Sri Lankan issue: Tamil diaspora organisations' request to UN chief

"Ensure Sri Lanka remains on the UN agenda after March 2019 until it meets human rights, accountability and reconciliation commitments," said Tamil Diaspora organisations in their joint letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The letter, signed by S Sivam, President, United States Tamil Political Action Council, Dr. Vadivelu Santhakumar President, The Canadian Tamil Congress. V Ravi Kumar, General Secretary, British Tamils Forum and M. Manokaran,  Chairman, Australian Tamil Congress, said, the final phase of the war in Sri Lanka which ended in May 2009 is considered one of the most brutal in recent history, with the systematic commission mass atrocity crimes by the government forcesagainst the Tamil population. Shortly after the end of war, Tamil church leaders and civil society raised grave concern that based on regional official statistics 146,679 people remain unaccounted.

Subsequently, two UN reports have estimated that 40–70,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final months, with a blockade of essential goods including food and medicine, shelling of civilian areas including hospitals, and the enforced disappearance of thousands of civilians and combatants who surrendered to the Sri Lankan armed forces, it said. "Though the UN gravely failed to protect civilians, we commend the postwar actions taken by then-Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for both bringing out the true scale of the brutality (Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka – 2011) and pinpointing the failure of various UN agencies to fulfilltheir responsibilities at the most critical time of the war (Internal Review Panel on United Nations Action in Sri Lanka – 2012). Strong leadership shown by the past two High Commissioners for Human Rights (Navi Pillay and Zeid Raad Al Hussein) was instrumental in keeping Sri Lanka’s human rights record under the spotlight. Their leadership facilitated the adoption of five resolutions on Sri Lanka (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017). Sri Lanka itself even co-sponsored the last two resolutions, 30/1 (2015) and 34/1 (2017), committing to implement transitional justice measures, including those related to truth, justice, and reparations," it added.

Despite Sri Lanka’s public pledge and professed cooperation with the UNHRC, the government’s commitment and conviction to faithfully implement the resolutions have been lacking from the start. The little progress Sri Lanka has made – namely ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED) and setting up an Office of Missing Persons (OMP) – was accomplished because of immense international pressure, though these steps have had little to no impact on the affected, primarily Tamil population, the letter said.