November 19, 2012

What if the UN had spoken out on Sri Lanka?

Filed under: eelamview, genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: , — எல்லாளன் @ 7:34 pm

If today the United Nations announced that it had received unconfirmed reports of 50,000 casualties in a war off limits to journalists – wouldn’t the world take notice and try and stop the killings? We now know the UN system had this information in 2009 about Sri Lanka and suppressed it. We know this because of an internal review, commissioned by the UN Secretary General, Ban ki Moon.

It’s a report that concludes that the UN’s conduct at the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka marked a “grave failure” that “should not happen again”. The document cites the UN’s role in Rwanda, saying some lessons there were not learned and proved relevant to Sri Lanka. Let’s hope they’re learned for Syria, but as the author of a book of survivors’ stories from that war in Sri Lanka I am haunted by the thought of what might have been there.

The document concludes that, “in Colombo many senior staff simply did not perceive the prevention of killing of civilians as their responsibility. That’s damning criticism but it’s the nature of how and why they did this that’s very hard to accept.

UN bias against the Tigers

The UN removed the executive summary that was present in the draft version prepared by Charles Petrie. This said, “Some have argued many deaths could have been averted had the Security Council and the Secretariat, backed by the UN country team, spoken out loudly early on, notably by publicizing casualty numbers”.

Petrie’s report meticulously documents how senior UN officials continuously tried to blame the Tamil Tiger rebels – a proscribed terrorist group – for the killings even while their own international staff told them the Sri Lankan government was responsible for the majority of deaths. It was a bias that has slanted all coverage of the conflict since because it came from such an influential and reliable source – the UN no less.

On 9 March 2009 the UN did not share with a diplomatic briefing a casualty sheet their staff had prepared, “which showed that almost all the civilians casualties recorded by the UN had reportedly been killed by Government fire”. They also failed to mention that two thirds of the killings were taking place inside “safe zones” unilaterally declared by the government, purportedly to protect civilians. Three days later the UN Resident Coordinator in Colombo, Neil Buhne, and several under-secretary generals refused to stand by their own casualty data, claiming thei were not verified. Charles Petrie puts the best gloss on the suppressing of vital casualty information, saying rather euphemistically that the briefings “fail to address the reality” on the ground.

Toning down Navi Pillay

Then when the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, struggled to speak out about potential war crimes by the Sri Lankan government, internal communications in the annexes reveal Ban Ki Moon’s then chef de cabinet, Vijay Nambiar, strongly imploring her to tone down and dilute her statement. He even complained that her statement put the Tamil Tiger rebels and the government on the same footing. At this point Navi Pillay’s statement is quoting figures the UN knew were low – the draft version of this report mentions much higher unconfirmed reports at the time of 5,687 killed and 10,067 injured.

These were figures coming out of the war zone collected by Tamil doctors, priests, NGO workers and the UN’s local employees held hostage by the Tigers. The conflict was off limits to all independent observers so a few brave UN staff decided to set up a long distance data team in Colombo to try and corroborate the reports. They compiled casualty lists but only verified a death if there were three independent sources. The Petrie report says it was a rigorous methodology following best practice. In this way the UN confirmed nearly eight thousand civilian deaths before it became impossible in late April for people under heavy fire to get out of their bunkers and actually verify information.

Deliberate undercount

Senior UN diplomats, still working in posts where they deal with conflict related issues, are cited in the report constantly trying to wriggle out of accepting the casualty data their own staff prepared, undermining it by questioning its reliability. Never mind that these figures were much more carefully checked than death tolls cited for Syria or Afghanistan. Or for that matter, the general death toll the UN always cites in official documents of 100,000 killed in Sri Lanka during the whole course of the war.

Buried in the end of the annexes of the Petrie report is startlingly new casualty information that UN staff received from informants in the field: unconfirmed reports of 17,810 killed and 36,905 injured during 2009. The UN team verified about half of these cases but knew their figure was an undercount.

See the infographic chart below showing what the UN knew in 2009 about casualty data and what it actually said in public.

Surely if the world had been told the scale of the killing at the time, international condemnation might have averted some of the deaths and abuses after the war. Subsequently a UN report has said reports of up to 40,000 civilians killed were credible. The Petrie report increases this to say 70,000 people could possibly have died in those final five months of hell.

That’s little comfort to the shattered broken survivors who watched friends and relatives die in agony, abandoned and betrayed by the international community. Starving, dirty and exhausted, they lived in ditches being pounded by multi barreled rocket fire, only getting out of flimsy shelters in the lulls in fire to bury the human body parts they found lying strewn around their tents to prevent the dogs eating them. Families were so desperate they prayed that if they were to die it would be quickly and all together; loving parents contemplated suicide with their children because they couldn’t see any chance of survival. By May 2009 people were forced to abandon their dead and injured just to save themselves, literally walking over corpses and dodging bullets. They emerged only to be detained in sub-standard internment camps, paid for and built by the United Nations and its donors.

The only way for the UN to set the record straight on Sri Lanka now is for Ban ki Moon to set up an international investigation into war crimes in Sri Lanka. It was the recommendation of a panel of experts he commissioned to write a report last year but the Secretary General hesitated to take such a step without strong international backing. We now know from this internal review that his own legal department advised him he had the power to do it, but backed off. After the revelations of this inquiry it’s an essential step to restore the UN’s tattered credibility on Sri Lanka. And it’s the very least Ban ki Moon owes the families of the tens of thousands of Tamil victims.

Frances Harrison is a former BBC Correspondent in Sri Lanka and the author of Still Counting the Dead: Survivors of Sri Lanka’s Hidden War, published by Portobello Books (UK), House of Anansi (Canada) and Penguin ( India). | Photo courtesy: Eskinder Debebe / UN Photo

© Huffington Post

Harrion’s interview in Tamilnet.


Further reading:

  1. Leaked Report on Sri Lanka Critical of U.N.
  2. What the U.N. is (badly) Hiding on Sri Lanka
  3. Is Ban’s Legacy Tarnished by Sri Lanka?

Politics of Genocide

Filed under: eelamview, genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: , — எல்லாளன் @ 7:25 pm

While the Mu’l’livaaykkaal killings and the on-going cultural destruction in the NorthEast can be argued to constitute “Genocide” within the definition of the Genocide Convention of 1948, a virtual codification of the “Never Again” ethos, Western Nations including the United Nations have shown not only any inclination to accept that the crime occurred, but also are likely complicit in allowing the allegedly criminal state to continue to commit genocidal crimes, and to avoid accountability for crimes committed during the war. The criminality that may befall the West arising from Article 3(e), and the violation of Article I of the Genocide Convention for failing to prevent genocide, are likely reasons for the officials of the UN and UN member states to avoid calling the killings a “Genocide.”

The Contracting Parties to the 1948 convention confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish. The following clauses that attach criminality to those complicit in genocide, explain the silence of the West, according to Tamils Against Genocide [TAG], a US-based activist organization:Article I:

    The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.

Article III(e):

    The following shall be punishable – Complicity in genocide.

Article IV:

    Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article 3 shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.

Even while Genocide convention assigns criminality for complicity in genocide, International community was unable or unwilling to prevent genocide through ex ante (before the occurrence) measures in Sri Lanka. While naked political calculations, blindness from the doctrine on U.S.’s war on terror and to allow Sri Lanka to defeat the LTTE by any means, deference to sovereignty, and isolationism may explain the failure, the complicit West was unscathed, has largely avoided accepting responsibility for failing to prevent the massacres, and was not hit by the Article 3(e) culpability arising from the “complicity” clause, TAG said.

