A new campaign launched by British Tamils, human rights organisations and backed by British parliamentarians calls on the UK government to sanction Sri Lankan generals under the Global Magnitsky Act for war crimes committed against Tamils.
The campaign has been supported by British Tamil Conservatives, Tamils for Labour, Tamil Friends of Liberal Democrats, Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, and People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL).
The campaign comes as the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) sent the UK Government’s sanctions department a 100-page submission on a second Sri Lankan general - former Army Commander Jagath Jayasuriya – and reiterated its call for sanctions.
Jayasuriya is the current Chairman of the National Boxing Selection Committee of Sri Lanka, which is focusing on competing in the 2022 Commonwealth Games due to be held in Birmingham, England.
Sri Lanka has yet to confirm whether he is scheduled to attend.
“The very least the UK can do is to open an investigation, in anticipation of arresting Jayasuriya under universal jurisdiction if he attends the Commonwealth games this year with his team,” said Sen Kandiah of Tamils for Labour.
“It is time the government stop prevaricating on this matter and actually deliver some sanctions for alleged war criminals,” added Gajen Raj of British Tamil Conservatives. “This is not the criminal accountability victims deserve but sanctions are a first step towards recognition of what our community has suffered at the hands of these men who now flaunt their impunity.”
“Sanctioning Jagath Jayasuriya, a coward who fled from justice in Latin America is an easy first step,” said Liberal Democrats Councillor Thay Thayalan, “He is retired and holds no official position – the political cost for UK is minimal but for our community it would be a huge morale boost and gesture of solidarity.”
The call was backed by British parliamentarians, with Elliot Colburn, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils, stating “We urge all our members to write to the FCDO to ask them to apply sanctions to army officers, some of whom are already designated in other countries”.
“We must act if we want to maintain the trust and loyalty of the extensive and influential Tamil community in this country,” he added. “I will be calling on all my colleagues in Westminster to reaffirm that it’s time to sanction Sri Lanka when they make their annual Thai Pongal or Tamil Harvest Festival messages of support to the Tamil community next week.”
The ITJP has already submitted another dossier on Shavendra Silva, the current head of the Sri Lankan army who remains barred from entry to the United States over his role in the execution of Tamils.
“The British government has a duty to protect the rights of the hundreds of Tamil victims of these Sri Lankan Generals who are now living in the United Kingdom; the Tamil community’s calls for Magnitsky sanctions to extend to Sri Lanka need to be heard by British politicians who solicit their votes in future,” said Yasmin Sooka, executive director of the ITJP. “Britain is the pen holder for the Geneva process on Sri Lanka which led to the establishment of the evidence gathering mechanism precisely to support accountability steps but this is not enough; the UK needs to extend accountability initiatives to sanctions and universal jurisdiction cases, as called upon by the High Commissioner for Human Rights. It would be a travesty for the UK to lead the accountability process but then fail to set a good example itself.”
“Given the UK’s leadership on accountability for Sri Lanka, it’s time the government looked at these submissions carefully – after all there was enough of a prima facie case for the United States to designate Shavendra Silva, and for Chile to appoint a prosecutor to look into the complaint against Jagath Jayasuriya,” said Charlie Loudon, International Legal Adviser at Redress, which runs the Secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Magnitsky Sanctions.
“These two Generals should be just the beginning – there is a case to be made against several others involved in alleged war crimes in 2009 and now holding key positions in the current government,” added Melissa Dring, Campaign Director of Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice.
See the full press release here.
Also see an overview of Jayasuriya’s military career, complied by the ITJP, here.