Delhi based human rights centre condemns Tokyo Co-chair stand [TamilNet, Wednesday, 04 February 2009, 15:46 GMT]
Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), a New Delhi-based human rights watchdog headed by Suhas Chakma, in a statement issued on Wednesday said the Tokyo Co-chairs (Norway, Japan, USA, EU), instead of mediating between government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE to declare indefinite cease-fire, have failed to reflect the ground situations and remained silent on the need for ensuring respect for the laws of war. The ACHR on Wednesday issued a review titled "Mullaitivu Vs Gaza: The Tokyo Co-Chairs fail on the responsibility to protect".
Extracts from the ACHR weekly review follow:
Cease-fire is the only option to prevent further violations of war crimes both by the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE. International community must not wait for the fall of Mullaitivu just the way NATO troops remained a mute witness to the fall of Sebrenica in the former Yugoslavia. In a situation when the State (Sri Lanka) has publicly refused to fulfill its responsibility to protect, international community has the responsibility to “use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means” or take “collective action, in a timely and decisive manner”, through the Security Council and in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. (Paragraph 139 of R2P).
International community, in particular the Tokyo Co-Chair, India and United Nations, must act decisively by taking the following measures:
- Mediate between government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE to declare indefinite cease-fire, find out modalities for “an inclusive dialogue to agree on a political settlement” of the conflict and provide unrestricted access to the UN agencies, the ICRC, and humanitarian organizations to the internally displaced persons;
- Invite India to join as a member of the Tokyo Co-Chairs while India on its part must abandon its unilateral approach on Sri Lanka and accept the co-chairmanship;
- Take measures for holding a Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka, send a High Level Investigation Team to inquire into the violations of international humanitarian law both by the Sri Lankan Army and the LTTE including fixing of the command responsibility and establishing field missions of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to monitor human rights violations; and
- Urge Sri Lanka to lift ban on reporting on the war and prosecute those responsible for the murder and attacks on the journalists.
Failures of the Tokyo Co-Chairs:
The statement of the Tokyo Co-Chairs (Norway, Japan, US and EU) issued on 3 February 2009 appears naïve. The statement failed to reflect the ground situations and remained silent on the need for ensuring respect for the laws of war.
First, the Tokyo Co-Chairs statement called on “the LTTE to discuss with the Government of Sri Lanka the modalities for ending hostilities, including the laying down of arms, renunciation of violence, acceptance of the Government of Sri Lanka's offer of amnesty; and participating as a political party in a process to achieve a just and lasting political solution.” If the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE could discuss among themselves, the Co-Chairs would not simply be issuing such a statement! Across the world, pre-condition on the armed groups to lay down arms has never led to start of any peace process. It is the failure of the Co-Chairs to prevail upon the Government of Sri Lanka to take advantage of a political opportunity provided by military victories to restore life to normalcy in the Northern Province and throughout Sri Lanka.
Second, the Tokyo Co-Chairs regrettably made no reference to the scale of killings of the civilians in the war. While Sri Lankan government claimed of a policy of following a “zero civilian casualty”, the International Committee of the Red Cross stated on 27 January 2009 that “Hundreds of people have been killed and scores of wounded are overwhelming understaffed and ill-equipped medical facilities in Sri Lanka's northern Vanni region”. It is precisely because of the absolute ban on reporting on war that gross violations of international humanitarian law both by the Sri Lankan army and the LTTE are not being reported.
Third, the statement of the Tokyo Co-Chairs failed to urge both the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE to fully respect the laws of wars including the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
While there is no disagreement with the statement of the Tokyo Co-Chairs that “There remains probably only a short period of time before the LTTE loses control of all areas in the North”, it failed to take note of the costs - endangering the lives of over 250,000 civilians trapped in Mullaitivu. At present the LTTE refuses to “allow the civilians’ freedom of movement” while Sri Lanka is hell-bent on attacking the civilians in the LTTE held areas as shown by bombing of the hospitals including the civil hospital in Pudukudiyyiruppu on 4 February 2009.