The Petrie report has placed considerable blame on the UN staff for “complicity” for war-crimes. However, when and if the emerging new facts surrounding the killings, proven beyond reasonable doubt, establish that killings qualify as genocide, culpability of the West and the UN will follow from the Genocide Convention, according to legal sources in Washington. A selected list of legally significant statements that point towards complicity in the Mu’l’livaaykkaal killings, as analyzed by Professor Boyle, expert in International Law, follows:

  • Para 22:UN DPA admits, “we would be complicit if we do not act on it.” In other words, establishes criminal intent, mens rea (mens rea – legal term element of crime, “criminal mind”).
  • Para 25, 26, 28, 29: More whitewashing of GOSL crimes. UN aiding and abetting GOSL crimes, including genocide
  • Para 52, 53: UN deliberately understated GOSL atrocities so as to avoid international cries of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide that would have produced international pressure on the UNSC to do something. More Ban Ki Moon/UN complicity with GOSL crimes if not worse.
  • Para 76: This was a case of UN malfeasance and complicity, not negligence and nonfeasance or misfeasance

“The fact of genocide is as old as humanity,’ wrote Jean Paul Sarte, but the law only 50 years old. This dialectic of the ancient fact yet the modern law of genocide follows from the observation that, historically, genocide has gone unpunished. Nazi’s were only among the most recent to rely confidently on the reasonable presumption that an international culture of impunity would effectively shelter the most heinous perpetrators of crimes against humanity, writes Prof. Schabas.

Greenfield states that ex post judicial responses once genocide has occurred have also been equally fatal to the promise of the Genocide Convention.

Greenfield says, International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), have made a critical jurisprudential error that has deprived the Genocide Convention, and the Tribunals enacted to enforce it, of an extremely significant deterrent effect. Greenfield asserts that while the Statutes dictate that complicity in genocide is a stand-alone crime, ripe for prosecution, the recent decisions of the Tribunals have erroneously, determined that complicity in genocide is merely a form of liability for the crime of genocide, and not a crime itself.

The ICTY, and ICTR have conflated the “crime of complicity in genocide” with the “crime of aiding and abetting genocide,” Greenfield points out, adding, that the drafters of the 1948 convention recognized that the crime of complicity in genocide captures a class of perpetrators broader than those implicated by aiding and abetting the crime of genocide.

Greenfield explains that one found guilty of aiding and abetting the crime of genocide must have the heightened mens rea of the genocidaire—“specific intent specific motive nexus;” by comparison, one who commits the crime of complicity in genocide need not have this heightened mens rea. Instead, a lesser mens rea, such as malice evidenced by reckless disregard, or “specific intent without specific motive,” should suffice to attach guilt.

The complicity clause will, therefore, include all States that knowingly allowed the genocide to happen even if they did not have specific “intent” but only “reckless disregard.” When a future tribunal on Sri Lanka is constituted legal community representing the affected Tamils should be vigilant to draw-in complicit states to attach criminality as dictated by the Genocide convention and not by the erroneous precedents set by ICTR, ICTY, TAG spokesperson told TamilNet.

Further, Article IV says, “[C]onstitutionally responsible rulers, [and] public officials are not exempt from criminal punishment.

While the hesitancy of the West to aggressively seek accountability for the crime of crimes committed by Sri Lanka may disappoint rights activists and the Tamil people, Nazi’s ignominious history as reflected in the Nuremberg trial and the genocidaire hunt still haunting the perpetrators of the holocaust after six decades, might likely also fall on Sri Lanka, a Tamil activist commented.

In a more broader context, one can see central recurrent questions in international law: the relation between the universalism of certain of its principles and the possibility that they are imperialist in nature.

Author, Jouannet illustrates that international law has, from its very origins, been the bearer of a paradox; a paradox that is, moreover, constitutive of the discipline, and from which international law cannot escape without itself ceasing to exist as such.

Actions of Tamil diaspora to seek justice and legal redress, and to establish culpability of the alleged perpetrators of Schabas’s “Crime of Crimes” in Mu’l’livaaykkaal in international judicial institutions have to be pursued with the full understanding of the politics underlying the term “Genocide,” and the awareness of the tensions and hurdles created by powerful nations within the international law regime, TAG spokesperson said.


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External Links:

UN: Prevention of Genocide, Mission Statement

UN culpable under complicity clause says Professor Boyle

Filed under: eelamview, genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: , — எல்லாளன் @ 7:23 pm

Dismissing the “recommendations” of the Petrie report as “UN double talk” similar to the language used by the UN to excuse UN’s complicity in the Srebrenica massacre, Professor Boyle, an expert in International Law, said that the Petrie report, however, provides legal evidence to establish UN’s culpability on the element of “complicity” to war crimes and genocide, as defined in the Article 3(e) of 1948 Genocide Convention. Further, Boyle said, contrary to the claims in the Petrie report, the UN Secretary General (UNSG) has independent powers, and need not adhere to the dictates of the Security Council.

Professor Francis A. Boyle, University of Illinois College of Law

Professor Francis A. Boyle, University of Illinois

Noting the reasoning in Para-18, that “without clear Security Council support, the UN felt it could not play a lead role and made no attempt to implement a comprehensive strategy,” Boyle said, “the UNSG has independent powers under Chapter 15 and Article 99 of the Charter. The SG is not an agent of the Security Council. Rather the Secretariat is one of 6 Independent Organs of the UNO. This is just a cop-out by Ban Ki Moon (BKM). He had the authority to act and he should have acted and he refused to act. Either the Americans pressured him or else he did not care,” Boyle said. “Once again in my book The Tamil Genocide by Sri Lanka I made the case for complicity in genocide by BKM. I stand by those conclusions,” Boyle added.

In Para-33, the Petri report criticizes the UN on lack of meeting on Sri Lanka: “Throughout the final stages of the conflict, Member States did not hold a single formal meeting on Sri Lanka, whether at the Security Council, the Human Rights Council or the General Assembly.”

Boyle comments: “UNSG had the power to convene an Emergency Meeting of the Security Council, but refused. BKM had the legal authority and the responsibiliity to act and he failed and refused to do that. That is the essence of complicity in crimes, including genocide.

“Realistically one cannot expect UN humanitarian and unarmed officials on the ground to risk their lives if they do not want to, which is different from the UN peacekeeping force at Srebrenica. But BKM should have been doing all he could have under his independent powers under Article 19 and Chapter 15 of the Charter to stop the Wanni Genocide. He did not. He should have. That makes him an accomplice,” Boyle said.

Comments on other salient paragraphs in the Petrie report that caught Professor Boyle’s attention, follow:

  • Para-22: Notice UN DPA admitting that they “would be complicit if they did not act on it.” In other words, mens rea. Criminal intent
  • Para-25: UN briefed on Tiger atrocities but not GOSL atrocities. a whitewash, more complicity.
  • Para-26: More whitewashing of GOSL crimes. UN aiding and abetting GOSL crimes, including genocide.
  • Para-28/29: More whitewashing and covering up of GOSL crimes by UN.
  • Para-50: Boyle dismisses as “Nonsense.” These UN officials knew exactly what they were not doing and why they were not doing it. These are highly competent and intelligent people. Obviously, the UNSG did not give the order and the resources to get the job done. People were deliberately stalling and delaying. This was malfeasance, not negligence, by the UN and SG.
  • Para-52/53: UN deliberately understated GOSL atrocities so as to avoid international cries of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide that would have produced international pressure on the UN Security Council to act. More BKM/UN complicity with GOSL crimes if not worse.
  • Para-54: Reflects mercenary motive of the UN.
  • Para-55: Why did UN refuse to assist and protect surrendered LTTE. They were out of combat under Geneva Convention Article 3 and were entitled to all the protections in there at a minimum.
  • Para-61: Yes, no one kept a written record because they did not want to incriminate themselves in writing.
  • Para-63: A sick joke and a demented fraud that the Special Adviser on Genocide would not speak out. That was his job. He deliberately failed and refused to perform it and thus became an accomplice himself.
  • Para-69: UNSG BKM should have gone to the UN General Assembly. Boyle cites the example of Second UN Secretary General Hammarskjold, who Boyle said would have gone to the General Assembly as he did during his leadership.
  • Para-71: BKM should have convened an emergency meeting of the Security Council under article 99.
  • Para-70: Notice UN already had the Channel 4 information and refused to do anything with it.
  • Para-73: Another instance of whitewash of malfeasance and complicity by BKM.
  • Para-76: This was a case of UN malfeasance and complicity, not negligence and nonfeasance or misfeasance.

