The NGO, Together Against Genocide (TAG, formerly Tamils Against Genocide) has welcomed the prosecution of Sri Lankan Army Staff Sergeant Sunil Rathnayake for the Mirusuvil Massacre, but has said that much more must be done to end impunity.
Rathnayake has been sentenced to death over the massacre of eight Tamil civilians, including two children, who were arrested by Sri Lankan security forces and subsequently murdered and buried in a mass grave in December 2000.
The drawn out timeline of the trials and the fact that only one out of fourteen soldiers originally implicated has been convicted reveals a failure of the Sri Lankan Judicial Authority, TAG said in a statement on Sunday. The organisation has demanded that Sri Lanka ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court; allow the ICC to investigate all instances of war crimes and violations of international law; and co-operate with the UN investigation human rights violations.
TAG also urged the international community to refer the incidences to the ICC; and to urge the Sri Lankan government to promote international justice and protect witnesses to atrocities.
“The Sri Lankan judicial authorities are clearly unwilling to proceed with criminal trials against the Sri Lankan Army,” the organisation highlighted, calling for efforts to trace command responsibility to higher levels of the army.
In the statement, TAG reiterated that the Mirusuvil Massacre was “part of a series of coordinated actions intended to destroy the essential foundations of life of the Tamil people and to destroy this ethnic group”. Underlining the inadequacy of domestic mechanisms in Sri Lanka, the organisation said:
“Even though the war has ended, the racial hatred is far from resolved. The open support for the convicted soldier as a ‘War Hero’ clearly shows that racial tensions are still extremely high. This racial hatred prevents justice for the Tamil victims of this and other massacres. There is a clear reluctance among the majority ethnic Sinhala population to hold SLA forces responsible for their war crimes.”
“Justice will not be served unless the role of senior political figures at the highest levels of government including the then Prime Minister and President, in setting in motion the above systemic programme of persecution, is fully investigated.”
“Such an investigation is not possible domestically in the present political climate. TAG has no confidence in the domestic mechanism. In addition to the reluctance to try SLA soldiers, the sheer lack of political will to hold criminals to account fosters an atmosphere of apathy which is already propagated by the widespread corruption and poor witness protection. The Sri Lankan courts are incapable of administering justice. Therefore, it cannot be guaranteed that the state authorities will arrest and try those responsible for discrete acts of genocide.”