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British MPs commemorate 'horrific Black July pogroms against the Tamil community'

British politicians from across the aisles joined commemorating the anniversary of Black July today, a week of anti-Tamil pogroms thirty-seven years ago that killed thousands of people across the island.

Stephen Timms, Chair of Work and Pensions Committee and former Vice-Chair of the APPG for Tamils stated:

“I just want to express first of all my deepest sympathy to all those hurt and bereaved in the terrible events of Black July. The commemoration comes at a time when progress towards reconciliation in Sri Lanka seems to have stopped or even perhaps gone backwards over the last few months. The latest report of the UN Commissioner on Human Rights about the situation in Sri Lanka makes pretty grim reading. Just to quote some of the points that it makes, this was the report in February. It says that ‘there has been no further progress towards the development of a more comprehensive truth and reconciliation commission. There has also been no progress towards establishing a judicial mechanism with a special council to investigate allegations of human rights abuses. And it also makes the point that the reports of harassment or surveillance of human rights defenders and victims of human rights violations increased during 2019. That report is in the pursuit of Resolution 30/1 which Sri Lanka co-sponsored with the UK and others in 2015. But in February the Sri Lankan government said that it no longer supported that resolution and it appears that the Sri Lankan government is no longer even claiming to want reconciliation. It is a grim time and what I want to do is to reaffirm my support for what I think now is the only plausible way forward which is the establishment for the Independent international investigation of what happened in Sri Lanka at the end of the civil war in 2019. I hope that is what the UK government will now press for. I want to extend my best wishes too.”

 

Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee and Vice-Chair of APPG for Tamils Chair of the Education Select Committee, similarly stated:

“I have always believed that the genocide of the Tamils should be recognised internationally. That the Tamils deserve autonomy and that the list of the perpetrators should be published by the British government in terms of the global acts on sanctions. We have to have justice for the Tamils. We have to have self-determination. We have to have recognition of the genocide. I wish you all well at this difficult time”

 

Gareth Thomas MP, Shadow Minister for International Trade and Vice-Chair of APPG for Tamils said with respects to Black July:

“The terrible events in July 1983, ushering in the pogroms against the Tamil people in the North and East of Sri Lanka were a harbinger of what was to come over the next 20 years leading up to the conflict in 2009. We know that there continues to be severe human rights abuses in Sri Lanka. I urge once again the British government to continue the pressure on the Sri Lankan government to recognise the need to respect the Tamil people and to put in place that the measures that the international community have said are necessary to begin to deliver the peace, reconciliation and crucially justice for the events that happened at the end of 2009”.

 

Janet Daby, Shadow Minister for Faiths, Women and Equalities, stated during this anniversary:

“37 Years ago we saw barbaric acts committed against Tamil men, women, and children on the streets of Sri Lanka. Thousands of lives were lost, with thousands more live torn apart and displaced across Sri Lanka with government complicity. The injustice didn’t end there. The incident was followed by a brutal civil war which tore the country apart and undoubtedly affected many of you listening to this today. But this remembrance serves as a reminder to all of us to keep striving for justice and accountability for the crimes committed in Sri Lanka, this would be the only way to truly achieve peace and justice. It was therefore terribly disappointing to see the Sri Lankan’s governments decision, earlier this year, to withdraw from its commitments to the UN Human Rights Council. On an international scale, I believe the UN Security Council should establish an international accountability mechanism to ensure the victims of decades-long conflict get the justice that is owed to them. I once again offer you my condolences and commitment to keep fighting for true peace and justice in Sri Lanka”.

Sam Tarry MP, Vice-Chair of APPG for Tamils, similarly called on the UK government to implement sanctions against its human rights record by invoking the Magnitsky act. He stated:

"The horrific Black July pogroms against the Tamil community in Sri Lanka, described by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) as genocide, occurred in a wider context of the institutional and structural oppression of Tamils on the island. It triggered a mass exodus of the Tamil community from the island, many of whom now live in my constituency. Unfortunately, 37 years on, Sri Lanka, seems to be far from addressing the root causes of the ethnic conflict on the island.

