Tuesday, May 22, 2007

controversial letter...

The Most Reverend Rowan Williams
Archbishop of Canterbury

By telefax to: 44.20.7261.1765 and 44.20.7898.1369

Most Reverend Sir:

International Educational Development (IED) and the Association of Humanitarian Lawyers (AHL) write to express our profound shock over your comment of 11 May 2007 that “surgical military actions against terrorism should take place” in Sri Lanka. Besides evincing opprobrious ignorance of humanitarian law, this comment will surely encourage Sri Lankan President M. Rajapakse in his genocidal assault on the Tamil people in Sri Lanka, and, in turn will forward the geopolitical interests of the United States and other international actors who eye the port of Trincomalee, the airfield at Palaly and the exploitation of resources in the Tamil part of the island.

Sinhala policies have oppressed the Tamil people from the day the British flag was lowered and the Tamils were taken by surprise when the new flag was raised featuring the Sinhala lion. Early protests by the Tamil leadership fell on deaf ears, and the Sinhala majority and their political leaders began an all-out assault on the basic rights of the Tamil people from that ominous day. After more than thirty years of negotiations and peaceful protests failed to improve the situation, the Tamils began talking of severing their area from the Sinhala part of the island and forming their own militias to protect themselves. In 1983, severely shaken by the 1983 massacre of Tamils by Sinhala mobs, the largest of the militias, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), began a full fledged war that, except for intermittent periods, has continued to rage. This armed conflict is fully governed by all applicable rules of humanitarian law, and the combatants in this war, as in any war, are allowed to have land, sea, and air forces and to carry out military operations. Our organizations have been involved with monitoring this war since we first addressed the United Nations human rights expert body about it in August 1983.

Armed conflict is not terrorism. People still have the right under international law to resist oppression and racist regimes. The right to use force as a last resort to achieve freedom and restore human rights is fully protected. What is allowed for Kosovans is allowed for Tamils. While we always regret when any situation deteriorates to the point of war, we can attest that the Tamils clearly had the right to use force long before they actually resorted to it.

The LTTE, the only current resistance force of the Tamil people, is not a terrorist organization. This does not mean that one is siding with the LTTE in the armed conflict or that one has to “like” the LTTE (or the Tamils for that matter); it merely recognizes the obvious -- a war has broken out -- and places review of that war properly under the humanitarian law regime. As should be patently obvious, terrorist organizations, unlike the LTTE, are not in military uniforms, do not carry out military operations using the instrumentalities and materiel of armed conflict, do not control territory, and usually do not even have an identifiable chain of command. We are well aware that the term “terrorist organization” has been applied to the LTTE by the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union, but this has been to forward a political agenda, is not in conformity with applicable humanitarian law and is clearly wrong on its face.[1] Many legislators, experts, and human rights and humanitarian law organizations, including our own, have protested this false, politically-motivated designation.[2]

We understand that some, if not many, are confused by the terms, in part because of the purposeful obfuscation by the United States in its operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and at Guantanamo, and by its desire to be able to decide at will who is a “freedom fighter” and who is a “terrorist” based on its own interests -- as it has since World War II. We also understand that most ordinary people are intimidated by the labeling. However, we would expect that a person of your stature, traveling in a country at war, on a mission that you claim was to help bring peace to the island, would know better. Instead you contributed to the orchestrated confusion and, even worse, openly sided with the Sinhala in the Tamil/Sinhala war. This is reinforced by the fact that you did not visit the Tamil areas. We wonder if you even asked to.

Perhaps the worst outcome of your remark is that it fosters the notion that the Geneva Conventions and the laws and customs of war do not apply to this war and makes the dire situation of the Tamil victims of this war far worse. The government has clearly taken advantage of the lack of international review of this war using applicable humanitarian law to carry out serious war crimes with apparently no fear of international consequences: attacks on hospitals, children’s schools, churches, camps for internally displaced, villages and towns and aid workers; wholesale disappearances and murders of Tamil civilian; the denial of food and medicines for the Tamil civilian population due to blockades; -- to name a few -- receive little or no mention.[3] Those who dare ask about the fate of Tamil civilians are instantly attacked by the Sri Lankan authorities for supporting “terrorism.” The government of Sri Lanka has even backed the United Nations Human Rights Council and its mechanisms into a corner, making a laughing stock of them and threatening to destroy human rights systems carefully built up since 1948.

