A panel discussion was held at the British parliament this week, marking the 35th anniversary of the Black July pogrom when thousands of Tamils were killed.
The discussion, organised by the British Tamils Forum (BTF), included speeches from parliamentarians Stephen Timms and Wes Streeting, as well as Saleh Mamon from CAMPACC and MCM Iqbal, a former consultant on Human Rights at the National Human Rights Commission and the Asia Foundation in Sri Lanka.
The Members of Parliament spoke of their efforts to ensure Sri Lanka’s human rights situation is kept under the international spotlight going into 2019, when a UN Human Rights Council resolution on justice and accountability is to be re-examined.
Mr Iqbal drew on his experience with various commissions on the island to examine the Sri Lankan government’s latest initiatives, such as the Office of Missing Persons (OMP).
“On the face of it, this Office appears to honour the pledge to set up a mechanism to deal with issues of the victims of disappearances of persons that had taken place during the conflict,” he said.
“A closer look at the various provisions show, that it is a flawed institution. Besides the offence of disappearances of persons is still not in the Penal Code of Sri Lanka nor is the concept of command responsibility. Consequently, acting with impunity is the norm even today.’’
“In view of this, it is inevitable that impunity will persist in the operations of the police and the security forces personnel,” he continued. “It is time the international community recognises and understands the dynamics of human rights violations in Sri Lanka and the deceptive statements the government issues and ensures the rights of those victims of violations are protected, even by recourse to the principle of the UN’s Responsibility to Protect’’.
Presentations from BTF speakers also examined ‘Cycles of Violence and Impunity in Sri Lanka’ and Sri Lanka’s lack of progress in implementation of the UN HRC resolution.
Saleh Mamon from CAMPACC delivered a message of solidarity with the Tamil people in their quest for justice.
The panel discussion was part of a range of events held by the diaspora to mark the 35th anniversary of the Black July pogrom.