talks among the parties to the conflict.


    Joint Statement by 53 NGOs including International Commission of Jurists and World Council of Churches

    UN NGO Joint Statements"We are gravely concerned by the continued armed conflict, the violations of humanitarian law and human rights in Sri Lanka and the new military offensive in the Tamil homeland.

    Long ago in its resolution 1983/16, the Sub-Commission expressed deep concern over the communal violence on the island. Three years later, the Commission, in its resolution 1987/61, called upon the parties to the conflict "to respect fully the universally accepted rules of humanitarian law" and appealed to the government of Sri Lanka to allow humanitarian activities.

    14 years have elapsed since the first resolution but the violations of humanitarian law and human rights in the Sri Lanka-Tamil Eelam war are worse than ever before. We note in particular that

    1. the civilian Tamil population continues to be a target of military operations, including intensive aerial bombardment by the Sri Lankan forces, disappearances, extra judicial killings, rape, torture, arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention in the context of war continue:

    2. the North-East of the island is still under an embargo of essential food and medicine in violation of humanitarian law;

    3. there are more than 825,000 displaced Tamil civilians living under appalling conditions which include acute shortages of water, food and medicine

    We consider it imperative that the Tamil People choose their own political and national status.

    To end the Sri Lanka - Tamil Eelam war and to provide meaningful international support to secure the aspirations of the Tamil people we urge the Commission to adopt a resolution

    1. Calling upon the government of Sri Lanka to cease all military operations against the Tamil civilian population, to withdraw the occupying forces from the Tamil homeland, to lift the blockade in the north-east, and to allow humanitarian aid;

    2. Calling on both parties to the conflict to secure a political solution to the conflict which recognises the right of the Tamil people to determine their political status and the need to assure full human rights of all persons in Sri Lanka."


    Statement by World Council of Churches

    "Mr. Chairman, the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches wishes to address the Commission on the serious human rights situations prevailing today in Nigeria and Sri Lanka. The World Council of Churches believes there is an urgent need for a close scrutiny and strong action to be taken with respect to these two contries by the Commission under its Agenda item 10....

    Sri Lanka

    Mr. Chairman, the continuing civil war caused by the unresolved ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka is now in its fourteenth year. It has resulted in the deaths of over 100.000 people from both sides of the ethnic divide, and millions more have been uprooted from their homelands and displaced within as well as outside the country. Wide spread atrocities also continue to be committed by the security forces unabated. In the North and East of the country there has been an alarming increase in the incidences of disappearances and torture.

    The continued application of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and emergency regulations enable the security- forces to hold people in custody for indefinite periods of time. Under these laws perpetrators of grave human rights violations have continued to operate with complete immunity.

    The continuation of strict censorship and the embargo imposed by the government in the conflict areas of the North and East has made it difficult if not impossible for the international community to obtain a correct assessment of the extent of human suffering and misery caused to the civilian population.

    The Council submits that the parties to the conflict should be urged to respect the internationally accepted norms of humanitarian laws. The government of Sri Lanka should remove the tight censorship and allow journalists, NGOs and churches to visit the North and East so as to fulfill their responsibilities towards the people in these areas. The Council also requests that the government lift the economic blockade in the North and East of the country so as to allow humanitarian aid and assistance to get to the most effected communities and people."


    Statement by Pax Romana, a non governmental organisation in consultative status

    "The situation in Sri Lanka is still worrying. The war which is being held between the regular government Army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has provoked the exodus of approximately 400.000 displaced people. More recently, other 4000 displaced persons have been forced to abandon, once more, their home land in Pesalai (Mannar Northern Sri Lanka) to return to the Indian area of Rameswaran where they had left during 1991, 1992 or 1994 with the purpose to get back to their homes.

    Tamil inland population is trapped between two armies. In the area controlled by LTTE, the population live under siege and uncertainty because of war. Borderlands, such as Vavuniya and Mannar suffered a persistent attack of heavy weaponry by governmental army in February 1997. The main aim of this attack is to force the scattering of autochthonous inhabitants which allows the army to occupy a broader territory. Most displaced persons sought for refuge at Madhu camp (carried out by UNHCR) which is now completely overcrowded.

