Sexual violence against Tamil men by the Sri Lankan state was ‘widespread’ and ‘egregious’ both during and after the war, the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) concluded in its latest report, launched at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva today. The report analyses testimonies collected by the organisation over four years, which show Tamils have been disproportionately affected by sexual violence by state security forces, both during the war and in the post-war context, and that sexual violence has been committed to a large extent by those in Sri Lanka’s “extensive security apparatus who profit from a culture of impunity.” The testimonies used in the report were from Tamil men in ages ranging from the youngest aged 14 at the time of the violations to the oldest victim in his late forties.
Tamils across the North-East today marked 31 years since Lt Col Thileepan began his fast unto death, demanding the Indian government upheld its promises to the Tamil people. Over 100,000 people gathered at the Nallur temple in Jaffna on September 15, 1987 to hear his words as he began the hunger strike.
He was my favourite uncle, the youngest in my mother’s family, who was named after the Tamil deity, Lord Murugan - the true protector of language heritage and the Tamil culture, as my grandmother (Ammamma) would always say. He was her last son, her favourite. A most mischievous being that she loved and spent the majority of her final years protecting. He survived abuse during the time the Indian army came onto the island and lived through war and witnessed the genocide of his people, before he was forced to let go of the one person he dreamed of sharing his life with.
Thousands of Tamils demonstrated in Mullaitivu this morning, calling for an end to Sinhalisation and land grabs in the region.
“What we need now is that our children come home. We have daughters, many mothers have lost their children or have been made disappeared. This government kidnapped them. No one came from foreign countries to take them, did they? The Sri Lankan government must answer to these children. No one else can go outside and expect to find answers for them.” Nanthabala Sivasothy sits along the roads of Trincomalee to protest with fellow mothers, following the forced disappearance of her daughter on February 10, 2002. Her daughter was kidnapped in a white van on her way home from tuition. Sivasothy recalls chasing the van as fast as she could as it sped off. Her daughter was only 15 years old at the time.
Tamils around the world today remember the 12th anniversary of the massacre of 53 school girls by the Sri Lankan air force. On August 14th, 2006 four Sri Lankan air force jets flew over the Vanni and dropped sixteen bombs were dropped over the Sencholai children's home for orphans, killing 53 school girls and 3 teachers. To date, no-one has been held to account for the deaths.
On August 4th 2006, Sri Lankan troops lined up and summarily executed 17 aid workers with the French NGO Action Contre la Faim (ACF) in Muttur. Sixteen of the aid workers were Tamil, one Muslim. Twelve years on, no one has been held to account for this crime.
“The Americans, the Indians, the United Nations all told us to surrender our children,” says Kandasamy Ponamma. “Now they have all let us go.” Sat on a tarpaulin sheet in the sweltering heat outside a temple in Kilinochchi, she lays out meticulously kept photographs of her family. Her daughter Kirishnakumari, son-in-law Nadesu and their two young children Sarujan and Abitha were all last seen on the 18th of May 2009. Nadesu, a member of the LTTE, had surrendered alongside hundreds of others members and their families to the Sri Lankan military. The whole family, including 5-year-old Sarujan and 2-year-old Abitha, were forced on board a Sri Lankan military bus.
File photograph: Ben Emmerson in Sri Lanka last year ( Sunday Times ) Sri Lanka’s progress towards reform has “ground to a virtual halt” with Tamils on the island “stigmatised and disenfranchised”, concludes a United Nations report on the country’s human rights record. The report by the former Special Rapporteur on countering terrorism Ben Emmerson, says that “none of the measures so far adopted to fulfil Sri Lanka’s transitional justice commitments are adequate to ensure real progress”.
Today we mark thirty-five years since the horrors of the anti-Tamil pogrom of 1983, when Tamils were killed by Sinhala mobs backed by the then UNP government and state forces. Armed with electoral rolls, Sinhala mobs targeted Tamil homes and businesses, looting and ransacking property. Driven from their homes, particularly in Colombo, over 3000 Tamils were massacred, whilst thousands more were effectively deported by the state to the North-East. Eye witness reports described mobs chasing Tamils down the street with knives and setting them alight alive. Many hundreds of women were raped. Tamil political prisoners locked up in Welikada jail, deep within the island's south, were also targeted as prison guards allowed Sinhala inmates to slaughter them.