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Pardon exhibits “entrenched discrimination and persecution of Tamils” – ATC

The Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) have condemned the presidential pardon of Sergeant Sunil Rathnayake, insisting the “pardon of convicted murderer of Tamils proves justice only possible through international criminal tribunal.”

Rathnayake, was sentenced to death for killing eight Tamil Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Mirusuvil, Jaffna on December 2000, after being convicted in June 2015 and had his sentence upheld in April 2019 at Sri Lanka’s supreme court.

ATC released a statement regarding the pardon, stating;

“The Sri Lankan President's pardon of an ex-Army Officer and convicted murderer of Tamil civilians, including children, yet again proves that accountability and justice for crimes committed by Sri Lanka's armed forces against Tamils is not possible within Sri Lanka.

Army personnel who have committed crimes against Tamils are scarcely arrested, let alone convicted. Considered a rare occurrence, Sergeant Sunil Ratnayake, a Sinhala army officer, was convicted in 2015 for the murder of eight Tamil civilians, including three children, in Mirusuvil in 2000. The sentence was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka in 2019 only to be pardoned by President Rajapaksa last week.

This pardon only reiterates that even on the rarest of occasions when justice within a flawed state system seems possible for crimes committed by the state's armed forces the entrenched discrimination and persecution of Tamils is too deeply engrained in the psyche of the island's political leadership for this to follow through. 

The Australian Tamil Congress believes this is further proof that Sri Lanka is unwilling to deliver justice to Tamils, and reaffirms its call for an international mechanism such as an ad hoc international criminal tribunal on Sri Lanka to be pursued to achieve accountability for crimes against humanity and acts of genocide committed against Tamils by the state and its armed forces.”

Despite widespread condemnation of the presidential pardon, there has been no criticism from Sinhala parties and very public outrage. 

An international justice mechanism has been urged for by the international community, including politicians and human rights groups, as well as multiple Tamil parties in Sri Lanka.

Read more in our feature here.