A group of US Congress members have urged the State Department to use its leverage at the United Nations Security Council to refer Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The call comes just days ahead of the 51st session at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) where Sri Lanka's human rights situation is to be discussed. Tamil victim survivors, activists and politicians have been calling on the international community to refer Sri Lanka to the ICC for its crimes against Tamils for years as accountability has been stagnating at the UNHRC.
"We strongly urge the State Department to center human rights and transitional justice for the Tamil population in its diplomatic engagement with Sri Lanka during this crisis and to make every effort to promote an international accountability process for Sri Lanka," the letter said.
The letter also calls on the State Department to consider working with victim-survivors and their representatives to prosecute international crimes, explore targeted sanctions against human rights abusers and review asylum policies to protect those fleeing Sri Lanka and who are at risk of torture.
The Congress members also highlighted that the Rajapaksa regime withdrew its commitments from Resolution 30/1 after Sri Lanka "has yet to provide any credible or concrete roadmap towards transitional justice."
In her recent report, the UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet also noted that following its withdrawal of Resolution 30/1, the Sri Lankan government have obstructed accountability processes for past crimes and have granted presidential pardons to perpetrators.
The report also highlighted that the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) and the Office for Reparations "have failed to achieve the tangible results expected by victims and other stakeholders."
US-based advocacy organisation PEARL told the Tamil Guardian that they welcomed the letter to Secretary Blinken.
"Ahead of the 51st regular session of the UN Human Rights Council, this Congressional letter to Secretary Blinken represents critical support from United States policymakers for longstanding Tamil demands for justice, including an international approach to accountability for mass atrocity crimes and a referral of Sri Lanka to the ICC," Ernest Rajakone, an Advocacy Officer at PEARL said.
"We appreciate the leadership of Congresswoman Ross and other signatories of this letter, as we join them in emphasising the need for international accountability to address the historic and ongoing crimes of the Sri Lankan state, Rajakone added.
Reacting to the letter, Tamil Americans United thanked the Congress members for their call for ICC referral as "Sri Lanka made it abundantly clear they won't listen to UNHRC, nor give justice nor equal rights to Tamils."
2/3 Thanks to the #USCongressMembers for standing up for #AmericanValues. #SriLanka made it abundantly clear they won’t listen to @UNHRC, nor give justice nor equal rights to Tamils. No guarantees of non-recurrence. #UNHRC failed. @All435Reps @State_SCA @POTUS @USAmbSL @USEmbSL
— Tamil Americans United (@Tamils_Action) September 9, 2022
Read the full letter here.