    On the other hand, 11 refugees' camps under the government's control are placed nearby Vavuniya, with a moving figure of population between 8000 and 11000 people. They are not allowed to move to the South, being subjected to strict controls and becoming human shields against LTTE. There are entire families divided by means of these restrictions. The conditions in the camps are pitiful due to the lack of food and medical facilities. There are plenty of pregnant women. Many of them are considering the possibility to flee to India. Peace conversations between government and guerrilla appear not to succeed, while a military solution to the conflict is unlikely."


    Written Statement by Liberation

    "1. The armed conflict on the island of Sri Lanka, the continuing violations of humanitarian law, and the genocidal proportions of the current Sri Lanka offensive in the Tamil homeland cause our organizations serious and grave concern.

    2. As long ago as September 1983, the Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, by resolution 1983/16, expressed its deep concern at the communal violence in the island, invited the Government of Sri Lanka to submit information concerning the violence and recommended to the Commission that it should examine the situation.

    3. Three years later, in March 1987, the Commission, recalling its decision 1984/111 of 14 March 1984, by unanimous resolution 1987/61, called upon the parties to the armed conflict "to respect fully the universally accepted rules of humanitarian law", and appealed to Sri Lanka "to intensify its cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross in the fields of dissemination and promotion of international humanitarian law".

    4. On 22 August 1990, at the forty-second session of the Sub-Commission, 17 non-governmental organizations called upon all parties to the conflict to abide by all the rules of humanitarian law governing armed conflicts, and to allow humanitarian aid operations by the International Committee of the Red Cross and other similar organizations.

    5. In February 1993, at the forty-ninth session of the Commission, 24 non-governmental organizations, in a joint statement, declared:

    "Violations of human rights and humanitarian law in Sri Lanka continue to an alarming degree. We are particularly concerned because at this time the Government of Sri Lanka is making no effort to resolve the armed conflict in the North and East in any other way but militarily ... We urge the Commission to adopt a resolution on Sri Lanka in which it ... reminds all parties to the conflict of their obligations to comply fully with all humanitarian laws of armed conflict, including those set out in the Geneva Conventions of 1949

    6. In the following year, in February 1994, at the fiftieth session of the Commission, 17 non-governmental organizations urged yet again that there was a need to recognize that the deep divisions between the Sri Lankan Government and the Tamil people could not be resolved by the use of force against Tamil resistance.

    7. In August 1995, 21 non-governmental organizations in a joint written statement submitted to the forty-seventh session of the Sub-Commission said:

    "During the past 12 years, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the Sub-Commission have heard hundreds of statements expressing grave concern at the situation prevailing in the island of Sri Lanka. The record shows that it was the oppressive actions of successive Sri Lankan Governments from as early as 1956 and in 1958, and again in 1961, and again with increasing frequency from 1972 to 1977, and culminating in the genocidal attacks of 1983 that resulted in the rise of the lawful armed resistance of the Tamil people."

    8. We are alarmed that during the past year, Sri Lanka has intensified its genocidal war against the Tamil people. Tamil villages have been indiscriminately shelled and subjected to aerial bombardment. The "broad front" strategy adopted by the Sri Lankan Army, to "steamroller" their advance into the Tamil homeland has devastated acres of cultivable land, destroyed homes and forced hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians to flee their homes and seek refuge in the areas of the Tamil homeland remaining in the control of the Tamil resistance movement.

    9. There are an estimated 400,000 displaced persons in the Vanni jungle region in the north of Sri Lanka that is largely under the control of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Many of the displaced Tamils, possibly as many as half, do not receive government assistance because the Government views the group as possible LTTE supporters. Sri Lanka has imposed an economic blockade on these areas and in breach of humanitarian law, food and medicine have been as weapons of war.

    10. The plight of refugees and the displaced are of increasing concern. The camps are overcrowded and sanitary facilities almost non-existent. Water supply to the refugees in the Vanni remains a problem. Food is in short supply. The continual movement of the population following military operations makes distribution difficult and even the food that is available is not reaching many people.

