UN Commission on Human Rights
54th Sessions Geneva
March - April 1998)
A Written Memorandum signed by Justice Krishna Iyer and
Ten MPs of the Ruling Coalition of the Republic of India
NATIONAL COMMITTEE FOR SOLIDARITY WITH
THE EELAM TAMILS OF SRI LANKA
March 25, 1998
UN Human Rights Commission
Re: Hearings on Human Rights in Sri Lanka March-April 1998
Respected Members of the Commission,
We the committee for Solidarity with Eelam Tamils of Sri Lanka wish to record our condemnation
of the serious human rights violations by the Sri Lanka government and its security forces amounting
to genocide, and express our disappointment at the virtual silence of the international community,
barring a few exceptions.
As you are no doubt aware, there is a war going on in Sri Lanka between the Sri Lankan
government, representing the Sinhala nation and the Tamil militants (LTTE) representing the Tamil
nation which is fighting a war of liberation. The Sri Lankan government, whose security forces are
almost all Sinhalese, has been responsible for indiscriminate bombing, shelling, and strafing of Tamil
areas causing immense loss of civilian life, limb and property. Since 1983, over 50,000 Tamil
civilians have been killed resulting in tens of thousands of widows and orphans. It has also resorted
to indiscriminately arresting, torturing, raping and killing of Tamils. It has used rape, food and
medicines as weapons of war. The embargo on food and medicines, which has been in force since
1990, has only been partially lifted.
We enclose as Annexure I, a copy of the main resolution passed at the International Convention for
Solidarity with Eelam Tamils of Sri Lanka held in New Delhi on December 14 1997, which gives you
a background to the problem, what is happening in Sri Lanka and an appeal to the world
governments and the world community for action. The convention was attended by persons from
various states of India and from a number of countries. Speakers at the convention included those
from Australia, France and Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan security forces have a long history of serious human rights violations. A recently released
report by the UN Working Group on Disappearances states that Sri Lanka with a total of 11,513
disappearances ranks second highest in the world. The violations of human rights have been
documented in many reports such as by Amnesty International, Asia Watch, International
Commission of Jurists, US Committee for Refugees, etc.
The Sri Lanka Country Report on Human Rights Practices released by the US
Department of State on January 30 1998 mentioned several human rights violations.
Extracts from it enclosed as Annexure II.
In a speech made at the Delhi Convention referred to earlier, Mr. J. Pararajasingham MP (for the
Batticaloa district of the Northeast Province of Sri Lanka) and leader of the Tamil United Liberation
Front Parliamentary group listed several human rights violations against the Tamils. A copy of his
speech is enclosed as Annexure III.
In a report of February 2, 1998, Mr. Jack Arthey, Head of Christian Aid's South Asia Team, who
visits Sri Lanka regularly and engages in doing refugee relief work there through 7 NGOs refers to
the health crisis in Vanni as deeply disturbing. The report states that there is severe malnutrition and
alarming health problems among the internal refugees of some 700,000. Night blindness strikes
children and there is a high incidence of diseases such as malaria, typhoid and scabies. Hookworm
infection and anemia are common among the pregnant women. Maternity clinics are few, the roads
poor, and there is no available means of transport.
Where hospital exists, one doctor is often seeing 1,200 patients a day, states the report. Essential
drugs are unavailable, or outdated and ineffective as medicines are among items restricted or banned
under a government embargo.
The National Peace Council of Sri Lanka, consisting of eminent Sinhalese and Tamil non-political
leaders stated recently that, because of the government embargo on food and medicine stated
recently that, because of the government embargo on food and medicine "the situation is both
desperate and tragic, more so because it appears to be the result of deliberate policy." The Peace
Council confirms the findings of Christian Aid and adds Tuberculosis to the list of diseases. Out of a
sampling of 36,500 fever patients, 40% were found to have malaria, and of this 14% had brain
damaging cerebral malaria. Third degree malnutrition, beyond which level children develop distended
stomachs, expanded livers and skinny frames, was found to be around 40% in the Mullaitivu district
of Vanni. The report states that, "the denial of basic needs of food, medicine and housing materials is
morally unacceptable in a civilised society."