We are not aware of remarks you may have made privately to the Sri Lanka authorities, so it may be that you spoke candidly, if not forcefully, about the need to reopen all ground routes to allow food and medicine to all Tamils in the North and East or about the need to cease bombing civilian targets, or the need to call off the “white vans” that scoop up Tamils every day, or the need to allow full humanitarian aid to all victims of the armed conflict, or the need to allow proper monitoring of the situation, and other highly pertinent topics. We would certainly hope so. However, the fact remains that you made a highly offensive public comment for which the international community, especially the Tamil people, needs a full apology. The Tamil people were clinging to a ray of hope in their ordeal for their rights, but instead received cruel disillusionment. We also expect before your next “peace” mission to a war torn area you study the conflict well in advance, and bring along texts with the rules of humanitarian law.

We also send you a copy of our letter to the United Nations Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in light of the situation of Tamils. We are happy to provide other pertinent material we have submitted to the United Nations if you so request.

Yours most sincerely,


Karen Parker, JD
Chief delegate of IED to UN
Co-Founder and President, AHL


[1] Under current United States “definitions,” Ethan Allan and the Green Mountain Boys and, indeed, even George Washington’s Continental Army would be terrorist organizations and the Boston Tea Party a terrorist act.
[2] We note, that in spite of the repeated use of the term “terrorists” by Sri Lankan officials when referring to the LTTE, and the governments active role in seeking a “terrorist” label by other States, the government has not officially labeled the LTTE as a terrorist organization.
[3] Please note that under the Statute and Elements of the International Criminal Court, restricting food and medicines for the civilian population is part of the crime of extermination. See ICC, Rome Statute, Articles 7 (1)(b) and 7(2)(b); ICC Elements, Article 7(1)(b).

13 comments:

al juhara said...

United Nations
While the United Nations has not yet accepted a definition of terrorism,[5] the UN's "academic consensus definition," written by terrorism expert Alex P. Schmid and widely used by social scientists, runs:
Terrorism is an anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action, employed by (semi-) clandestine individual, group or state actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal or political reasons, whereby — in contrast to assassination — the direct targets of violence are not the main targets. The immediate human victims of violence are generally chosen randomly (targets of opportunity) or selectively (representative or symbolic targets) from a target population, and serve as message generators. Threat- and violence-based communication processes between terrorist (organization), (imperilled) victims, and main targets are used to manipulate the main target (audience(s)), turning it into a target of terror, a target of demands, or a target of attention, depending on whether intimidation, coercion, or propaganda is primarily sought (Schmid, 1988).

UN short legal definition, also proposed by Alex P. Schmid: an act of terrorism is the "peacetime equivalent of a war crime."[5]
On March 17, 2005, a UN panel described terrorism as any act "intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act."[6]
The General Assembly resolution 49/60, adopted on December 9, 1994, contains a provision describing terrorism:
Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them.

According to Antonio Cassese, that provision "sets out an acceptable definition of terrorism".[7]

source Wikipedia

tina said...

Al Juhura

I wonder if you are aware that American Karen Parker is one of the most vociferous supporters of the LTTE in America. So it is understandable that she waxed eloquent on the LTTE.

I wrote to the office of the Archbishop myself appreciating his gesture in recognising that terrorism should be defeated. his office responded saying his comments had been taken out of context and published by tamil net.

Anonymous said...

Tina,

Karen Parker has impeccable credentials in the field of International Law.
http://www.webcom.com/hrin/parker/biograph.html
"Her legal arguments on a variety of issues and conflicts are regularly cited by U.N. officials in their reports and included in the final drafts of resolutions adopted by the Commission on Human Rights. In 2000, she worked closely with the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Sanctions in developing a six-prong test to determine if a trade embargo and other economic sanctions violate human rights and humanitarian law, and on the report as a whole (E/CN.4/Sub.2/2000/33). She has also nominated and worked closely with U.N. officials appointed to report to the commission on disability, the environment, terrorism (E/CN.4/Sub.2/2001/31), toxic dumping and weaponry, and the human rights situation in specific countries."

