Feature Article

ICJ Vice Chairman urges governments of free people to protect Eezham Tamils

[TamilNet, Thursday, 25 June 2009, 00:16 GMT]
“I call upon the Australian government to stand up and complain bitterly until something is done”, said Justice John Dowd, Vice President of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), stressing his point that it is “to not speak up but yell” in order to save the Tamils in the concentration camps. He was addressing a forum in Federal Parliament, Canberra, discussing Australia's role on human rights in Sri Lanka Wednesday last week. Sceptical of United Nations and questioning why Commonwealth is aloof, the jurist mooted an idea for governments such as Australia to hold hearings against those who violated the Genocide Convention, warning what is happening in the island is ethnic cleansing of an ancient people in their homeland.

“We need to go to our parliamentarians to find out why things are not happening, why we are not pressuring the Sri Lankan government”, the jurist asked, urging everyone concerned: “pressure the UN agencies, the NGOs to get people in there as witnesses, the lawyers here will tell you, the most important witness in a civil case is the ambulance officer, the first person on the spot to find out what is happening. We want agencies in, we want governments in, we want the Red Cross in, so they can report what is happening and prevent the terrible things that are happening to these people”.

“If you expose something, if you show something visual, then you get the chance of getting justice.”

“Remember, of the 300,000, something like 80,000 of them are children. They are not combatants. They are not criminals. Lot of them are under-nourished and a lot of them will fail, will die through illness if there is no proper protection. It is up to us, and the media, to let the government know that we want something done, we want some protection for the Tamil people and we want exposure of what is going on now”, he said lamenting that the world spent World War II in learning about such crimes, implemented treaties, but now breaches them.

“Australian public through the media need to understand who the Tamil people are: a minority, but an ancient and a cultured minority in their homeland. The British with their flat-map approach and administrative convenience created the disaster in the same way as we created a disaster in Yugoslavia after the World War I by adopting a ‘convenience of administration’ approach”, the jurist pointed out saying that the Tamils, having a history of some 5000 years, lived in South India and Sri Lanka all the time.

“We have to have a reasonable suspicion that there is going to be more ethnic cleansing”, warned the jurist of the possibilities of Colombo using ‘resettlement’ for infiltration of Sinhalese and re-population of Tamil areas as a form of ethnic cleansing. “Movement of peoples against their will, destruction of culture is a breach of the Genocide Convention, which Australia signed”, he said.

“We need to find out why it is now suggested it will take at least 6 months for the civilians to be released. Why can't they be released back to Jaffna? You get the lie told, oh we are looking for the minefields! Absolute rubbish! There are no reasons why these people from Jaffna, an area under military occupation can't be returned there, and to most of the other areas formerly controlled by the LTTE”, the Justice said.

Asking the question “Why is the Sri Lankan government not allowing people in, to look after them [in the concentration camps]”, Justice John Dowd explained: “Because they want to ensure that every possible person they can identify as a combatant is treated as such – they are examining people for wounds, for evidence of fitness or military activity, and they will use torture to do it”.

“We need to find out about those”, he said in the context of asserting that prisoners of war have to be protected by the four Geneva conventions.

Condemning the attitude of governments favouring another government, the jurist said that governments are the greatest invaders of human rights and the United Nations is not an organisation of nations but governments.

Citing China’s friendship to Sri Lanka and the attitude of Russia, Justice John Dowd said the Security Council is no longer a forum of assistance (to Tamils) and the Human Rights Council “is now effectively, totally, useless as a forum for defending persecuted minorities, but worse, it is now a rubberstamp for approving totalitarian regimes”.

Totalitarian regimes in the Human Rights Council use the misused word ‘sovereignty’ for their protection and thus the HRC is a disaster, he said.

“The Commonwealth is not used as a vehicle it should be”, John Dowd said.

Talking on media, he said they tend to carry only the story of the government. “It's called the 'big lie technique' and if you keep telling the big lie and show photographs of Sri Lankans handing out food, that's the impression that is left."

As free people, and as one in ten in Australia is a refugee or descended from refugees, Australia has to do something for the cause of minorities who don’t have a forum or voice and offer them a platform until the world evolves a body for that purpose, was the position of the international jurist.

Dr. John Whitehall, human rights advocate and Mr. Bruce Haigh, a former diplomat served as Deputy High Commissioner of Australia in Sri Lanka, were the fellow speakers at the forum organised by Dr. Sam Pari. The reports of their speeches will follow.



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