Erasing the Eelam Victory

The UN Security Council was approached, without success by the Tamil Separatist Movement to get the Eelam war stopped and Eelam declared. According to the UN Charter the only UN body that can discuss the Eelam war was the Security Council. This was clearly stated in article 7 of the UN Constitution 

But the Security Council refused to discuss the Eelam war. They said it was an internal matter that did not affect international security. UN could interfere in the affair of a country only if a situation developed that would spill over into the neigbor8ng countries or affect another country. UN Charter forbids interference in the internal matters of member states.

The Petrie Report stated that Sri Lanka’s war was never formally considered by member States at the UN, whether at the Security Council or the General Assembly. A UN diplomat told me in a private communication They did not hit us in New York.”

When they saw that Sri Lanka was winning, western countries, led by the EU made five attempts to table a resolution against Sri Lanka at the UN Security Council. China and Russia vetoed this on all five occasions, said Sergei de Silva Ranasinhe.

From late 2008, when Eelam war IV was in progress, a small group of non-permanent members of the Security Council had become deeply concerned by events and by early February 2009 wished the Security Council to formally consider the situation in Sri Lanka. However, they did not have sufficient support within the Security Council for this said the Petrie Report   Norway said it tried unsuccessfully, to take Sri Lanka before the UN Security Council. But UNSC was divided and efforts to get Sri Lanka on its main agenda were stymied by Russia and China, reported Norway.

Throughout the final stages of the conflict, Member States did not hold a single formal meeting on Sri Lanka, whether at the Security Council, the Human Rights Council or the General Assembly, continued Petrie Report.

Unable to agree on placing Sri Lanka on its agenda, the Security Council held several ‘informal interactive dialogue’ meetings. The Sri Lankan ambassador to the UN participated in these meetings, providing the Government’s version of events and potentially influencing discussions.

These ‘informal interactive dialogue’ meetings had no formal status, no written records and no formal outcomes. The first of three informal dialogues took place on 26 March 2009, followed by another meeting on 22 April where the Council was also briefed by the Secretary General’s Chief of Staff, Vijay Nambiar and Catherine Bragg, Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs. A third meeting was held on 13 May.

Before that a meeting was held on 11 May hosted by eight UNSC members, the Foreign Ministers of UK, France, Austria, humanitarian organizations and other concerned UN members. At this meeting, the US, working through Britain, France and Austria, tried to get the UN Security Council to examine the numbers of deaths in the last stage of the Eelam War. This was to be at a Security Council briefing.  But US was not able to secure the 16 signatures needed   and UN Security Council refused to discuss the situation in Sri Lanka. 

Instead, the move was ‘strenuously warded’ off by seven countries led by China and Russia. These seven, China, Russia, Japan, Turkey, Uganda, Vietnam and Libya,   said that the current situation in Sri Lanka did not warrant a briefing in the Security Council. China vehemently” opposed any discussion in the Security Council on the issue of civilians trapped in the fighting between government Security Forces and the LTTE arguing that it was “purely an internal matter”.

Foreign Ministers from two member countries of the Security Council went to Sri Lanka in late April 2009.  On 12th May, 2009 they called for Sri Lanka to be placed on the Security Council’s agenda. But this came too late to change the course of events, said Petrie Report. The Security Council did not issue a press statement until three days before the end of the conflict.

On May 13. 2009, five days before the war ended, Security Council issued a press statement .The press statement said, the members of the Security Council express grave concern over the worsening humanitarian crisis in north-east Sri Lanka, in particular the reports of hundreds of civilian casualties in recent days, and call for urgent action by all parties to ensure the safety of civilians.

The members of the Security Council strongly condemn the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for its acts of terrorism over many years, and for its continued use of civilians as human shields, and acknowledge the legitimate right of the Government of Sri Lanka to combat terrorism.

The members of the Security Council demand that the LTTE lay down its arms and allow the tens of thousands of civilians still in the conflict zone to leave. The members of the Security Council express deep concern at the reports of continued use of heavy calibre weapons in areas with high concentrations of civilians, and expect the Government of Sri Lanka to fulfill its commitment in this regard.

The members of the Security Council demand that all parties respect their obligations under international humanitarian law. The members of the Security Council call on the Government of Sri Lanka to take the further necessary steps to facilitate the evacuation of the trapped civilians and the urgent delivery of humanitarian assistance to them.

The members of the Security Council take note of the steps taken by the Government of Sri Lanka to address the humanitarian situation of displaced persons and call on the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure the security of those displaced by the conflict and to cooperate with the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and other international humanitarian organizations in providing humanitarian relief and access to them as soon as they leave the conflict zone.

The members of the Security Council reiterate support for the personal involvement of the UN Secretary General and urge the Government of Sri Lanka to extend full cooperation to the United Nations in order to resolve the humanitarian crisis.

The members of the Security Council, mindful of the necessity to find a long-term solution without the threat of violence, underline that the needs of all communities in Sri Lanka have to be addressed. (End of statement.)

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon used this statement to visit Sri Lanka soon after the war ended and issued a joint statement with President Mahinda Rajapaksa.Ban Ki Moon then set up the Panel of investigation which issued the Darusman Report (2011).

 The Secretary General presented the Darusman Report to Security Council, though the report did not have a Security Council mandate.  It was not welcomed by China and Russia. Russia objected, saying that it was not a UN report. It was not done in accordance with the regulations and the procedures of the UN.  The report was a private one for the Secretary General

The Russian ambassador to Sri Lanka told Sunday Times in May 2011 that Russia had opposed the Darusman project from the start.  When the panel was appointed Russia had issued a statement saying that ‘the UN Secretary General as Chief Administrative Officer of the UN should have asked the opinion of the Security Council or the General Assembly before embarking on this project.”

From the very beginning we were skeptical of the panel, the Ambassador said. We were assured by the Secretary General and his staff that this was not a fact finding mission,   the task was not to investigate but only to advise the Secretary General. But what we saw later was very different.

Allegations are made against the government of Sri Lanka in the Darusman Report. The allegations are not proved. The Report says the conclusions were  based on the evidence of individuals and groups that were considered ‘reliable’ by the Panel itself which means they were choosing who was reliable and who was not.

There are too many questions about the Darusman Report. The authors of the report were far from objective. The report cannot be grounds for any further action. If any country tried to punish or shame Sri Lanka, using this report Russia would oppose them, concluded the ambassador “We should not veto the Darusman report itself, but we may veto a resolution. ”Russia will oppose any such attempt at the UNSC.

On the other hand, if a resolution criticizing the Darusman report was brought up in UNSC, Russia would support it. The Russian ambassador added that as at May 2011 there were no moves to bring in a Security Council resolution against or in support of Sri Lanka. 

However, efforts to take the Eelam war before the UNSC are continuing. USA approached the UNSC in 2015 and was refused. 

In August 2021 Canada’s Foreign Minister Rob Oliphant rejected a call from Tamil Diaspora groups for Canada to take up Sri Lanka’s case before the International Criminal Court. Oliphant said that the Resolution adopted by the Tamil Separatist Movement in Canada in March 2021 does not incorporate a mechanism to refer Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Only the United Nations Security Council could refer cases to the ICC if the country concerned is, like Sri Lanka, not a party to the Rome Statute or has not accepted the ICC’s jurisdiction.(Continued)

Kamalika Pieris

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