Based on a speech at the vigil in London on July 23, 2011 to remember the victims of Black July. Every year, for 28 years, the Tamil people and our friends across the world have come together in July to remember a crucial turning point in our history. Black July was the largest and most significant of Sri Lanka’s pogroms, more horrific and unrestrained in its violence than the Nazis’ Kristallnacht. In just six days starting on July 23, 1983, Sinhala mobs supported by police and troops attacked the Tamils in the island’s south, killing several thousand and driving the survivors into camps...
Based on leaked extracts, the UN expert panel’s report on Sri Lanka constitutes a watershed moment in international understanding of the crimes committed in the closing phase of the war in Sri Lanka. Crucially, although the word does not appear in the extracts, the report’s contents well supports the charge that Sri Lanka engaged in genocide of the Tamils. The report lays out in detail the calculated, deliberate and systematic targeting of Tamil civilians by the Sri Lankan armed forces, operating under the direct command of the country’s top political leadership. The former UN spokesperson in Sri Lanka, Gordon Weiss, has aptly termed the publishing of the UN experts’ report as a ‘Srebrenica’ moment for Sri Lanka and indeed for the world. The analogy is correct on many counts. Firstly, it was in relation to Srebrenica that the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia) most clearly formulated the principle that part destruction – specifically, a geographically contained (i.e a small territory) destruction - of an ethnic or national group constituted genocide.
When people are abducted and never seen again – ‘disappeared’ – or their bodies are later found dumped, and when they are gunned down in public or in front of their families, these acts are often described as ‘senseless’. Senseless because nothing these people might have done - or are suspected to have done - is seen to justify such horrific ends. But there is a purpose to disappearances and extra-judicial killings: terror. These acts are not just about the individual, but the rest of society. They constitute a specific form of violence aiming to define the relationship between the state and the community concerned, between fear and submission.
There has been some convergence between Tamil and international demands for an independent international investigation into the events of 2009 in Sri Lanka. The international community now largely supports the view that the manner in which the last stages of the war in Sri Lanka were fought may constitute crimes against humanity.