Peoples' Tribunal on Tamil genocide: How will Cuba respond?

An unprecedented move by internationalists and activists for human rights and justice, one that could inspire controversy among left oriented governments and peoples’ solidarity committees, will take place next spring.

“In April 2013, a panel of international experts will be convened as Judges of the ‘Permanent People’s Tribunal’ to examine reports submitted by many specialized working groups on the accusation of the crime of Genocide against the Government of Sri Lanka and on the accusations against various international actors who had supported and prepared the conditions for the Sri Lankan Government to implement this alleged crime,” stated the Rome-based ‘Permanent People’s Tribunal’ (PPT) on November 3. (1)

This decision is supported organizationally by the ‘Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka’ (IFPSL) based in Dublin and the International Human Rights Association (IMRV) based in Bremen.

In mid January 2010 the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on Sri Lanka' held its sessions in Dublin, Ireland. There were four findings:

1: That the Sri Lankan Government and its military are guilty of War Crimes;
2: That the Sri Lankan Government and its military are guilty of crimes against humanity;
3: That the charge of genocide requires further investigation;
4: That the international community, particularly the UK and USA, share responsibility for the breakdown of the peace process.(2)

It also found that member states of the United Nations had not “complied with their moral obligation to seek justice for the violations of human rights committed during the last period of the war” [Sri Lanka government war against the Tamils].

The PPT was referring to Human Rights Council Resolution S-11/1 of May 27, 2009. Cuba led the majority of members to vote for the Sri Lanka government drafted resolution. The resolution only praised Sri Lanka government for ending the hostilities and for the “liberation” of tens of thousands of Tamils (who were, in fact, up to three hundred thousand Internally Displaced Persons incarcerated for many months and even years in concentration camps).

It only condemned the Tamil Tiger guerrillas (Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam) for terrorism and made no mention of the long-endured suffering, pogroms, indiscrimination and inequality suffered by the Tamil people at the hands of the Sinhalese majority governments and military, and Buddhist monks.

Since the time of the resolution, Cuba has stepped up closer ties with the Mahinda Rajapaksa family government, even inviting him to Cuba as a guest of honor for four days. (3)

The case for genocide

Here are excerpts of the PPT statement concerning the need to investigate the possibility that Sri Lankan governments have been committing genocide against the Tamil people for decades.

“This possibility has become a necessity now, due to the mass of new evidence (substantial, quantitative and qualitative) that has come to light since [2010 session]. At the time we held the ‘Dublin Tribunal’, the real casualty figures remained largely hidden. The official UN figure did not exceed 8000 civilian casualties, while some of the British and French press carried reports estimating the total number of casualties at ‘up to 20,000'. In fact, the Sri Lanka Government maintained a position of ‘zero civilian casualties’ for the full period of the final military offensive!

“However, soon after the Dublin Tribunal, like a dam bursting, details of terrible atrocities and a more realistic estimation of the magnitude of the massacre started surfacing in media.

“The effective embargo in the international media that existed during the eight months of the military offensive – which had helped to prevent a humanitarian opposition to the war to emerge – was starting to break down, eight months after the end of the military project.

“One month after the Tribunal – in February 2010 – appearing on Australia’s ABC Television, the former UN spokesman in Sri Lanka Gordon Weiss contradicted the UN estimate of ‘no more than 8,000 casualties’ stating that ‘anything between 10,000 to 40,000’ civilians may have died during the final siege. Sometime later the Experts’ Panel appointed by the UN Secretary General used the 40,000 figure as its own estimate.

“On January 2011, the Catholic Bishop of Mannar made a submission to the Sri Lankan Government’s own ‘Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’ (LLRC) that according to his calculation, 146,679 people are unaccounted for (he used the Government’s own statistics to show this)…

“The casualty figure issue is just one factor – which we have highlighted to emphasise our point. Various other factors – such as an examination of the historical background which had laid the basis to the events that led to the military operations in 2009, as well as, whether or not the continuing issues that the Tamil people in the area concerned are facing at the moment are related to this history, needs to be carried out properly to deal with the overall reality.

“Due to the fact that substantial, quantitative and qualitative new evidence has become available, we believe that there are compelling reasons to organize a follow up to the ‘People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka’ to examine the case of Genocide against the Tamil people.”

This follow up session will be held in Germany.

History of PPT

Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal was initiated in 1979 by the left socialist and anti-fascist resistance fighter Senator Lelie Basso. He had been a judge on the International War Crimes Tribunal, also know as the Bertrand Russell-Sartre Tribunal, in 1966-7, concerning war crimes committed by the United States against Vietnam, and the 1973-6 investigations regarding war crimes committed by Latin American dictatorships, assisted by the USA. One of Cuba’s few women guerrilla fighters, Melba Hernandez, was one of the judges when she was chairwoman of the Cuba Committee for Solidarity with Viet Nam.

PPT has held more than 40 sessions on war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as genocide, in many parts of the world: US war crimes against Nicaragua, national dictatorship war crimes (usually with the assistance of US military forces and the CIA) against Argentines, Guatemalans, El Salvadorans, Filipinos, the Western Sahara, Eritrea…

It has also investigated and condemned Turkey for committing genocide against the Armenian people. In 2006, it ethically sanctioned the economic neo-liberal model and multinational corporations for violations of international principles respecting human rights.

Among the many prestigious PPT panelists have been Nobel Prize winners: Adolfo Perez, Sean MacBride and George Wald. Many judges and associates have either come from Latin America and/or been close to the Cuban revolutionary process, as well as its allies in the ALBA alliance, among them are: Francois Houtart and Miguel D’Escoto.

Ron Ridenour’s started his journalistic career in the US alternative press while actively taking part in the movement against the Vietnam war. From 1982 and 1996, while living in Cuba and Nicaragua, he translated, wrote and edited for the foreign publishing house, Editorial José Martí, and news agency, Prensa Latina. He now lives in Denmark. His latest book, Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka was published in 2011.



Gianni Tognoni, Secretary General, Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT), Rome
Jude Lal Fernando, Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka (IFPSL), Dublin
Nicolai Jung, International Human Rights Association (IMRV), Bremen e.V
Contact: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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(3) Much of my writings of late have focused on the Tamil people’s struggles for human rights and justice and the lack of natural solidarity that Cuba should be taking with them instead of the opposite: support for a most brutal Sri Lanka regime.

© Havana Times


Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.