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TAPI Sends Open Letter to UN Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka Seeking to Ensure the Panel’s Investigation is Given Adequate Time and Resources

Published On Wednesday, January 19, 2011
On January 14th, the Tamil American Peace Initiative (TAPI) sent an open letter to the UN Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka, a panel formed to advise Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on ensuring human rights and accountability in Sri Lanka. The letter asks the panel to urge Mr. Ban to ensure sufficient time is given for it to complete its review before advising Mr. Ban on how to proceed. The letter also implored the panel to ensure confidentiality for those individuals who made submissions about war crimes and crimes against humanity, while asking that the final report be made public so those responsible for committing atrocities are held accountable. The text of the letter is below:

“Dear Members of the Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka:

Given the challenge, complexity, and great importance of performing a complete and objective investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during Sri Lanka’s 25 year ethnic conflict, we are writing to ask that you urge United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to allow more time for you to complete your review. Although we applaud the good intentions behind the one month extension reported today by Inner City Press, we fear that five months still does not give you enough time to: 1) fully review the myriad of submissions provided to you; and 2) obtain additional information you may deem necessary to determine “the nature and scope of any alleged violations in Sri Lanka.”

As you are aware, an independent and complete investigation is absolutely critical for Sri Lanka to effectively achieve an enduring solution for the ethnic conflict between the Singhalese and Tamils. We have grave concerns about the ability and willingness of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) to perform a fully objective and complete investigation, and we are not alone. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and International Crisis Group declined to testify in front of LLRC because the commission “not only fails to meet basic international standards for independent and impartial inquiries, but it is proceeding against a backdrop of government failure to address impunity and continuing human rights abuses.”

European Union leaders have also questioned LLRC’s ability to perform a proper investigation, along with 17 United States Senators and 58 United States Representatives. Therefore your independent investigation is extremely important for both reconciliation in Sri Lanka and the sustainability of international human rights and humanitarian law. This is especially poignant given the resurgence of killings and disappearances in Sri Lanka, and the possibility that a policy to intentionally change the demographics of the Sri Lankan Northeast is already underway.

We also hope your panel will strive to maintain the confidentiality of those who have made submissions. In light of press reports that your panel may share evidence with the LLRC, there is concern that confidentiality could be compromised if stringent processes are not put into place to prevent a possible breach, and we hope submissions will be retained under secure arrangements long after the investigation is completed. However, we do hope the final report by the UN Panel of Experts will be made public. Transparency is essential for ensuring that those responsible for committing atrocities are held accountable. We strongly believe that the world must know the truth behind what happened.

As you continue along your well-defined task of advising the Secretary General on “accountability processes, taking into consideration the nature and scope of any alleged violations in Sri Lanka,” we hope your panel will implore the Secretary General to allow you to complete the task in a manner you deem appropriate, without undue interference, and with adequate time and resources."
About TAPI
The Tamil American Peace Initiative was formed by a group of Tamil Americans to help bring lasting peace, justice, democracy, good governance and economic development to Sri Lanka; to focus attention on the destruction of Tamil communities and culture caused by almost three decades of war; and to demand an end to the continuing oppression of Tamils on the island.

Contact T. Kopper at info@tamilamerican.org or +1.202.879.9384 for additional information or to arrange an interview with Dr. Karunyan Arulanantham.
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