Tamil Civil Society Forum defends majority councillors position

Northern  ProvinceTamil Civil Society Forum Opinion on the Appropriateness of the Northern    Provincial Council Passing a Resolution on Genocide                                      

The Tamil Civil Society Forum issues  this statement to state its position on the question of the appropriateness  of  the Northern Provincial Council  passing a resolution identifying the crimes  that were committed and those that continue to be committed against the Tamil people  as amounting to the crime of Genocide. We release this statement having sought advice from lawyers competent to comment on International Law, where such advice was required and    relevant.

  1. The UN  Genocide Convention of 1948 aims to prevent and punish the commission of Genocide defined as  the destruction of a national, ethnical, racial or religious  group (Article 2 of  the  Convention)  in whole or part. Genocide is also a jus cogens norm of Customary International Law. It cannot be disputed that  Tamils fit within  the definition  of  either  a  ‘national’ or  ‘ethnic’ group or  both.
  1. Genocide is a crime recognized  in the  Rome Statute  of   the   International   Criminal  Court (Article   6) along   with   other   categories   of  crimes   such as War Crimes  (Article 8) and  Crimes Against  Humanity (Article  7). Any investigation that inquires into the atrocities, that were  perpetrated (and those that continue to be perpetrated) against Tamils needs to investigate all three categories of crimes identified above, including Genocide. Tamils and  their representatives have a right to ask  for the UN   Office of  the High Commissioner for Human Rights  inquiry   team  on  Sri Lanka (OISL) to investigate the crime of genocide in addition to an investigation into war crimes  and crime against humanity. Requesting an  investigation into genocide serves to ensure that all  possible  violations of international  law are appropriately identified and explored. Needless to say  such  a request  does not prejudice OISL’s investigation  into other crimes including war  crimes and crimes against   humanity.  Neither the  UN Secretary  General’s  Panel of Experts report’s  silence on the crime  of Genocide  nor the text of the  UN Human Rights  Council  March 2014 resolution  prevent  the  OISL from investigating the crime of   genocide.
  1. Tamils and their representatives have  the right to form a legal  opinion  that  the atrocities that were committed (and continue to be perpetrated) against them amounts to Genocide.There are sufficient, reasonable grounds to form such a legal opinion, such that this is not  a  spurious claim. Tamils and their   representatives also have a concomitant right to seek the intervention of  the International Community  to prevent and   protect them from  the commission of Genocide. The right to state and   claim the above stems   from  their right to freedom of speech and expression  enshrined in international human rights law. Prevention and protection from Genocide are also duties that stem  from the  UN Genocide  Convention  and the emerging doctrine  of  the Responsibility to Protect. The self-­‐characterization and identification of the crime to which they were subjected  to,  by  the  victim  group, in no  way  prejudices  an impartial  inquiry   into those crimes by any body that is  empowered to do so. Hence, the identification of  the crime that befell them as constituting genocide by Tamils in no way  prejudices  OISL’s  inquiry  into the same.
  1. Further, there are innumerable examples of democratically elected  bodies passing resolutions recognizing  the    commission of Genocide. The  following  are  some  examples:

            a) In  August  2014  the  Iraqi  Parliament  passed  a resolution   stating  that ISIS’s actions  in Northern Iraq                        amounted to Genocide.

            b) In August 2014 the Pakistani Parliament passed a resolution stating that the Israeli attack on Gaza amounted                  to Genocide.

           c) President Abbas  in  his  address to the  UN General Assembly  in  September 2014 claimed that Israeli attacks                on Gaza  amounted  to  genocide. This was  despite  the  fact  that a  commission of  Inquiry had been set up by                the UN Human Rights  Council to  inquire  into  the  violations by both sides  in     that    conflict.

           d)  A  number  of  Parliaments  around  the world  have passed resolutions recognising the Armenian Genocide                      including the European Parliament.

  1. Tamils and their elected representatives have to articulate their positions with clarity and with the best interests of the Tamils in mind. They have the moral  right to contribute and lead the  discourse through which their issues could  be  addressed. Hence  we are  of  the opinion  that there  are  no  cogent moral or   legal reasons  for  the  NPC to  refrain  from passing a resolution  that:

            a)  recognizes  the  past and   present  commission  of  Genocide  againste   Tamils,                                                                    b)  calls for  an   international   investigation  into  Genocide,  and                                                                                                  c)   requests  international  intervention to protect the Tamils from Genocide.

Tamil  Civil    Society    Forum

24   October    2014

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