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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Sri Lanka Accused at United Nations > UN Commission on Human Rights 1989
UN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
45th SESSIONS: FEBRUARY 1989
- Appeal by World Federation of Tamils
- Statement by Martin Ennals, Secretary General of International Alert
- Statement by Indian Representative on Allegations against IPKF
Appeal by World Federation of Tamils (Excerpts)
In a small corner of the universe that is Sri Lanka, populated by nearly 16 million people, the hope of peace and harmony continues to elude the people. In any event it has materialised for the ordinary Sri Lankan, particularly the battered and bruised Sri Lankan Tamil.
The process of discrimination and suppression of the fundamental rights of the Tamil people has been manipulated by successive Sinhala governments by means of discriminatory and iniquitous legislation like the Citizenship Act, Official Language Act, the Prevention of Terrorism Act, emergency and administrative regulations, etc.
The Prevention of Terrorism Act, which has been likened to its South African counterpart and described as a blot on the statute book of Sri Lanka, originally enacted as a temporary measure, has been made a permanent enactment. What is worse, its corollary the Indemnity Act gives the security forces a blanket immunity from prosecution or other legal proceedings for any illegal act done by them under the PTA. Ever since its enactment in 1979, the Tamil
homelands of the North and East of Sri Lanka have been devastated and become the hunting ground for the marauding security forces composed of cadres recruited mainly, if not wholly from the majority Sinhalese
The dreadful acts of arbitrary arrests and detention without trial for indefinite periods, torture, involuntary disappearances after arrest, extra judicial killings, looting and destruction of houses and properties of the Tamils by both Sri Lankan and Indian troops in the North and East of Sri Lanka are the norm rather than the exception. It was only recently that the World Bank and USAID have estimated that around 60% of' the 161,000 houses in Jaffna in North Sri Lanka need reconstruction rather than repair. No foreign correspondents, no representatives of Non Governmental Organisations or even of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) are allowed to enter the northern and eastern regions of Sri Lanka. The local press has been muzzled. There is a ban on the publication of any news or information prejudicial to the so-called Indian Peace Keeping Force or India's proteges. Thus the suppression of the basic right of freedom of expression goes on unabated.
In terms of the so-called Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord, the Sri Lankan armed forces were to cease their operations in the North and East and return to barracks leaving the so called peace-keeping duties to the Indians. But this covenant is being honoured only in the breach and Sri Lankan armed forces continue to terrorise the Tamil villagers in the North and East.
The IPKF, which ostensibly entered Sri Lanka on a peace keeping mission, was soon to disturb whatever semblance of peace that prevailed in the North and East soon after its arrival. The euphoria of the Tamils of Sri Lanka was suddenly shaken when the Indian troops without warning went on rampage, killing, maiming, raping and torturing innocent Tamil non-combatants on a scale that has been acknowledged as more barbarous and brutal than that of the Sri Lankan forces. Since the arrival of the IPKF on the soil of the Tamil home land of Sri Lanka, several human rights activists like Rev Fr Chandra Fernando, Messrs Ahmed Lebbe, Rasasangari, V Paramanathan, K Kandasamy, K Sivanandasundaram and others have been gunned down.
One can only recount these grave human rights abuses against innocent people. The international community and forums merely pay lip-service to the sufferings of these unfortunate innocent folk. The six year old emergency is said, to have been lifted in January,1989, leaving PTA and the Indemnity Act untouched. Only the other day, soon after the declaration of the ending of emergency rule, the Indian representative in Sri Lanka, Mr J N Dixit, told the press that. The lifting of the emergency will make no difference to the role of the Indian troops in Sri Lanka.
There is neither police enquiry nor investigation. There are neither legal institutions nor judges. We, therefore, appeal that the International Red Cross be permitted to visit the North-East of Sri Lanka.
No matter how bad, how cruel, how barbarous the acts committed by the IPKF are, the truth is not known by the international community. The truth remains buried and the human rights situation continues to degenerate. We, therefore, appeal that foreign correspondents and UN observers be permitted to report the correct situation in the North-East of Sri Lanka.
Peace, progress and human rights are all interlinked as pointed out by the wife if the Nobel Prize winner for Peace, Andrei Sakrov, in Oslo in 1980:
" If there are no human rights there will be resistance or violence. Resistance will result in absence of peace. Absence of peace will impede, retard or completely halt progress."
The Indian and Sri Lankan Governments are not prepared to accept reality; not now, not in the future. Let us accept, the tact that there is terrorism in the North-East of Sri Lanka under the cover of moderation and 'bringing the LTTE into the political mainstream'. Even recently IPKF soldiers dealt ruthlessly with a demonstration by the Jaffna University Students where the protest had been limited to slogans and placards. Two students were killed.
