Time for UNHRC member countries to consider sanctions against Sri Lanka

sri lanka tamil genocide

Whether or not Sri Lanka cooperates with the international investigation, the OHCHR will proceed with its work as mandated and present  its report to the Human Rights Council [HRC] The HRC will discuss the Report  [Sri Lanka will have the right to respond] and decide on whether it will be adopted or not. If the Report is adopted and there are findings that Sri Lanka is responsible for violations under its International Human Rights Law obligations, Sri Lanka will be legally obliged to take corrective measures. NON-COMPLIANCE WILL FRESULT IN INTERNATIONAL LAW VIOLATIONS THAT COULD PAVE THE WAY FOR INTERNATIONAL SANCTIONS.

The recommendations given in the UN high commissioner’s report range from freezing of assets, travel bans and targeted sanctions against public officials suspected of human rights violations and referral of such cases to international tribunals including the International Criminal Court and an invitation to individual countries to take action under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

Almost 12 years after the armed conflict in Sri Lanka ended, impunity for grave human rights violations and abuses by all sides is more entrenched than ever, with the current Government proactively obstructing investigations and trials, and reversing the limited progress that had been previously made.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the top defense official when government forces crushed the guerrillas in a military campaign that ended in May 2009. His brother Mahinda Rajapakshe was President then and is currently Prime Minister.

Sri Lankan President ruled out any autonomy for the Tamil people, he has rejected the ongoing structural genocide that’s taking place in the NorthEast to obliterate the Tamil Nation, not to mention the breakdown of the rule of law, the complete erosion of democratic values, torture and detention without charge and disappearance without trace of Tamils under the PTA, rape and violence against Tamil women.

The President, a retired army lieutenant colonel, threatened last year to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council if it pursued allegations against his troops.

The ITJP has already submitted a dossier on Shavendra Silva, the current head of the Sri Lankan army who remains barred from entry to the United States over his role in the execution of Tamils.

“The British government has a duty to protect the rights of the hundreds of Tamil victims of these Sri Lankan Generals who are now living in the United Kingdom;  the Tamil community’s calls for Magnitsky sanctions to extend to Sri Lanka need to be heard by British politicians who solicit their votes in future,” said Yasmin Sooka, executive director of the ITJP. “Britain is the pen holder for the Geneva process on Sri Lanka which led to the establishment of the evidence gathering mechanism precisely to support accountability steps but this is not enough;  the UK needs to extend accountability initiatives to sanctions and universal jurisdiction cases, as called upon by the High Commissioner for Human Rights. It would be a travesty for the UK to lead the accountability process but then fail to set a good example itself.”

“Given the UK’s leadership on accountability for Sri Lanka, it’s time the government looked at these submissions carefully – after all there was enough of a prima facie case for the United States to designate Shavendra Silva, and for Chile to appoint a prosecutor to look into the complaint against Jagath Jayasuriya,” said Charlie Loudon, International Legal Adviser at Redress, which runs the Secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Magnitsky Sanctions and to consider imposing targeted sanctions against alleged perpetrators, and to pursue prosecutions in national courts under universal jurisdiction.”  The core group on Sri Lanka (the UK, Canada, Germany, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Malawi) at the Human Rights Council successfully led the adoption of Resolution 46/1, which established an international evidence-gathering mechanism, which has now been established as the OHCHR Sri Lanka Accountability Project. However, among Sri Lanka’s key trading partners, India and Japan abstained, while China opposed the resolution.

The London School of Economics (LSE) Student Union passed a motion calling for sanctions against Sri Lanka and for prosecutions to take place, recognising that the ongoing crisis on the island constitutes a genocide.

The motion stated that the Student Union believes, “that the ongoing mistreatment of Tamil civilians within the North East of Sri Lanka is representative of genocide and violations of human rights” and that Sri Lanka should “face sanctions and reprimands from the British Government and the United Nations”.

After election in November 2019, President Goltabaya Rajapakshe withdrew Sri Lanka from a 2015 United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution agreed by the previous government to promote truth, justice, and reconciliation. Rajapaksa said he would not tolerate any action against ‘war heroes’ and instead appointed several officials implicated in war crimes to his administration. The UN Human Rights Chief, Michelle Bachelet, noted that Sri Lanka remains in a state of denial about the past, with truth-seeking efforts aborted.”

The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) has for decades been used to enable prolonged arbitrary detention and torture. In 2021, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa issued two ordinances that would make the law more abusive.  An order issued in March, which has been challenged in the Supreme Court, would allow two years of rehabilitation” detention without trial for anyone accused by the authorities of causing religious, racial, or communal disharmony.”

Many prisoners, especially from minority communities, remain in pretrial detention lasting many years under the PTA, or are serving lengthy terms following convictions based on confessions obtained using torture.

Honorable Shadow Minister for Asia and the Pacific, Stephen Kinnock MP, has rightly pointed out, Britain is failing to abide by its moral obligations through its silence on Sri Lanka. Labor MPs have repeatedly asked why the government’s Global Human Rights sanctions regime does not include “a single senior Sri Lankan government minister, official or military officer” , especially General Shavendra Silva.  It is time for Britain to put its rhetoric into action and demand accountability and justice in Sri Lanka.

As the Tamil community gathers across the world to remember the sacrifices made by our people; we stand unified in demanding justice in Sri Lanka for the crime of genocide; that an independent international prosecution of mass atrocity crimes against Tamils take place; and that, the right for self-determination of the Tamil people be recognized.

Sen Kandiah, Chair of Tamils for Labor said:

“As long as Tamils live, genocide suffered by the Tamil people during the war in Sri Lanka will never be forgotten.  Tamils will continue to fight for justice for the genocide suffered by them.  Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer MP’s statement confirms the resolve of the Labour Party to continue the battle for justice for Tamils”.

Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council on 23 March 2021
A/HRC/RES/46/1 – E – A/HRC/RES/46/1 -Desktop (undocs.org)

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights calls for sanctions

UN rights calls for sanctions on some Sri Lankan ex-military | English News – Bing video

Kumarathasan Rasingam –  Secretary, Tamil Canadian Elders for Human Rights Org.

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