Foreign Affairs

Genocide Resolution & Geneva Gambit: Prongs Of A Pincer

By Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Chief Minister Wigneswaran attempted to clarify away the Northern Provincial Council’s ‘Genocide’ Resolution by saying it was not directed against the present administration but rather against its predecessor. He was not telling the truth, to put it mildly. The Resolution has a distinct target and that target is unveiled in the quite title. The Resolution goes into the record under the title “Sri Lanka’s Genocide Against Tamils”. Thus the charge is not against Mahinda Rajapaksa—not that this would have created it right—but against Sri Lanka. It is Sri Lanka, the country—our country—that stands accused. It stands accused of ‘genocide’. Any reference to the previous administration appears in these sections dealing with ‘recent genocide’, even though every single section on ‘recent genocide’ is preceded with one on ‘historic genocide’.

What is the pith and substance of the resolution? There is no space for confusion. It says:

“This resolution gives an overview of the evidence demonstrating successive Sri Lankan governments’ genocide against Tamils, and respectfully requests the ongoing United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) to investigate the claim of genocide and advocate suitable investigations and prosecutions by the International Criminal Court. The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide (Genocide Convention) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9th December, 1948, and acceded to by Sri Lanka in 1950, and supplies:

In the present Convention, genocide implies any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in complete or in element, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group (b) Causing severe bodily or mental harm to members of the group (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group situations of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in complete or in part (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group (e) Forcibly transferring young children of the group to an additional group.

Even though the OISL investigation is a time-bound work focused on February 2002 – November 2011, Sri Lanka’s genocide against Tamils began with the island’s independence. Since then, Tamils across Sri Lanka, specifically in the historical Tamil homeland of the NorthEast, have been subject to gross and systematic human rights violations, culminating in the mass atrocities committed in 2009. Sri Lanka’s historic violations consist of over 60 years of state-sponsored anti-Tamil pogroms, massacres, sexual violence, and acts of cultural and linguistic destruction perpetrated by the state. These atrocities have been perpetrated with the intent to destroy the Tamil people, and therefore constitute genocide.

This Council is of opinion that during the period extending from 1948, when the Citizenship Act was passed to strip citizenship from a segment of the Tamil neighborhood and render them stateless, and continuing via the present day, successive Sri Lankan governments have perpetrated genocide against Tamils. In depth proof demonstrates that acts have been committed that constitute 4 of the 5 enumerated genocidal acts in the Genocide Convention…” (p.1)

The resolution passed by the Northern Provincial Council solemnly locations our nation, Sri Lanka, in the organization of Hitler’s Germany, Rwanda and former Yugoslavia.

“…This Council notes that the spread of false rumors to incite violence against a group is a hallmark of genocides all through history, such as in Nazi Germany, Rwanda, and the former Yugoslavia. The Sri Lankan government has utilised false rumors as 1 tool in organizing Sinhalese mobs to commit genocide against Tamils.” (p.3)

The Resolution accuses Sri Lanka of committing “cultural genocide” against the Tamils.

“…The governments of Sri Lanka also committed acts of cultural genocide, beginning on June 5, 1956, when the S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike government passed the Sinhala Only Act, or the Official Language Act, which replaced English with Sinhala, spoken by 70% of the population at the time, as the sole official language. This act failed to officially recognize Tamil in any capacity. In the 1st republican constitution of 1972, Buddhism was privileged “at the foremost place” among religions in the constitutions. Though the term “cultural genocide” does not seem in Genocide Convention, it was incorporated in the initial draft, and international criminal tribunals have found acts of cultural and linguistic destruction to constitute acts of genocide. The Sinhala Only Act and the privileging of Buddhism undermine the Tamil people’s language and religion, predominantly Hindu.” (p.5)

The Resolution states that the Sri Lanka sought to physically eliminate the Tamils in the same manner as in Rwanda. One particular of the strategies by which this Rwanda–style “physical destruction”, albeit in slow motion, defined as “slow death genocide”, was sought to be effected, was by way of – wait for it—university admissions policy.