Despite the serious human rights violations, not one person responsible has been convicted. Most
perpetrators continue in their previous positions or have been promoted, some to top leadership jobs
in the security forces. As pointed out in the US State Department's report, "their attitudes and
practices have been slow to change." Court cases proceed very slowly and in some cases prosecution
officials failed to be present during court proceedings. Reports of Commissions of Inquiry into
violations have not been made public. Because of these factors human rights continue to be violated
The abovementioned facts have been concealed to the outside world through restrictions on visits by
media and other observers, both local and foreign, to Tamil areas. Many NGOs have been banned
from operating and providing medical and food relief in these areas. Most recently a law was enacted
to enable the government to monitor the activities of NGOs and permit its officials to visit the offices
and attend meetings of the NGOs.
The culpability of the government of Sri Lanka for these violations of international laws is even more
when account is taken of the impunity it has given to the perpetrators.
The international community has, for far too long, accepted the assurance of the Sri Lanka
government to improve its poor human rights record, blaming it on a few 'bad apples' in the security
forces. It is clear that the government promises count for little. We believe strongly that it is time for
the international community to take a firm stand against the violations of human rights.
We are appreciative of the candid assessment by the U.S. of violations in its report on Sri Lanka for
1997. We wish to point out that India and the United Kingdom have a special responsibility in this
regard in view of their historical ties to the victims. We appeal to them and other world government
to pressurise the Sri Lankan government to take the actions mentioned at the end of the resolution in
With Kind Regards
Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer
Ten MPs of MDMK & Samata Party
UN Commission on Human Rights
54th Sessions Geneva
(March - April 1998)
Statement by Asia-Pacific Human Rights NG0s Facilitating Team
There are currently 17 long-term political prisoners who have served over 28 years in prison in
South Korea. All are held in solitary confinement. I would like to draw your attention to Woo Yong-gak, the longest-serving political prisoner in the world who is in his 40th year of imprisonment. Woo
was the only long-term prisoner age 70 or older who was denied amnesty last month, on account of
his "non-conversion of ideology."
In Indonesia, on 9 March 1998, Ms Stephanie Vaessen, a reporter for the Dutch public television
network, NOS, was ordered to leave the country. The journalist and her two assistants were
apprehended and detained by police for 11 hours before being released.
On 6 March 1998, Margiono, editor-in-chief of "D&R" magazine, was suspended from the
Association of Indonesian Journalists (PWI) for two years following the publication of a cover photo
depicting Indonesian President Suharto as the king of spades.
The Sri Lankan Government has targeted Sri Lankan journalists belonging to the Tamil media and
also subjected foreign journalists to intimidation, harassment and expulsion to hide continuing human
rights abuses in Sri Lanka.
On 29 November 1997, three journalists of the Tamil language newspaper "Virakesari" were
harassed, threatened, and humiliated and their photographic record of events destroyed by the police.
This incident took place when two reporters, Mr Gajan and Mr M. Dunstan, and photographer Mr S.
Surendran were covering the transfer of detainees from the Welikada Prison in Colombo to another
place of detention at Kalutara.
The Sri Lankan Police also raided the hotel room of Indian journalist, Ms Sudha Ramachandran, of
the "Deccan Herald" of India, forcibly seized photographs taken by her and questioned her for
several hours about alleged connections with the LTTE. Ms Ramachandran is a foreign journalist
who had been duly accredited by the Department of Information and the Foreign Ministry, and had
obtained clearance from the Ministry of Defence to travel to the Jaffna Peninsula in the North, which
is under military control, and carry out her journalistic work there.
The Sri Lankan Government also expelled one Chinese journalist.
In conclusion, Mr Chairperson, allow us to reiterate the Special Rapporteurs call to all Governments
to review all "laws specifically intended to protect national security but also ordinary criminal laws
which may be used to infringe the rights to freedom of opinion and expression and information." We
also urge the Governments of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea and Vietnam to extend an
early invitation to the Special Rapporteur to visit their countries.
