Sri Lanka’s main Tamil political parties have sought an international probe, including at the International Criminal Court (ICC), into allegations of human rights abuses during the civil war, deeming there is “no scope” for a domestic process that can “genuinely” deal with accountability.

In a joint letter — dated January 15, 2021 — addressed to members of the UN Human Rights Council they observed, “Leaders across the political spectrum in Sri Lanka including from both the major political parties have categorically and without exception stated that they will protect the Sri Lankan armed forces from prosecutions. It is now time for Member States to acknowledge that there is no scope for a domestic process that can genuinely deal with accountability in Sri Lanka.”

Significantly, different Tamil political parties that were until now fiercely critical of each other’s strategies — political or regarding accountability — appear to have reached a consensus ahead of the 46th session of the Council (February 22 to March 19), going by the signatories to the letter, including Tamil National Alliance Leader R. Sampanthan, Tamil National People’s Front Leader G.G. Ponnambalam, and Tamil Makkal Tesiya Kootani Leader and former Chief Minister of the Northern Province C.V. Wigneswaran, apart from civil society organisations in the north and east.

UN Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva usually evoke sharp and opposing views within Sri Lanka, with much of the Tamil polity pinning hopes on the Council for war-time accountability, while the southern Sinhala polity and its core electorate vehemently oppose any international interference in its affairs. In February last year, months after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected to office, Sri Lanka formally notified the Human Right Council that it was withdrawing from the 2019 UN resolution on post-war accountability and reconciliation, scheduled to be taken up in the upcoming session.

Citing Sri Lanka’s unfulfilled commitments to promote accountability and reconciliation, the Tamil leaders urged that UN organs including the UN Security Council and General Assembly take “suitable action by reference to the International Criminal Court and any other appropriate and effective international accountability mechanisms to inquire into the crime of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.” They also sought an international evidence gathering mechanism such as the one set up for Syria.

Further, the Tamil parties said the persisting “militarisation and surveillance” in war-affected areas, and the denial of burial rights to Muslims — during Covid-19 pandemic — and the right to memory, underscored the urgency of addressing the “deteriorating situation.”

Tamil people’s right to commemorate came under sharp focus recently, when authorities at the University of Jaffna recently demolished a memorial on campus, built to remember those who died in the final phase of the war in 2009. Following studehttps://www.thehindu.com/news/international/sri-lankas-tamil-parties-seek-international-mechanism-to-probe-war-crimes/article33587966.ecent protests and wide condemnation from within and outside Sri Lanka, the University Vice-Chancellor assured students that a new “peace memorial” would be built. (The Hindu)

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