(Text of a Press Release Issued by the Canadian Tamil Congress on January 2(th 2021)
The Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC) strongly welcomes the report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Sri Lanka and calls for immediate and effective actions from the Canadian government to address its recommendations.
This highly critical report lists Sri Lanka’s litany of failures – both related to the current human rights situation, as well as the commitments made by Sri Lanka to address serious international crimes committed during the war that ended in 2009.
The report powerfully articulates the case for international action to ensure justice for international crimes. As per the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, UN member states ‘should pursue investigations and prosecution in their national courts – under accepted principles of extraterritorial or universal jurisdiction – of international crimes’ and ‘explore possible targeted sanctions such as asset freezes and travel ban against credibly alleged perpetrators of grave human rights violations and abuses.’ In addition, the High Commissioner also urged Member States to pursue alternative international options for ensuring justice and reparations and support a dedicated capacity to advance these efforts.
CTC has been championing for such actions against known perpetrators of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka and has made submissions to the Canadian government related to Magnitsky Act sanctions on them.
On February 14, 2020, the United States Government designated the current Sri Lankan Army Commander, Shavendra Silva, under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, making him ineligible for entry into the US due to his alleged involvement in gross human rights abuses.
CTC wrote twice (Feb. 17, 2020 and Nov. 10, 2020) to the then Canadian Foreign Minister, Honourable François Philippe Champagne, urging for similar action. Disappointingly, Canada is yet to take any meaningful initiative along these lines.
In reality, inaction by Canada emboldens Sri Lanka to be bold and reckless, even to the point of considering diplomatic nomination for individual(s) credibly implicated in war crimes.
CTC implores the Canadian government act – swiftly and comprehensively – on the recommendation of the OHCHR report on Sri Lanka.