Referring to Para-77, where the report states, “the Security Council was deeply ambivalent about even placing on its agenda a situation that was not already the subject of a UN peacekeeping or political mandate; while at the same time no other UN Member State mechanism had the prerogative to provide the political response needed, leaving Sri Lanka in a vacuum of inaction,” Boyle points out “basically UN is admitting that they did what the Permanent 5 on the Security Council wanted them to do, which was nothing.”


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Autonomy within unitary structure paradoxical: Peter Schalk

Filed under: eelamview, genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: , — எல்லாளன் @ 7:21 pm

Sri Lanka’s ambassador in France, Dayan Jayatilleke, calling for “autonomy within a unitary structure,” at a seminar in Paris earlier this month was a political-populist statement, responded Professor Emeritus Peter Schalk, who participated the seminar arranged by Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). A unitary structure excludes autonomy. A social scientist would not have uttered such a sentence, Prof Schalk said, in a note sent to TamilNet on Thursday. Calling CNRS partial in providing propaganda platform to Colombo, he said that the violence by the governments of Lanka is structural and genocidal that is practiced over the decades and not just an occasional aberration or some nuts.

Meanwhile, in an interview to Palaka’ni programme of TamilNet this week, Mr. Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam came out with similar views, explaining how the talk of ‘devolution of power’ under unitary structure goes against all realities in the island.

‘Devolution of Power,’ without the rejection of unitary Sri Lanka and without recognition to the sovereignty or the right to self-determination of Eezham Tamils, is a persistent chant of particularly Washington and New Delhi.

Full text of the note received from Prof Peter Sckalk:

Autonomy within a Unitary Structure?

Peter Schalk

Professor Peter Schalk

On November 7, 2012, I participated in a seminar in Paris arranged by Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS).

The theme was Sri Lanka and South Asia: New Challenges for a Regional Policy. I expected to get a new and deep geopolitical analysis, but we can forget about that.

The guest speaker was Dayan Jayatilleka who was presented on the written announcement to the public as Ambassador of Sri Lanka in France, not as social scientist. He performed as ambassador. He was openly backed up by one invited scholar from the CNRS and by consenting voices from the public which was supportive.

I have never seen before in Scandinavia, UK or Germany during my 42 years of academic service that an academic institution has invited only one party of a protracted conflict. I was baffled by the fact that the CNRS made no attempt to counter-balance the ambassador’s partiality. The chair-person just kept silent having declared that he had no competence in the subject.

The seminar in the locality of the CNRS was a propaganda meeting for the policy of the Sri Lankan Government from the beginning to the end. The ambassador came up with the usual and expected anti-LTTE attacks: The LTTE did not want to negotiate and therefore a war of total annihilation of the LTTE in the final end in 2009 was justified.

A time consuming consenting exchange of statements took place during the seminar on the question why Tamil speakers supported the LTTE. Dayan Jayatilleke’s favourite comparison with Nazi Germany was retrieved by himself as usual. Tamil speakers’ support of the LTTE was allegedly caused by the LTTE’s terrorist methods against the Tamil civilian population. None in the seminar took up the possibility that the support by civilians of the LTTE was a result of the history of suffering by the Tamil people. Against this background they declared in 1976 that they wanted to found a separate state of Tamililam.

The ambassador’s tirades of hate against the LTTE has taken sickly proportions and is a true obstacle to reconciliation between a large Tamil population in Paris (“La Chapelle”) and his embassy.

According to him the Sinhalas have a justified fear of the 70 millions of Tamils in South India where still the LTTE is supported.

Indian policy was taken up several times by him, but China was only touched.

When it came to the 13th amendment of the Constitution in which he was heavily involved in the late 1980s, he pinpointed the LTTE as cause why it has not been implemented.

He also pointed at a “discussion” that is taking place about this amendment within the Government.

I have heard all his platitudes and clichés many times before during my observation of the island from 1970s onwards. Therefore, I was astonished to hear him say that the 18th amendment was not good.

A critical voice from the public, the only one, had earlier pointed out the undemocratic features of this amendment.

The history of suffering of the Tamils was no theme during the seminar. Nothing was said about the last months of the war, of Mänik farm, of the 300 000 displaced civilians, etc.

It is not possible in the future to say “I did not know” because there is a very good documentation of structural violence against the Tamil people documented in the book Massacres of Tamils (1956-2008) issued in English in 2009 in Chennai and in German under the name of Damit wir nicht vergessen… Massaker an Tamilen 1956-2008, issued by the Draupadi-Verlag in Heidelberg 2012. A French version will be issued very soon. A Tamil version is also available.

Realising that the violence by the Governments of Lanka is structural and genocidal being practised during decades, it is not possible to classify the present violence as an occasional aberration or as being related to some nuts only.

The ambassador’s presentation ended with the following characterisation of the Lankan state’s policy: It strives for “autonomy within a unitary structure”. A social scientist would not have uttered such a sentence. A unitary structure (=centralised structure) excludes autonomy. But the ambassador’s point is to show that he has listened to Tamil demands for autonomy. It was a political-populist statement.

The seminar had no scientific qualifications, but it left a tragic insight that the Government represented by Dayan Jayatilleke has not learned any lesson from the past.

Peter Schalk, professor emeritus,
Uppsala, Sweden

Three years after Tamil asylum seekers land on Canada shores

Filed under: eelamview, genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: , — எல்லாளன் @ 7:17 pm

Special Series: Three years after Tamil asylum seekers land on our shores, Times Colonist investigates Canada’s refugee policy move to the right
It took two migrant ships and 568 Tamil asylum seekers arriving in Victoria to tip Canada’s refugee policy hard to the right. Just hours after the arrival of the second ship, the MV Sun Sea, in August of 2010, public safety minister Vic Toews stood in front of almost two dozen reporters in an auditorium at CFB Esquimalt and said the government “must ensure that our refugee system is not hijacked by criminals or terrorists.”

[ full story |[ Victoria Times Colonist ]


Risking all to escape: One woman’s story[ Victoria Times Colonist ]

Nirangela and her husband knew when they boarded the MV Sun Sea, along with 490 other men, women and children, that they were in for a long and dangerous journey to Canada. The Tamil couple had waited anxiously for seven months in a muggy apartment building in the Silom district in Bangkok, hiding from the authorities to avoid being arrested as illegal immigrants. Finally, they were taken by bus to the port city of Songkhla, where they crowded onto the rusty cargo ship and watched the land disappear behind them, hoping the next solid ground they touched would be in Canada.