I thank you for your attention.
For further information contact:
Asia-Pacific Human Rights NG0s Facilitating Team
P.O. Box 26
Tel. ++ (662) 377-9357/370-2701,
Fax ++ (662) 374 0464
UN Commission on Human Rights
54th Sessions Geneva
(March - April 1998)
Agenda Item 8 -
Statement by Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom would like to take this opportunity to
draw the attention of this Commission to the reports of the Special Rapporteur on Torture and of the
Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, with specific reference to the situation
in Sri Lanka and Sudan, in view of the ongoing conflict in these countries.
This Commission is well aware that the grave situation with regard to disappearances in Sri Lanka
led to two visits by the Working Group, in 1991 and 1992. Since then, Sri Lanka has featured
regularly in the reports of the Working Group. In the report that is before the Commission this year,
Sri Lanka goes on record as the country with the highest number of disappearances reported to have
occurred in 1997.
The investigation of allegations regarding disappearance has been one of the key recommendations
of the Working Group in both 1992 and 1993. In response, successive Sri Lankan governments have
set up special Presidential Commissions of Inquiry into Disappearance. Although these Commissions
have submitted several interim reports since they were set up in 1994, no action has been taken to
pursue prosecution of those implicated in the testimonies given before these Commissions.On the
contrary, over the past year, members of the Sri Lankan security forces implicated in several key
cases of abduction, assassination, disappearance and torture have been acquitted and released due to
failure on the part of the Attorney General's Department to proceed with prosecution. The 6 Police
officers accused in the Wavulkeley case, the 22 members of the Special Task Force who were taken
into custody over the floating bodies in Bolgoda Lake, the two Police officers charged with
abduction and murder in Hokandara are among these.
In Sudan, reports of large-scale disappearance taking place in the southern Sudan and in the Nuba
mountain areas, where the civil war continues to rage, are of special concern to us. The Special
Committees of Investigation set up by the government of Sudan have failed to provide adequate
information regarding these allegations nor have they provided redress to family members of the
We would therefore focus the attention of this Commission on the failure on the part of the states in
both Sudan and Sri Lanka to investigate allegations of disappearances, to prosecute those
responsible for disappearances and to provide redress including compensation to the families of the
In respect of the report of the Special Rapporteur on Torture that is before this Commission, the
cases reported from Sri Lanka are about the rape of women in the north and east of the island which
are the areas in which the conflict rages. In recent months, there have been other cases reported,
from Chavakachcheri in the northern peninsula and from Valaichchenai in the Eastern Province. In
all these cases, members of the armed forces have been implicated. In two of the cases, the officials
involved have been taken into custody. In the others, there has not even been complaint filed, due to
intimidation of the victim and witnesses. Even where prosecution proceeds. things move slowly, and
unsatisfactorily. In March, for example, two of the principal accused in one key case escaped from
the courts complex in Colombo.
In December 1997, women's rights groups all over the world protested to the government of Sudan
about the beating and imprisonment of over 50 Sudanese women who had engaged in a peaceful
demonstration against compulsory conscription. 34 of the women were later reported to have been
flogged in prison. The government of Sudan has not taken adequate steps to investigate this incident
or compensate those who suffered.
The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom calls on this Commission to make a
strong statement condemning the use of rape and sexual violence against women as forms of torture
by government troops and state security personnel. We also call on this Commission to take up the
issue of the impunity of perpetrators of human rights abuse who are state security officials with the
governments of Sri Lanka and Sudan. It is only the knowledge that perpetrators of human rights
abuse will be prosecuted that can protect innocent and unarmed civilians, especially in situations of
conflict, from becoming the victims of all forms of gross human rights abuse including abduction,
torture and disappearance.
