PREFACE AND AN APPEAL
The current report of the UTHR [Jaffna] was prepared under the exigencies of war. It was prepared in conditions where its members were scattered and consultation was not easy. We trust that we continue to maintain standards we developed in the course of three earlier reports. This report is a contribution towards understanding the current conflict with a view towards addressing the problems arising from it. We hold the view that its underlying problems go much deeper and embrace the whole country. These problems arise from a malignant politics where respect for basic human dignities has been cast aside. This is evident throughout to country. We cannot escape addressing this.
The present war is being waged in a country where ordinary people are everywhere helpless, the universities are silent, the politicians are confused and the best the churches would allow themselves to do is to render some humanitarian assistance. The wound continues to fester. We are attempting to present the war and the background to it its full totality. Nearly all its features have been recognised in isolation. But putting them together is to face something that is too terrible to behold. Most people have avoided it. Thus the same persons who were critical of the government's human rights violations in the south last year, have in many cases been able to support the current war as a just one. This has also enabled them to disown any moral responsibility for the fate of civilians. If there is any truth in the picture presented here, it should seriously challenge much of what is said and written about the state of affairs in this country in influential circles, which in turn influence world opinion. We feel that words of leaders and what go into law books, to which too much importance is still attached, barely reflect the underlying reality.
In recent times state has used divisions amongst minorities and within a single community itself, without consistency or principle for short term military advantage. The result is greater misery compounded by revenge killings. There is no healing touch anywhere. Thanks in part to their own leaders, the Tamil minority at this time feel collectively cornered. A large number of its young have been driven to feel that they face certain death at the hands of the state's forces whether they carry a gun or not. It is a situation that calls for a committed, principled response. The alternative is a progressive disintegration of the country. We put forward below an appeal.
The UTHR [Jaffna] puts forward this appeal which is based on communications from its members, friends and associates. It urges its friends to take it up with state authorities and international agencies:
1. Put forward a political solution to the minority question that it is consonant with commonly accepted international standards such as the UNCharter of Human Rights.
2. All minors who carried arms should be pardoned.
3. Arrange for ICRC supervision of all refugee camps.
4. Guarantee the safety of all unarmed persons, particularly the young. All detainees should be under ICRC supervision. A human rights committee consisting of local and International human rights activists, together with members of Parliament, should be given access to all detention centres, with a view to looking into complaints and publicising their findings.
5. Arrange for an internationally supervised ceasefire under conditions where freedom of expression will be guaranteed, so that a broad consensus of Tamil and Muslim opinion can be brought to bear in the negotiating process for a settlement.
6. Where relevant, the humanitarian features proposed above should be extended to youth throughout the country. Concerning 5, cease-fires with no commitment to a healthy political process, where the armed parties are merely freed from fighting each other in order to devote all their energies to picking up, torturing and killing dissidents and civilian political opponents, are meaningless. We have had too many bad experiences of this kind including all recent ceasefires.
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