US Congresswoman Deborah Ross (NC) and US Congressman Bill Johnson (OH) introduced a bipartisan Resolution today calling for a referendum for Eelam Tamils to be “democratically and equitably represented” as well as a “lasting peaceful political solution”.
The Resolution comes as the Tamil nation marks 14 years since the massacre at Mullivaikkal where Sri Lanka’s forces killed tens of thousands of Tamils in the final weeks of the armed conflict.
The Resolution points out the Sri Lankan military’s continuing occupation and oppression of the Tamil homeland. It points to the denial of freedom of expression implemented in 6th Amendment that prevents Tamils calling for their independence. It also quotes the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State in 2006 who advocated for Eelam Tamils’ rights in their traditional homeland “to rule their own destinies and to govern themselves in their homeland”.
The Resolution calls for the referral of Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court and recognises Eelam Tamils’ traditional homeland.
The Resolution further acknowledges that the 26 year long armed conflict led to the deaths of tens of thousands of Tamils, “disappearances, abuses and displacements” and noted Sri Lanka’s “impunity for human rights violations”.
Although 14 years have passed since the Tamil genocide in 2009, successive Sri Lankan governments have failed to hold the perpetrators accountable and instead promoted perpetrators to prominent political positions. Moreover, in 2020 Sri Lanka reneged on its commitments made to the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2015.
The resolution highlights that “no effort has been made to bring to justice those who are alleged to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, no investigations have begun even on emblematic cases, evidence gathering is hindered through arbitrary arrests and threats by the state[…]”.
The resolution resolves that the House of Representatives:
Acknowledges the 14th anniversary of the end of the war in Sri Lanka and offers its deepest condolences to all those affected by the conflict;
Honours 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;
Commends the UNHRC for prioritising 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;
Recognises the bravery and commitments 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;
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 and ensure nonrecurrence of violence;
Encourages the promotion of universally accepted democratic principles and systems on the island of Sri Lanka, including through the use of the referendum process to ensure that peoples of all ethnicities, including the Eelam Tamil people, are democratically and equitably represented on the island;
Recommends the US explore investigations and prosecutions pursuant to the recommendations of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights;
Urges the US to work with the UN General Assembly, the UN Security Council, and the UNHRC to establish a credible and effective international mechanism for accountability for the grave crimes committed during the war in Sri Lanka; and
Encourages the Secretary of State to leverage the US position on the UN Security Council to pursue a referral of Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court, as outlined in the February 2021 report on Sri Lanka from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which describes “the referral of the situation in Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court” as one option to “advance criminal accountability and provide measures of redress for victims”.
Read the full resolution here.