[ full story ]


The UN’s ‘grave failure’ in Sri Lanka demands an answer[ Globe and Mail ]

It’s been called Ban Ki-moon’s Rwanda moment: a little-reported war three years ago on a tiny Indian Ocean island where tens of thousands of civilians were slaughtered, waiting for the United Nations to come and rescue them. What happened in Sri Lanka in 2009 has come back to haunt the UN with the leak of an internal inquiry commissioned by the Secretary-General. The independent report concluded that the UN’s own conduct during the final months of Sri Lanka’s civil war marked a “grave failure.” There was damning criticism of senior staff, who “simply did not perceive the prevention of killing of civilians as their responsibility.” [ full story ]

TAMIL EELAM:Right To Self Determination

Filed under: eelamview, freedom struggle, genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: , , — எல்லாளன் @ 7:10 pm


“.. Self determination is not a de stabilising concept. Self determination and democracy go hand in hand. If democracy means the rule of the people, by the people, for the people, then the principle of self determination secures that no one people may rule another – and herein lies its enduring appeal…” Nadesan Satyendra in Why Division, 1998

“Throughout the ages, the Sinhalese and Tamils in the country lived as distinct sovereign people till they were brought under foreign domination. …We have for the last 25 years made every effort to secure our political rights on the basis of equality with the Sinhalese in a united Ceylon. It is a regrettable fact that successive Sinhalese governments have used the power that flows from independence to deny us our fundamental rights and reduce us to the position of a subject people…I wish to announce to my people and to the country that I consider the verdict at this election as a mandate that the Tamil Eelam nation should exercise the sovereignty already vested in the Tamil people and become free.” –  S.J.V.Chelvanayakam Q.C. Leader of Tamil United Front, 1975

“…In all regions of the world conflicts turn violent over the desire for full control by state governments, on the one hand, and claims to self-determination (in a broad sense) by peoples, minorities or other communities, on the other. Where governments recognise and respect the right to self-determination, a people can effectuate it in a peaceful manner. Where governments choose to use force to crush or prevent the movement, or where they attempt to impose assimilationist policies against the wishes of a people, this polarises demands and generally results in armed conflict. The Tamils, for example, were not seeking independence and were not using violence in the 1970s. The government response to further deny the Tamil people equal expression of their distinct identity led to armed confrontation and a war of secession…” Implementation of the Right to Self Determination, as a Contribution to Conflict Prevention , UNESCO International Conference of Experts, Barcelona 1998

This section brings together documents relating to the right of self determination  of the people of Tamil Eelam – including1. The 1973 Statement by S.Kathiravetpillai, M.P. for Kopay from ‘Coexistence not Confrontation’ – A Statement on Eelam,

“Pancha Seela or Coexistence is the only solution to the problem of the two nations in Ceylon. It recognises not merely facts of two thousand five hundred years of Sinhala and Tamil history but also the fundamental right of the Tamil people to self determination; of Tamil Eelam to separate statehood. It unshackles the two nations and sets them free”

2. The historic statement by S.J.V.Chelvanayakam Q.C. M.P., (affectionately known to the Tamil people as Thanthai Chelva) at his election victory in January 1975, when he won a mandate for Tamil Eelam,

3. Text of the Vaddukodai Resolution at the First National Convention of the Tamil United Liberation Front, May 1976,

4. Tamil United Liberation Front – Tamil Eelam Manifesto which was endorsed by the Tamil people at the General Elections in July 1977,

5. Statement of the Political Committee of the Liberation Tigers written by Anton Balasingham, 1983

5. Statement by Nadesan Satyendra at the Thimpu Talks, 1985

“…The Tamil delegation here at Thimpu asserts a proposition founded on common sense and justice – and in the ultimate analysis all sound law is common sense and justice. It is a very uncomplicated business, this question of international law. It is simple. And the simple proposition is this: ‘A people who are subjugated by an alien people have the inherent right to free themselves from such alien subjugation’. And it is this right which is the right of self determination – a right which has today, become a peremptory norm of general international law…”

6. Justice Satchi Ponnambalam, on the Tamil Eelam demand in international law, July 1991

“…(The) perceived solution of self-determination has evolved and taken shape by the compulsions of more than three decades of political struggles of the Tamil people and their political leaders which ended in the ignominious failure to arrive at any just solution by the process of negotiation between the two parties. There lay in ruins the scrap-heap of broken pacts and dishonoured agreements as to proposals for Regional Councils, District Councils, Provincial Councils, Provincial/Regional Councils, District/Provincial Councils – all tentative concepts and toothless bodies with no genuine devolved powers of decentralization…”

7. Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran on the Tamil Eelam demand in international law, 1991

“…a social group characterized by distinct objective elements such as a common language and a common struggle, acquire subjective elements such as a sense of solidarity, of sameness or oneness and has a relationship to a defined territory,” such a group clearly constitutes a “people” and-is entitled to self-determination… the Tamils of Sri Lanka, who are united on the basis of such objective factors as a distinct language etc., and by such subjective factors as a passionate yearning for freedom, and who have a long-established relationship to the Northern and Eastern provinces constitute a people, and are therefore entitled to self-determination in the form of secession, in the face of denial of effective representation in Sri Lanka’s existing constitutional and political situation….”

8. Statement by the Political Committee of the Liberation Tigers,  in March 1991

9. Written Statement by International Educational Development submitted to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in April  1998,

10. Report by Professor  A. J. V. Chandrakanthan on the Conference on “Articulating a Vision for the Tamil Nation” held at  Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford in April 1998,

11. Nadesan Satyendra on  Why Division, in 1998

“It is sometimes said that to accord international recognition to these separate national formations will lead to instability in the world order. The argument is not dissimilar to that which was urged a hundred years ago against granting universal franchise. It was said that to empower every citizen with a vote was to threaten the stability of existing state structures and the ruling establishment. But the truth was that it was the refusal to grant universal franchise which threatened stability … Self determination is not a de stabilising concept. Self determination and democracy go hand in hand. If democracy means the rule of the people, by the people, for the people, then the principle of self determination secures that no one people may rule another – and herein lies its enduring appeal.” 

11. External Self Determination, Internal De-Colonisation by Dr.S.Sathananthan in 1999,

12. Eelam & the Right to Secession by Professor M.Sornarajah, June 2000

13. Statements at the United Nations Commission of Human Rights recognising the right of the people of Tamil Eelam to self determination,

and other related documents.

At the United Nations

During the past several years, the Tamils’ right to self determination has received recognition by more than 65 non governmental organisations at sessions of the UN Commission on Human Rights (and its Sub Commission) in Geneva. These NGO Statements included the following:International Educational Development, August 1990Liberation, 1991International Educational Development, 1992 Joint Statement by 15 NGOs, 1993 Joint Statement by 17 NGOs, February 1994International Educational Development, 1998Humanitarian Law Project, 1998Joint Written Statement by 54 NGOs, 1998International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, 1999Liberation, 1999International Educational Development, 1999 International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, 2001 International Educational Development, 2001

International Educational Development, 2006

“Legal scholars and non-governmental organizations have been very vocal in their support for the right of the Tamil people to self-determination. In this regard, there have been hundreds of conferences, symposia, oral and written statements at the Commission as well as in many countries. IED has participated in perhaps 30 such sessions, joined by many NGO, political figures, and other legal experts.

Even the few experts unwilling to reach to the pre-colonial period to support self-determination due to “passage of time” and other practical and tactical concerns, urge that the failure, since 1949, of the Sinhala-dominated governments to afford the Tamil people basic rights in spite of negotiations with various Tamil leaders, ripens the right to self-determination as the only practical remedy for repression. The right may even ripen if, given the relative numbers of majority versus minority groups, the minority cannot effectively ever win in issues of importance to them. This, then, becomes a violation of governance rights. In Sri Lanka, in addition to the clear oppression of the Tamil minority, the Tamil people and their leadership are unable to effectively address anything of importance to the Tamil people: fishing rights, environmental concerns, or even post-Tsunami relief efforts.”

