The law is clear

Navi Pillay sri lanka visitThe former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said “there can never be immunity for these very serious crimes,” which were committed in Sri Lanka.

Speaking in an interview to Thanthi TV last week, Ms Pillay stated “the law is clear, nobody can grant amnesty, no government can grant amnesty for these serious crimes”.

In a wide ranging interview the former UN human rights chief explored the question of whether a genocide had occurred, stating that it was up to a court of law to make the final decision. She said a court would have to find if “there was a deliberate intention to destroy for instance the Tamil population,” adding “I notice that even the discussion on evidence of sexual violence against woman and girls is reported to be systematic and intentional to destroy the Tamil group”.

“The genocide convention is clear, the intention is not required for destruction of the whole group,” added Ms Pillay, in response to the question that not all Tamils on the island were killed during the final stages of the armed conflict. “So it does not require the intention to destroy the whole of the Tamil group. The fact that some were killed and others not does not retract from the statute, which says “destruction in whole or in part of a group””.

She also noted that “even failure to stop genocide from happening is a crime”. “This is what the International Court of Justice said about Serbia,” added Ms Pillay. “So failing to prevent. So if you acknowledge and fail to stop your soldiers from committing these crimes then that is also a crime of genocide, a crime against humanity.”

Ms Pillay also spoke on the role of the international community, highlighting in particular India’s failure to stop the massacres from occurring. India “could have helped to prevent the deaths of almost 40,000 people,” she stated.

The former human rights chief also expressed her disappointment with both the India and South African governments for supporting Sri Lanka’s argument that dealing with accountability for the mass atrocities was an “internal affair”.

She told Thanthi TV:

“When these serious crimes and atrocities are taking place right next door in Sri Lanka, it is their responsibility to intervene to protect people. You know that is what sovereignty means, each government should protect their own citizens and when they fail to do so it’s the responsibility of other government to intervene to do so. So, international law is very clear on universal jurisdiction.”

“India in my view failed to intervene in the early stages when they could have taken very firm steps to ensure that there is a process of justice and reconciliation. It could have helped to prevent the deaths of almost 40,000 people. The argument that I find completely disappointing and invalid is the argument raised by India and even South Africa that these are internal matters.”

Ms Pillay also desccribed the massacres in Sri Lanka as “really very unique” for the fact that was “not raised in the Security Council as an international security threat and as huge violations of human rights” nor was it “raised and discussed at the UN General Assembly.

“When 40,000 innocent civilians are killed that is a matter of concern for the intentional community”, she said.

“All the statues say so. The United Nations intervened in Rwanda, in the Baltic, they intervened in Libya and other countries. They should have done so with Sri Lanka as well.”(Tamil Guardian)

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