The Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE), a democratic Tamil diaspora political entity advocating for accountability for Sri Lanka atrocity crimes against Tamils, submitted a comprehensive letter on 15 February to United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights Michelle Bachelet ahead of her highly-anticipated report on Sri Lanka expected on 8 March.
The TGTE letter calls on Commissioner Bachelet to use her role “as the paramount defender of human rights to call a halt” to Sri Lanka’s “charade” that it will ever fulfil its commitments to the UNHRC specifically, and to the international community at large, to materialise justice, accountability, and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.
“Ten years have passed since Sri Lanka committed genocide against the Tamil people, and yet, zero persons have been investigated for the murder, rape, and forcible transfer of tens of thousands of Tamil citizens. It is our hope that Commissioner Bachelet will help the UNHRC open its eyes to what is obvious to everyone else: Sri Lanka is a rigid Sinhala ethnocratic state with deeply entrenched prejudice against Tamils and which has absolutely no intention of ever honouring its UNHRC obligations. Frankly, to think anything else is nothing other than delusion,” said TGTE Prime Minister Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran.
Over the past three months alone President Sirisena, who the UNHRC banked on to deliver justice and accountability, unilaterally appointed genocidaire Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister, and promoted Major Shivendra Silva, credibly accused by human rights organisations of direct involvement in war crimes, as Sri Lanka Army Chief of Staff.
President Sirisena has also publically stated that he would never hold State perpetrators accountable, despite Sri Lanka’s commitment to the UNHRC to establish a judicial mechanism with the participation of foreign judges as part of its transitional justice promises.
Further overtly flying in the face of the UNHRC, on 18 February, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that Sri Lanka is working on creating a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that would provide amnesty to human rights perpetrators and that Tamils should just “forget the past”. This declaration, a clear reneging of Sri Lanka’s UNHRC commitments, is an especially brazen and telling act given that Sri Lanka appears before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for review in Geneva in just one month’s time, on 20 March.
It is against this backdrop, and decades of Tamil persecution prior, that the TGTE letter specifically calls on Commissioner Bachelet to:
(1) urge the United Human Rights Council (UNHRC)—which Sri Lanka will appear before for review on March 20th —to deny giving the state a second time-extension to fulfil its UNHRC resolution 30/1 commitments, on which it has made nearly no progress on after four years
(2) meet with the members of the Tamil diaspora to discuss her report and how she will ensure justice for Tamil victims
(3) take concrete steps to make sure atrocity crimes perpetuated by the state against Tamils during the conflict are investigated and prosecuted before the International Criminal Court (ICC) or another international independent court
(4) use her office to create an international, and impartial mechanism to preserve evidence, and
(5) appoint a UN envoy based in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, to report to the UNHRC every six months about the prior and ongoing violations of human rights against Tamils at the hands of the State.
Knowing all along that Sri Lanka is a rigid ethnocratic state prejudiced and hostile toward Tamils, TGTE has repeatedly called for referral of Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court (ICC). To date, TGTE’s signature campaign in support of this call has been signed by nearly two million people. Tamil mothers of the disappeared have also called for ICC referral, as well as 27 diaspora organisations and the Tamil Lawyers Association in Sri Lanka.
And in a monumental move, earlier this month, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), a preeminent human rights NGO with extensive human rights law expertise, submitted its own letter to the UNHRC stating that, due to the “nature” and “gravity” of Sri Lanka’s crimes against Tamils during the conflict and Sri Lanka’s explicit unwillingness to hold perpetrators accountable, referral of Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or another international independent judicial mechanism is “fully warranted”.
It is a total dereliction of duty and an act that undermines the entire UN Human Rights system, as well as human rights norms globally, then, that on 13 February the UNHRC Core Group on Sri Lanka comprised of Canada, Germany, Macedonia, Montenegro and the UK announced its position that the UNHRC extend Sri Lanka’s timeline yet again, despite the fact that when it comes to deceiving the UNHRC, Sri Lanka is a repeat and unrepentant offender.
“What’s at stake with how the UNHRC decides to respond to years of Sri Lanka preventing the Council from fulfilling its core mission by drip-feeding the Council empty promises is not only accountability for Tamils but also the credibility and integrity of the UNHRC,” added Prime Minister Rudrakumaran.
“The UN failed Tamils when it vacated the north in 2009, opening the door for Sri Lanka to perpetuate war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide against Tamils. It failed Tamils in 2017 when it gave Sri Lanka more time to pretend to fulfil its UNHRC commitments, allowing the state to continue to violate Tamil rights. It is TGTE’s hope that 2019, with Commissioner Bachelet’s encouragement and leadership, will be the year that the UNHRC finally closes the door on enabling Sri Lankan State impunity and creates a path that can actually deliver for Tamils the justice and accountability that the UNHRC was designed to protect and uphold.”
Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) is a democratic political entity based on the principles of nationhood, homeland and self-determination. The TGTE Constitution enshrines democratic principles and the rule of law, and mandates that the TGTE realise its political objectives through peaceful means. TGTE was formed after the Tamil genocide by the Sri Lankan armed forces in the final months of the Sri Lankan armed conflict in 2009.
TGTE seeks that the international community hold the perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide against the Tamil people to account. TGTE also advocates the Tamil people be freed from the racist and hostile Sri Lankan military and political environment in which they live, and be allowed to decide their political future through a referendum.