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Sri Lankan Tamil clergy make plea to UN rights council

Joint letter demands accountability for war crimes

Sri Lankan Tamil clergy make plea to UN rights council

Relatives of disappeared persons held a demonstration in front of the United Nations office in Colombo last year. reporter, Colombo
Sri Lanka

March 4, 2014

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More than two hundred Tamil Christian clergy submitted a letter yesterday to the United Nations Human Rights Council, calling for an international investigation into the county’s alleged war crimes and human rights violations.

A total of 204 clergy signed the peititon, which was drafted to coincide with the commencement of the rights council’s 25th session yesterday in Geneva, where Sri Lanka faces the third US-led resolution in as many years targeting Colombo for its failure to look into alleged war crimes.

“There has been no genuine political process to address the root causes of the conflict, which are being aggravated and there is a need for the international community, through the UN, to find creative ways of assisting Tamils to live in dignity as a nation,” the letter said. “Disappearances, sexual abuse, arrests, detention and torture, restrictions and attacks on freedom of assembly, expression, association and movement continue.”

The UN estimates that as many as 40,000 civilians were killed in 2009 during the final stages of the civil war.

Father Jeyabalan Croos, a Catholic priest and Tamil rights activist from Mannar who was a signatory to the letter, said that justice was long overdue.

“[The government] tries to avoid a serious inquiry which could bring genuine accountability,” he said.

“There has been no protection for victims who have appeared in front of government-appointed commissions and they have been threatened and intimidated,” he said.

“We know that sending this letter to the UNHRC can make clerics vulnerable to risks, and several have not signed the letter [because of this] even though they agree with the contents,” he added.

The Sri Lankan government has repeatedly rejected calls for an international investigation and reaffirmed its commitment to handling all inquiries domestically.

Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, the President's Special Envoy for Human Rights, said in a press conference last week that Sri Lanka had shown significant improvements in social, economic and political stability since the war came to an end.

“The government is ready to face any challenge at UNHCR,” he said.

S. Emmanuel, whose 19-year-old son Dunstun Balendran has been missing since September of 2008, said that the families of the disappeared deserved to know the fate of their loved ones.

“We hope the UN takes a firm stance on accountability,” she said.

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