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US Congress introduces resolution calling for international mechanism for crimes committed in Sri Lanka

Marking the 12th anniversary of the Mullivaikkal genocide, Congresswoman Deborah Ross introduced a bipartisan House Resolution calling for an "effective international mechanism for accountability" and a "permanent political solution" in Sri Lanka.

The resolution recognises that 12 years have passed since the end of the armed conflict when the Sri Lankan military had launched a massive offensive into Mullivaikkal, which eventually killed tens of thousands of Tamils.

Despite over a decade passing since the massacre, the state has failed to hold the perpetrators accountable and have backtracked on commitments made to the United Nations Human Rights Council. It notes that "impunity prevails in the country" as it has failed to address, investigate and prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity. Instead, the state has continuously claimed that a domestic process will achieve accountability and justice. 

The resolution highlights that the "Tamil people of Sri Lanka suffered tens of thousands of deaths, disappearances, abuses and displacements." It also notes that the "traditional Tamil homeland, remains heavily militarised with up to one soldier for every two civilians in the most war-affected regions." 

Moreover, the resolution recognises that the Northern Provincial Council of Sri Lanka has passed its own resolutions calling for a UN moniored referendum in the North-East to "support the development of a permanent political solution."

The resolution resolves that the House of Representatives: 

(1) acknowledges the 12th anniversary of the end of the war in Sri Lanka and offers its deepest condolences to all those affected by the conflict;

(2) honors the memory of those who died and reaffirms its solidarity with the people of all communities in Sri Lanka in their search for reconciliation, reconstruction, reparation, and reform;

(3) commends the United Nations Human Rights Council for prioritizing the collection and preservation of evidence related to human rights violations, a process that must not be interfered with by the Government of Sri Lanka;

(4) recognizes the bravery and commitment of advocates for justice across all communities in Sri Lanka, including the Tamil families of the disappeared, whose protests and demands for answers have at times been met with threats, intimidation, and harassment by government security forces;

(5) urges the international community to advocate for and protect the political rights and representation of the historically oppressed northeastern region of Sri Lanka and work towards a permanent political solution to address the underlying issues that led to ethnic conflict;

(6) recommends the United States explore investigations and prosecutions pursuant to the recommendations of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; and

(7) urges the United States to work with the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Security Council, and the United Nations Human Rights Council to establish a credible and effective international mechanism for accountability for the grave crimes committed during the war in Sri Lanka.

“Perpetrators of human rights violations must be held accountable,” said Congresswoman Ross in a press release. “The Sri Lankan government has obstructed justice, impeded institutional reform, and committed human rights abuses against dissidents and minority communities—including Tamils."

"I commend efforts by the international community to establish an international mechanism to hold the Sri Lankan government accountable, and I encourage the Rajapaksa government to follow through on overdue promises for justice and accountability for war crimes and violations of human and civil rights," Congressman Johnson, who co-led the resolution, said. 

Tamils in the North-East and across the diaspora have continuously called on the international community to establish an international accountability mechanism to hold Sri Lanka accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against the Tamil nation. 

Speaking to Tamil Guardian, Ernest Rajakone, US Advocacy Officer for People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL), said:

"PEARL welcomes the introduction of H.Res. 413, as we continue to advocate for a more consistent US policy approach to Sri Lanka, grounded in a commitment to human rights and international accountability. We strongly support the call in H.Res.413 for the establishment of a credible and effective international mechanism for accountability for Sri Lanka."

See full text of the resolution here

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