Non Government Organisations who have recognised the Tamils’ Right to Self Determination in Statements made at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights

1.Action des Christians Pour L’Abolition de la Torture
2. African Commission of Health and Human Rights Promotion
3. Agence des Cites Unies pour la
4. American Association of Jurists
5. Arab Lawyers Union
6. Arab Organisation for Human Rights
7. Asian Women`s Human Rights Council
8. Association for World Education
9.Association paur la Liberte Religiose
10. Association de Defense de Droits de l`Homme
11. Canadian Council of Churches
12. Centre Europe Ties Monde
13. Change
15. Comision de Deeches Homonas de El Salavador
16. Commission for the Defense of Human Rights in Latin America
17.Consejo Indico de Sud America
18. Federation Internationale des Journalistes Libres
19. Fedefam
20. Felix Varelar Centre
22. Franciscans International
23. General Arab Women Foundation
24. Human Rights Internet
25. International Association Against Torture
26. International Association of Democratic Lawyers
27.International Association of Educators for World Peace
28. International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development
29. International Commission of Jurists
30.International Council of Women
31. International Education Development
32. International Federation of Human Rights Leagues
33. International Federation of Journalists
34. International Human Rights
35.Association of American Minorities
36. International Human Rights Law Group
37. International Indian Treaty Council
38. International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples
39. International League for Human Rights
40.International Movement for Fraternal Union among Races and Peoples.
41.International Movement against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism
42. International Organisation of Indigenous Resource – Development Category
43. International Organisation for the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination
44. International Peace Bureau
45. International Right to Life
46. International Work Group For Indigenous Affairs
47. Liberation
48. Movement contre le Racisme et pour Amitie des Peuples
49. Movimento Cubano per la Paz
50. New Humanity
51. North-South XXI
52. Parliamentarians for Global Action
53.Pax Christie International,
54. Pax Romana
56. Society For Threatened People
57. The Saami Council
58.World Alliance of Reformed Churches
59. World Christian Community,
60. World Confederation of Labour
61.World Council of Churches
62. World Federation of Democratic Youth
63. World Federation of Trade Unions
64. World Movement of Mothers
65. World Muslim Congress
66. World Organisation Against Torture
67. World Society of Victimology
68. Worldview International Foundation



Last updated

Address by  Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam to the Ceylon Tamil League –  1922
Resolution of  Ceylon Communist Party – October 1944
Kathiravelupillai’s Eelam Statement, 1973
Tamil United Front Memorandum, September 1974
S.J.V.Chelvanayakam Q.C., Statement – February 1975
Vaddukodai Resolution – May 1976
Letter to Sri Lanka Prime Minister  from  Tamil United Liberation Front, May 1976
Tamil United Liberation Front Election Manifesto – July 1977
Tamils’ right to self determination and secession – Anton S. Balasingham, 1983
Self Determination is not a dirty word – Sathasivam Krishnakumar, 1993
A Struggle for Justice – Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, March 1997 
Election Manifesto of Tamil National Alliance, December 2001
Election Manifesto of Tamil National Alliance, October 2004
Kathiravelupillai’s Eelam Statement Revisited on the 57th Anniversary of Sri Lankan Independence, 4 February 2005

Nadesan Satyendra

We, too, are a people at Thimpu Talks, August 1985 
Thanmaanam, 1988
Boundaries of Tamil Eelam, 1993
Select Committee Farce, 1993
‘Multi Ethnic Plural Society’ – 1993
Needles, Haystacks & the Sinhala Left, 1997
LTTE & Fanaticism
Why Division?, 1998
A Simple Question, 1998
The Charge is Genocide… the Struggle is for Freedom, 1998

Other Articles

Books and Articles on Tamil ‘separatism’ at Questia
Sinhala Buddhist Oppression of the Tamil People – S. C. Chandrahasan, 1979
The Material Basis for Separatism: The Tamil Eelam Movement in Sri Lanka – Amita Shastri, 1990
Tamil Eelam right to self-determination – Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran, 1991
Tamils’ right to self-determination – Justice Satchi Ponnamblam, 1991
Struggle for Fundamental Social Change – Dr.Ramani Chelliah, May 1991
Human Rights, Humanitarian Law and the Tamil National Struggle: Evolving the Law of Self Determination, Karen Parker, J.D, 1991
Anti-Federalism: An Exercise in Political Bankruptcy – S Sathananthan, 1992
Tamil Eelam: Reversion of Sovereignty – IFT Working Group 1992
Right to Self Determination – Tamil Information Centre Briefing to UN Commission on Human Rights, 1994
Human Rights & the Tamils Right to Self Determination – Justice Marcus Einfield, 1996
The Tamils’ Right to Self Determination – Visvanathan Rudrakumaran, 1996
SEP and the fight for the
Socialist United States of Sri Lanka and Eelam,
December 1998
Tamil Eelam: The Legitimacy of a New State –   A. J. V. Chandrakanthan, April 1998
Ilankai Tamils Self Determination – Vikramabahu Karunaratne, 21 May 1999
External Self Determination, Internal De-Colonisation – Dr.S.Sathananthan, 1999
Eelam & the Right to Secession – Professor M.Sornarajah, June 2000
Tamil Eelam – a Nation State in the Making – Professor P.Ramasamy, July 2000
Concept of power sharing and legitimacy of the state – V.T.Tamilmaran, October 2002
The Tamil Secessionist Movement in Sri Lanka (Ceylon): A  Case of Secession by Default? – M.R.R.Hoole
Self Determination and Conflict Regulation  in Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland and beyond  – Brendan O’Duffy, May 2003 “Those who assume the LTTE’s concession on negotiating within the framework of a united Sri Lanka are…. pretending that the self-determination genie remains in the doctrinal box of a statist world…”
Tamil Struggle: The Need for self-determination – G.Amirthalingam, 2006
The right to self-determination of the Tamils in Sri Lanka – Victor Rajakulendran, June 2006
Tamil Eelam demand in International Law – Tamil Writers Guild, 4 January 2007

November 15, 2012

UN consistent in ‘leaking’ on Sri Lanka

Filed under: eelamview, genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: , — எல்லாளன் @ 7:00 pm

An internal review panel report on the UN ‘s conduct in the final months of the Vanni War has found the UN guilty of “systematic failure” in Sri Lanka, according to the report leaked to the BBC on Tuesday. The practice of ‘leaking’ information and reports on Sri Lanka is consistent with the UN ever since the times of the Vanni War, and this only shows how the UN is still not straight forward in remedying the genocide of Eezham Tamils it abetted in the island, commented a new generation Tamil politician. He cited the leaked documents of the UN on the casualties in Vanni War in March 2009 and the UNSG panel report that was leaked to media before being made public in April 2011. BBC cited sources that the executive summary of stark conclusions in the current draft report will be removed in the final report.

The investigation panel was headed by former senior UN official Charles Petrie.

Senior UN staff in Sir Lanka “had insufficient political expertise and experience in armed conflicts and human rights… to deal with the challenge that Sri Lanka presented,” the leaked report said, adding that the staff were not given “sufficient policy and political support”.

“Many senior UN senior staff did not perceive the prevention of killing of civilians as their responsibility – and agency and department heads at UNHQ were not instructing them otherwise,” the report was cited by the BBC.

The UN staff posted in the island were not children unable to perceive the historically existing genocidal intent of the Sri Lankan State and the national question in the island. The issue squarely falls on the international politics that twisted the question and continues to twist the question, the Tamil politician in the island responded.

