Veteran lawyer urges China to ensure UN investigation on Tamil plight

A veteran legal and social activist in Malaysia, Mr A. Kanesalingam urged the government of China on Thursday to ensure international conventions that could facilitate an independent international investigation conducted by the UN on the genocide in Sri Lanka. “I ask that China as a world leader and permanent member of he UN Security Council propose that an investigation be conducted by the UN under Chapter 7 of the Charter of the United Nations,” said, Mr A. Kanesalingam, in a letter sent to the Foreign Minister of China, Mr. Wang Yi. The Malaysian Tamils beseeching China on the issue is significant, commented diaspora Tamil political observers.

Making a presentation entirely based on the facts of the UNSG panel report of 2011, and proving the genocide by citing the UN convention, the barrister said: “Taking into consideration the finding of credible evidence of genocide by the Expert Panel appointed by the UN Secretary General, any investigation must be by an independent international panel appointed by the UN Security Council.”

“I hope that China as a world leader will help to ensure international conventions are respected and followed by all nations of the world to ensure peace in all the world,” Mr Kanesalingam wrote.

The letter also reminded China that, “While China enjoys a trade surplus with Sri Lanka and has a policy of non interference in the internal affairs of other nations, China’s commitment to observe international conventions must override certain considerations.”

“This is more so as China takes up its rightful place as a world leader,” the letter further said.

Washington and New Delhi often take cover for their ‘inabilities’ in the delivery of justice, by citing or hinting at China’s inroads into the island through investment as well as arms supply, money and protection at the UN level given to the Colombo regime by China.

* * *

After sending the letter to Chinese Foreign Minister, Mr Kanesaligam wrote to Tamil activists, whom he had met in the past, urging them also to write letters to foreign ministers of the permanent members of the UN Security Council.

“In the current UNHRC the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council are members,” he said.

Mr. Kanesalingam has been writing letters to world leaders on Tamils plight for several years now and some of his timely letters have received the attention of the recipients in the past.

“I am thinking what would be the effect if appeal letters differently worded go to the Foreign Ministers of the 5 permanent member countries from New Delhi, Coimbatore, Chennai, Bangalore, Singapore, London, Manchester, Liverpool, New York, California, Toronto, Paris, Strasbourg, Oslo, Bergen, Amsterdam, Leyden, Munich, Frankfurt, Rome, Geneva, Lisbon, Madrid, Kuala Lumpur and so on and so on. There can be several letters from the same city from different organisations in that city. The organisations can be Tamil, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, NGOs, humanitarian or even from any non Tamil or partisan organisations writing as good people.”

“Although it may not achieve our objective we cannot let the opportunity go to say we have done ‘our’ best,” he said.

* * *

The following were the arguments presented by Mr Kanesalingam to the Chinese Foreign Minister on Thursday:

The Report of the independent international Panel of Experts appointed by the Secretary- General of the United Nations Mr Ban Ki Moon to look into the Accountability Process in Sri Lanka after consultation between Mr Ban Ki Moon and the Sri Lankan President Mr Mahinda Rajapakse published in the worldwide web on 31.3.2011 discloses disturbing facts.

I attach a PDF copy of the Report obtained from the worldwide web.

While the Report says war crimes were also committed by the Tamil rebels (LTTE), the Sri Lankan Armed Forces (SLA forces) and the Sri Lankan Government have dealt with them. The surviving Tamil rebels were either killed or taken as prisoners.

But the crimes committed by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and the Sri Lankan Government amounting to genocide has not been dealt with at all.

Paragraph 58 of the Report shows that 300,000 heavily armed men were in the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. Paragraph 66 shows that there were less than 20,000 fighters of the Tamil rebels. Paragraph 125 shows that in the affected districts of Kilinochi and Mullaitivu armed in North Sri Lanka there were only 420,000 civilians according to Government records.

The power was heavily weighed against the Tamil population in Kilinochi and Mullaitivu.

Paragraph 27 of the Report states as follows:

."The armed conflict in Sri Lanka was the violent reflection of deepening divides along political and ethnic lines. It played out as a struggle for the existence of the Sinhalese and Tamil peoples."

