International tribunal in Germany to probe Sri Lanka’s genocide allegations

Live Streaming of the Second Sessions of the People's Tribunal on Sri Lanka (Saturday 11.00 to 20:30  |  Sunday 12:30 to 19:30 (US: 6:30 am to 13:30 EST)  |  Monday 9:30 to 12:00 (US 3:30 am to 6:00 am EST)

The wide-spread but credible allegations of genocide against the Sri Lankan State and charges of complicity with this crime against several other countries including the UK, the US and India are set to go before the Rome-based Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) from December 7 to 10 in Bremen, Germany.

Secretary General of the PPT Gianni Tognoni in a statement said that the PPT’s eminent panel of judges will “hear accusations of genocide against the Sri Lankan State and charges of complicity with this crime against several other countries”.

This is the second such high-profile session to be conducted by the PPT on Sri Lanka.

The first phase of the Tribunal, held in January 2010 in Dublin, was the first ever international effort to investigate the allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the final stages of the protracted conflict in Sri Lanka.

“Like in the first session, a respected panel of judges consisting of experts in genocide studies, former UN-officials, experts in international law and renowned peace and human rights activists will hear the evidence that is presented and make a determination,” Gianni Tognoni said.

Participation of direct victims

The second phase will be held with the participation of direct victims as well as expert witnesses from Europe and several other countries. In addition to this, reports and documents compiled by different international and local organisations and human rights groups since 2009, will also be submitted to the Panel for a wider probe.

At the end of the first session of the PTT session on Sri Lanka, the panel of judges had determined, that ‘War Crimes’ and ‘Crimes against Humanity’ had taken place on the Tamil population during the final months of the war in Sri Lanka. It also held that “pressure from the UK and USA governments contributed to the breakdown of 2002 peace process between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Government of Sri Lanka, precipitating the war”.

Although the charges put forward to the panel in January 2010 did not contain the accusation of genocide, due to the character of the evidence put before them, the PPT panel of judges determined that further investigation may be necessary regarding the pressing question of genocide.

Since then, the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal has approved the submission of the International Human Rights Association Bremen (IMRV) and the Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka (IFPSL).

The PPT Secretary General said that the substantial new evidence submitted by the IMRV and IFPSL has necessitated “a second round of investigations to determine whether Genocide has been and is being committed against the Tamil people in Sri Lanka”.

Mounting pressure for international probe

This international probe into the allegations of genocide by the Sri Lankan State has come barely three weeks after visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo, set deadline for Sri Lanka to complete its own independent inquiry into the alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity by March 2014, to avoid facing an international war crime probe.

The UN Expert Panel in March 2011 has already concluded Sri Lankan military has carried out systematic direct and indirect attacks, targeting hundreds of thousands of starving Tamil civilians, food convoys and hospitals several times during its efforts to wipe out the Tamil Tiger rebels. The UN panel said at least 40,000 people have been killed, but a later UN report suggested that the death toll could be 70,000 or higher than that.

The scale of systematic violence and magnitude of the deaths and destructions are huge and unprecedented that even four years after the war, the actual count of the people killed during the final phase of the war remains unclear. The estimates range from 7000 to a mammoth 150,000. While rejecting all these allegations and call for independent international probe, the hawkish Rajapaksa regime continues to maintain it adopted a “zero civilian casualty policy to the very end of the war”.

However, aimed at neutralising the mounting pressure for an international war crime probe, President Rajapaksa established a presidential commission of inquiry, named Lesson Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) as a time-buying exercise with the mandate “to look back at the conflict Sri Lanka suffered as well as to look ahead for an era of healing and peace building in the country”.

After much delays and fuss, the LLRC came out with its report, but it fell far short of expectations and ground realities. There was not a word about the burning issues of war crime allegations and other abuses or international probe. It is rather unfortunate that many members of the international community are happy with the outcome of the LLRC and calling for its implementation while Sri Lanka is using its regional allies, such as China and India to defend itself at the international forums such as the UN.

Following is the list of judges of the PTT’s eminent panel: 

Gabriele Della Morte: A researcher and Professor of International Law at the Università Cattolica di Milano. He was also Associate Professor in International system, institutions and rules, Chargé de cours at the Académie de droit international humanitaire et des droits de l'homme of Geneva (2007-2008), counsel for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) (2003-2004), Law Clerk for the Prosecutor Office of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (2000) and member of a government delegation for the establishment of the International Criminal Court (1998).

José Elías Esteve Molto: international lawyer and legal expert on Tibet. He is the main lawyer who researched and drafted both lawsuits for international crimes committed in Tibet and a recent one for crimes in Burma. He is a Professor in International Law at the University of Valencia.


Daniel Feierstein: Director of the Centre for Genocide Studies at the Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero, Professor in the Faculty of Genocide at the University of Buenos Aires and a member of CONICET (Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cientificas y Tecnicas - The Argentine National Centre for Scholars). He has been elected as the president of the 'International Association of Genocide Scholars'.

Sévane Garibian: An expert on Genocide and International Law. She is an Assistant Professor at the University of Geneva and Lecturer at the University of Neuchâtel, where she teaches Legal Philosophy and International Criminal Law. Her work focuses on issues related to law facing State crimes.


Haluk Gerger: A respected academic and a Middle East analyst who was imprisoned in Turkey for his political activism. He is known for his support for Kurdish people's right to self-determination.



Javier Giraldo Moreno: Colombian Theologian and human rights activist based in Bogota. Known for his depth of analysis in contextualising genocide affected communities. He is Vice-President of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal.


Denis Halliday: Former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations. He resigned from his 34 year old career in the UN in protest of the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq by the Security Council. Laureate of the Gandhi International Peace Award.


Manfred O. Hinz: Professor for Public Law, Political Sociology and Sociology of Law at the University of Bremen, he has a long history of engagement in solidarity with liberation struggles in Africa, specially Namibia and the West Sahara. He, for several years, held the UNESCO chair for human rights and democracy of the University of Namibia whilst he was a professor there.

Helen Jarvis: She served as Chief of the Public Affairs Section from the inception of the the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), the special Cambodian court which receives international assistance through the United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials (UNAKRT). The court is commonly referred to by the more informal name the Khmer Rouge Tribunal or the Cambodia Tribunal.


Maung Zarni: A Burmese democracy activist who founded the Free Burma Coalition in 1995. He is one of the few Burmese intellectuals who have come forward to unconditionally oppose the increased discrimination and violence against the Rohingya Muslims and publicly criticised Aung San Suu Kyi on this issue.


ØysteinTveter: Norwegian scholar of International Law and a member of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on extra-judicial killings and violations of human rights in the Philippines.


Gianni Tognoni:  The Secretary General of the Permanent People’s Tribunal, Rome.



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

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