A major fault found by the report on the UN was that it delebrately down-sized the magnitude of the casualties during the war.

Tracing reasons, the portions of the leaked report cited by the BBC harp around Sri Lankan government’s “strategem of intimidation” including “control of visas to sanction staff critical of the state.”

The UN staff developed “a culture of trade-offs”– UN staff chose not to speak out against the government in an effort to try to improve humanitarian access, the report reasons out.

Gordon Weiss, the UN spokesperson in Colombo during the war subscribed to the view in speaking to the BBC that “It was an institutional decision not to use those [casualty lists] on the basis that those could not be verified and of course they couldn’t be verified because the government of Sri Lanka wasn’t letting us get anywhere near the war zone.”

Gordon Weiss himself did it in January 2009. Speaking to AFP, he put the number of civilian casualties inside the ‘Safety Zone’ at ten and said “we don’t know where the firing came from,” when TamilNet, based on accounts of eyewitnesses and doctors, reported 300 dead and a thousand injured. Weiss helped Colombo’s military spokesperson to dismiss TamilNet report as “cheap propaganda,” and the AFP to highlight that on 26 Jan 2009.

The then US ambassador in Colombo and the current Asst. Secretary of State Robert Blake did it in his cables. In a Wikileaks cable of April 2009 Blake said, “The pro-LTTE TamilNet website reported 57 civilians killed and 300 wounded in April 16 fighting. The website also reported 600 of the 1,500 shells fired by the SLA hit the GSL-designated safe zone on April 16,” adding within bracket that “Such reports from TamilNet cannot be confirmed and are frequently exaggerated.”

It was not merely an institutional decision of the UN as claimed by Weiss and found fault by the current report. It was a pre-meditated political decision hatched elsewhere, the Tamil politician in the island responded on Tuesday.

Writing in May 2009, the French daily Le Monde revealed that the UN chief of staff Vijay Nambiar had told the UN representatives in Sri Lanka that the UN should “keep a low profile” and play a “sustaining role” that was “compatible with the government.”

The then foreign minister and current President of India, Mr. Pranab Mukerjee set an example by down playing the number of civilians in the killing field, the Tamil politician cited.

Finding fault with the UN staff, accusing the intimidation strategy of Colombo and reasoning out the collaborative strategy played by the UN to stay in the island help only to shield the ultimate political, ideological and moral fall out of the powers that were in complicity in the war, the Tamil politician said.

The BBC cited Benjamin Dix who was part of the UN team that pulled out from Vanni during the war: “I believe we should have gone further north, not evacuate south, and basically abandon the civilian population with no protection or witness.”

He was frank about his thoughts: “As a humanitarian worker, questions were running through my mind ‘what is this all about? Isn’t this what we signed up to do?”

But the UN decision to pull out was again another political decision orchestrated by the abetters of Colombo, aiming at a psyop war against the Eezham Tamil civilians to demoralise them in their cause and to lure them away from the trust they had in their fighters before the actual kill, the Tamil politician in the island argued.

The BBC reporting gave prominence to the defence of former UN humanitarian chief John Holmes against the findings of the leaked internal investigation report.

“But the idea that if we behaved differently, the Sri Lankan government would have behaved differently I think is not one that is easy to reconcile with the reality at the time,” Holmes was cited by the BBC.

Avoiding provocation of the Sinhalese is exactly the line of argument ICG’s Alan Keenan came out with last month for his ‘contextual’ negation of the sovereignty claim of Eezham Tamils. “It is a recipe for further violence and further conflagration that will just add up more dead bodies to the already enormous pile of dead bodies that Sri Lanka, particularly Tamils have suffered the last 30-40 years,” he argued.

This is also the argument many Western diplomats in the embassies and foreign offices try to sell to Eezham Tamil politicians and activists nowadays, in detracting them from asserting to the reality, i.e., the genocide of the past, the on-going genocide and the urgent need of the Eezham Tamils to protect their nation from annihilation by claiming independence.

They are not worried about the provocation they caused to Eezham Tamils and global Tamils by the genocidal war and by the continued structural genocide, but they are worried about provoking the genocidal State, the Tamil politician in the island said, asking how to expect any meaningful justice to come from them.

Unless the powers monopolising the UN are persuaded to take an international political decision on accepting the truth of genocide in the island and on accepting the irrefutable need for Eezham Tamil independence, the fault finding exercises targeting hollow institutions and their officials could bring in only little effect or no effect at all, the Tamil politician in the island further commented.

The internal investigation report was perhaps ‘leaked’ to the BBC so that a calculated first impression would be created on the report, or perhaps there was a fear that certain conclusions of the report could be censured in the final release, commented a political observer in Colombo.

The very picture highlighted by the BBC in its news title that the “UN failed Sri Lanka civilians” is not doing justice to the affected nation of people. It is subtle mischief to generalize as ‘Sri Lanka civilians’ when the concerned people covered by the report were exclusively Eezham Tamils, and it only infers the political agenda of the elements behind the BBC, the political observer in Colombo noted.

BBC’s Chief International Correspondent cited UN sources saying that Ban Ki-moon is determined to act on its wide-ranging recommendations in order to “learn lessons” and respond more effectively to major new crises, such as Syria, now confronting the international community. But to what extent the report would help to practically arrest the on-going genocide facilitated by the UN’s failure in the island, is the concern of the affected nation of Eezham Tamils, the political observer commented further.


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External Links:

AFP: Internal probe says UN failed Sri Lanka: report
BBC: UN ‘failed Sri Lanka civilians’, says internal probe
The Independent: UN ‘failed to protect’ hundreds of thousands of civilians caught up in Sri Lankan civil war

UN: Act on Failings in Sri Lanka

Filed under: eelamview, genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: , — எல்லாளன் @ 6:58 pm

Appoint Independent Inquiry Into Violations by Government and Tamil Tigers

More Coverage:

The UN internal review identifies the tragic mistakes that led the UN to fail in its most basic obligations to civilians in Sri Lanka. It is a call to action and reform for the entire UN system. While Ban deserves credit for starting a process he knew could tarnish his office, he will now be judged on his willingness to implement the report’s recommendations and push for justice for Sri Lanka’s victims.

Philippe Bolopion, UN director

(New York) – The United Nations secretary-general’s internal review on UN action in Sri Lanka should lead to specific and concrete measures to ensure the UN takes all needed measures to prevent mass atrocities in future conflicts, Human Rights Watch said today. The “Internal Review Panel on United Nations Action in Sri Lanka,” commissioned by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and published on November 14, 2012, was a major recommendation of the 2011 UN Panel of Experts report on Sri Lanka’s armed conflict. The conflict was characterized by deadly abuses against civilians by both sides, Human Rights Watch said.

The internal review found serious failings in the conduct of UN officials and institutions during the final months of fighting in 2008 and 2009 between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). It concludes that “there was a continued reluctance among UN country team institutions to stand up for the rights of the people they were mandated to assist” and that in Sri Lanka “some senior staff did not perceive the prevention of killing of civilians as their responsibility – and agency and department heads at UN headquarters were not instructing them otherwise.”

“The UN internal review identifies the tragic mistakes that led the UN to fail in its most basic obligations to civilians in Sri Lanka,” said Philippe Bolopion, UN director at Human Rights Watch. “It is a call to action and reform for the entire UN system. While Ban deserves credit for starting a process he knew could tarnish his office, he will now be judged on his willingness to implement the report’s recommendations and push for justice for Sri Lanka’s victims.”

