War crimes and dispossession in Sri Lanka: Open letter to visiting UN human rights commissioner

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Dear Dr. Pillay,

With your visit to Sri Lanka from August 25th-­31st, we urge you, as global citizens concerned with the deteriorating situation in the island, to investigate militarization, settlements, and the systematic rape of Tamil prisoners of war. These three issues, the most immediate threats to peace and justice today, lay new seeds of dispossession, inequality and bitterness. Ultimately, an international investigation cannot delink the 2009 massacres from the ongoing suffering of the Tamil people in the here and now.

The Sri Lankan army is building military bases throughout the Tamil peoples' lands. The Sri Lankan army presence of 85,000-­86,000 in the North and East is contrary to peace building and amounts to a Tamil civil society under occupation. According to ground reports, armed soldiers control every area of civilian life from schooling to public meetings; soldiers even place restrictions on humanitarian, developmental and psychiatric work for the war ravaged Tamil people. [1]

Through the occupation, the Sri Lankan Armed Forces seize land from Tamil civilians while settlers from the South are brought in to colonize the land. From the Jaffna Peninsula in the North to the Trincomalee harbour and beyond in the East, the traditional homeland of the Tamil Nation is subjected to occupation and settlements. This situation exacerbates socio-economic deprivation, for Tamil people are denied the ability to cultivate their appropriated lands and must compete for fishing with the superior technology of Sinhalese settlers.

With Tamil villages renamed in Sinhala and Buddhist Stupas emerging where none were before, Sri Lankan's 'reconciliation' program is triumphalism over a people under siege. We deeply suspect that the Sri Lankan state's land-grab scheme is part of a much more insidious agenda: a slow and relentless genocide that seeks to eradicate the Tamil Nation and render them without their traditional territory. In fact, land-­grabs are simply a continuation of an age-­old state policy that lies at the heart of Tamil grievances in their homeland. [2]

Finally, we call for an international mechanism to protect the rights of Tamil prisoners of war from persecution and rape, which the government hides with its rhetoric of reconciliation and rehabilitation. Sri Lanka has a long history of prison brutality. In June 2012, the Special Task Force attacked a group of Vavuiya prisoners, which left 15 people seriously injured, and one dead from critical injuries [3], but even Tamil prisoners released from internment continue to endure persecution. Doctors and social workers on the ground report that many of the released ex-­LTTE cadres are subjected to a systematic program of harassment, sexual abuse and rape. [4] If the International Community is serious about the rehabilitation of ex-­LTTE cadres, then it must pressure the Sri Lankan government to immediately stop its brutal treatment of ex-­LTTE cadres who are attempting to rebuild their lives.

We believe that these matters must be addressed to ensure peace and stability, and urge you to investigate them in Sri Lanka. We -- the undersigned organizations and individuals -- hope to hear about these urgent issues at your oral report to the UNHRC in September.


Academy of Tamil Studies
Action for Human rights in Tamil Eelam and Sri Lanka
Angela Regnier, Canadian Association of University Teachers Bashana Abeywardane -­‐ Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka Belgium Tamil Forum
Bruce Haigh, author and former Australian diplomat to Sri Lanka
Canadian Peace Alliance
Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (University of Sydney)
Centre of Education. Research and Development (CEDAR) Child Development Initiative
Chris Nash, Professor, Monash University (Melbourne) Coalition for Tamil Rights
Council of Temples Malaysia
Country Council of Eelam Tamils-­‐Germany
Danish Tamil Forum
Dr Krishnasamy -­‐ Puthiya Tamilakam Tamil naadu India
Dr. Cheran Rudhramoorthy, poet, journalist, professor (University of Windsor) Dr. Jude Lal Fernando, lecturer and research fellow, Trinity College (Dublin) Dutch Tamil Forum
Federation of Indian Non-­‐Governmental Organisations
Group of Concerned Citizens
Imperial College Tamil Society
Indian Malaysian Active Generation (IMAGE)
International Council of Eelam Tamils
Italy Council of Eelam Tamils
Jake Lych, Director for Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies
Johor Tamizhar Sangam
Julian Burnside, AO QC, Australian barrister, human rights and refugee advocate, author Kuala Lumpur Indian Entrepreneurs and Professionals
London Metropolitan University Tamil Society
London School of Economics-­‐Tamil Society
Maison du Tamil Eelam, France
Malaysia Indian Progressive Educational Society
Malaysia Tamil Artiste Association
Malaysian Association of Indian University Graduates
Malaysian Dravidian Association
Malaysian Hindu Youth Council
Malaysian Indian Business Association
Malaysian Indian Development & Unity Association
Malaysian Indian Entrepreneurs and Professionals
Malaysian Indian Historical Association
Malaysian Indian Youth Development Foundation
Malaysian Selangor Tamil Sangam
Marie George Buffet, Member of Parliament, France
Mauritius Tamil Temples Federation
Meena Kandaswamy, author, poet, activist
Mr Maruthappa Natarajan Editor Puthiyapaarvai Tamilnaadu India National Council of Canadian Tamils
Nationwide Human Development And Research Centre
Neethan Shan, activist and educator
Norweigian Council of Eelam Tamils
Selangor Indian Entrepreneurs and Professionals
Semparuthi Iyakkam Selangor
Solidarity Group for Peace & Justice in Sri Lanka (South Africa) Stephen Gatignon, Maire de Serren France
Suaram Malaysia
Sydney Peace Foundation
Tamil Cultural Organization-­‐Belgum
Tamil Forum Malaysia
Tamil Refugee Council
Tamil Solidarity
Tamil Youth Organization Germany
Tamil Youth Organization UK
University of Birmingham Tamil Society
Viraj Mendiz, Internationaler Menschenrechtsverein Bremen e.V Wendy Bacon, Professorial Fellow, University of Technology, Sydney World Tamil Federation – Malaysian Chapter
York University Tamil Students Association


[1] Balasundaram, N. (2013). Sri Lanka: The Intentions Behind the Land Grabbing Process. Retrieved here

[2] Edrisinha, R. Gomez, M. Thamilmaran, V.T. Welikala, A. (2008). Power-­‐Sharing in Sri Lanka: Consttutional and Political Documents 1926-­‐2008. Colombo: Centre for Policy Alternatives & Berghof Foundation for Peace Support.

[3] Townsend, M. (March 2013) Sri Lanka Accused of ongoing abuse and torture of Tamil Prisoners. The Guardian

[4] (August 2012). Genocidal sex abuse of ex-­‐LTTE cadres becomes routine in North and East. TamilNet. 


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