A group of clergy from the North and East have written to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) calling for a strong and action oriented resolution in relation to accountability, reconciliation and human rights in Sri Lanka.
The letter signed by the Bishop of Mannar and 132 men and women Christian clergy and religious from different churches in North and East Sri Lanka, says the new resolution should go beyond the resolution adopted at the 19th session of the Council.
“As noted by the High Commissioner for Human Rights in her report to the Council, what we have seen since the rather weak resolution adopted at the 19th session of the Council is a total lack of political will on the part of the government to implement recommendations therein, such as the call for investigations into allegations of international law during the final stages of the conflict and cooperation with the UN Special Procedures, as evident by the lack of response to requests for country visits by 8 thematic UN Special Procedures for a number of years,” the letter said.
The clergy noted that they had also witnessed continuing ignorance and violations of the key LLRC recommendations, related to political solution to the ethnic conflict, release of political prisoners, appointment of a Commissioner to look into disappearances, reparations, release of land occupied illegally by the military, restrictions on media, commemorating those dead and disappeared, use of both national languages etc.
“In the last year, those criticising and challenging the government in peaceful ways including by engagement with the UN, have been assaulted, questioned, arrested, threatened, discredited and intimidated by government ministers, officials, military and police. Victims include some of us and fellow clergy who are not signing this letter due to fear of reprisals,” the letter said.
“We feel that the killing and disappearance of tens of thousands of Tamil people and actions that are supressing the Tamil people and community, our culture, religions, language, land in a systematic way before, during and after the war, appears to be done with an intent to destroy us in whole or part, and thus, it is imperative that the international community addresses this seriously even at this late stage. We fear that at the pace these oppressive methods are carried out after the war, our identity as a people will be destroyed in the near future. Hence there is an exigency to arrive at a political solution which acknowledges the internal self-determination of the Tamil People,” it added.
In the letter, the clergy also said that they remain deeply concerned about increasing authoritarianism all over Sri Lanka, such as the recent attacks against Muslims, killing of 27 Sinhalese prisoners in November last year, lack of investigation into discovery of skeletal remains in Matale of those suspected to have been tortured and killed, threats, attacks and intimidations of journalists, human rights defenders, student leaders, trade unionists and religious clergy who criticize the government.
“We remain in solidarity with victims, their families and those who struggle for justice. The most recent impeachment of the Chief Justice bypassing Court decisions and due process, attacks and threats on judges and lawyers, as well as inaction of statutory bodies such as the Police, National Human Rights Commission and Attorney General’s Department reinforces our long held view that justice for Tamils through domestic processes is not realistic, despite our own engagement with several such bodies in good faith,” the letter said. (Colombo Gazette)