“…Moreover, according to international criminal jurisprudence from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the term “physical destruction” “should be construed as the methods of destruction by which the perpetrator does not instantly kill the members of the group, but which, in the end, seek their physical destruction,” which would “include, inter alia, subjecting a group of people to a subsistence diet regime, systematic expulsion from properties and the reduction of important medical services below minimum requirement”. By pushing Tamils out of the workforce and rendering them financially insecure, the Sinhala Only Act and university admissions standardization ultimately aimed to destroy the Tamil group at least in element by way of a “slow death genocide.” This Council additional notes that during the war, the government imposed prolonged blockades against humanitarian aid and embargos on needed goods, stopping fundamental goods and supplies from reaching the NorthEast.” (p.7)

Did you know that a military blockade is nonetheless in location against ‘Tamil areas’, causing the “historical impoverishment and isolation of the Tamil community”? Note the despicable use of the present tense, and the open-endedness, in the phrase “has been in place since 1990”.

“A military blockade against Tamil places has been in spot considering that 1990, except for ceasefire periods, which has contributed to the historical impoverishment and isolation of the Tamil neighborhood. The blockade has prevented ordinary products such as standard medicine, school books, cement, gasoline, candles, and chocolate from getting into Tamil regions. For the duration of certain periods of the ethnic conflict, the military adopted a harsher stance, and blocked all humanitarian help intended for civilians.” (p.7)

According to the Resolution, the genocide is ongoing: “To this day, Tamils in the NorthEast suffer from Sri Lanka’s ongoing genocide …There has been no change in the oppressive level of militarization in the NorthEast with the election of Maithripala Sirisena…” (p.11)

So what’s the bottom line? What does the Northern Provincial Council, its Chief Minister Wigneswaran and by extension the Tamil National Alliance which has failed to denounce the resolution and whose most moderate member justifies it entirely, wish to be accomplished with – and to—this nation, Sri Lanka? What is sought to be carried out? What is the agenda? There is no area for confusion on this score.

“…Resolved that the obligation to prevent and punish genocide under the Genocide Convention is not a matter of political selection or calculation, but one particular of binding customary international law. This Council urges OISL to comprehensively investigate and report on the charge of genocide in its 11 submission to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2015. The UN Security Council need to refer the circumstance in Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court for prosecutions primarily based on war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Alternatively or concurrently, domestic courts in nations that may possibly exercise universal jurisdiction over the alleged events and perpetrators, which includes but not limited to the United States, must prosecute these crimes.

To this day, Tamils in the NorthEast endure from Sri Lanka’s ongoing genocide…There has been no adjust in the oppressive level of militarization in the NorthEast with the election of Maithripala Sirisena…This Council urgently calls upon the international neighborhood to develop situations suitable and sustainable to defend the Tamils of the NorthEast Provinces in Sri Lanka from genocide.

The case of genocide in Sri Lanka is exclusive among genocides in history since it occurred over numerous decades and beneath various governments before intensifying into a no holds-barred war for almost 3 decades and culminating in the mass atrocities of 2009. It is accordingly important that Sri Lanka’s historic violations against Tamils, in addition to the 2009 attacks, are addressed via an international mechanism in order to combat Sri Lanka’s institutionalized impunity. This international intervention, coupled with action to promote the respect of human rights, is required to make certain a sustainable future for self-determination, peace, and justice, in Sri Lanka and for the Tamil folks.” (p. 11)

So that is what the elected representatives of the Northern Provincial Council and their Chief Minister, consider of the nation in which they reside, function, do politics and pontificate in. It is a country in which genocide is ongoing a country which has perpetrated and is perpetrating genocide.

What do they want? They want to put the charge of genocide foursquare on the international agenda. They want Sri Lanka to be prosecuted. The charge is against “Sri Lanka”—the nation this nation our nation. They want “international intervention” –their term, not mine—to avert (ongoing) genocide against the Tamils.

