Photographs: Timothy Anderson
The world renowned songwriter and hip hop artist, M.I.A (Mathangi Arulpragasam) and the human rights advocate, Bianca Jagger, called for justice for Tamils who had been raped by the Sri Lankan military.
Speaking at an event tonight organised at the Canadian High Commission in London, to coincide with the global summit on ending sexual violence in conflict taking place this week, M.I.A read testimonies of Tamil women who had been raped by Sinhalese soldiers. The emotional reading, left the singer in tears as she retold the horrific testimonies to the audience.
Commenting on British Foreign Secretary William Hague's announcement that the UK will investigate cases of Tamil asylum seekers being deported to face rape and torture in Sri Lanka, singer M.I.A also stated,
"I'm really glad that William Hague is now taking the violations of human rights in Sri Lanka more seriously. But his campaign is called #TimeToAct so he needs to start putting actions behind his work. There are far too many vulnerable women and men living their lives in fear, not knowing what will happen to them and if they will be sent back to the place where they were brutally raped and tortured. His Team of Experts must focus their work to help prosecute the rapists, particularly those in the Sri Lankan army who are protected by the Sri Lankan Government."
MIA reads a Tamil rape victim's testimony
Supermodel Cara Delevingne also spoke out in support of the campaign for justice, addressing the event via video link and reading out a survivor's testimony.
Hosted by the BBC's Jenni Murray, the event was also attended by US Ambassador for War Crimes Stephen Rapp, US Ambassador for Women's Affairs Catherine Russell and Special Representative of the UNSG on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Bangura, who delivered the keynote address at the opening plenary session of the Global Summit earlier in the day.
The event, which was organised to raise awareness of the sexual violence committed by Sri Lanka's military against Tamils during the island's ethnic conflict, also included Bianca Jagger who read testimonies of rape victims from a report by co-author of the UN Panel of Experts report on Sri Lanka’s mass atrocities, Yasmin Sooka.
Amongst those who read out the testimonies was Bashana Abeywardene, an exiled journalist from Journalists for Democracy Sri Lanka, who retold an account from a male rape victim.
Actress Maryam d'Abo reads harrowing testimony from rape survival victims
Exiled journalist Bashana Abeywardene reading a rape victim's testimony
Human Rights activist Bianca Jagger also said,
"I welcome Foreign Secretary Hague’s response to my article and letters, and his decision to investigate the deportation of Sri Lankan victims of torture and sexual violence by the Home Office.
"But the battle is far from over and we must continue to pursue justice for the survivors.
"I urge Foreign Secretary Hague to suspend all deportations of rape and torture victims pending further investigation and to assign the Stabilisation Unit Team of Experts to investigate Sri Lanka, where the government’s systematic, widespread campaign of sexual violence and torture continues unabated. I urge William Hague to meet with some of the many survivors here in the UK and hear their testimony.
"All survivors of sexual violence in conflict deserve access to justice and our support. We cannot pick and choose who we extend that justice to."
Jan Jananayagam of Tamils Against Genocide told the Tamil Guardian shortly after the event,
"It was difficult to listen to the excruciating testimony from witnesses whose bravery needs recognition. We are very grateful to the Canadian High Commission for hosting this event and pushing for justice in Sri Lanka."
The event, which was held in private, in order to protect the identity of some of the victims who were at the event, also included several prominent human rights activists and campaigners in attendance, from charities and organisations that work with refugees and asylum seekers.