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‘Liar Professor Peiris’ - Families of disappeared burn effigy of Sri Lankan foreign minister

Families of the disappeared, civil society members and local Tamils held a protest in Jaffna on Sunday, decrying Sri Lankan foreign minister G L Peiris' remarks at the United Nations Human Rights Council and calling on the United Nations to not dismiss calls for international justice, as Sri Lanka deals with a worsening economic crisis. 

Tamils protested outside the UNHCR office in Jaffna today and submitted a letter to the UN Secretary General and the UN High Commissioner, to condemn the Sri Lankan foreign minister's address to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) earlier this week. 

In his address, Peiris claimed that Sri Lanka had made “significant progress in some key areas” and requested “space for the country to deal with the present socio-economic issues”.

However, the groups stated that the minister was "providing totally false information on all accounts" in an attempt to "abolish the external evidence gathering mechanism" which was introduced in UN Resolution 46/1 to collect evidence of mass atrocities committted by the Sri Lankan state. 

"The Tamil people in the North-East regard the current economic crisis also as a long-accumulated result and consequence of the unresolved ethnic conflict and Sri Lanka’s failure to address impunity for international crimes," the groups wrote in their letter. 

Although Peiris claimed that "progress" had been made, the civil society groups highlighted that Tamil political prisoners continue to languish in prison and Tamil families of the disappeared are still searching for their forcibly disappeared loved ones. 

The groups also echoed previous calls for an international investigation into the war crimes perpetrated by Sri Lanka and stated that a political solution "is as vital as resolving the economic crisis."  

See full text of the letter below: 

Dear Secretary-General Guterres and High Commissioner Bachelet,

We, the undersigned organisations that engage in civil society activism across the North-East of the island of Sri Lanka, have come together to make this urgent appeal after participating at a rally organised in Jaffna on 19th June, 2022, out rightly condemning Minister Peiries’ statement, which was made with the mischievous intention to make the UN abolish the external evidence gathering mechanism introduced by HRC Resolution 46/1 in March 2021.

Peiries was claiming that the focus of the recent protests in the island “consisted of demands for economic relief and institutional reform.” Making that statement to the Human Rights Council in connection with reference to 46/1 Resolution, the Minister was insinuating as if Tamils had down prioritised their demand for international investigations on most heinous international crimes, including the genocide, committed against them by the Sri Lankan State. 

We wish to reiterate with the protest staged in Jaffna today that this is not the case. 

The Tamil people in the North-East regard the current economic crisis also as a long-accumulated result and consequence of the unresolved ethnic conflict and Sri Lanka’s failure to address impunity for international crimes. 

The much needed political stability could be achieved only through resolving the underlying ethnic conflict and by ensuring accountability for past crimes through independent international investigations. 

Addressing accountability for past crimes is also important to stop the ongoing structural genocide and to ensure non-recurrence of genocide and other heinous crimes in the island against any nation, people, community or minority in the island. 

Therefore, finding a political solution that respects the collective rights of the Tamils and others in the island is as vital as resolving the economic crisis.

Furthermore, the Minister was providing totally false information on all accounts in his statement to the Human Rights Council. 

The Tamil political prisoners are languishing the prisons without any effect caused by the cosmetic changes made to the PTA. 

The families of the Tamils subjected to enforced disappearances at the hands of the Sri Lankan military and its agents are still searching for their loved ones without any response from the State. They believe the enforced disappearances constituted a programme aimed at systematic extermination of Tamils.

We wish to also point out that the collective request made by all our Tamil parliamentarians and civil society leaders on 15 January 2021 was demanding investigations on crimes including the genocide. The joint request was also demanding international investigation on genocide and a true International Impartial and Independent evidence-gathering Mechanism (IIIM). 

We regret to note that the UN is yet to address the crime of Tamil genocide. The 46/1 resolution only managed to bring a OHCHR evidence gathering mechanism. 

While noting that UN Human Rights High Commissioner was right in interpreting OP6 of 46/1, Tamils want it improved into a full-fledged IIIM, including mandate to assess the crime of genocide in the next UNHRC Resolution. 

We urge the United Nations system not to allow Sri Lanka to swap ‘international justice’ for ‘resolution of economic crisis’.



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