Earlier this year, the UN Human Rights Chief, and several UN experts, expressed serious concern about Sri Lanka’s reneging on its commitment to UNHRC res 30/1 and an increasingly hostile environment for the Tamil and Muslim community on the island. The UN Human Rights Chief further warned, 'The increasing levels of hate speech, and security and policy measures appear to be discriminately and disproportionately directed against minorities, both Tamil and Muslim',

Eleven years on since the end of the armed ethnic conflict, as Sri Lanka flouts its commitments to the UN Human Rights Council, it is imperative that the international community applies pressure on the Government to act towards ethnic reconciliation on the island. As Vice-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils, I will continue to push the British Government to ensure that its foreign policy on Sri Lanka prioritises securing an international accountability mechanism for mass atrocities, demilitarisation of Tamil homelands in the North-East of Sri Lanka and a political power sharing settlement that acknowledges the right to self-determination of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka. As a start, I will be calling on our Government to use its recent Magnitsky style legislation to apply sanctions on Sri Lankan military officials that stand accused of atrocity crimes".

 

Feryal Clark MP, Vice-Chair of APPG for Tamils and Member of Environmental Audit Committee, said on this anniversary:

“We must never forget the trauma, hurt and pain felt by thousands of Tamils around the world when commemorating the anti-Tamil pogroms of 1983.

In the memory of those who were murdered and injured during the pogroms, we must work to build human rights and dignity into all international relationships. This includes pressing the Sri Lankan government to take meaningful action on human rights and encouraging reconciliation between communities.

I stand in solidarity with British Tamil families including those who have at least one family member with personal experience of the pogroms of 1983 and the civil war in Sri Lanka and I deeply sympathise with their strong desire to see justice, accountability and equal human rights.

Let me assure you that I will continue to press the UK government to hold the Sri Lankan authorities to account, both in terms of their current human rights record and their obligations to fully address the pogroms of 1983 and the legacies of the civil war.

My thoughts and solidarity are with the Tamil community throughout Black July as we commemorate the anti-Tamil pogroms of 1983”.

 

Chris Grayling MP, member of Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament and former Secretary of State for Transport, similarly said:

“The recent history of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka has been one of tragic and shocking events. We should never forget those who lost their lives, and it is the duty of all in the international community to ensure that everything possible is done to ensure that future generations of Sri Lankan Tamils can live in peace, free from fears about the safety of themselves and their families”.

 

Virendra Sharma MP, Former Chair of APPG for Tamils, Member of International Development Committee has said:

"In 1983 the Tamil People were targeted directly by the Sri Lankan Government in a pogrom. This was the purposeful persecution and murder of Tamils by the Sri Lankan state. We meet this year, as every year to remember those killed, injured, and scarred for life in Black July, and in every persecution of the Tamil People since.

There is not yet justice for the thousands murdered, and there will not be until those responsible are held to account for their crimes. We need action now from the international community. We need coherent and stiff punishment for those responsible and complicit.

Many international processes have begun but have not completed their work. We need to see independent investigation and adjudication, with the cooperation of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly.

We need to see independent monitoring of the situation today to ensure that the repression of the Tamil People is not allowed to continue. We must see actions to hold to account the military officers and political officials that oversaw the targeting of Tamil civilians in contravention of all accepted international law.

I want to offer my personal thanks to the British Tamil Forum and everyone here today remembering the victims of Black July more than 30 years ago. The work you all do keeps the memory alive of those who have gone, and, in their memory, we still strive for justice and accountability. I look forward to next year when we meet again in person and hope at least some justice can be secured”.

 

Theresa Villiers MP, Vice-Chair of APPG for Tamils Member of Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, commemorated the anniversary stating:

"In remembrance of Black July 83:

37 years ago, around 3,000 innocent Tamil men, women and children were massacred. This sad anniversary is an opportunity to remember the victims of what happened and reflect on what needs to be done to secure justice, reconciliation, and stability in Sri Lanka.

I thank the British Tamils Forum for their briefing on the terrible events of July 1983. At the hands of violent mobs, seemingly with the tacit support of the Sri Lankan state, more than 25,000 Tamils were injured, 150,000 left homeless and 8,000 Tamil owned business were looted and then burnt down

This Sri Lankan government failed to protect its citizens and failed to uphold the rule of law. No one has been held accountable for these horrific crimes.  

The borough of Barnet is one of the most ethnically diverse in Britain, and I am proud to have many Tamils as my constituents.

I have been campaigning for justice for the Tamil people. We need to see those responsible for Black July and other crimes against Tamils brought before the courts and held to account for their actions.

I welcome the introduction by the UK Conservative Government of a new “Global Human Rights Sanctions”. This will enable targeted sanctions to be imposed against individuals responsible for war crimes and human rights abuses. I have called on the UK Government to deploy these new measures against people identified by the UN as perpetrators of such crimes in Sri Lanka."

 

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