The "responsibility to protect" should serve as the basis for collective action against genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. If a state is unable or unwilling to assume this responsibility, the international community needs to act, including enforcement action by the Security Council as a last resort.
The rule of law should be strengthened and all treaties relating to the protection of civilians should be ratified and implemented. Cooperation with the International Criminal Court and other international or mixed war crimes tribunals should be promoted and the International Court of Justice should be strengthened.
In Sri Lanka, the "Freedom to Live with Dignity" for the Tamils of the North-East is currently non-existent.
Thousands of civilians have died in the past few months alone and more than 350.000 people have fled their homes. The UN threatened to suspend aid operations in Sri Lanka after the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission(SLMM) accused the Sri Lankan military to be behind the execution on 6 August 2006 of 17 local staff of "Action Contre la Faim" and a deal to share international aid in the aftermath of the Tsunami has never been implemented. The arbitrary bombing of schools, villages and refugee camps carried out by Sri Lanka on its own people appears to be done with total international apathy to the gravity of its action. Blockades and economic sanctions are being applied as collective punishment to Tamil civilians with no apparent concern for their consequence. These are all well recorded and recognized by several national governments, International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGO's) and the UN itself. If this situation does not warrant action by the UN and the National Governments, it is doubtful the Secretary-General's action plan will ever have an applicable environment.
The blindness of the International Community (IC) to this reality is shocking to the vast majority of the Tamil Diaspora of over one million Tamils. There is a famous Tamil proverb that you can not wake up one who is pretending to be asleep. The IC not only just exert significant influence but also to a great extent presided over the last five years of the conflict management discourse, now only to walk away when confronted with the result of its actions and inactions. The upholding of principles articulated when action was taken by the IC against the LTTE is currently but not surprisingly absent when the Sri Lankan government is behaving with impunity.
Discussion in the Tamil Diaspora circles is whether there are any more Tamils who believe in anything other than self-defence for the survival of Tamils of Eelam. The recent actions by Sri Lanka and the inaction by the IC have removed the doubts of the remaining Tamil sceptics. It was heartening to notice the lone stance taken by Germany in regards to funding projects in Sri Lanka but this falls far too short and far too late to make any impact on the ground.
There is further proof of this notion in the enthusiastic response from the capitalist world to the current offer for sale by Sri Lanka of some of its strategic assets at bargain basement price to anyone willing to invest in the conflict affected areas, with the simple focus of bringing in new partners in crime in the war against the Tamils.
The book "WE DID NOTHING" by Linda Poleman is turning out to be a remarkable read for the Tamil Diaspora, the latter increasingly refusing to believe that IC would take action. Linda Polman's observations about the UN's response in Rwanda have also shattered complacency.
The question is how can the Tamil Diaspora respond? They are denied any space to respond in meaningful ways, this space is all occupied with "international agendas".
Mr. Annan voiced his "grave concern" over reported human rights abuses in Darfur, citing a warning by the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator of "ethnic cleansing" in the area. "Such reports leave me with a deep sense of foreboding," said the Secretary-General. "Whatever terms it uses to describe the situation, the international community cannot stand idle."
This world does not offer any legitimate space to any non-state actors defending their basic human rights even in the face of well planned and executed genocides. Anyone with a basic understanding of the past fifty year history of Sri Lanka will provide testimony to the intention and the pogrom against the Tamils by the Sri Lankan State and how the response of the Tamils correspondingly escalated to an armed struggle. It is the sheer ineffectiveness, unwillingness or inability of the IC to respond in appropriate ways during the early stages of this conflict that entitled them to preside over what some now term "a terrorist problem".
In outlining his Action Plan to Prevent Genocide, Mr. Annan said the first step must be to prevent armed conflict by addressing the issues that cause it.
"We must attack the roots of violence and genocide: hatred, intolerance, racism, tyranny, and the dehumanizing public discourse that denies whole groups of people their dignity and their rights," he said.
Protecting civilians during war is a second step in thwarting potential genocides, the Secretary-General said. He noted that in more and more conflicts non-combatants, including women and children, are no longer just "caught in the crossfire" but have become the direct targets of violence and rape.
"Wherever civilians are deliberately targeted because they belong to a particular community, we are in the presence of potential, if not actual, genocide," he said, warning the international community that it could no longer afford to be blind to this grim dynamic.
"Let us not wait until the worst has happened, or is already happening," the Secretary-General concluded. "Let us not wait until the only alternatives to military action are futile hand-wringing or callous indifference. Let us be serious about preventing genocide. Only so can we honour the victims whom we remember today. Only so can we save those who might be victims tomorrow."
The Tamil Diaspora cannot allow itself to be consoled by the fact that the IC will sincerely apologise for its inaction after the event. Tamils have proved their astonishing resilience by refusing to succumb to the unprecedented might thrown at them for well over 2500 years. A community with such a strong survival instinct and affinity with their culture and language will not relent.
It is more than evident that IC's action or inaction are based totally on politically expedient sentiments against the Tamil Self-determination and LTTE, and its eagerness to comply with the demands of the champions of "war against terrorism". Sri Lanka is only too happy flying the same flag and pathetically attempting to justify its actions. What is in store for the innocent civilians and the Tamils who are being denied any other means of defence? Tamils human rights too have been "globalised" and "head-quartered".
Defending the undefendable causes disrespect to genuine 'war against terror' actions even when it is done by the mightiest people on earth.
By: Tamil Writers Guild - By Naren Nagarajah
Date: 11 January 2007