March 30. 2020
Presidential pardon is an affront to the victims and another example of Sri Lanka’s non-compliance with its international obligations – International Council of Eelam Tamil-
The world is engrossed in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. Our heartfelt thanks to the frontline workers who are working hard to prevent the spread of the disease. While the world’s attention is focussed on the COVID-19 crisis, Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapakse used this crisis to score a political point by releasing a convicted criminal, the former Sri Lanka Army Staff Sergeant Sunil Ratnayake. This Sri Lanka army sergeant is the only person convicted in 2015 for the murder of eight innocent Tamil civilians who returned home to retrieve their belongings in Mirusuvil, northern Sri Lanka. It should be noted that the conviction took place to placate the UNHRC that was going to pass a resolution in 2015 on Sri Lanka to investigate the crimes committed during the last stages of the war in 2009.
Nine people went to their homes to retrieve their belongings and were captured and tortured by the Sri Lanka army from a camp nearby. Eight Tamil civilians, including three children, were tortured and murdered and later buried in a toilet pit in April 2000. One person managed to escape and identified five army personal. Despite overwhelming evidence against all of the accused army men, Sunil Ratnayake was the only “token” person convicted to fool the international community that there is justice in Sri Lanka. Many atrocities committed earlier did not even result in any convictions despite overwhelming evidence i.e. The Kumarapuram massacre, the murder of17 employees of Action Contre Faim, murder of five students in Trincomalee. It is amply evident that Tamils cannot get justice within the Sri Lankan Judicial System and the Law in flagrant violation of Articles 7 and 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
President Gothabaya Rajapakse, himself a credibly accused war criminal, releasing another war criminal does not surprise the Tamils who have seen too many Sinhalese criminals walk free through the “revolving door.” In contrast, tens of thousands of Tamil political prisoners have been incarcerated for decades without charges, merely on suspicion. In this backdrop, the release of Sunil Rathnayake is a slap in the face to the member countries of the UNHRC who continued to give extension of time for Sri Lanka to deliver justice to the Tamils.
Time and time again, the actions of the Sri Lankan Governments have clearly shown that Tamils cannot expect justice or protection within Sri Lanka. The impunity enjoyed by the Sinhala criminals is entrenched within the Sri Lanka “Judicial System” providing no hope for the safety of Tamils within Sri Lanka. The COVID-19 crisis is even being used to put Tamils in further danger by establishing quarantine centres in Tamil areas in the north and east of the island for returning Sinhalese tourists who are mainly from the South of the island.
We welcome the unanimous condemnation, of the release of the convicted criminal, by the UNHRC, Amnesty International, International Commission of Jurists and Human Rights Watch. We strongly urge you to take decisive stand against defiant Sri Lanka and refer it to the International Criminal Court. Only an independent international investigation can truly guarantee justice to the Tamils who are undergoing a genocide for the past seven decades.
-International Council of Eelam Tamils-