Tamils protest for the release of political prisoners. Colombo, October 2015. When Maithripala Sirisena was elected as president of Sri Lanka in January last year, he promised to end human rights violations by the security forces. Under Sirisena's predecessor, Mahinda Rajapaksa, it was common practice for the army and police to abduct people and torture them. Some were later released, while others were murdered.
The entire northern province of Sri Lanka, an area mainly inhabited by Tamils, was "brought to a standstill" on November 13, according to the Tamilnet website, in support of Tamil prisoners on hunger strike for their freedom. All private and public activities, except for medical services, came to a standstill. Students did not attend schools. Roads remained deserted except for the army and police.
About 300 Tamil political prisoners in 11 prisons began a hunger strike on October 12. Many of the prisoners have been detained without trial under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Some have been in jail for up to 20 years. They are accused of being members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which fought for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka, but was defeated in 2009.
The United Nations Human Rights Council has unanimously adopted a resolution called “Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka”. This resolution, of which the United States was the main sponsor, welcomed a proposal by the Sri Lankan government to establish a “judicial mechanism” to investigate “abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law”.
The United Nations' Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report of its investigation into human rights violations in Sri Lanka found “reasonable grounds to believe that gross violations of international human rights law … were committed.” The investigation deals with the period between February 2002 and November 2011. It thus includes the final years of the war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The LTTE fought for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka and was defeated in May 2009.
The Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) has welcomed a September 16 report released by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which "identified patterns of grave violations in Sri Lanka between 2002 and 2011, strongly indicating that war crimes and crimes against humanity were most likely committed by both sides to the conflict".
Tamils protest in Geneva to demand a UN investigation into Sri Lankan war crimes. Photo via Tamilnet.
Kokilavany is contesting in the Sri Lankan parliamentary election in 2015 on behalf of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress Party, which is part of the Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF). She spoke to Lalitha Chelliah on Community Radio 3CR's Tamil Manifest program on August 1. * * *
Protest demanding investigation of war crimes. Jaffna, Sri Lankan-occupied Tamil Eelam, February 24. Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has dissolved parliament and called elections for August 17. Sirisena was elected president on January 9, replacing Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The Global Tamil Forum issued a statement on May 1 evaluating the first months of in office of Sri Lanka's new president Maithripala Sirisena. In presidential elections in January, Sirisena defeated the incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa, who had presided over a genocidal war against the Tamil people and then kept them under military occupation. The GTF praised Sirisena for amending the Sri Lankan constitution to cut the power of the president and increase the power of parliament.