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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Sri Lanka: Express solidarity for the stand taken by South Africa on Gaza Genocide, CSOs call on the Govt

We, the undersigned civil society organisations, networks and collectives support the application filed by South Africa, as a State party to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, instituting proceedings against Israel before the International Court of Justice. The application includes provisional measures to require the State of Israel to “immediately suspend its military operations in and against Gaza.”

In the detailed 84-page submission to the court, South Africa requests the court to rule that “The Republic of South Africa and the State of Israel shall each, in accordance with their obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, in relation to the Palestinian people, take all reasonable measures within their power to prevent genocide.” The first hearings on South Africa’s submission will take place on the 11th and 12th of January 2024 before the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

The situation in Gaza has shocked the conscience of the world. Israel’s refusal to recognise the international calls for a ceasefire to address the humanitarian concerns leaves the people of Gaza in an extremely vulnerable state is chilling.

Several governments and inter-governmental institutions such as the United States of America and The European Union have failed, refusing to uphold the human rights of the people of Gaza and the Palestinians in general. It is unfortunate that some Western governments, which are very vocal about human rights violations elsewhere, have been silent on the question of human rights violations in Gaza.

South Africa – a member of the Global South — has shown courage in bringing this issue to the International Court of Justice, as did Gambia in bringing the desperate plight of the Rohingya people of Myanmar to the court. Sri Lanka is also part of the Global South, and our government’s support at the UN General Assembly, alongside 152 other states, for an “immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce” in Gaza is deserving of appreciation.

However, despite this context, Sri Lanka has hastily moved to send 10,000 workers to Israel. It is most likely that these people, going as farm workers and construction workers, will be sent to work in buffer zones where there is conflict. Thus, the government is not only exploiting the desperation of economically vulnerable people with the promise of high wages but is sending them to high-risk areas where they are unlikely to be protected by our government which does not have a good record in protecting migrant workers.  Many migrant workers were left abandoned by our government during COVID and previous conflicts (i.e., during the Iraq invasion of Kuwait – 1990, the US invasion of Iraq – 2014 and those trapped in Lebanon during the wars and economic collapse).

Even more alarming is the government’s decision to send a ship to support the US-led military efforts to protect shipping in the Red Sea. This plunges Sri Lanka into a larger geopolitical armed conflict that we have little capacity to manage.

Sri Lanka has been traditionally non-aligned. We have strong trading ties with the Middle East and all this will be jeopardised by this ill-conceived decision. Furthermore, it will cost Sri Lanka five hundred million rupees a month while we are in the midst of an economic crisis with people facing high levels of malnutrition and a collapsing health sector.

In this deeply disturbing context, we wish to support the active engagement of the Government of South Africa in seeking to halt the extreme crisis in Gaza. Sri Lanka should be associating itself with South Africa’s efforts to prevent genocide by emphasizing the international application of universal human rights and international humanitarian law.

We call on our government to:

    1. Adopt a principled approach to the crisis in Gaza, based on universal human rights and international humanitarian law;
    2. Immediately re-consider its decision to engage in the armed conflict in the Red Sea;
    3. Reconsider sending vulnerable migrant workers into this volatile conflict where they are being placed at serious risk;
    4. On behalf of the people of Sri Lanka, express solidarity for the principled stand taken by South Africa before the International Court of Justice and support South Africa’s submission to the court, that the international community must take all reasonable measures to prevent genocide.

Endorsed by:

  1. Law and Society Trust (LST)
  2. Collective for Democracy and the Rule of Law (CDRL)
  3. Women’s Action Network (WAN)
  4. Muslim Women Development Trust (Puttalam)
  5. Mannar Women’s Development Federation (MWDF)
  6. Eastern Social Development Foundation (ESDF)
  7. Forum for Women with Disability
  8. Network of Women Human Rights Defenders (Eastern Province)
  9. Human Elevation Organisation
  10. Ampara District Alliance for Land Rights
  11. Rural Development Foundation
  12. Stand Up Movement
  13. Islamic Women’s Association for Research and Empowerment ( IWARE)
  14. Affected Women’s Forum- Ampara,
  15. Vallamai Movement for Social Change,
  16. Families of the Disappeared,
  17. International Centre for Ethnic Studies
  18. Civil Society Actors Forum, Batticaloa
  19. Christian Solidarity Movement, Colombo


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