    11. Numerous cases of Sri Lanka's arbitrary retaliatory attacks on Tamil non-combatants, gang rape of Tamil women, arbitrary arrests, beatings and death due to torture have been reported in the areas of the Tamil homeland occupied by the Sri Lankan Army. The majority of arrests and detentions remain unacknowledged. Sri Lanka has also used shadowy paramilitary groups to abduct and torture Tamils. The Sinhala Army has gang-raped Tamil women and murdered them with impunity. There have been over 150 reported cases of rape during the past year.

    12. The conclusion appears inescapable that Sri Lanka is trying to kill or terrorize as many Tamil people as possible.

    13. Under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, acts of murder committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such are considered as acts of genocide. The actions of the Sri Lankan authorities in their war on the Tamil people amount to genocide. The evidence serves to establish the murder and rape of members of the group, torture and grave attacks on their physical and mental integrity, and the subjection of the group to conditions leading to their deaths.

    14. Impunity for those responsible for human rights violations and breaches of humanitarian law remains a serious concern. Progress in a few court cases against members of the security forces charged in connection with "disappearances" and extra judicial execution is slow, as are investigations into many other cases.

    15. At the same time, the Sri Lankan Government has imposed tight press censorship. It is impossible for journalists to enter Jaffna without prior approval from the Government Censorship and restriction on access to the north have not only kept the public uninformed, but have also made the process of providing humanitarian assistance to the victims of war more difficult and have also concealed violations of humanitarian and human rights law.

    16. We regret that the Sri Lankan Government continues to treat Tamil resistance to oppressive Sinhala rule as an "internal disturbance" and labels it as "terrorism" and in this way attempts to legitimize its genocidal onslaught on the Tamil people.

    17. The conflict on the island is clearly an armed conflict, because the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are admittedly an organized armed force, under responsible command, exercising control over a part of the territory of the island, and able to carry out sustained and concerted military operations. It is a conflict in which Sri Lanka has mobilized a 150,000 strong army backed by a sophisticated air force and naval gun boats to pursue its ends.

    18. In February 1988, LTTE announced that it would abide by the provisions of the Geneva Conventions 1949 and its Additional Protocols I and II. The existence of an armed conflict on the island has also been recognized by the Commission and in several statements made by non-governmental organizations at sessions of the Commission as well of the Sub-Commission during the past several years.

    19. The conflict on the island is an armed conflict in which the Tamil people are fighting against alien Sinhala occupation in the exercise of their right to self-determination, and it is our view that the peaceful and just resolution of the conflict on the island will not be furthered by Sri Lanka's continued refusal to accord recognition to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as a party to an international armed conflict.

    20. The two International Covenants on Human Rights law declare that all people have the right to self-determination. If democracy means rule of the people, by the people, for the people, why then is there no right to self-determination for the Tamil people? The right of self-determination means that no one people may rule another. The Tamil people have lived since ancient times within relatively well-defined geographical boundaries in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka; they share an ancient heritage, a vibrant culture, and a living language which traces its origins back more than 2,500 years. They have, in addition, acquired a subjective political consciousness of oneness, by their life together in their traditional homeland and by their struggle against oppressive alien Sinhala rule, and they constitute a people, with a right to self-determination.

    21. The war that Sri Lanka is waging against a people struggling to assert their right to self-determination is unlawful and unjust and the recent example of the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya serves to underline the urgent and imperative need for Sri Lanka to withdraw its armed forces from the Tamil homeland and in this way advance the peace process. We therefore urge the Commission:

    (a) To condemn Sri Lanka's genocidal war against the Tamil people;

    (b) To call upon Sri Lanka to withdraw its armed forces from the Tamil homeland in the north-east of the island of Sri Lanka and to end its war of aggression against the Tamil people; and

    (c) To call upon the two parties to the armed conflict to secure a political solution which recognizes the right of the Tamil people to freely determine their political status.


    Written Statement by Nord-Sud XXI, a non governmental organisation in special consultative status

    "1. We note with deep regret that the human rights record of the Government of Sri Lanka continues to deteriorate at an alarming rate all over the island. The gross violations of the humanitarian law of armed conflict also cause us grave concern. Four areas particularly concern us.

