( press release)
The Global Tamil Forum (GTF) welcomes the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report that strongly indicated war crimes and crimes against humanity were most likely committed by both sides to the conflict and recommended the establishment of an internationalised Special Court for criminal prosecution.
The violations revealed in the report, characterised by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid, as “among the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole”, makes a harrowing reading, presenting evidence of horrific level of abuses suffered by the Tamil civilians at the hands of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces, including indiscriminate shelling, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, denial of humanitarian assistance, ill treatment of IDPs, torture and sexual violence.
GTF is in full agreement with the report, which stated, “A purely domestic court procedure will have no chance of overcoming widespread and justifiable suspicions fueled by decades of violations, malpractice and broken promises,“ and supports the establishment of a “hybrid” Special Court, integrating international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators.
Member states must ensure that the forthcoming resolution at the UNHRC clearly articulates the need to include substantial participation of international personnel at each stage of the investigation and trial process.
We are grateful to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (both past and present), his staff and all who contributed for the important work that went into producing this report. Undoubtedly, this whole exercise, the three UNHRC resolutions passed between 2012 and 2014 and the OHCHR investigation and report, restores confidence in the UN system as a whole to all communities and particularly to the Tamil community.
It is important that we acknowledge and pay tribute to the survivors who bravely came forward to share their stories and relive their horrific experiences, despite the fear and uncertainty they face, without which this report would not have been a reality.
GTF calls the member states of the UNHRC to adopt a resolution that captures all the recommendations of the OHCHR report, including establishing a Special Court, and call upon the Government of Sri Lanka to fully cooperate. As stated by Prince Zeid, “this Council (UNHRC) owes it to Sri Lankans – and to its own credibility – to ensure an accountability process that produces results, decisively moves beyond the failures of the past, and brings the deep institutional changes needed to guarantee non-recurrence.”
On our part, GTF acknowledges the violations and abuses suffered by all communities and heeds to Prince Zeid’s call and view the report as “an opportunity to change discourse from one of absolute denial to one of acknowledgment and constructive engagement to bring about change.”