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Sri Lanka's Genocidal War - '95 to '01
The Asian Human Rights Commission issued an Urgent Action appeal on 21 March 2000 (UA Index: 000321) calling for an International Tribunal on disappearances in Sri Lanka. The Appeal titled " UN needs to establish International Tribunal on disappearances in Sri Lanka - over 30,000 disappearances remain unresolved" read:
"The United Nations Human Rights Commission is currently having its annual meeting in Geneva. AHRC believes that this is an opportune time to insist that the UN establish an International Tribunal to investigate and bring to trial the perpetrators of the forced disappearances in Sri Lanka.
Even by official Sri Lankan government figures, over 30,000 people have "disappeared" - unofficial estimates put the figure at around 60,000. This immense human tragedy remains unresolved as the families of the victims despair over the inability of the Sri Lankan government to investigate the cases.
The scale of the tragedy puts the investigation and trial out of reach of the government, and must be taken on by the UN, as in the case of the Balkans war crime trials. AHRC is of the belief that the forced disappearances constitute a Crime against Humanity, and has submitted a Paper outlining the legal arguments for this.
AHRC is also making a verbal presentation at the UNHRC meeting urging the UN to establish an International Tribunal on the disappearances in Sri Lanka.
The case is quite convincing, but it requires your support through the writing of letters to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan (with a copy to Mary Robinsn, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights), to add weight to the appeal. There has never been a better time to let the UN know how important you think it is that the forced disappearances in Sri Lanka cannot be forgotten until they are dealt with through proper investigation and through the trial of criminals responsible for the disappearances.
Following is a sample letter which you may use as a guide to writing
your own letter.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan
United Nations Office in Geneva
The Palais des Nations Swizerland
21st March 2000
Dear Mr. Secretary-General
I have been deeply concerned for some time about the "disappearances" that have occurred in Sri Lanka. I see the war crime trials for the Balkan war, and can't help but feel sympathy for the people of Sri Lanka, who still have not seen any proper investigation into their families and friends who have "disappeared". Surely they must not be made to wait any longer for the UN to step in.
These so-called "disappearances" are clearly, in reality, extrajudicial killings, and amount to a Crime against Humanity.
The scale of the disappearances is so immense - somewhere between 30,000 and 60,000; the fact that we still do not know the exact figures and that no-one has been tried yet over this catastrophe should prick the conscience of the international community, and stir it to immediate action.
The UN obviously needs to set up an International Tribunal to
investigate this Crime against Humanity and to conduct trials that bring to account the
people responsible for wrecking so many lives. I urge you to establish such a committe
with haste, sure in the knowledge that this is the only way to heal the wounds inflicted
on almost every family in Sri Lanka. yours sincerely
SEND LETTERS TO:
Kofi Annan Secretary General United Nations Room S-3800 New York NY
10017 Fax: 603-2910707 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Mary
Robinson Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Palais des
Nations 8-14 avenue de la Paix CH 1211 Geneva 10 Switzerland Fax: 41 - 22 - 917 0022
(Hotline - Human Rights) Fax : (41 22) 9170213 Email: email@example.com
SEND COPIES TO:
Ms. N. Font de Berlioz Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disapperance UN Centre for Human Rights United Nations Office Palais des Nations CH-1211, Geneva 10 Switzerland Fax: (4122) 917 0022 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and diplomatic representatives of Indonesia accredited to your country
Please remember to send copies to: email@example.com
FURTHER TO: UA 15/00, 21 March 2000, entitled
"SRI LANKA: over 30,000 disappearances remain unresolved" -
MARCH 23: We recently distributed an appeal requesting you to urge the UN to set up an International Tribunal to investiage and prosecute criminals regarding the disappearance of over 30,000 people in Sri Lanka. AHRC has sent a Paper to the UN which outlines the legal argument for the disappearances in Sri Lanka to be classed as a Crime Against Humanity. The Paper was prepared by an Intern at AHRC, Laura Black, who recently graduated from Harvard Law School. The Paper is available on our web-site: www.ahrchk.net You may wish to use this paper to assist you in arguing for UN action on Sri Lankan disappearances, or for other work you are doing related to disappearances. We include the executive summary of the Paper below for your information.
Forced Disappearances in Sri Lanka Constitute a Crime Against Humanity
by Laura Black for AHRC
I. Executive Summary
This paper has two purposes.
First, it argues that the enforced disappearances, murder, and torture that occurred in Sri Lanka constitute a crime against humanity.
And second, it argues that an international tribunal must be established to address these atrocities because the legal system within the country is currently incapable of effectively prosecuting these crimes.
The actions that occurred in Sri Lanka clearly constitute crimes against humanity.
For an action to constitute a crime against humanity, several requirements must be met: it must be one of a limited number of crimes generally considered to warrant the label; it must be widespread or systematic in nature; and it must involve the government. The crimes against humanity enumerated in international instruments include murder, torture, enforced disappearance, extermination, arbitrary imprisonment, and persecution on political grounds. Each of these crimes was committed in Sri Lanka.
Mass graves, torture chambers, illegal detention centers, testimony from the families of thousands of missing persons, and the government's goal of removing political opposition testify to it. Furthermore, these crimes were committed on a widespread scale.
The Sri Lankan government has estimated that there were over 26,000 victims, while unofficial estimates put the number as high as 60,000.
It is also clear that these crimes were part of a systematic attack planned at the highest levels of government and implemented through the police and army. There can be no doubt that a crime against humanity has occurred.
Despite the seriousness of the crimes and the enormous number of victims, these crimes against humanity have not been effectively addressed. The entire legal system was used in the campaign of disappearances making internal prosecution impossible despite the efforts of the new government.
The fact-finding commissions established by the government have uncovered information on appalling atrocities, but little action has been taken. Similarly, the interventions that UN agencies have made thus far have proven insufficient. More decisive action is required. To address these crimes effectively, an international tribunal must be established.
Both the seriousness and the number of offences warrant such an approach. Recently, the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague sentenced a former Bosnian Croat general to 45 years in prison for the deaths of 100 people. The deaths of 30,000 Sri Lankans are no less valuable. Only with greater international assistance, preferably in the form of establishing an international tribunal, can the perpetrators be brought to justice and a sense of law and order restored in Sri Lanka.
AHRC Ugent Appeals Programme Asian Human Rights Commission Unit D, 7th Floor, Mongkok Commercial Centre, 16 - 16B Argyle Street, Kowloon, HONGKONG Tel: +(852) - 2698-6339 Fax: +(852) - 2698-6367 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org If you need to contact the AHRC Urgent Appeal Coordinator. Send message to: Mr.Sinapan Samydorai email@example.com
AHRC has an Urgent Appeal Programme which operates around the clock. AHRC issues urgent appeals on behalf of persons or groups of persons whose human rights have been violated. All urgent appeals released by the AHRC since late 1997 can be accessed at our website: http://www.ahrchk.net/