SRI LANKA: The cries of Muslims in the East and others facing danger should find a response from the United Nations
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 17, 2006
A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
While the call for a peaceful resolution of the Sri Lankan conflict has arisen from high level sources such as the Secretary General of the United Nations and even the Pope, these make hardly any difference to the dismal situation of complete neglect of the suffering caused to the people by all parties to the conflict. None of the reported incidents of killings following various attacks have been investigated. Indeed the one marked feature of the state of the killings over the last few weeks is the complete absence of credible inquiries. Even the international organisations are being prevented from conducting investigations and on some occasions the bodies are being cremated to prevent such investigations. International journalists associations have complained of the lack of access to the areas of conflict.
One of the groups that have been making desperate calls for protection is the Muslim community in the East. In the recent days of the conflict about 45,000 persons are said to have been displaced and many are dead or wounded. There are reports of accusations by the displaced persons who are demanding that the government and the LTTE must guarantee their absolute safety and security. As the discussions between these two parties have ceased there is no way that these displaced persons will have the common guarantee that they request. They have rejected unilateral declarations of protection as having hardly any meaning, as the recent violence has been perpetrated on them despite of such guarantees. According to reports the Muslim communities in the areas concerned are complaining of complete abandonment by all parties.
The plight of the Muslim community in the affected areas is a glaring example of the nature of the violence practiced by all parties to the conflict without any regard to any civilised norms of restraint or protection afforded to persons at times of serious conflict.
The international organisations that had earlier been playing the role of monitors, and at least keeping a head count of the dead and wounded, are now unable to perform their functions. The killing of 17 aid workers belonging to a French organisation working on tsunami relief is a clear indication of the absence of respect for the lives of anyone.
The degeneration of conflicts into such situations is not new in Sri Lanka. In 1971 when pockets of rebels attacked some places with Molotov cocktails and other rudimentary weapons a whole scale military campaign was launched which killed at least 10,000 people, mostly in the South of the country. No headcount was ever taken. Accept for a few incidents of individual cases of murder or rape the whole process of these large scale killings was never investigated. Once again in the South between 1987 and 1991 there was another killing on a large scale where huge numbers of people disappeared. Several commissions appointed many years later collected the names of around 30,000 persons. However, criminal investigations into these killings have never taken place except in a handful of individual cases. From 1977 until now a regular spate of killings has taken place the numbers of which are estimated to be more than 60,000 persons but no investigations of any significance have ever been conducted.
The concept of the complete extermination of opponents is now embedded in Sri Lanka as a permissible conduct to end conflicts. This approach of extermination, which is part of the unwritten conduct of the state in the times it considers moments of crisis, has caused equally repugnant retaliation on the part of the rebel groups. The former president, Jayawardene characterised this as a killing match.
There are no internal mechanisms available within the Sri Lankan legal system to bring about any form of restraint under the circumstances that are being experienced now. There is nothing to stop the carnage, displacement and the resultant collapse of all institutions of law and order.
When in Nepal a situation of great danger arose in February 2005 with the possibility of large scale massacres by different parties to the conflict, the United Nations sent a special human rights monitoring mission. The result of this mission was to reduce the heights of violence and to make possible a democratic solution to the problem. In fact such a solution emerged within just one year of the UN intervention which provided space for the peace loving masses to assert themselves against all warring parties, including the king himself. This initiative in Nepal arose as an expression of the unwillingness of the international community to watch a carnage taking place before their eyes.
A heavy responsibility lies with the United Nations to find a way to save lives in the moment of crisis that is now taking place in Sri Lanka. How such a diplomatic solution can be developed is something that the Secretary General and his advisors must discover.
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