The 1948 Genocide Convention and the atrocities perpetrated by government troops against Tamils in Sri Lanka from 1983 to 2009.
After we previously circulated information concerning the genocide of Gaza’s people, an academic sent us an article highlighting how the Tamils can take action and file a genocide case against Sri Lanka. In this article, he emphasizes the significance for the Tamils to file and establish the occurrence of genocide, as it holds utmost importance for their future survival on the Island.
Tamils have the option to explore alternative routes, like approaching the UN Human Rights Council, the International Criminal Court, regional human rights courts, or domestic courts in other countries that exercise universal jurisdiction over crimes against humanity.
According to the 1948 Genocide Convention, genocide is defined as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
The convention also states that the contracting parties have an obligation to prevent and punish genocide, and that disputes relating to the interpretation, application or fulfillment of the convention can be submitted to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at the request of any of the parties to the dispute.
However, there are several challenges and limitations to applying the convention to the case of Tamils in Sri Lanka. Some of them are:
- The recognition of genocide is often slow and cautious, and depends on the political will of the states parties to the convention. Only three cases of genocide have been legally recognized and led to trials under the convention: Rwanda, Bosnia, and Cambodia.
- The atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan government against the Tamils between 1983 and 2009 have not been officially recognized as genocide by the UN or by most individual states, although some human rights groups and Tamil activists have accused the government of genocide
- The Sri Lankan government has denied the allegations of genocide and has resisted any international investigation or accountability for its actions. It has also withdrawn from the co-sponsorship of a UN resolution that called for transitional justice and reconciliation in the country
- The ICJ can only hear cases that are brought by states, not by individuals or groups. Therefore, the Tamils would need a state to represent their interests and file a case against Sri Lanka at the ICJ, which may be difficult to find
- The ICJ can only exercise jurisdiction over states that have accepted its compulsory jurisdiction or have agreed to submit to its judgment in a specific case. Sri Lanka has not accepted the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ, and may not consent to be a party to a case involving genocide allegations
It is thus uncertain whether the Tamils will be able to bring a case before the ICJ regarding the 1948 Genocide Convention. This is unless there is a substantial shift in the international recognition of the genocide and Sri Lanka’s willingness to cooperate with legal proceedings. Nevertheless, this does not imply that the Tamils lack alternative legal or political avenues to pursue justice and reparation for their hardships. For instance, they may explore options like the UN Human Rights Council, the International Criminal Court, regional human rights courts, or domestic courts in countries that possess universal jurisdiction over crimes against humanity.
Tamil Diaspora News, USA