Today we mark thirty-three years from the horrors of the anti-Tamil pogrom of 1983, when Tamils were killed by Sinhala mobs backed by the then UNP government and state forces.
Updated 1230 GMT A Sinhalese student brandishes a log towards a group of Tamil students as violence broke out at Jaffna University on Saturday. Sinhalese students at the Jaffna University clashed with Tamil students earlier on Saturday, as violence erupted over the use of a Kandyan dance from the south of the island at a traditional orientation programme.
Updated 0430GMT Sri Lankan intelligence operatives have reportedly tortured a Tamil man from Mannar, after abducting him from a church on Wednesday morning, reports Ceylon News. Photograph: Ceylon News Santhiyogu Anton Dani was abducted from Uyilankulam church in Mannar, where he had sought sanctuary after frequent harassment from Sri Lankan intelligence officers for the past two months. Mr Dani fled to the church after hearing Sri Lankan intelligence operatives were looking for him. He went missing on Wednesday morning and was subsequently found at Nochchikulam later that evening, at an area some 2 kilometres from the church. He was found blindfolded with his body bearing the marks of severe torture. The victim’s wife Mathuvanthy Anton, said he had been burnt with heated metal sticks and severely beaten. During several hours of torture, he was also hung by his neck and is currently unable to speak properly, she said. Ms Anton has reported the incident to local police in Mannar. Photograph: @Mari_deSilva Mr Anton told his wife that abductors had walked into his room in the church, tied his hands and bundled him into a vehicle before taking him away and torturing him. He added that he had seen another person being badly tortured by his abductors. Santhiyagu had been previously arrested in 2001 on suspicion of aiding the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Tamil Eelam. After undergoing torture in government custody, Mr Anton was later released by Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court without any charges. He has reportedly been frequently tortured by Sri Lankan security forces since at least 1998.
Further country statements and links to full documents to be added A number of countries voiced their support for the High Commissioner’s oral update today and re-asserted their commitment to ensuring full implementation of Resolution 30/1. While welcoming the positive steps taken by the Sri Lankan government, several countries expressed concern with ongoing human rights violations and the pace of progress. The need for international participation Many countries specifically reiterated the necessity of international participation in a judicial mechanism as per the Resolution. “ International participation in the accountability mechanism will…be important in ensuring that the process is both credible and perceived as such by all sides in line with the October commitments,” said the Netherlands on behalf of the European Union. See statement here : In addition to pointing to the need for international judges, prosecutors, defence lawyers and investigators in a judicial mechanism, Estonia once again called on the Sri Lankan government to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Stressing operative paragraph 6, Norway said: “It is further our expectation that Sri Lanka adheres to OP 6 in the resolution, regarding the planned judicial mechanism to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, and of the importance of participation in the judicial mechanism of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers and authorized prosecutors and investigators.” Macedonia also stated the importance of international participation in the form iterated by the Resolution, as did Ireland. Canada reiterated that international involvement in a judicial mechanism was importance to “enhance its credibility, especially to victims.” The need for tangible steps on human rights violations The United States encouraged Sri Lanka to make continued tangible steps in fulfilling their commitments under the Resolution. “ Protecting human rights in this post-conflict context is central, and we urge Sri Lanka to work to further improve the human rights situation, especially in the North and East," said Denmark.
The United Nations Human Rights Chief Prince Zeid Al Hussein, stressed that the “government had not moved fast enough with tangible measures to build confidence among victims and minority communities” adding “ there are anxieties that the full promise of governance reform, transitional justice and economic revival.” Addressing the Human Rights Council with an interim update on Sri Lanka’s progress at implementing resolution 30/1 on reconciliation and accountability, Mr Hussein said , “I remain convinced the international participation in the accountability mechanisms, as stipulated in the Human Rights Council’s resolution, would be a necessary guarantee for the credibility, independence and impartiality of the process in the eyes of victims given the magnitude and complexity of the alleged international crimes, which the OHCHR investigation could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.” Mr Hussein added that consultation processes must allow for victims “on the participation of international actors” and with a view to “shaping the design of transitional justice programmes” Noting that “military presence in the North and east remains heavy,” he added, “ A culture of surveillance and, in certain instances, intimidation also persists. These point to a deeper challenge for the Government in asserting full control over military intelligence establishment.” Suggesting that the council should be encouraged by Sri Lanka’s steps so far, the Human Rights Chief caveated, “continuing allegations of human rights violations must be swiftly addressed and the structures and institutional culture that promoted those practices be dismantled, to show there will be no tolerance for practices of the past.”
Leaked photos appear to confirm the use of cluster bombs by the Sri Lankan government during the height of a large scale military offensive seven years ago. Photograph: The Guardian/Together Against Genocide
Sri Lanka has made little progress in fulfilling its human rights commitments, observed a panel at a British parliamentary event hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils (APPGT) joint with the All Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group (PHRG). The event on June 7th opened with the screening of the documentary ‘Silenced Survivors’, a film featuring harrowing testimonies of Tamil torture survivors, recounting their experiences at the hands of Sri Lankan military and authorities and raising their fears of ever returning. The film was produced by investigative journalist Emanuel Stokes.
Exiled Tamil victims who survived the final stages of the armed conflict on the island have called for international judges to participate in an accountability mechanism for mass atrocities, in a new report by the International Truth and Justice Project. Launched on Friday, the report clearly identified the top priority of the victims as criminal accountability, including “the prosecution of those who were in positions of superior and command responsibility”. The victims stated they would testify by video to a special court in Sri Lanka only if international judges were involved and their identities protected. “These findings have huge implications for the design of the transitional justice mechanisms in Sri Lanka,” said Yasmin Sooka. “It’s important that thousands of Tamils who’ve fled Sri Lanka have a voice, especially as some are the only known surviving witnesses to alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity”.
On 31st May 1981, the crucible of Tamil literature and heritage - the Jaffna Public Library - was set ablaze by state security forces and state sponsored mobs. Over 95,000 unique and irreplaceable Tamil palm leaves (ola), manuscripts, parchments, books, magazines and newspapers, housed within an impressive building inspired by ancient Dravidian architecture, were destroyed during the burning that continued unchecked for two nights. The library was one of the largest in Asia. The destruction took place under the rule of the UNP at a time when District Development Council elections were underway, and two notorious Sinhala chauvinist cabinet ministers - Cyril Mathew and Gamini Dissanayake - were in Jaffna. Earlier on the 31st May, three Sinhalese police officers were killed during a rally by the TULF (Tamil United Liberation Front).