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US should intervene directly with GoSL, LTTE to protect civilians – Professor Boyle

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 14 April 2009 19:05 No Comment]

francis_boyle With Norway’s ouster as a third-party engaging with the Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam (LTTE), the role of the United States in having direct access with the Liberation Tigers has become critical to negotiating a ceasefire and bring relief to the more than 250,000 Tamil civilians caught in the war. Ambassador Lunstead points out that legal restrictions imposed by US domestic laws do not prevent the U.S. taking that role, and Professor Boyle further asserts that Geneva Conventions of 1949 makes it an obligation for the U.S. to intervene directly with both the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and the LTTE in order to protect these innocent Tamil civilians.

Professor Boyle, professor of International Law at the University of Illinois College of Law, in a note sent to TamilNet said: "Both the United States and Sri Lanka are contracting parties to the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949. Common article 1 thereof provides: ‘The High Contracting Parties undertake to respect and to ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances.’ The United States government has an absolute obligation ‘to ensure respect’ for the Geneva Conventions ‘in all circumstances.’ With respect to the current situation in Vanni where the lives and well-being of 250,000 Tamils are at risk and in grave danger, the United States government has an absolute obligation to intervene directly with both the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and the LTTE in order to protect these innocent Tamil civilians and to terminate the massive war crimes that are currently being inflicted upon them by the GOSL in violation of the Geneva Conventions. The same arguments apply to every state that is a contracting party to the Geneva Conventions, which includes almost every state in the world. In other words, almost every state in the world has both the right, the standing, and the obligation to intervene directly with both the GOSL and the LTTE in order to terminate war crimes from being inflicted upon the completely innocent Tamil civilians currently living in Vanni."

Jeffrey Lunstead, former US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, had earlier traced the legal and policy implications of the U.S. officials engaging directly with the LTTE. He makes the following point, "the legal restrictions were clear: the U.S. government could not provide material assistance to the LTTE, and had to block LTTE funds. LTTE officials could not obtain visas to visit the U.S. unless a waiver was granted by the Attorney General based on a recommendation by the Secretary of State. It should be noted that there is no legal proscription against meeting with LTTE officials. A decision not to meet with LTTE officials is a policy decision, not a legal one," indicating that the US’s domestic laws do not bar the US officials from engaging directly with the LTTE.

On the question if "direct U.S. contact with the LTTE have made this [U.S.] position clearer and perhaps induced a change in behavior [of the LTTE]," Ambassador responds: "This question is of course unanswerable. As many participants have noted, direct U.S. contact with the LTTE, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), was difficult in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. One potential advantage of direct U.S. communication with the LTTE, had it occurred, would have been the ability of the U.S. to hear LTTE."

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