The International Community which, knowingly or unknowingly supported the present situation in Sri Lanka has an obligation to rectify it. Some countries, at the inception, supplied weapons which resulted in the escalation of violence. Some others sent their military personnel who carried out aerial bombings. All the Commonwealth nations irresponsibly welcomed the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord at their summit meeting held in 1987, even though Tamils were not a party to the Accord and especially at a time when thousands of Tamil civilians were being ruthlessly killed by the Indian forces in Jaffna. Their support strengthened the hands of the persecutors. Some super powers openly announced their support for India in her political adventure in North-East Sri Lanka.
The international community has an obligation to rectify the situation and therefore must do its utmost
(a) to bring peace and tranquility in the North-East of Sri Lanka.
(b) bring about a situation which will enable the 250,000 refugees living all over the world to return to their country
(c) reactivate the economy so that millions of people in Sri Lanka may not die of starvation
(d) restore human rights and freedom to the Tamils in the North-East of Sri Lanka
Statement by Martin Ennals, Secretary General of International Alert
It is two years since this Commission approved a resolution regarding the situation in Sri Lanka and urged the Sri Lankan Government to facilitate the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross in fulfilling its normal conventional activities of protecting victims of conflict under internationally recognised standards of humanitarian law.
In the interim period there have been many developments in Sri Lanka, including an Indo-Sri Lankan Accord under which an Indian Peace Keeping Force has taken over many of the normal functions of the National Security Forces of Sri Lanka in the North and East of the country.
Despite these developments, which may be seen as positive the human rights violations have not ceased. On the contrary, they have increased to the point where they have encroached upon the democratic process in all parts of the country.
The Indian Peace Keeping Forces have been responsible for violations of human rights and thousands of affidavits have been submitted by bona fide lawyers detailing the offences of the IPKF members. There has been disciplinary action taken but the complaints continue.
Prominent individuals, laweyrs, politicians and other professionals have been individually targeted and killed and mass murders have become seemingly both unavoidable and a major contribution to he environment of violence and violations. The killings affect and are carried out by this wide variety of official and unofficial groups. In these circumstances, the rule of law and government through ballot becomes increasingly difficult.
The purpose of this account is to indicate that there is in Sri Lanka at present no single body able to stop the violence which has plagued the country since the last meeting of this Commission. One real result of this, violence is that the traditional role of the courts in terms of Habeas Corpus actions and other legal procedures is eroded to the point of disappearance. There is no effective procedure.
The Human Rights Commission has already expressed its concern about the Sri Lankan tragedy. The appointment of a rapporteur or a representative at this time would be welcomed by a cross section of opinion in Sri Lanka. It is this type of initiative which could show the way ahead in Sri Lanka and provide an example which might be applicable. elsewhere, in other countries, torn apart by their own conflicts.
Statement by the Indian Representative on Allegations against IPKF (Excerpts)
...The Provincial Council of the North-East province is faced with many challenges particularly with regard to law and order, civil administration, resettlement of displaced persons, financial difficulties, reconstruction and the rehabilitation of heavily damaged infrastructure. We believe that the future of peace in the north and east will depend on the out-come of this unique experiment, and the ability of the North-Eastern Provincial Council to successfully battle against terrorist groups trying to undermine it. The North-Eastern Provincial Council and its battle against terrorism deserve the support of all well-wishers of Sri Lanka, who believe in the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka.
Turmoil in the neighbouring country will inevitably spill over into our own. We, therefore, have a vital stake in peace in Sri Lanka. The IPKF is waging a difficult campaign under trying circumstances. A propaganda war of nerves has been mounted against it aimed at blackening the reputation of the IPKF and at demoralising it. This is an integral part of the campaign of terrorism against the IPKF. But these groups stand exposed by the fact that while they wax indignant against the IPKF, they do not have even a word of condemnation for the terrorist atrocities which are a so appalling feature of life in Sri Lanka.
A case in point is the appeal to the Commission issued by an organisation that calls itself the World Federation of Tamils. The appeal is eloquently silent on terrorist activities. Such partisan motivated appeals have been reproduced from a London Tamil paper whose role is to serve as a propaganda forum for the LTTE which is well known.
The so-called effect on the civilians in the course of the IPKF operation has been a subject of extraordinarily motivated allegations. Such wild and unsubstantiated allegations are a deliberate attempt to divert attention from the fact that the LTTE has cynically used tactics and methods to
maximise civilian sufferings and casualties to the utter disregard of their human rights.