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'Accountability must not be forgotten' - British MPs mark Mullivaikkal calling for justice

Marking the 13th anniversary of the Mullivaikkal genocide in Sri Lanka,  British MPs met with civil society actors and Tamil activists to renew their commitment to accountability and justice for war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan state.

Opening the event, Sen Kandiah, Chair of Tamils for Labour, took a moment of silence to commemorate the lives lost and put three demands forwards:

- That Sri Lanka be referred to the International Criminal Court

- The Magnitsky Sanctions be imposed on Sri Lanka officials accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity

- That Britain condition financial support for Sri Lanka on demilitarisation of the Tamil homeland

"Without proper accountability, there can be no justice", he emphasised.


Catherine West, Shadow Minister for Asia and the Pacific, reaffirmed Labour's commitment to justice stating:

'The scale of that tragedy can not be understated, nor should it be forgotten'

'I want to reaffirm Labour’s commitment to speak up for human rights in Sri Lanka, the importance of accountability' she added.

Gareth Thomas, Shadow Minister for International Trade, maintained that Sri Lanka current crisis is a reminder of the 'lack of accountability', 'lack of pluralism' and 'tolerance for human rights abuses'.

'We have to continue the campaign for human rights in Sri Lanka and for accountability for the war crimes and genocide that took place' he stressed.


Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham, furthered this call for accountability stressing the repeat failures of Sri Lanka to meet its commitments to human rights and maintaining the need for sanctions.

'I want to express solidarity and sympathy for all those mourning friends and family members during Mullivaikkal'

'It is essential that we maintain the pressure for responsible to account. It’s time to sanction!' he urged.

Bell Ribeiro-Addy, MP for Streatham, detailed the continued persecution of Tamils in Sri Lanka, stating:

'It is unfortunate that this prejudice will likely continue until the international community takes a stand and actually recognises allegations of torture, persecution and genocide and take steps to ensure accountability and justice'


James Murray, Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury thanked the Tamil community for educating him on the tragedies Tamils faced and "why people feel so strongly about the need for accountability and justice".


Ahrabi Rajkumar, Senior Advocacy Officer, detailed the atrocities Tamils faced during Mullivaikkal as the government led civilians into no-fire zones where they were "deliberately and mercilessly bombed and killed".

"The current foundations of the Sri Lankan state are inherently incompatible with the Tamil people’s vision of a pluralist, or plurinational, Sri Lanka", she stated.

"We ask that the Labour Party continues to stand with Tamils in their struggle for an international investigative mechanism for the genocide committed against them, for the demilitarisation of Tamil homelands and a long-term, sustainable, political power-sharing solution".

"We ask that the Labour party condemns this abuse of the Tamil people’s right to memorialization and ensure the safety of the Tamil people from the violence of the Sri Lankan state. Without justice and accountability, there can be no sustainable peace".

Megan Smith, Legal Officer for Redress, a charity focused on supporting torture survivors, furthered the call for sanctions on senior Sri Lankan officials implicated in war crimes stating:

"From a human rights perspective, Magnitsky sanctions can be a really effective tool of accountability. It doesn't replace international justice mechanisms but it's one way of providing accountability"

She further slammed the UK government's failure to follow the US lead in sanctioning Sri Lankan officials implicated in war crimes.

'Lord Ahmad is the minister for sanctions has said that international coordination is at the heart of UK sanction policy. We fail to see that coordination here' This is despite the compelling research by International Truth and Justice Project detailing the case for sanctioning officials such as Sri Lanka's Army Commander, Shavendra Silva.


Melissa Dring, Campaign Director for Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, detailed the need to hold "not just the Rajapaksa but all figures credibly accused of crimes" to account.

"We can't allow the government to postpone these issues. Now is exactly the time to talk about these mass atrocities and to hold these individuals responsible".


Tracey Doig, Head of International Advocacy for Freedom from Torture, stressed that calls for accountability must not play "second fiddle" to financial support for the Sri Lankan state.

"13 years after Mullivaikkal, there has been little to no progress in terms of justice and accountability. The systems that allowed the system to take place remain in place, the government remains in place, and those responsible remain in positions of authority".

"The international response must seek to address long-term structural issues of governments [...] The accountability project must not be forgotten or play second fiddle to financial considerations"

She concluded her statement by calling for:

- Sanctions on officials such as Shavendra Silva and Kamal Gunaratne

- To end UK engagement with Sri Lanka's security forces and withdraw the resident defence advisor

- Push for an international justice mechanism







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