Canadian Tamil submission to UN focuses on international investigation

[TamilNet, Friday, 17 December 2010, 14:54 GMT]
From Nuremburg to Rwanda, precedents have been set to indict those who were individually responsible for war crimes. The precedent of individual accountability is a guiding principle in upholding international law, says the war crimes submission of the National Council of Canadian Tamils (NCCT) to the UN advisory panel on Sri Lanka. 26 organizations and parliamentarians, ranging from trade unions and university students associations to Conservative, Liberal and New Democratic parliamentarians, including the leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, Jack Layton, have endorsed the NCCT submission. The submission, extensively dealing with intentional targeting of Tamil civilians by the Sri Lankan state and arguing for an international inquiry, pointed out that there would be no lasting peace without justice.

“Crimes against international law are committed by [people], not by abstract entities, and only by punishing individuals who commit such crimes can the provisions of international law be enforced,” the NCCT submission cited Gutman Rieff Dworkin.

Sri Lankan Armed Forces—including Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother the Commander and Chief President Mahinda Rajapaksa—will be a major set back to global justice and the credibility of the United Nations, the submission said.

In Nuremberg, Yugoslavia, and Rwanda, holding individuals criminally culpable for violations of international law were seen as central to the peace process. In all three cases there was a focus on the leadership—not nations or ethnic groups—to demonstrate responsibility and accountability.

According to the International Crisis Group, many other countries are now investigating “the Sri Lankan option” which involves the use of “unrestrained military action, refusal to negotiate, [and a] disregard for humanitarian issues—as a way to deal with insurgencies and other violent groups.”

Progress made through the three international trials of the twentieth century will be reversed if civilian and military leaders view the “Sri Lankan option” as a viable one, the NCCT submission pointed out.

Sid Lacombe
Sid Lacombe, the coordinator of Canadian Peace Alliance
Krisna Saravanamuttu
Krisna Saravanamuttu
Jack Layton
Jack Layton, the leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada
Glen Murray
Liberal parliamentarian, Glen Murray
Patrick Brown
Conservative parliamentarian Patrick Brown
On the intentional targeting of Tamil civilians in the war by Sri Lanka, the submission said not only were there no prior warnings before attacks but the Government also encouraged thousands of civilians to seek refuge in designated No Fire Zones.

“A reasonable conclusion, then, is that the Sri Lankan government deliberately directed the civilian population into areas to be attacked,” the submission said.

The submission cited the International Crisis Group exposing the Sri Lankan Government for consistently misleading the international community on the number of civilians trapped in the combat zone.

On the need for an international investigation, the submission cited excerpts from the observations of the US ambassador for Sri Lanka, the classified cables of whom were recently leaked by WikiLeaks:

“There are no examples we know of a regime undertaking wholesale investigations of its own troops or senior officials for war crimes while that regime or government remained in power”. She continues on to point out that the situation is “further complicated by the fact that responsibility for many of the alleged crimes rests with the country’s senior civilian and military leadership, including President Rajapaksa and his brothers and opposition candidate General Fonseka” (Embassy of the United States Sri Lanka & The Maldives, 2010).

It seems that in every case, the results of Sri Lanka’s own internal investigations have proved unfruitful, the submission pointed out citing the analyses of Amnesty International on two decades of Sri Lanka’s Commissions of Inquiry and judicial inquiries—often compelled by domestic and international pressure

“Despite repeated assurances, two years after the war ended, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has yet to bring forward a legitimate political solution to address the grievances held by the Tamil people for six decades.”

Given Sri Lanka’s track record of inability in producing fair and just results, an international inquiry is necessary, argued the submission.

“The purpose of this exercise is not to invoke vengeance or retribution,” the submission said, concluding that “Accountability for human rights violations must be upheld to maintain peace and security and to avoid another protracted and brutal conflict within the island: there will be no lasting peace without justice.”

Supporting the NCCT submission prepared by Krisna Saravanamuttu, the Coordinator of Canadian Peace Alliance, Sid Lacombe, in his letter said: “The Sri Lankan government has, and continues to commit Genocide and War Crimes and has consistently mislead the international community, repeatedly breached the Geneva Conventions, and made mockery of precedents set by the International Military Tribunal of Nuremburg, and the International Criminal Tribunals on Yugoslavia and Rwanda.”

National Democratic Party leader Jack Layton MP and its foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar MP in their letter of support said, “The violators of international and humanitarian laws must be held to account. Ending the culture of impunity is the first step down the long path towards peace and Reconciliation.”

“If we allow these atrocities to continue it will only set a terrible precedent for other regimes around the world. We must set an example – now is the time,” said, conservative parliamentarian Patrick Brown.

“I endorse the submission made by the National Council of Canadian Tamils (NCCT), a grassroots organization composed of elected representatives from across Canada. The NCCT’s submission, said liberal parliamentarian, Glen Murray, upholding the need for an investigation based on the precedents from Nuremburg to Rwanda.

The submission was endorsed by following groups and individuals:

  • Canadian Federation of Students
  • Canadian Federation of Students Ontario- Hamid Osman, National Executive Representative
  • Canadian Labour Congress
  • Canadian Peace Alliance
  • Tamil Youth Organization (TYO) - Canada
  • Human Rights and Advocacy Council (Canadian Tamil Youth Alliance)
  • Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1281
  • Conservative MP Patrick Brown
  • Liberal MPP Glen Murray
  • New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP) Leader MP Jack Layton
  • New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP) MP Paul Dewar (Foreign Affairs Critic)
  • Ryerson Students Union, Local 24 Canadian Federation of Students
  • Toronto Coaltion to Stop the War
  • University of Toronto Students Union, Local 98 Canadian Federation of Students
  • Waterloo STAND (Student Coalition for Genocide Intervention)
  • Waterloo Young Liberals
  • York Federation of Students, Local 68 Canadian federation of Students
  • Tamil Students Association Carleton University/ University of Ottawa
  • Tamil Students Association Guelph University/Humber College
  • Tamil Students Association McMaster University
  • Tamil Students Association Ryerson University
  • Tamil Students Association Seneca College
  • Tamil Students Association University of Toronto Missassagua Campus
  • Tamil Students Association University of Toronto Scarborough Campus
  • Tamil Students Association University of Toronto St. George Campus
  • Tamil Students Association University of Waterloo
  • Tamil Students Association York University


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