We, the undersigned people from around the world, urgently petition the United Nations to refer Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or to establish a similar credible International Judicial Mechanism for investigation and prosecution of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed against the Tamil people by the Sri Lankan State.We firmly believe that neither a domestic mechanism nor a hybrid mechanism will mete out justice to the Tamil people.
The call by the new Sri Lankan government for a domestic or hybrid mechanism to replace any international judicial process is an attempt to deflect the call for referral to the ICC and to delay other meaningful actions on accountability. Efforts to establish a domestic Truth and Reconciliation Commission without equal participation by the victims are another diversionary tactic to protect those who committed serious crimes against Tamils.
The current situation in Sri Lanka constitutes an ongoing “threat to the peace” under Chapter 7 Article 39 because there has been absolutely no accountability for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
1.) The Sri Lankan State is not ethnically neutral – in fact, most of the serious crimes in question were perpetrated by the state apparatus
2.) The Sri Lankan judiciary is not ethnically neutral – from the mass killings of Tamils starting in 1958 to date, justice has not been served. The courts have proved inadequate and successive governments have appointed ineffective inquiries under international pressure that have not once led to the punishment of perpetrators.2
3.) There is no political will in Sri Lanka to provide justice for the Tamils.The domestic 2010 Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) has not delivered Justice to Tamils: “…the LLRC is deeply flawed, does not meet international standards for an effective accountability mechanism”3The involvement of the international community in overseeing a domestic inquiry ended in failure, when the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) resigned in March 2008.
4 International monitoring of an internal investigation is a waste of time Jaffna University professors noted in a memorandum this month.
5 The change of guard in Sri Lanka will not result in a change in the institutionalized impunity. Even though the President has been changed, the political environment vis-à-vis Tamils has not changed.Almost all the leaders of the current Government were leaders of previous governments when repeated killings of Tamils in large numbers took place. These leaders not only failed to protect the Tamils, but blocked any attempts to bring the perpetrators to justice.Importantly, the current President
Mr. Sirisena is potentially culpable for crimes committed while he served as the Acting Defense Minister during the period at the end of the war when large numbers of Tamils were killed.
6. Several former military personal, including the military commander at the end of the war General Sarath Fonseka, are in senior positions in the current government.
This, along with current president’s potential culpability, will have a serious effect on the neutrality and effectiveness of any domestic or hybrid mechanisms.
The military apparatus from the war is still intact and the Tamil areas in the NorthEast are heavily militarized, creating deep fear, so it is unlikely that victims / witnesses will come forward before a domestic or hybrid tribunal.
The pursuit of justice versus the pursuit of peace is a false choice.In conclusion, we strongly urge the United Nations to refer Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court or to establish a similar credible International Judicial Mechanism for investigation and prosecution of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed against the Tamil people by the Sri Lankan State itself.
Thank you for your kind attention and immediate action.
Pdt international ONG CNRJ
1 E.g. “Between September 2008 and 19 May 2009, the Sri Lankan Army advanced its military campaign into the Vanni using large-scale and widespread shelling, causing large numbers of civilian deaths.” Report of the SecretaryGeneral’s Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka, 31 March 2011, p.i
2 Amnesty International, “Twenty Years of Make Believe: Sri Lanka’s Commissions of Inquiry,” 11 June 2009
3 Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka, 31 March 2011, p.v
4 Human Rights Watch, “Sri Lanka: Domestic Inquiry into Abuses a Smokescreen,” 27 October 2009
5 Memorandum to the UN, 24 February 2015
6 “Sirisena is hardly a beacon of hope for the Tamils: he was acting as defense minister in the nightmarish final fortnight of the war.” The Economist, ‘Last Days of the Raj?,’ 3 January 2015