    2. First, the government security forces persecute Tamil civilians throughout the island. This persecution takes the form of extra judicial killings, disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention. Second, there is a functional embargo on food and medicine to the Tamils living in the Wanni area. Third, all Tamils attempting to leave the Wanni are being detained under appalling conditions. Finally, the Government's war strategy in the north-east includes massive and indiscriminate aerial bombing and shelling of Tamil areas.

    3. While many specific violations will be documented, it is important to recognize that they all stem from a more basic problem, which is the Government's decision to conduct a war against the Tamil people using an exclusive Sinhala army rather than seeking a political solution which recognizes the existence of the Tamils as a people with a homeland.

    4. The Government claims that the war is against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and not the Tamil people. But Sri Lanka's methods of war make a mockery of this claim. The government forces are incapable of differentiating between the LTTE and the Tamil civilians, so every Tamil man or woman becomes a suspect in the eyes of the military. The conduct of the Sri Lankan armed forces is akin to drag-net fishing. The lives not required are maimed and thrown back into the ocean with no regard for the damage done.

    5. We are constrained to condemn the Government's effective denial of food and medicine to Tamils living in the Wanni area. Because of this policy medicines were not available to treat the recent outbreak of malaria during the rainy season in the Wanni district. Currently the army rather than medical personnel determine the type and quantity of medicines allowed into the Wanni area. There seems to be an intentional policy of debilitating the population living in areas controlled by the LTTE. Since the recent Edibala offensive of the Government, the border was closed and it continues to be closed for any traffic of food and medicines to the Wanni district.

    6. The Government detains all Tamils coming out of the Wanni district. These Tamils are detained indefinitely and are kept against their will in camps euphemistically called welfare centres. The Tamils who are forcibly detained in these camps live in appalling conditions. They report overcrowding, the spread of infectious diseases and the absence of adequate sanitary facilities. Further, their unexpected detention without knowledge of what the future holds is a source of anxiety to these Tamils, particularly because they are held without being charged. Their freedom of movement is denied only because of their identity. The Government of Sri Lanka seems to be practising a policy of forced evacuation of the Tamils by bombing and shelling Tamil population centres and then holding them in detention camps.

    7. The arbitrary arrest and detention of Tamils in other areas of the country continues unabated. This is particularly a problem in Colombo, where many Tamils have fled to escape the war. Searches of Tamil homes at all times of the night and day by armed men have become a routine in Colombo. Further, some security personnel repeatedly arrest Tamils for personal profit. The legal framework for such actions is the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which allows for such arbitrary detention and arrests. Many organizations have repeatedly pointed out the Draconian nature of this law, which sanctions abuse of individual rights. The emergency regulations under which the country is administered also facilitate such violations of human rights. The legal remedies for such actions are weak and are often beyond the means of an individual citizen.

    8. Several independent reports have documented the continued practice of extra judicial killings by the Sri Lankan armed forces and also by other armed groups under the control and direction of the army. In February 1996, the armed forces murdered 24 Tamil civilians including 13 women and 7 children under 12 years of age in Kumarapuram in the Eastern province. Twenty-three Tamil youths were killed and their bodies were found floating in lakes around Colombo. These Tamils were taken into custody and then murdered by the special task force set up as a paramilitary force by the Government. In July 1996, the charred body of a Tamil textile merchant detained under the emergency regulations was found in the North Central province. There were many other such cases indicating a fairly widespread practice of arbitrary killing by the security forces.

    9. Massive aerial bombing and random shelling from army camps in the north-east also results in the arbitrary killings of Tamil civilians. Numerous deaths of such civilians, including names and ages, have been documented by the LTTE, local Tamil newspapers, TCHR and the Tamil community networks which eventually hear news of friends and relatives. International media organizations are unable to confirm these reports due to the Government's ban on press activity within the LTTE held areas. Nonetheless, such random shelling seems to be designed to terrorize and punish the Tamil people, without any discernible strategic objectives.

    10. Credible sources have reported the disappearance of 500 to 700 Tamils from the Northern Jaffna district since the occupation of that area by the government armed forces.

