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"If there is to be peace, there must be justice"

Comments by Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. For full text click here.

"It has been more than two years now. Early 2009 was a frightening, chilling time for hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka. Trapped between an advancing Sri Lankan military offensive and the retreating armed opposition LTTE (or Tamil Tigers), they were caught in the middle of intense, unrelenting fighting and suffered abuses from both directions. Thousands of women, men and young people were killed and there were massive levels of displacement.

Sri Lanka now faces immense challenges in reconciling communities that have been trapped in vicious cycles of armed conflict and human rights abuse for more than three decades. It is a considerable challenge, as those deadly final weeks in early 2009 were but one of many wrenching chapters of widespread suffering and injustice over the years.

Throughout those decades of conflict and violence, it is clear that one formidable obstacle to human rights protection has been the deeply entrenched impunity that has surrounded those individuals responsible for the abuses. With no price to pay for such crimes, it is sadly inevitable that violations have only led to more violations.

Impunity is by no means unique to Sri Lanka. Right around the world, human rights violators have long been shielded from facing justice for war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture, mass rape and other unspeakable atrocities.

The one initiative launched by the Sri Lankan government, a Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission, is so deeply flawed and lacking independence that human rights organizations such as Amnesty International took the position that we could not and would not participate in its work.

More is needed. There needs to be an international level investigation, as called for by the UN Panel of Experts. Canada—a respected global champion of international justice and home to a sizeable Sri Lankan diaspora community—must become a visible leader, working closely with other governments, in efforts at the UN to make sure that happens."

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