The British Tamils Forum (BTF) has expressed its deepest disappointment and anguish over the UN Human Rights Council’s decision to delay the presentation of the war crime inquiry report on Sri Lanka by six months.
“The deferral of this report without any consultation with the victims has already eroded the credibility of UNHRC in the eyes of the victims. The UN has belatedly acknowledged that it failed to protect the Tamil people from the massacre in Mullivaikkal; it is once again failing the Tamil people by delaying justice” BTF said in a press release issued today.
The full text of the press release is as follows:
UN British Tamils Forum shares the deep disappointment and anguish felt by Tamil people across the world on learning that the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) report, scheduled to be released in March 2015, will be deferred by another six months.
Tamil Diaspora organisations and Tamil parties in the island of Sri Lanka and India, together representing Tamil people across the world, have repeatedly requested that this long awaited report be released in March 2015 as mandated. The victims and the witnesses of this genocide have already waited far too long.
In his explanation for this unprecedented move, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Dr Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, states that there are “strong arguments for deferring the report’s consideration a bit longer, given the changing context in Sri Lanka, and the possibility that important new information may emerge which will strengthen the report.” However, legal sources familiar with the evidence already collected have indicated that there is enough hard evidence to prosecute the perpetrators. The High Commissioner further states, “I have received clear commitments from the new Government of Sri Lanka indicating it is prepared to cooperate with my Office on a whole range of important human rights issues – which the previous Government had absolutely refused to do – and I need to engage with them to ensure those commitments translate into reality.” We, as victims, too have a right to know what these commitments are and how these will facilitate the emergence of new information.
We also wish to know what measures have been considered to protect the sources of this new information from the Sri Lankan state. The same military that threatened victims who sought justice from the previous High Commissioner during her visit is occupying, and is very much in control of, the North and East of Sri Lanka. Jeyakumari Balendran, the mother who sought help from the previous High Commissioner to find her missing son, is still in a Sri Lankan prison on trumped-up charges, and the sister who pleaded to be reunited with her brother is now separated from her mother too. Tamil victims have not seen any change in their plight in the island of Sri Lanka. The Tamil people do not see any change in the nature of the Sri Lankan state.
The High Commissioner goes on to rightly state, “I am acutely aware that many victims of human rights violations in Sri Lanka, including those who have bravely come forward to provide information to the inquiry team, might see this as the first step towards shelving, or diluting, a report they have long feared they would never see. I fully understand those fears and deep anxieties, given the history of failed or obstructed domestic human rights inquiries in Sri Lanka, and the importance of this international investigation being carried out by my team at the UN Human Rights Office.”
Sri Lanka’s Foreign minister and Sri Lankan Government spokespersons have already publicly stated that they will not allow an international investigation and will only set up a domestic probe into a few “incidents”. Given this explicit position of the Sri Lankan state it is difficult to see how the High Commissioner arrived at the conclusion that there is a ‘change in context’ in Sri Lanka. It would be a great betrayal of trust by the UNHRC if the report is never released, diluted or transferred to a domestic inquiry.
The deferral of this report without any consultation with the victims has already eroded the credibility of UNHRC in the eyes of the victims. The UN has belatedly acknowledged that it failed to protect the Tamil people from the massacre in Mullivaikkal; it is once again failing the Tamil people by delaying justice.
British Tamils Forum, on behalf of the Tamil people, appeals to the High Commissioner to review his position, release the report as originally scheduled and restore Tamil people’s faith in the UN system.