The internal review, written by former UN official Charles Petrie, also found fault with the UN Security Council, Human Rights Watch said. The “absence of clear Security Council backing,” and its failure to even meet until it was too late, also explained why “the UN’s actions lacked adequate purpose and direction,” the internal review says. The review also emphasized, however, that “the primary responsibility for killings and other violations against the estimated 360,000 or more civilians trapped during the final stages of the conflict in the Wanni lies with the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE.”

The internal review paints a grim picture of UN actions in Sri Lanka. In early 2009 the senior UN official in Sri Lanka, Neil Buhne, “excluded his Human Rights Adviser from key meetings and from providing inputs on correspondence with the Government and UNHQ on human rights violations.” While some UN staff “showed commitment far beyond the call of duty,” in general there was a “failure to adequately confront the Government on its obstructions to humanitarian assistance” and the “unwillingness of the UN in headquarters and Colombo to address Government responsibility for attacks that were killing civilians,” despite considerable evidence.

While the internal review noted the dilemmas facing an organization that was trying to avoid being expelled from a country when its services were badly needed, it decried an “institutional culture of trade-offs,” concluding the UN had “the capabilities to simultaneously strive for humanitarian access while also robustly condemning the perpetrators of killings of civilians.”

The internal review criticized the UN for failing to learn from past tragedies such as the genocide in Rwanda. It found that many lessons from the December 1999 independent inquiry into the UN’s actions in Rwanda were forgotten in Sri Lanka, including the need for “political will” from the Security Council, a “leadership role of the Secretary-General,” “human rights competence of staff on the ground,” and the “importance of bringing human rights information to bear” at UN headquarters deliberations. The internal review also found that the UN leadership made the mistake of telling members states what they wanted to hear, rather than what they “needed to know if they were to respond.”

“The UN’s dereliction of duty in Sri Lanka is a stark reminder of what happens when human rights concerns are marginalized or labeled as too political,” Bolopion said. “The UN’s failure to learn from Rwanda shows that a mere report won’t solve these deep-seated problems unless there is the necessary political will and commitment to implement the report’s recommendations.”

The internal review described problems of UN institutions and agencies in Sri Lanka that should be addressed in other countries where civilians are at risk, Human Rights Watch said. The UN country team in Sri Lanka was described by many UN staff on the ground as “very passive” and “weak.” Some UN agencies were perceived as “quick to compromise on principles in the interests of increasing the profile of their agencies and gaining access to funding.”

Human Rights Watch said that the internal review should have requested further investigation of the responsibility of specific UN officials for the UN’s failure to protect civilians in Sri Lanka. However, it describes in its annexes troubling efforts by the then-chef de cabinet, Vijay Nambiar; the under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, Sir John Holmes; and the UN resident coordinator in Colombo, Neil Buhne, to downplay alarming casualty numbers that were collected by UN staff members with a “rigorous methodology” and “of a standard comparable to best-practice on information collection in other conflict situations.”

“The UN cannot just say that the system failed without explaining who was responsible for that system and taking appropriate disciplinary action,” Bolopion said. “Accountability starts at home.”

The internal review strengthens the call of the UN Panel of Experts for the secretary-general to create an independent, international mechanism to investigate violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed by both sides to the conflict and recommend measures to hold those responsible accountable. The internal review noted that the UN Office of Legal Affairs advised Ban that he has the authority under article 99 of the UN Charter to establish such an inquiry. Instead, Ban sent the panel’s report to the UN Human Rights Council and said he would welcome a mandate by an “appropriate intergovernmental forum” to establish such an inquiry.

The UN Human Rights Council called on Sri Lanka in March 2012 to “initiate credible and independent actions to ensure justice, equity, accountability and reconciliation for all Sri Lankans,” but has not acted on the panel’s recommendation to set up an international inquiry.

In light of the system-wide failures of the UN to take all possible measures to protect the lives and rights of thousands of victims of Sri Lanka’s armed conflict, Human Rights Watch renewed its call for Secretary-General Ban to create an independent, international investigation. Should he fail to do so, the Human Rights Council should establish such a mechanism when it considers a report by the UN high commissioner for human rights on Sri Lanka at its March 2013 session.

“The UN’s attempt to appease the Sri Lankan government while it was committing mass atrocities against its own population proved to be a deadly mistake,” Bolopion said. “The UN system can’t rewrite history and respond as it should have, but it at least owes Sri Lankan victims meaningful efforts to achieve justice.”

November 14, 2012

UN must learn lessons of Sri Lanka tragedy

Filed under: eelamview, genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: , — எல்லாளன் @ 8:44 pm

The disturbing United Nations report on how it handled the final stages of Sri Lanka’s civil war, goes to the heart of what the UN is for, writes Callum Macrae, director of Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields.

UN must learn lessons of Sri Lanka tragedy.

The lessons learned from the report will be fundamental if the UN is to make sure it does not make these mistakes again.

At the heart of the matter lies the central notion of the “the responsibility to protect”. That is, in effect, why the United Nations exists. It was set up to make sure these kinds of massacres never happen again – and it has failed.

To understand why, we have to look at what happened in Sri Lanka at the end of the war in 2008-9.

As the Sri Lankan government prepared for its final bloody offensive against the Tamil Tiger rebels, it took every step it could to ensure there would be no witnesses to what was to come. It kicked out international journalists from the war zone, it effectively gagged local journalists: in the past few years literally dozens of Sri Lankan journalists critical of the government, both Singala and Tamil, have disappeared, been exiled or died.

But the next, critical step was to kick the UN and other international workers out of the war zone by saying they could no longer guarantee their safety. Many of the UN workers on the ground in the north were horrified by the order to pull out. They believed – correctly, as it turned out – that without them there, the government would have a licence to massacre with impunity.

We know now that many UN staff were carefully compiling the evidence of the slaughter – but the UN’s high command failed to make that information public.

Many of them were willing to risk their lives and stay – if necessary to travel with the internal refugees – to ensure that international eyes were still on the ground and to restrict the Sri Lankan government’s apparently murderous intent. They were not allowed to.

Having withdrawn from the war zone, the UN effectively retreated to the safety of Colombo where they watched and, indeed, carefully recorded the scale of the ongoing slaughter. We know now that many UN staff were carefully compiling the evidence of the slaughter – but the UN’s high command failed to make that information public.

Watch on 4OD: Sri Lanka's Killing Fields

The argument was that if they shouted and screamed about the scale of the slaughter, they would be kicked out completely from the country in which they were guests, and that instead they should restrict themselves to quiet diplomacy.

But many – including many within the UN – argue that if it had gone on the offensive, publicly and loudly about the scale of the massacre it knew was going on, it might have brought greater pressure from the rest of the world on Sri Lanka to stop the war crimes.

And even if the only effect had been to draw the attention of the world to the crimes at the cost of being kicked out, that would have been a far better result, and the UN’s fundamental purpose and duty would seem far less tarnished.

The effect of this was not just neutral. By remaining there and turning a blind eye, except in private, the UN risked becoming part of the veil of secrecy behind which these crimes were committed. However inadvertently it helped provide a respectable cover for the government and its policy.

So what lessons should the UN draw? It comes back, as always, to the UN’s fundamental duty to protect. In this case the UN’s desire to stay in the country – and to stay within the boundaries of behaviour acceptable to the government of that country – was allowed to supersede its duty to protect the civilians of that country.

Perhaps that should be the real lesson of this tragedy: that the UN must accept its duty to protect civilians, and the innocent on the ground must always come above its duty not to fall out with individual governments.

Click to download full UN report - Internal Review Panel on United Nations action in Sri Lanka

That is a difficult lesson to learn and, yes, a risky one to implement. But if it is not learnt, then these tragedies will happen again – and the world may begin to question its purpose.

