The People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka

Its inception and its goals

Following the terrible events in Sri Lanka, supporters of the Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka, Initiative Peace in Sri Lanka and the International Human Rights Association Bremen met in June 2009 in Bremen, Germany. We discussed the extent of the humanitarian tragedy that the Sri Lankan government (GoSL) had unleashed on the Tamil people and the role that the International community played in this crime. And how, even after declaring that the war was over, the Sri Lankan government continued to proclaim that there were practically no civilian casualties and that its war was simply a successful mission to rescue the Tamils who were held against their will by the LTTE. And even when the regime incarcerated all the 280,000 Tamil people it had ‘rescued’ in concentration camps, the Apex bodies of the international community could do nothing more practical than to recommend that the GoSL investigates its own atrocities.

We discussed how this tragic state of international complicity had come into being. Certainly, the discrimination against the Tamil people, the oppression and racial pogroms that they have had to suffer in the island since Sri Lanka was given independence over 60 years ago, has been well documented and available to all in the international community. That the genesis of the conflict is rooted in the oppression of the Tamils, and that over a hundred thousand Tamils have lost their lives in the previous stages of the conflict, is no secret. In fact the wide-ranging international proclamations of support for the 2002 Peace Process in Sri Lanka – on the basis that the solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka was political and not military – underpinned this reality. But in the wake of the Iraq war and under US pressure, every part of the International community changed their position from supporting a political solution to backing the Sri Lankan government’s decision to execute a military solution to the ethnic question. Thus the powerful countries and the apex bodies of the international community had allowed the cry of the Tamil people, which started and continued for 30 years as a Gandhian non-violent protest for justice, to end in a blood-bath in 2009. If Geo-Strategic calculations guided by self-interest has driven the powerful countries to compete with each other to give support to the government of Sri Lanka, and if this state of affairs had relegated organisations like the United Nations to issuing toothless warnings to cover up its impotence to take any concrete actions to prevent this massacre, then it follows also that it is very likely that the grave injustice suffered by the Tamil people will be covered up.

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