International Huamn Rights Dat and 10th Anniversary of TCHR

Place: UK | Courtesy: TCHR
| Date: 19991210

International Human Rights Day, December 10th, is a day to reflect collectively on human rights violations all around the world, and to continue to seek new ways to expose them. TCHR holds an event annually on this day, and this year it is particularly significant since it is also the 10th anniversary of TCHR. During the last ten years TCHR has been working hard to expose human rights violations, by organising events, seminars, interventions in human rights conferences and other activities and by disseminating information widely through monthly bulletins. Last year TCHR along with human rights organisations round the world commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today, as we approach the end of this millennium, acutely aware that the gravest violations of fundamental human rights are still occurring, we held two events, one in France and one in the United Kingdom.

In Paris, the commemoration started with the opening of a photographic exhibition. This was followed by speeches by several prominent lawyers, academics and representatives of several other solidarity organizations. The exhibition was comprised of photographs of massacres, cultural genocide and displacement of refugees caused by the Sri Lankan security forces. Many spectators were shocked by some of the photographs in the exhibition. The speeches started with Mr. S. V. Kirubaharan, General Secretary of the Tamil Centre for Human Rights. He gave a brief history and explained to the audience the general task of TCHR. Today the TCHR has became challenging force to the Sri Lankan government in the International human rights arena, he said.

Many French leading lawyers including Mr. Gill Picuqua, Ms Christian Martino and Mr. Somasundaram delivered speeches in this meeting. Mr. Jean Mari-Julia, retired Principal and the French President’s National award “Chevallier” winner, delivered a long speech which touch the heart of the audience. He condemned the Sri Lankan government for its extremely bad record on human rights.

In the city of Manchester, in the North of the United Kingdom, a vigil was held in the Peace Gardens near the Town Hall. TCHR and another human rights organisation organised the vigil, which was attended by many other human rights activists, organisations and individuals. Large torch candles were held and the articles of the UDHR were written in bright cards and displayed, alongside lilies, the flowers symbolic of peace. Speakers contributed with poems and readings on the human rights of trade unionists, women, the disabled community, children, the gay community. Refugee communites shared experiences of genocide and human rights violations in many lands. Deirdre McConnell, director of the International programme of TCHR, spoke on the human rights of Tamils suffering at the hands of the Sri Lankan government armed forces in the island of Sri Lanka. She condemned the Sri Lankan government for its brutal and callous genocide of the Tamil people. Councillor Pat Carney, speaking on behalf of Manchester City Council spoke on the need to respect diversity and all forms of human rights as we move into the new millennium. He said that Manchester has a tradition of welcoming people of all backgrounds into the city and is proud to have such a diverse and vibrant community. As other speakers did, he reiterated the vital importance of collective gatherings such as the vigil today, to remember human rights violations going on all over the world.

The human rights situation for Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka continues to be horrendous. Aerial bombing of civilian targets, such as places of worship, hospitals and schools, continues. Less than three weeks ago nearly 40 Tamil refugees were massacred by Sri Lankan army bombing, as they sought refugee in the chapel of Madhu church. The 600 persons “disappeared” by the Sri Lankan army, during 1996 in Jaffna, are still unaccounted for. The callous letters to relatives of the two disappeared persons whose skeletons were identified in the mass graves at Chemmani, stating that the whereabouts of these persons is still uncertain, displays the brutal inhumanity and disregard for Tamil lives of the Sri Lankan government. Torture, rape, arbitrary detention and extra-judicial killings of Tamils, by the Sri Lankan government armed forces continue. We hope that as we move into a new century and millenium more voices will join the fervent call for the human rights of the Tamil people and of all peoples to be restored, so that human dignity will prevail.

10 December 1999 Head Office : Tamil Centre for Human Rights (TCHR/CTDH) 9, Rue des Peupliers 95140 Garges les Gonesse FRANCE

Tamil Centre for Human Rights (TCHR) 88, College Road Manchester M16 8FH United Kingdom