In the meantime – say the critics – there is work to be done. The dead – perhaps as many as 40,000, perhaps many more – cannot be brought back now. But the UN can at least make sure that it pursues, with uncharacteristic vigour, the search for some kind if international mechanism to investigate responsibility for what happened and ensure justice is brought to both the victims and perpetrators of these crimes.

Callum Macrae is a writer and director, and was director of the award-winning Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields. He is currently working on a feature documentary about the events in the Sri Lankan civil war. Follow @Callum_Macrae Twitter.


UN guilty of ‘systematic failure’ in Sri Lanka

An internal United Nations report accuses the organisation of a “systematic failure” in the last months of Sri Lanka’s civil war.

Sri Lankan displaced civilians (Reuters)

The BBC reported today that it has seen a leaked draft of an internal report into the UN’s handling of the final months of the bloody Sri Lankan war, which ended in May 2009.

The report says the UN’s actions in that period amounted to a “systematic failure” and criticised a “sustained and institutionalised reluctance” among UN personnel in the country to stand up for the rights of Sri Lankans.

The war, between government forces and Tamil rebels, lasted 27 years and claimed the lives of 40,000 civilians as well as displacing 290,000 (see picture, left).

Politcal pressure

An internal review panel has been investigating the UN’s conduct in the final months of the war. The report found that, in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, “many senior UN senior staff did not perceive the prevention of killing of civilians as their responsibility – and agency and department heads at UNHQ were not instructing them otherwise”.

Watch Sri Lanka's Killing Fields (aired in 2011)

UN staff also buckled under pressure from the Sri Lankan government, the BBC reports. Under intense pressure from the Sri Lankan government, it adds, the UN did not publicise that a “large majority” of civilian deaths were caused by shelling from government troops.


The report says senior UN staff in Sir Lanka “had insufficient politcal expertise and experience in armed conflicts and human rights… to deal with the challenge that Sri Lanka presented.” It adds that staff were not given “sufficient policy and political support”.

To cope with pressure from the government, UN staff developed “a culture of trade-offs”, the draft says, in which staff did not publicly criticise the government in order to improve humanitarian access.

However, the report also says that the UN should “be able to meet a much higher standard in fulfilling its protection and humanitarian responsibilities” in the future.

The final report will be presented to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon before it is published.

Channel 4 News,

UN Report on Sri Lanka Has Portions Blacked Out, No Nambiar, More Spin?

Filed under: eelamview, genocide srilanka, tamil eelam, war crime videos — Tags: , , — எல்லாளன் @ 8:13 pm

No mention of Nambiar in UN report: ICP

“It is not at all clear that this long delayed Petrie report represents any more serious approach by Ban’s UN on the ongoing issues in Sri Lanka,” opined Inner City Press (ICP) on Wednesday after the UN released the Petrie report in which portions were blacked-out or redacted. The ICP said it did a fast word search and found that while the name of John Holmes – who defended his and the UN’s actions on Tuesday – appeared in the report, UN envoy Vijay Nambiar did not.

When the ICP questioned the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman Martin Nesirky, he did not explain the redactions, a news report by the ICP said.

There was no answer from the UN spokesman to the question by ICP whether Mr Nambiar would be part of Ban’s new senior advisory team.

“After being excluded from a UN memorial service Wednesday morning after the Petrie photo op, Inner City Press spotted Nambiar leaving that closed session,” the ICP report further observed.




“several USG participants and the RC did not stand by the casualty numbers, saying that the data were ‘not verified’. Participants in the meeting questioned an OHCHR proposal to release a public statement referencing the numbers and possible crimes.” says  UN  internal report into failures in Sri Lanka.

UN today released their internal report into failures in Sri Lanka.

Following are excerpts from the UN report;

Page 11

several USG participants and the RC did not stand by the casualty numbers, saying that the data were ‘not verified’. Participants in the meeting questioned an OHCHR proposal to release a public statement referencing the numbers and possible crimes.

Page 15

Several participants noted the limited support from Member States at the Human Rights Council and suggested the UN advocate instead for a domestic mechanism, although it was recognized that past domestic mechanisms in Sri Lanka had not led to genuine accountability. One participant said that “[i]t was important to maintain pressure on the Government with respect to recovery, reconciliation and returns and not to undermine this focus through unwavering calls for accountability …”

pages 66 and 67

The Policy Committee met two days later, on 12 March, to discuss Sri Lanka. Participants noted variously that “this crisis was being somewhat overlooked by the international community”, the policy “of coordinating a series of high level visits seemed to have produced some positive results”, and that the possible involvement of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide (SAPG) would not indicate a suspicion of genocide but may add to overcrowding of UN actors involved. Participants acknowledged the apparent need for a Special Envoy but noted this “did not seem politically feasible”. It was suggested that “the Secretary General’s [public] statements may have appeared a bit soft compared with recent statements on other conflict areas [and it] was suggested [he] cite the estimated number of casualty figures ….”. OHCHR said it would be issuing a “strong” statement which would include indicative casualty figures and raise the issue of possible crimes under international law by both sides.

Several participants questioned whether it was the right time for such a statement, asked to see  the draft before release and suggested it be reviewed by OLA. There was a discussion on “balancing” the High Commissioner’s mandate with other UN action in situations requiring the UN to play several different roles. The meeting led to the adoption by the Secretary-General, through the Policy Committee, of several decisions, including: continued engagement on “the immediate humanitarian, human rights and political aspects of the situation”; “system-wide advocacy” to press the LTTE to allow safe passage for civilians and UN staff; pressing the Government on protection and assistance to IDPs; inter-ethnic accommodation and
reconciliation; political advice to Sri Lanka; child protection; transitional justice; demining; reconstruction; disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation; political solutions to the underlying causes of the conflict; and renewed efforts to establish an OHCHR field office.

By Colombo Telegraph –


External Links:Inner City Press

UN Report on Sri Lanka Has Portions Blacked Out, No Nambiar, More Spin?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 14 — The UN said it would make the Petrie report into its actions and inactions in Sri Lanka public.

But when it put the report online at noon on Wednesday, portions had been blacked-out or redacted. Click here to view, for example Paragraphs 83 and 84 in the Narrative in Annex III.

Inner City Press did a fast word search and found that while “John Holmes” — who defends his and the UN’s actions on Tuesday — appeared in the report, UN envoy Vijay Nambiar did not.

Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman Martin Nesirky who made the decision to black out portions of the report and whether Nambiar, who played a role in the White Flag Killings of surrendering Tamil Tiger leaders, would be part of Ban’s new senior advisory team.

Nesirky did not explain the redactions, repeating twice that some yet-unnamed senior UN officials will brief the press tomorrow. He did not answer on Mr. Nambiar.

Inner City Press reported and exclusively pursued that Ban accepted as a Senior Adviser on Peacekeeping Operations one of the Generals most associated with the killings in Sri Lanka in 2009, Shavendra Silva. If he accepted Silva, how not Nambiar?

Silva appeared with Kohona at a film screening in the UN’s Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium, fallout written up by the SLC, here.

After being excluded from a UN memorial service Wednesday morning after the Petrie photo op, Inner City Press spotted Nambiar leaving that closed session. So he was at the UN.

In what remained of Wednesday’s noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Nesirky if Ban has any comment on the impeachment of Sri Lanka’s chief justice by the Rajapaksa government. He does not, apparently.

Analysis: it is not at all clear that this long delayed Petrie report represents any more serious approach by Ban’s UN on the ongoing issues in Sri Lanka. Some call it a belated attempt at cover up, or covering something. But we will see, continuing to cover it.

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