The war that had such a terrible human cost was declared as over by the Sri Lankan government on the 18th of May 2009. The war had started in July 2006. By April 2009, according to United Nations internal documents, air raids and use of heavy weapons were resulting in the death of 116 people a day. British and French mainstream media reported that during final few weeks, 20,000 Tamil people had been killed. There were numerous accusations that the Sri Lankan security forces were guilty of violating the Geneva Conventions on warfare and of having committed gross war crimes and crimes against humanity, particularly during the last 5 months of the war between January to May 2009 and generally in the previous 2 ½ years of the Governments declared its war to exterminate the LTTE.
The charges ranged from the security forces bombing civilian habitations, hospitals and other sites and also the government proclaimed 'safety zones' or 'no fire zones' - causing innumerable deaths of civilians, doctors and aid workers, depriving essential services like food, water, and health facilities in war zones and other grave crimes against humanity. Even before the war ended, UN agencies had been warning the Sri Lankan government about the impunity, the continued attacks on civilians by its armed forces and of denying aid to the local population, that was living in areas which were up-till then administered by the LTTE. However the Sri Lankan security forces completely ignored these warnings and continued their deadly assault. The immediate months after the war attention shifted to the plight of over 280,000 Sri Lankan Tamils forced to live in internment camps in the Vanni region. Densely packed in camps, with poor and inadequate infrastructure to provide safe food, water, sanitation and health facilities, the Government announced that they would be kept there until the IDPs were 'screened' for possible LTTE sympathisers. In the subsequent weeks, reports poured in of scores of Tamil youths disappearing from the camps taken away by security forces and government sponsored paramilitary groups. Hundreds are feared to have died. When there was an international outcry because the Tamil people were kept forcibly in these camps for more than 5 months the government announced that a significant number of them will be resettled. However it has been reported in the BBC and other news media that a considerable number of those released were simply moved into new satellite camps in little known areas. The Sri Lankan Government has always vehemently denied all wrongdoings on the part of its forces and have dismissed accusations as an attack on Sri Lanka's sovereignty. It steadfastly refused to permit the media and other organisations, both national and international, including UN bodies from entering the areas and ascertaining facts by interacting with local people. In the Sri Lankan south, any call to critically examine the conduct of the war and the action of the Sri Lankan security forces against internationally accepted war conventions and human rights standards, is treated as treason.
The discrimination against the Tamil people and racial pogroms that they have had to suffer in the island, since Sri Lanka gained independence over 60 years ago has been well documented and available to all in the international community. But despite this, the powerful countries and the apex bodies of the international community has allowed the cry of the Tamil people, which started as a Gandhian non-violent protest for equal rights, to end in a blood-bath earlier this year. Geo-Strategic calculations guided by self-interest may explain why the powerful countries decided to ally themselves with the government of Sri Lanka and why organisations like the United Nations had to confined itself to routine warnings and was unable to take any concrete actions to prevent this massacre. And why, afterwards, when Tamils and human rights organisations demanded justice, the same bodies tried to cover their shame by recommending that the Sri Lankan government itself to carry out their own investigations! But how can a racially based massacre of this scale be ignored by civilised humanity?
It is the failure of the apex bodies of the International community to stop the massacre from taking place and its failure to investigate this serious injustice that necessitates an international opinions tribunal such as this. If, it is in fact the case, that tens of thousands of people were killed, just during the last days of the war - then how can the 280,000 Tamils who survived this experience deal with their trauma and recover if the truth is not investigated by any part of the humanity? Are they to think that they made a fatal mistake to live in the Vanni during the period of the Internationally backed peace process? Are they to think that they are themselves to blame for the death of their brothers and sisters because of their decision to live in the area administered by the LTTE?
If the reality of what happened is not seriously examined by any part of humanity – will it not mean that humanity itself is excluding Tamils from being part of it? At least by proclaiming the injustice there is a chance that the 'defeat of the victims is not definitive' and that 'injustice is reversible, and that the past is redeemable' (Giraldo). Without this how can there be any hope of progress for the Tamils – and for the Sinhalese.
The Tribunal is to examine the following: