Tamil Question: Extent to Which Resolution Can Secure Justice for Genocide Victims

Tamil Question: Extent to Which Resolution Can Secure Justice for Genocide Victims

Q. “Tamil question will meet its resolution as per the latest move of the government demanding the UNHCR investigate ethnic cleansing in Sri Lanka” Discuss and explain with special emphasis on India’s response to the resolution.

A. Resolution: Background and Key Features

• President Maithripala Sirisena aims to fulfil 100 day charter of promises including the abolition of executive presidency
• Genocide of minorities a crucial concern for the new government
• HRC session in Geneva is important as the Tamil National Alliance

Nature of Genocide

• Government military forces engaged in deliberate aerial, artillery and naval bombardment of civilian areas
• Prohibition on weapons and ammunitions such as cluster bombs in civil areas
• UN estimates: 100,000 Tamil civilians killed over 27 year long war
• Many Tamils fled the North East Provinces on account of the genocide

Resolution: Major Points

• 11 page resolution detailed different episodes of oppression and violence in Sri Lankan history
• Resolution covers the country’s controversial Sinhala Only Act of 1956 and genocidal acts aiming at Tamils over the year claiming close to 40,000 civilian lives
• Tamil question has been brought to centre stage with the Sri Lankan Resolution
• Resolution calls for successive governments in Colombo to be held responsible for genocide against minority communities
• Resolution demands UNHCR investigate historical and recent instances of genocide
• Report to be submitted at the Human Rights Council next month
• UNSC has been asked to refer the matter to the ICC/International Criminal Court
• Courts in countries with universal jurisdiction regarding alleged events and perpetrators have been asked to prosecute crimes
• Domestic investigations have been completely rejected by the resolution
• Action by the president aimed at addressing war crimes and human right abuses against the Tamils and demilitarisation of the North
• The will of the new Sri Lankan government is being tested through this resolution
• Maximalist tenor has political ramification
• Sirisena government has articulated a plan for addressing Tamil demands for peace and nonviolence
• Political and legal issues underlying the use of the world genocide
• New government has concerns regarding the key issues
• Resolution is by the Northern Province Council for investigation into genocides committed against Tamils

B. How It Resolves The Question of Justice for Victims of the Genocide

• New Delhi to assess impact of this on the diplomatic efforts for persuading Colombo to act on complete devolution of political powers
• Reconciliation with the Tamil minority a step forward for the nation

Indian Perspective

• Genocide resolution to affect the Geneva conference of the UNHRC and lead to tabling of resolution against Sri Lanka
• Indian side against war crimes probe to be put off so as to enable Sri Lankan government to engage in implementation of promises to the Northern Province
• Issue of reconciliation and rehabilitation for Tamil dominated areas will be the key point when Indian and Sri Lankan leaders meet
• New Delhi also concerned with repatriation of 1 lakh Sri Lankan refugees residing in India

Opposition from Within

• Resolution has not been well received by those within the government
• Resolution an extremist position: Health Minister and Cabinet Spokesman Rajitha Senaratne
• Both sides should engage in globally approved, domestic inquiry process
• Mr. Senaratne said: “Choosing confrontational ways will hamper forward movement on the issue.”

NPC: International Probe a Challenge for Sinhalese moral integrity

• Northern Council passed strongly worded resolution which can empower the UNHCR to probe the claim and recommend the redressal of grievances and dispensation of justice to war victims

• Resolution holds that obligation to prevent/punish genocide under the Genocide Convention is in relation to binding international law and not merely a political matter

• No holds barred war for nearly 3 decades may finally find its resolution through international deliberation

• UNSC may refer the situation to ICC for prosecution of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide; domestic courts may exercise universal jurisdiction over war crimes


Tamil Nadu has long been the refuge of Sri Lankan Tamils and the Tamil question has been a recurring concern in the region. If international mediation manages to secure justice for the war victims, there can be a movement forward from the current situation. In fact, Sirisena won on account of his commitment to upholding the rights of the minorities. It is time he fulfilled this promise. Whether UNHCR, UNSC and ICC can dispense justice for the victims of this genocide is going to be tested.
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