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
Ligue internationals de femmes pour la paix et la liberté
Liga Internacional de Mujeres por la Paz y la Libertad
Internationale Frauenliga für Frieden und Freiheit
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UN Commission on Human Rights
54th Sessions Geneva
(March - April 1998)
Agenda item 9 - Displaced People
Statement by Humanitarian Law Peoject
HUMANITARIAN LAW PROJECT
International Educational Development, Inc.
8124 West Third Street-Suite 105
Los Angeles, California 90048
Phone: (213) 653-6583 Fax: (213) 653-2741
International Educational Development/Humanitarian Law Project is concerned that the important
issue of mass movements of people lacks focus at the Commission, in part because different aspects
of this topic -- displaced persons, migrants, mass exoduses and refugees are currently addressed by
the Commission under three different agenda items. All movements of people, whether internal or to
the exterior, whether motivated by war, famine, economic betterment, racism, incipient genocide or
any other cause should be addressed together. Separation of the issue of mass movements of people
is especially damaging to the internally displaced and to mass exoduses because under item 9 they
compete with a dizzying array of unrelated, though important issues. Surely in terms of sheer human
misery this topic warrants a separate agenda item.
In Sri Lanka there is a continuing crisis due to the hundreds of thousands of displaced persons
throughout the north and east of the country. The reports of the Special Representative Mr. Francis
Deng have documented this crisis, especially his report following his visit in 1994 (U.N. Doc.
E/CN.4/1994/44/Add.1). The situation has deteriorated since that report and the government of Sri
Lanka seriously hampered efforts of the rest of the international community to assist these people. At
a recent meeting of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International
Committee of the Red Cross, Oxfam, CARE and Medicines Sans Frontieres, there was agreement
that provisions for the displaced in Sri Lanka were grossly insufficient. International pressure is not
reaching the government, which in its callous disregard for the plight of these Tamils appears to be
mired in a policy that approaches genocide. How mindless that the government even labels concern
for these Tamils the work of "ethnic entrepreneurs", quoting a racist term that has been soundly
repudiated. While peaceful coexistence between the Tamil and Sinhala was the rule on the island of
Ceylon for many centuries, it was a coexistence of two separate kingdoms, not a coexistence of a
majority and minority under one political roof. The Commission and the international community
must insist that the government of Sri Lanka fully comply with the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and
provide for the basic subsistence needs of the displaced Tamil population. If that government is
unwilling to do so the international community must insist on the right to provide it itself and must
charge the government for failure to carry out its obligations under humanitarian law. The
Commission must also insist that the Sinhala - Tamil war on the island be resolved with a negotiated
settlement under international supervision. It must make it clear that it will not be resolved by Sri
Lanka government starving hundreds of thousand of displaced Tamil civilians.
The situation of the displaced in Burma, especially along the Burma - Thai border is also very grave.
A week ago, the Burmese military forces attacked the Karen population. This follows devastating
forced relocations of hundreds of Karen, Karenni and Shan villages throughout 1997. 160 villages
were totally destroyed in this operation code-named "the Four Cats Operation", whose goal was to
undermine civilian support for the Karen National Union, the Karenni National Progressive Party and
Shan State. We support the efforts of the European Union to provide aid to these displaced persons,
but are only too aware of the extreme difficulty in that aid reaching the internally displaced that have
not made it to the border. The newly reconstituted regime -- now ironically called the State Peace
and Development Committee -- continues its policy of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions
against these displaced persons. While it has a new name, it is still a regime having no legal authority
as it refused to turn over power to the lawfully elected government. Due to the intransigence of this
ultra vires regime in the face of international censure, it is time for the United Nations to refuse to
recognize it and allow it to participate. The Commission should recommend that urgent action be
taken on behalf of the displaced.
We also note the extreme situation of displaced persons in Burundi and southern Sudan. In Sudan
the regime is reported to have used cluster bombs against camps for the displaced. Thousands of
displaced face starvation in the near future if aid does not reach them.
Finally we urge the international community to provide full assistance to the many Saharans
displaced by the long conflict with Morocco so that they are able to participate in the longpromised
plebiscite now scheduled for December 1998.