UPR14 - Sri Lanka’s continued appeal to ‘terror’ threat while the International Community ‘forget’ the Tamil question.
Tamils Against Genocide (TAG) welcomes the resolute tone of several of the missions who spoke out on 1 November 2012 at the 14th UPR to condemn the Sri Lankan Government’s Human Rights Record. Notably, the US Permanent Mission to Geneva spoke of the need for political devolution, for an end to the militarisation of former conflict zones, and of the requirement for an “Independent Investigation Cell”. Though the US stopped short of calling for an International Investigation, many other missions compensated for this in calling upon Sri Lanka to ratify the Rome Statute. TAG welcomes the Canadian mission’s call for the repeal of the terror act, their mention of the conditions of detainees and the requirement for a mechanism to return IDPs and for de-militarisation. The Indian mission’s stance was also gratifyingly strong, Ms Nabanita Chakrabarti pushed devolution and political settlement, not shying from support of the 13th amendment which the Rajapaksa Regime has begun to make moves to dissolve.
Notwithstanding the above, there was much to be disappointed with and precious little to satisfy the victims of the Sri Lankan regime’s military and political strategy in the final months of the conflict or those who suffer still from the continued human rights abuses. And by victims we refer largely, though not exclusively, to Tamils. Indeed, although Mr Peter Gruschelbauer of the Austrian mission was specific in condemning the “rape of Tamil women and girls” by Sri Lankan forces, “Tamil” was a word used barely a handful of times.
The abuses directed at the media and judiciary dominated proceedings; the UK Mission expressed deep concern about the attacks on human rights defenders and legal professionals. This focus was at the expense of addressing the discriminate nature of abuses as a whole, the fundamental ethnic dimension. It was Tamils who were caged in in the Vanni, Tamils who are IDPs, Tamils who suffer today from the militarisation of society.
Additionally distressing to survivors was the propensity of many missions to play, unwittingly or no, into the Sri Lanka state narrative, that of a context of terror. Ms Karen Pierce, UK mission, for example, complimented the Sri Lankan state “people’s daily lives are now free from the scourge of terrorism and of war”. Others appealed for leniency given the context of a country emerging from a protracted civil war. TAG heartily endorses discussion of context. But the context is of persecutions of the Tamils at the hands of the Sinhala Buddhist Majority since Independence. It is within this light, and with a thorough understanding of the nature of the State and of the depth of a chauvinist Sinhala Buddhist identity, that the current abuses need to be viewed.
TAG’s submission to the UPR can be read in full at http://www.tamilsagainstgenocide.org/Data/Docs/TAG-Submission-to-UN-Periodic-Review-of-Human-Rights-Council.pdf.
An opinion piece entitled “The UPR on: the significance of context, of terror and lest we forget, the Tamil Question.” written by J. Stafford, a member of TAG’s advocacy team, can be accessed at http://www.tamilguardian.com/article.asp?articleid=6309.