Tamils Need Justice to Enjoy Human Rights and Live With Dignity

(WASHINGTON, DC; December 10, 2015) On the 67th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the 49th anniversary of the adoption of the binding International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR),PEARL notes with serious concern continuing abuses around the world and the international community’s reluctance to act decisively.


States have legal obligations to respect and ensure respect for international human rights law and international humanitarian law. This binds states to stop flagrant violations of the laws of war in places ranging from Syria and Iraq to Sudan and Burundi. While international interventions have been made in some instances, although certainly not all, past violations and continuing human rights abuses in many countries, including Sri Lanka, still require internationally-based justice and solutions.


The mass atrocities, including allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, that occurred in Sri Lanka during the end of the armed conflict in 2009 remain unpunished, and state oppression of the Tamil people has persisted, even under the new Sirisena government. The state’s continued acts of impunity have repercussions beyond the shores of the island.


Just as human rights are universal, there exists a universal right to justice for victims of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. States have a duty to prosecute and punish perpetrators of international crimes; this duty is even higher with respect to genocide, which Tamils believe to have occurred. This year also marked the first International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime, observed only one day before Human Rights Day. PEARL and others across the globe remember the Tamil victims of Sri Lanka’s genocide on this day and reaffirm our commitment to seek justice for genocide and other atrocities.


Accountability is a crucial deterrent for future abuses of civil, political, economic and social rights; indeed the absence of accountability in Sri Lanka enables violations of all of these rights to permeate the former conflict areas. Sri Lanka’s war criminals continue to walk free, even in the Tamil region where they committed the abuses. Sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls, and also men, continue against Tamils in the North-East. The heavy militarization of this region, prolonged detention of political prisoners, and the failure to return lands to their owners all deny the Tamil people their human rights and dignity. As long as Sri Lanka’s governance enshrines Sinhala Buddhism at the expense of Tamil rights, , the Tamil people’s fundamental guarantees to equality and self-determination will remain elusive.


On this day, PEARL reiterates its demand for accountability, justice, and a sustainable political solution in which the dignity, equality, and human rights of all people in Sri Lanka are respected, protected, and fulfilled in accordance with international legal obligations.


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