On 20-1-2009 the Government of Sri Lanka designated a no fire zone (NFZ). The internally displaced Tamil civilians (1DPs) went into the no fire zone for safety. The civilians were then fired upon by the Sri Lankan armed forces.
Paragraph 80 of the report states as follows:

"On 20 January 2009, the Government unilaterally declared a No Fire Zone (NFZ); Commander for the Vanni, Major General Jayasuriya announced by notice that" the Army Headquarters has demarcated this safe zone, as the Security Forces are fully committed to provide maximum safety for civilians trapped or forcibly kept by the LTTE in the un-cleared areas of Mullaittivu."

Paragraph 84 states as follows:

" In the early morning hours of 24 January, hundreds of shells rained down in the NFZ. Those with access to the United Nations bunker dove into it for protection, but most IDPs did not have bunkers and had nowhere to seek cover. People were screaming and crying out for help. The United Nations security officer, a highly experienced military officer and others present discerned that the shelling was coming from the south, from SLA positions. He made frantic calls to the head of United Nations Security in Colombo and the Vanni Force Commander at his headquarters in Vavuniya as well as the Joint Operations Headquarters in Colombo, demanding that the shelling stop, which sometimes resulted in a temporary adjustment of the shelling before it started again. Heavy shelling continued over night, and shells continued to hit the United Nations hub and the distribution centre, killing numerous civilians,"

Paragraph 85 states as follows:

" When United Nations staff emerged from the bunker in the first morning light at the first opportunity, mangled bodies and body parts were strewn all around them including those of many women and children. Remains of babies had been blasted upwards into the trees. Among the dead were the people who had helped to dig the bunker the previous day."

Paragraph 100 states as follows:

"From as early as 6 February 2009, the SLA continuously shelled within the area that became the second NFZ, from all directions, including land, air and sea. It is estimated that there were between 300,000 and 330,000 civilians in that small area. The SLA assault employed aerial bombardment, long-range artillery, howitzers and MBRLs as well as small mortars, RPGs and small arms fire, some of it fired from a close range. MBRLs are unguided missile systems designed to shell large areas, but if used in densely populated areas, are indiscriminate in their effect and likely to cause large numbers of casualties."

Paragraph 137 states as follows:

" In the limited surveys that have been carried out in the aftermath of the conflict, the percentage of people reporting dead relatives is high. A number of credible sources have estimated that there could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths. Two years after the end of the war, there is still no reliable figure for civilian deaths, but multiple sources of information indicate that a range of up to 40,000 civilian deaths cannot be ruled out at this stage. Only a proper investigation can lead to the identification of all of the victims and to the formulation of an accurate figure for the total number of civilian deaths."

Paragraph 176 states as follows:

a) Killing of civilians through widespread shelling. The Sri Lanka Army (SLA) advanced its military campaign in the Vanni, using large-scale and widespread shelling, at times with heavy weapons, such as Multi-Barrel Rocket Launchers (MBRLs) and other large artillery, causing large numbers of civilian casualties. It shelled in three consecutive No Fire Zones, where it had encouraged the civilian population to concentrate, and after it had indicated that it would stop using heavy weapons. It shelled in spite of its knowledge of the impact, provided through SLA intelligence systems, including UAVs, and through notification by various external actors, including the United Nations and the ICRC. The majority of civilian casualties in the final phases of the war were caused by Government shelling. The Government sought to limit external pressure and observation by excluding international organisations from the conflict zone.
b) Shelling of hospitals and other humanitarian objects. The Government systematically shelled hospitals on the frontlines, some of them repeatedly. Some civilians who had been injured in shelling and who had come to the hospital were re-injured or killed due to this shelling. All hospitals in the Vanni were hit by shells and had to be evacuated. This was despite the fact that their locations were well known to the Government."

The above facts disclose the mass killings of Tamil civilians by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces which is a commission of the crime of genocide as defined by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide 1948.
Articles 1 & 2 of the Convention defines genocide as follows:
"Adopted by Resolution 260 (III) A of the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948.
Article 1

The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.
Article 2
In the present Convention, 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:

a) Killing members of the group; b) 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;"

I attach a copy of the Convention for easy reference.

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