there was some really disturbing reporting on the situation of the tamils in sri lanka the past few days. here is an update from david chater on al jazeera:
i wish that al jazeera posted not only their reports in the field, but also the discussions that follow the reports live in the studio. because late last night they interviewed a woman from tamils against genocide. i couldn’t grab a pen to jot down her name, but she was really amazing. she mentioned a number of things that were particularly striking in terms of the way it resembles what israeli terrorists do to palestinians in gaza and in the past against lebanese. here are a few things she mentioned:
1. sri lanka is using cluster bombs
2. sri lanka is using white phosphorus
3. sri lanka has hired an american public relations firm to put out propaganda
4. sri lanka has trapped tamils and refuses to let them leave the war zone
5. sri lanka propaganda is now saying “there is no humanitarian crisis” (recall: tzipi livni)
6. sri lanka is only allowing journalists to be embedded with its army and will not allow them into the areas where tamils are trapped
to get an idea of what white phosphorus does here is a video from human rights watch on israeli terrorists’ use of the weapon in gaza:
the video is useful, but like cluster bombs i totally disagree with human rights watch that this weapon has a legitimate purpose in any context. they argue that there are legitimate uses of white phosphorus. i also have serious problems with human rights watch de-contextualizing palestinian resistance fighters’ use of qassam rockets. it is not the same. israeli terrorists have an army–and the fourth largest army in the world. palestinians have limited resources for its resistance. not unlike the tamil tigers in sri lanka.
there are, of course, historical parallels between palestinians and tamils, too, given the context of the british creating the problems in both places as well. suren surendiran wrote a great piece in the guardian this week that provides some historical context that will also resonate for those who know the history of palestine:
The Sri Lankan military is killing hundreds of Tamil civilians each day. On Sunday alone, a thousand people were killed by cluster bombs, artillery and machine gun fire. On Monday, hundreds died when Sri Lankan forces used them as human mine-sweepers and human shields to advance against the Tamil Tigers.
This “slaughter” of civilians, as Human Rights Watch has condemned it, has intensified since January. Over 5,000 Tamils have been massacred in the past three months alone.
Crucially, this genocide by the Sri Lankan state has been enabled by the international community, including Britain. This is why tens of thousands of British Tamils have been protesting outside Parliament here for several weeks.
We are British citizens, but our government is ignoring us and turning a blind eye to the ongoing massacres of our relatives and community in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka as a country was evicted from the UN human rights council last year for its gross violations of the human rights of its people. Sri Lanka does not let independent journalists report freely. The current government has been accused of being complicit in many abductions and killings of journalists and others.
The UK and other western states have suggested that by destroying the Tamil Tigers, Sri Lanka can be made peaceful. This is a profound misunderstanding of the state-racism and ethnic supremacy at the heart of the Sri Lankan crisis – a crisis that has now become genocide.
Britain is deeply implicated in this crisis.
When in 1948 Britain, the colonial power, granted independence to Sri Lanka, the Westminster-style democracy London set up allowed a pernicious Sinhala chauvinism to capture the state and begin the 60 years of violence and oppression the Tamils have now endured.
In 1977, after three decades of discrimination and state-backed mob violence, the entire Tamil political leadership united behind a demand for an independent state comprising the Tamil homeland as the only way to escape oppression.
The Sinhala-dominated state responded with violence, and a few years later, in 1983, a Tamil armed struggle emerged in response. This resistance to the Sinhala state is led by the Tamil Tigers or LTTE – Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Until 1983 Tamils have tried through many of their democratically elected leaders and parties to resolve this injustice by negotiations and peaceful means. Even during the armed struggle, LTTE has many times attempted to negotiate with successive Sri Lankan governments. As recently as 2002, a ceasefire agreement was negotiated between the government and the LTTE by the international community. Just as before, the Sri Lankan state abrogated from this agreement unilaterally in January 2008.
Since 1983, the problem in Sri Lanka has been characterised by western states as conflict, rather than state chauvinism. They have sought to support the Sinhala-dominated state and pressure the LTTE to “make peace”.
The Tamils in Sinhala-dominated Sri Lanka face the same crisis as the people of Kosovo under Serbian rule. The international community could not make the Serbian state led by Milosovic cease its attempts to wipe out the people of Kosovo, and ultimately Kosovo was granted independence to assure their safety.
Having abandoned the Tamils to majoritarian tyranny, Britain has consistently ignored the Sinhala chauvinism deeply embedded in the Sri Lankan state. The UK has cynically sold weapons to the Sinhala military and tried to pass off the agitation by Tamils as one of poverty, merely requiring “development”.
We want Britain to compel the racist regime in Sri Lanka to cease its genocide. As a member of the UN security council, a close ally of the US and a member of the EU, Britain has the ability to do this. As the former colonial power that placed the Tamils at risk, and as a state that has sought explicitly to champion democracy and freedom, it has a moral obligation, too.
Remember, most British Tamils have direct relatives – mums, dads, brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces – left back in the war zone. They are genuinely concerned for their safety and whereabouts.
