ASIA/SRI LANKA - The Tamil clergy to the UN: "human rights abuses, international intervention is urgent"

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Mannar (Agenzia Fides) – The Tamil Christian clergy submitted a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council for an international investigation into the country’s alleged war crimes and human rights violation. The letter, sent to Fides, is signed by 205 priests and religious, including the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the Jesuits, other religious and more than 100 nuns. The first to sign the petition was Mgr. Rayappu Joseph, Bishop of Mannar who called for a UN intervention. As Fides learns the Bishop is receiving death threats and pressures.
"Almost five years after the end of the war, we have not seen any truth and justice emerging from domestic mechanisms", begins the letter, noting that the Tamil population suffers discrimination. "Disappearances, sexual abuse, arrests, detention and torture under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, restrictions and attacks on freedom of assembly, expression, association and movement continues to date", denounce the religious. "Collective commemoration of dead and disappeared and religious freedom is restricted. Those who criticize, question and challenge government policies and practices, and those who engage with the international community on human rights issues, are branded as terrorist supporters/traitors".
Among them there are also several Catholic priests who have been "interrogated, threatened and intimidated". "The military continues its interference in civil and economic activities, especially in the North and East, undermining the civil and economic empowerment of local people". At the same time, they say, "we are concerned about the post war intensification of systematic efforts to destroy the identity of the Tamil community. This is particularly so by grabbing land for military establishments, development projects and government organized settlement of Sinhalese in the North and East, where Tamils have historically been the majority". The clergy also denounces "the imposition of majority Sinhalese language and majority Buddhist religion in the north and east". "There has been no genuine political process to address the root causes of the conflict, which are being aggravated". Thus, 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. We ask, therefore, the UN to investigate allegations of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the war by all parties to the conflict, moving beyond existing findings, such as credible allegations which have already been established by the UN Panel of experts; to provide for victims and witness protection; guarantee experts unrestricted access to all relevant places, people and documents. (PA) (Agenzia Fide 15/03/2014)