INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE FOR THE RIGHTS AND LIBERATION OF PEOPLES

Place: Sri Lanka | Courtesy: NGO
| Date: 20000809

By: 52nd session, 2000 - UN Geneva

Once again our organization wishes to draw attention to the terrible plight of the Tamil civil population caught up in and around the conflict areas of Sri Lanka where the situation is increasingly deteriorating.

No war is conducive to human rights respect but no war can be accepted as a legitimate cause for human rights violations, denial of fundamental freedoms and, much less, infringements of the Humanitarian Law in times of conflicts. As a matter of fact in the civil war in progress in Sri Lanka between the government's armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam an escalation of direct attacks against the civil population is taking place in northern and east Sri Lanka, specifically targeted at striking the Tamil civilian population living in the areas under the LTTE control.

This state of warfare and inherent abuses are leading to an humanitarian crisis of vast proportions, scarcity of food and medical supplies.

Civilians are increasingly being used as human shields by the armed forces as in the case of the 4 hours lifting of the curfew which does not allow the people to move out of the area where the war goes on or they are submitted to forced labour as in Kalkudah where civilians have been forced by the soldiers to work at the construction of a sand bulwark.

Bombings of Tamil civilian targets is causing a biblical exodus and heavy casualties. Bishop Rayappu Joseph of the Catholic Church in Mannar, informed on June 9 on more than 500 casualties occurred in Madduvil due to bombing and shelling by SLA security forces and asked for permission to be given to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) "to reach those areas with food and medicine and if necessary to evacuate victims from there".

International aid agency sources informed on June 22 on more than five thousand civilians who had to flee Thenmaradchi division of the Jaffna peninsula due again to bombing and who had to been housed in a transit camp in Pooneryn where the UNHCR and ICRC are providing emergency relief distributing plastic mats and buckets whilst cooked food and medical treatment is provided by the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) and LTTE volunteers.

On July 5 NGO sources informed that hospitals and pharmacies in the Vanni region are on the verge of closing down due to the ban and restrictions on medical supplies imposed by the Sri Lankan Government. Moreover hospital sources have indicated that, the Government hospital in Valaichenai serving nearly 38,000 people from more than 50 neighbouring villages is severely affected by shortage of drugs as supply for the third quarter of this year has not been sent.

Thus H.R. violations in north and east Sri Lanka truly portrait an unacceptable humanitarian crisis and horrific human tragedies - massive population displacements, starvation, school children and youth attacked and killed (more than 40 from July 9 to July 17), tortures (according to reports submitted by the judicial Medical Officer two Tamil youth released by Batticaloa High Court on July 18, had been tortured while in detention under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, hung by their toes, beaten with pipes, choked in bags filled petrol and by immersion in water), bombardments, shelling, arbitrary arrests (58 Tamil undergraduates of the Engineering Faculty arrested at the Faculty of Moratuwa on July 12), detention, labour camps, ill-treatments, summary executions, disappearances.

Other voices far more authoritative than ours have already highlighted this grim situation.

Both the Report on the visit to Sri Lanka by a member of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances - (25-29 October 1999) (E/CN.4/2000/64/Add.1, 21 December 1999) and former Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and Mr. Waly Ndaye's statements pointed to Sri Lanka as the country with the second largest number of non-clarified cases of disappearances and a disturbing, painful and difficult human rights problem.

Amnesty International confirmed in its last report on Sri Lanka, July 19, that an increase in torture, "disappearances" and deaths in custody has been reported since new emergency regulations were introduced by the President in May 2000.

Rape is a further very serious concern.

On July 7 last, Mr. Pararajasingham, Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) MP for Batticaloa, read out a letter written to the Sri Lanka's National Human Rights Commission by a seventy year old woman of Neervely in Jaffna who was raped and robbed by Sri Lankan army personnel on May 31. The MP said he was bringing the letter to the attention of the house as the matter had been suppressed under the censorship.

Furthermore residents in Mannar reported on June 19 that Sri Lankan police officers in Sinnakadai area in Mannar have attempted to rape women in the nearby areas after forcibly opening the doors at night. They added that sex-related abusive incidents have worsened. Sources said the residents who number around 100 families are seriously considering to relocate to a safer area soon.

Let's recall that the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Radhika Coomaraswamy, in a letter dated 13 March 2000 had already expressed her concern about political violence affecting women in the south of the country, saying that she was particularly dismayed by the incidence of gang rape and murder of women and girls by Sri Lankan soldiers which continued unabated further expressing the hope these violations would have been thoroughly investigated and prosecuted in a manner consistent with international human rights standards.

Two British members of European Parliament, Richard Howit and Robert Evans reporting on the situation on July 18 and Congressman Benjamin Gilman, Chairman of the Committee on International Relations of the Congress of the United States in his letter to US Secretary of State, dated June 29, Hon. Madeleine Albright, coincided in underlining the Sri Lankan government's long history of repression of the Tamil people's human rights, lack of protection of civilians caught up in the war against Tamil Tigers, oppressive press-censorship policy through the ban on access for the media to the war zones, embargo on food, including baby food, medicine and other essentials supplies to be distributed in the areas controlled by the Tamil Tigers.

Moreover in M. Evans view "The Sri Lankan Government and the Sri Lankan army are undoubtedly spending huge amounts of money, vast amounts of resources, with very little to show for it." … "There are a large number of soldiers - some of them very young, some of them female - on duty, and no evidence that they are making any progress at all."

Both political sources consider that President Kumaratunga's proposals to end the civil war will not work unless she sits down and negotiates with the Tamil Tigers. M. Gilman went as far as writing "US should make clear that we would support all options including secession to be discussed in the negotiating process."

We join these authoritative voices in expressing the hope that this dramatic situation which undoubtedly witnesses violation on all sides will be dealt with by seriously and responsibly addressing the root causes of the problem, that is the denial of the issue as a Tamil national question.

In fact not only the constitutional reform presently spoken of as "devolution proposal" is unacceptable to the LTTE because it is rather intended to promote the majoritarian Sinhala interests but even the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) which by the way is a moderate party told the president that the proposal does not satisfy Tamil aspirations with regard to the structure of the Sri Lankan state, the unit of devolution and powers relating to state land. Moreover the TULF delegation also impressed upon the government the absolute necessity that the LTTE be involved in the negotiating process in order to bring an end to the war and an effective resolution to the conflict."

As it was reiterated countless times by the major party to the conflict - the LTTE - the devolution package has nothing substantial to form the foundation for a permanent solution to the Tamil national question as articulated in the cardinal principles of the Thimpu declaration which resulted from the talks held there under the sponsorship of India al late as 1985.

Madam Chairperson, allow us to conclude by appealing to this body, to the international community and to the world public opinion to support the positive negotiating and facilitating action undertaken by Norway, to welcome any further positive action any other interested country may wish to propose and to closely follow the evolution of the present negotiation so as to finally reach a just and dignified peace for all.

Thank you.