    11. The international community was made aware of the rape and subsequent murder of a 18-year-old-girl (a student in Jaffna), Krishanthy Kumaraswamy, who was arrested at an army checkpoint. Her mother, her 16-year-old brother and a neighbour who went inquiring about her to the army also disappeared and were later found to have been murdered by the army. over 150 other instances of rape and extra judicial killings attributed to the army and forces under its direction have been reported but have not received the same public attention. Again, the indignities visited on young Tamil women in their movement between the many checkpoints in the Jaffna peninsula by the Sri Lankan armed forces, though appalling, are often unreported because of the fear of reprisals.

    12. Torture has been practiced by the armed forces on a more intensive and widespread scale during the past year. Though Sri Lanka has acceded to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1994, there has been no effective implementation of its obligations. Whatever commissions that were formed recently have either not started to function or have not been effective.

    13. Credible organizations continue to report the extensive use of torture and rape and mistreatment of detainees and other prisoners, both male and female. The torture methods include putting an individual in a gunny bag with rats, applying chili to sensitive parts of the body, use of electric shock, beatings, suspension by the wrists or feet, placing gasoline soaked bags over their head, etc. Gross violations of this kind are the actions of an army which is essentially a hostile occupying force in the north-east. Thus, while individual incidents must be documented and criticized, we urge that this criticism must be accompanied by the more general demand that the armed occupation of the Tamil homeland by a hostile Sinhala army must come to an end.

    14. Some international groups have also accused the LTTE of offences including extrajudicial killing and detention of political opponents, though specific information is sparse. In previous years, the LTTE has been accused of killing Sinhala civilians. LTTE has consistently denied this accusation, claiming that those killed were armed Sinhala civilians fighting the LTTE on behalf of the Government. In recent times, many have observed the absence of any such killings by LTTE.

    15. We believe that the fundamental cause of the appalling human rights and humanitarian law situation in the island is the conduct of a war by the Government of Sri Lanka designed to deny the Tamil people their right, as a people, to freely associate with the Sinhala people, as a people, on equal terms.

    16. The war itself is a continuation of the policy and practice of successive Governments of managing the Tamil population by unleashing violence and State terror against them. The response of the Tamil people to this violence in defence of their lives, their liberty and their property has been used as an excuse by the State to continue its violence against them.

    17. We fear that until the Sinhala dominated Government and the Sinhala opposition agree to offer a viable political solution to the Tamil people, violations of humanitarian law and human rights will continue. Unfortunately, the current Sri Lankan policy is to use massive State force to terrorize and subjugate the Tamils in order to impose a solution on them without their consent.

    18. In view of this and in order speedily to improve the situation, we urge the following specific actions:

    (i) The Government of Sri Lanka should immediately cease its deliberate aerial bombardment and shelling of Tamil civilians and civilian objects.

    (ii) The Government of Sri Lanka should immediately lift the ban on food and medicines into areas populated by the Tamil people and take humanitarian issues out of the administrative control of the armed forces.

    (iii) The Government of Sri Lanka should immediately stop the policy of detaining every Tamil in the border town of Vavuniya and allow these Tamils free movement within the country.

    (iv) The Government of Sri Lanka should either immediately release all political prisoners and others detained without a charge or prosecute these individuals within a reasonable time.

    (v) The Sri Lankan armed forces should withdraw from the Tamil homeland and the Government of Sri Lanka should begin negotiations with the LTTE with the assistance of an international mediator.

    (vi) The Government of Sri Lanka should allow immediate free access for international persons and the media to LTTE controlled and government controlled areas in the north-east of the island.

    19. We urge immediate action. Even as we speak, many individuals are at risk for loss of dignity and life given the disastrous policies of the Government of Sri Lanka.


    Intervention by Nancy Rubin, Head of US Delegation

    "We have.. noticed a troubling deterioration in the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. Of particular concern are the unsolved disappearances of more than 700 persons in Jaffna and the slow progress made by the government in prosecuting security forces personnel implicated in human rights abuses. We are also troubled by the continuing failure of the armed forces and the LTTE insurgents to capture POWs in numbers commensurate with the scale of the conflict, since it suggests that both sides have adopted a 'take-no-prisoners' policy. We call upon the government and the LTTE, therefore, to observe international humanitarian norms."

    Mail Us up- truth is a pathless land - Home