Ex-LTTE exiles willing to testify: Survey

Many former members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), now in exile in Europe, are willing to participate in the proposed transitional justice mechanism in Sri Lanka relating to the alleged violations of human rights during the final phase of the civil war, provided their safety and anonymity are guaranteed.

This is among the findings of a survey undertaken by the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP), Sri Lanka, which is affiliated to the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa.

‘Impossible to survive’

The survey covered 75 Tamils, including 54 ex-cadres of the LTTE, living in four European countries. Women constituted 26 per cent of the entire group.

Almost all the interviewees had fled Sri Lanka for Europe after the end of the civil war in May 2009. A quarter of them had opted for the Sri Lankan government’s rehabilitation programme for former LTTE cadres but had “found it impossible to survive”, according to a report prepared by the ITJP. At least 73 per cent of the interviewees alleged that they had been subjected to torture by the security forces after the fighting stopped and 54 per cent to rape or other forms of sexual violence.

The survey’s findings were released on Friday night, a few days before the commencement of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)’s two-week-long session in Geneva. An oral update is expected to be presented on June 29 on the status of implementation of the October 2015 resolution.

038Eighty two per cent of the group members said they would testify to a special court in Sri Lanka. Anonymity has been stressed by the interviewees, considering that many of them are survivors of sexual violence and several members of their families are still in Sri Lanka. Most of the interviewees felt that witness protection in the island-nation was “grossly inadequate”.

No amnesty

Three-quarters of the persons surveyed said no amnesty should be given even for those who revealed the full truth about their role in violations. There was a unanimous view that the proposed Truth Commission and Special Court must have a majority of international commissioners or judges. They said 50 per cent of the post of judges should be earmarked for women.

Seeking answers

One half of the interviewees wanted to know the fate of those who had disappeared. For some interviewees, truth meant knowing why the international community “abandoned” Tamils during the final phase of the war. At the most basic level, mothers sought to ascertain whether their children’s fathers were still alive. As for apology from the government or individual perpetrators, 55 per cent of the group members demanded it from the government. Also, 46 per cent of them favoured an apology by the LTTE or the Tamil community for actions such as the expulsion of Muslims from the Northern Province in 1990.

73 per cent of the respondents alleged that security forces had tortured them after fighting stopped