As Tamils around the world gather to remember those who died in the last phase of the armed conflict, repudiations of accountability hinder prospects for enduring peace and stability.
(Washington, DC; May 18, 2016) Today, PEARL joins Tamils in the homeland and across the diaspora in mourning those who died seven years ago during the final stages of the armed conflict. Tens of thousands of Tamils perished in Sri Lanka’s genocidal attacks, including its intentional shelling of government-designated “No Fire Zones.” The horrific war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the military, including deliberate shelling of hospitals, summary executions of surrendered LTTE cadres, and the continuing torture and sexual abuse of Tamil political detainees remain unpunished.
Victims of mass atrocities have the right to memorialize those who died in conflict. Such commemoration also contributes to transitional justice objectives by establishing a record of abuses beyond denial and preventing future repetition of these crimes.
Despite the importance of allowing Tamils to publicly mourn those who died in military attacks, the government of Sri Lanka has consistently obstructed their remembrance efforts each year for the past seven years. Security personnel have photographed and followed participants in this year’s commemoration events over the past week.
While Tamils continue to await accountability for Sri Lanka’s mass atrocities, the government’s ongoing intimidation of Tamils violates their right to remembrance and hampers prospects for justice and reconciliation. Prohibiting Tamil memorials and remembrance activities—while simultaneously declaring May “War Heroes Commemoration Month… to felicitate and commemorate” those responsible for mass atrocities—underscores Sri Lanka’s unwillingness to foster any form of post-conflict justice, including non-prosecutorial processes.
PEARL remains seriously concerned about the safety of participants in memorialization events this week. We call on the U.S. to urge Sri Lanka to allow Tamils to publicly and communally remember their dead through memorials and events. We also call on the U.S. to demand that Sri Lanka immediately stop harassing and intimidating participants in commemoration events and ensure that these Tamils are safe from retaliation by state forces.
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