That is why Britain’s Tamils are protesting outside Parliament day and night.
i wonder if sri lanka will get off as easy for its massacre of tamils as israeli terrorists have been getting off. although the news from norway bodes well that perhaps there may be some justice as saed bannoura reports:
A group of lawyers in Norway have filed charges with the nation’s top prosecutor against former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, accusing them of war crimes.
The charges stem from the Israeli government’s attack on the Gaza Strip beginning in late December 2008, which the lawyers say violated international law by illegally targeting civilians, using internationally-banned weapons and attacking hospitals and medical personnel.
In Norway, the tenet of ‘universal jurisdiction’ allows lawyers to file charges against people in other countries, including leaders and officials, if there is evidence of war crimes or other violations of international law.
The case is being brought on behalf of three people of Palestinian origin living in Norway and 20 families who lost loved ones or property during the attack, according to the lawyers.
The lawyers said they could not stand silent in the face of what they termed Israel’s ‘war crimes’ in Gaza. They said in their statement, “There can be no doubt that these subjects knew about, ordered or approved the actions in Gaza and that they had considered the consequences of these actions.”
Similar charges filed in Spain last month were later revoked after pressure from the Israeli government and lobbyists threatened to change the very nature of the Spanish judiciary. Lawyers backed down from the charges after the campaign, saying that the ‘universal jurisdiction’ in that country did not apply if an investigation is ongoing within the offending country. Although Israel has claimed that their military conducted ‘investigations’ into the military’s actions in Gaza, but no on-the-ground evidence was actually gathered during, leading many observers worldwide to question its legitimacy.
The Norwegian lawyers said that the potential for diplomatic problems between their government and Israel was outweighed by the severity of the crimes in the case.
here is a discussion about israeli terrorist soldiers absolving themselves on al jazeera’s “inside story” with kamahl santamaria. it features an israeli terrorist with the jerusalem post, yaakov katz, and wesam ahmad from al haq, and the amazing incomparable dr. mads gilbert from…norway. i love santamaria on this episode. he always keeps the discussion back to the original text. just like a literature professor. love it.
of course it is not just sri lankans or israeli terrorists who turn the truth on its head in order to get out of paying the price for their war crimes. it is also the americans. case in point: barack obama on prosecuting those who created a policy and culture of torture in the bush administration. al jazeera reports that obama may allow for the prosecution of a few mid-level people, but top folks seem to be absolved:
Obama on Tuesday reiterated his belief that US intelligence agents and interrogators who took part in waterboarding and other interrogation methods after acting on advice from superiors who defined such practices as legal should not face prosecution.
But Obama said it is up to Eric Holder, the US attorney-general, whether to prosecute lawyers under the administration of George Bush, Obama’s predecessor, who wrote the memos approving the tactics.
one of the key people who should be at the top of the list is, of course, dick cheney. david usborne reported in the independent quoted cheney in a way that shows he seems to be gloating:
The former vice president’s remarks follow Barack Obama’s decision to release top secret memos detailing controversial questioning methods used under the Bush administration.
“One of the things that I find a little bit disturbing about this recent disclosure is that they put out the legal memos… but they didn’t put out the memos that show the success of the effort,” Mr Cheney told Fox News.
of course obama is likely covering his own ass because he knows that when he leaves office, because he is continuing bush’s policies, he and his administration could be subjected to the same prosecution if he opens up this can of worms now (in theory he could be regardless but that would mean electing someone moral and someone who is invested in justice, which amerians are not capable of). jeremy scahill’s report on the prison at baghram airforce base in afghanistan is one place where if we had access to more information i’m sure it would be made clear that torture is going on there:
As the Obama administration faces mounting pressure to appoint an independent special prosecutor to investigate torture and other crimes ordered by senior Bush administration officials and implemented by CIA operatives and contractors, the ACLU is opening up another front in the battle for transparency. But this one is not exclusively aimed at the Bush era. Today, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking to make public records on the US-run prison at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. The group is seeking documents from the Departments of Defense, Justice and State and the CIA.
As the ACLU states, “the U.S. government is detaining more than 600 individuals at Bagram, including not only Afghan citizens captured in Afghanistan but also an unknown number of foreign nationals captured thousands of miles from Afghanistan and brought to Bagram. Some of these prisoners have been detained for as long as six years without access to counsel, and only recently have been permitted any contact with their families. At least two Bagram prisoners have died while in U.S. custody, and Army investigators concluded that the deaths were homicides.”
in counterpunch scahill makes it clear why this is not a partisan issue in the u.s.: democrats and republicans alike are responsible for these american policies:
There are some powerful Democrats who certainly would not want an independent public investigation, particularly those who served on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees when Bush was in power and torture was being ordered and authorized. That’s because in the aftermath of 9/11, some in Congress were briefed on the torture methods in real time and either were silent or, in some cases, supported these brutal tactics or, as some have suggested, possibly encouraged them to be expanded.
perhaps we can get norway to add sri lanka and the united states to its list???