During the Second Session of the Peoples’ Tribunal on Sri Lanka which opened Saturday in Bremen, Germany, a panel of eleven eminent judges heard the "Prosecution outline its case that the crime of genocide has been and is being committed against the Tamil people in Sri Lanka," the press release issued by the sponsoring organizations, Permanent Peoples Tribunal (PPT) and Internationaler Menschenrechtsverein Bremen e.V. said. Eleven direct witnesses gave evidence to the panel during the first day. The judges, many of whom are legal scholars on genocide, will apply the principles enshrined in the 1948 Genocide Convention to the evidence presented, and announce their legal determination this Tuesday, December 10th.
Excerpts from the press release follows:
This Second Session in Bremen was convened in response to the determination by the First Session, held in January 2010 in Dublin, Ireland, that War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity had taken place on the Eelam Tamil population during the final months of the war in Sri Lanka in early 2009, and that further investigation be undertaken regarding the question of genocide.
These two sessions of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on Sri Lanka have been established in response to a submission made by the International Human Rights Association Bremen (IMRV) and the Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka (IFPSL). As in the First Session, here in Bremen a panel of judges consisting of experts in genocide studies, former UN officials, experts in international law and renowned peace and human rights activists (see attachment) will hear the evidence that is presented and will announce their judgment on Tuesday 10 December 2013 (Human Rights Day).
The spokesperson for Tamils Against Genocide (TAG), a US-based activist group which seeks legal redress to Tamil victims of war, said that the the hearings of the Sri Lanka tribunal is a land-mark event that the Tamil diaspora should use to further shape future legal efforts to ensnare Colombo into a sustainable genocide legal net in the Western Courts.
TAG added, "Parsing the population in the safe zone during the last months of the war into the categories of combatant and civilian is consistent with a laws-of-war analysis of Mu’l’livaaykkaal. However, the combatant-civilian distinction is not appropriate for analyzing Mu’l’livaaykkaal as a case of genocide. A genocide analysis in brief has three prongs. It identifies whether a group existed that was targeted for extermination, whether an actor took demonstrable steps to further this extermination, and whether the actor took those steps with the specific intent to exterminate that group. As such, in Mu’ll’ivaaykkaal, combatant and civilians categories are not relevant to a genocide analysis. Both communities of combatants and civilians fall into the unitary group of ethnic Tamil.
"The genocide legal inquiry and the evidence presented, therefore, should remain focused on whether the government’s military operations are cognizable as acts of genocide within the aforementioned framework, viewing combatant and civilians as not separate groupings, but part of one unitary group of ethnic Tamils targeted for extermination. Arguments that contemplate laws-of-war factors, such as proportionality or distinction, are not relevant to the genocide framework, TAG said.
"Also, in the determination of whether the GoSL conducted its military operations with genocidal intent, post-Mu’l’livaaykkaal colonization is a significant factor which should be considered in the inference of intent from the facts. When viewed in light of Sri Lankan military operations, the state-sponsored Sinhala colonization of Tamil areas after Mu’l’livaaykkaal, as widely highlighted by International actors, including UN’s Special Rapporteur Chaloka Beyani, provide an additional circumstantial factual basis to infer a specific intent to exterminate the ethnic Tamil group," TAG said.
While the proceedings are broadcast alive, the Tribunal has provided private, off-camera facility to witnesses, who fear danger to their lives or to the lives of relatives, to present the evidence.
Article 2 of the Geneva Convention states: Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
Killing members of the group;
Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Tamil Genocide by Sri Lanka
Black July 1983: the Charge is Genocide
Bystanders to Genocide by Samantha Power