It is not only the provincial representatives who think so. The moderate Mr. MA Sumanthiran, poster boy of Colombo’s cosmopolitan civil society, completely justifies the Genocide resolution. He also indicates the opportunities that will open up with the institution of a ‘domestic mechanism’ into accountability, with the “supervision” of the OHCHR, the Workplace of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Taken collectively with the genocide resolution and Mr. Sumanthiran’s endorsement of it, there can be tiny doubt that the ‘domestic mechanism’ proposed by the new UNP administration will open the space for creating the charge of genocide stick, and infiltrating into the Higher Commissioner’s report and hence the international agenda, firstly in Geneva. Excerpts from the Ceylon Right now interview given to Ananth Palakidnar comply with:

“The Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarian M. A. Sumanthiran, defending the NPC&#8217s genocide resolution as democratic and timely, emphasized on the need for the war victims to prepare themselves to collect more proof in order to strengthen the OHCRC&#8217s OISL report to be released in September this year. He also added that an internal investigation with the OHCR&#8217s supervision, as opposed to the neighborhood investigations in the past, is essential to guarantee a constructive UN investigation into the alleged war crimes in the country.

Q: What is your view on the current &#8216genocide resolution&#8217 passed by the Northern Provincial Council?

A: The resolution is timely and the facts which have been listed out in it are practically nothing but accurate. It was a sheer democratic action and really nicely drafted, taking into consideration the grievances of the people straight impacted by the war. Numerous comments could surface with regard to the resolution, but it was aimed at looking for justice for the individuals who have been impacted by the ruthless war in the North. The Chief Minister of the Northern Province or the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) can not be criticized for bringing about the genocide resolution, since the NPC represents the people who were quite significantly impacted by the war. So the NPC, which represents these men and women and getting a democratic institution, has carried out its portion in the correct manner in bringing out the resolution. The Chief Minister has clearly pointed out the atrocities committed systematically towards the Tamils because the nation gained independence. Therefore without having addressing the genuine grievances of the folks impacted by the communal upheavals in the past, we cannot talk of reconciliation. Therefore, the genocide resolution was brought out to recognize the perpetrators who had committed the war crimes and bring justice to the war victims. The resolution is not at all meant to hurt the feelings of those who strive for peace and reconciliation in the country…

Q: Do you think the delay in releasing the OISL report will make way for the perpetrators to do the manipulations over the accusations against them with regard to the alleged war crimes?

A: Nothing at all like that. The OISL report has its own findings. It can’t be influenced or adjusted. The TNA is consistently in touch with the OHCHR officials. On the other hand the folks who had knowledgeable the adverse effects of the war should do every thing to strengthen the OISL report by adding more evidence to it. When the report is released in September it should bear the appropriate weight. The war victims must come forward without having any hesitation to strengthen the report further. They ought to be bold enough to give their evidence. There are many witnesses who had observed for themselves, directly, the atrocities committed in the course of the war. A massive number of crucial witnesses had provided their evidence in the past, secretly. However, they need to now cooperate inside the other six months to make the OISL report much more meaningful.

Q: How do you comment on the proposed internal investigation below the supervision of the OHCHR in Sri Lanka?

A: A nearby mechanism to hold an internal investigation into the alleged war crimes is crucial. It will not be a approach adopted in the form of commissions in the past. The internal investigation below the supervision of the OHCHR will aid in a big way to protect the witnesses as well. In any nation, to assistance the OHCRC action, an internal investigation is also carried out in addition to the UN investigation. As a result, the internal investigation, which is the Lankan Government is clamouring for, will only add weight in an substantial way to the UN action. Right here again the people, with no any hesitation, have to cooperate in the investigations in whatever form to attain a constructive finish outcomes.”

Mr. Sumanthiran’s Ceylon Today interview reveals the intentions and expectations of the TNA and provides an inkling into the nature of the pincer move comprising the ongoing OHCHR international investigation and an OHCHR-superviseddomestic mechanism” that Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera and the Wickremesinghe administration seem to have agreed to.

*Dayan Jayatilleka was Minister in the North–East Provincial Council in 1988-’89 and Sri Lanka’s Ambassador/Permanent Representative to the UN Geneva in 2007-2009

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