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Danish parliament hosts conference on accountability for Sri Lanka's mass atrocities

A conference on international humanitarian and human rights law violations in Sri Lanka was held in the Danish Parliament this week, with speakers from around the world discussing mass atrocities committed on the island and the current human rights situation.

The conference, held on Wednesday at the parliament complex in Copenhagen, saw Danish parliamentarians speak alongside Tamil National People’s Front Leader Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, civil society activist Father Ezhil Rajenthiram, former BBC correspondent and author Frances Harrison, a representative from the Kurdistan Liberation Front and the President of the Union of Danish Tamil Sangams.

The Enhedslisten party's parliamentarian Nikolaj Villumsen spoke of how the Denmark should exert pressure on the Sri Lankan government to provide accountability for human rights violations, especially given the strong trade relations between the two governments.

His comments were echoed by Monas Jensen and Christian Yule who both spoke of how the Danish government was taking steps towards balancing trade interests with human rights. They stated that human rights issues had already been brought up with the Sri Lankan government and along with the European Union, their government would ensure that human rights are not forgotten.

Their comments come after reports that the Sri Lankan prime minister was “furious” over conditions agreed by the European Union in order to regain the preferential trade deal, GSP plus.

The two speakers also praised the conference and the role such events played in shaping Danish foreign policy.

During his address Mr Villumsen also touched on his support for the Tamil liberation struggle and how labels of “terrorism” had been used to slur freedom struggles across the world.

Frances Harrison spoke on reports of ongoing torture in her address, drawing on sections from the International Truth and Justice Project report.

Meanwhile Father Ezhil Rajenthiram told the audience of how human rights violations continue to occur in the Tamil North-East, adding that the Sri Lankan judicial system requires reform in order to punish perpetrators of abuses.

TNPF president Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam was one of the final speakers at the conference, outlining how little progress had been made in the North-East since he last spoke at the Danish parliament three years ago. Mr Ponnambalam said little had changed for the Tamil population on the ground and said accountability for mass atrocities seemed particularly distant.

He concluded by calling on the international community not to avoid the issue of justice and accountability.