There is a recording on the BBC of the Archbishop making the statement. Here is the link:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/sinhala/news/story/2007/05/070510_boucherpresser.shtml

Sam said...

So, may I ask what your views are al juhura? Do you think what the Archbishop said was right? Do you think the LTTE is a terrorist organization or not?

Anonymous said...

come come,one should neither hide from terrorists, nor from dictators as evident here http://www.dailymirror.lk/2007/05/23/opinion/03.asp
so why not own up instead of being annonymous..?

al juhara said...

Dear Ms Edwards

Thank you for your e-mail to the Archbishop of Canterbury to which I have been asked to reply as I accompanied him on and helped arrange his recent visit to Sri Lanka. Your e-mail is one of a number that express concern about the various media reports that have used a reference to "surgical military strikes" made during a press conference in Colombo.

The context of the quote is as follows:

"The military solution to the problems of the country increasingly appear to be no solution. It is undoubtedly inevitable that what you might call 'surgical' military action against terrorism should take place but we all hope and pray that it will lead not to a desolation, to victory for one and defeat for another, but to an opening of communication, a re-establishment of the possibility for civil societies to develop. Military victory is never an end in itself so long as it does not address underlying causes of tension.

"One of the difficulties is that when you are faced with rising levels of violence, of terrorist activity there are ways of responding to that which can themselves create future problems… there needs to be a strategy of engagement with voices outside the political process and draw them into a discussion which will guarantee them s sense that they believe that they gave a part and a voice."

I have included below with this letter a copy of the text of a letter sent by the two diocesan bishops of the Church of Ceylon to the Editor of Tamil Net which I hope you will find addresses the concerns you raised.

Whilst in Sri Lanka the Archbishop spent much of his time meeting with activists, civil society and faith leaders - including a deputation of IDPs. He repeatedly stated that he did not believe that a military solution to the current conflict was possible or moral and that all parties should be held to account for atrocities. Having heard the voices of those personally affected he was able to make these points with conviction and in person to the President and members of his cabinet as well as the Leader of the Opposition. During his meetings with political leaders in Colombo, as well as in his meetings with those from the North and East, the Archbishop expressed his concern that a “culture of impunity” had developed in which dissent was suppressed and those who were armed failed to respect the basic rights and dignity of civilians caught up in the conflict – a problem that appeared to be growing with the increased number of armed militias. The Archbishop urged all sides in the current conflict to build on the island’s religious heritage in which the different communities had lived in harmony and to combat the feelings of insecurity and alienation felt by Tamil citizens by pursuing policies that reinforced civil society institutions. Whilst acknowledging that government forces would react to attacks, he questioned whether such a military response was justified unless it had the clear aim of enhancing the possibility of dialogue between both sides. During his visit there seemed to be a widespread affirmation of the role that the church could play in promoting understanding between the various sides in the conflict as one of the institutions that incorporated all ethnic groups.

Thank you again for taking the trouble to contact the Archbishop. Please be assured that he, and his staff here at Lambeth Palace, will continue to pray and work in Sri Lanka for a just peace that allows all the people of the island to fulfil their potential.

Yours sincerely
Revd Anthony Ball
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Assistant Secretary for International, Ecumenical and Anglican Communion Affairs.

concernedChristian said...

Sam,
Im sure, pre-empting our questions, al juhara has for our convenience, already provided a definition above, so we can use it to work out if the LTTE falls within that scope.

Anonymous said...

AJ, do you work for either of these organisations. Both IED and AHL is run by Karen Parker and Deidre McDonnel, well known LTTE members who are also behind TCHR.

Both these groups have been known to be LTTE fronts for at least the last 10 years.

al juhara said...

Dear Sam,
actually yes, i was hoping the definition was quite clear.
I go a step further in saying that sometimes I feel groups who cause anguish without causing bodily harm or death, by for example destroying cultural treasures, or heritage are terrorists too- for eg-the Bamiyan Buddhas/the Jaffna Library/the temple of the Tooth... etc
and Anonymous, no I do not work for either of those organisations-and even if I had, Im just a humble librarian-my views are my own.
:-)

concernedchristian said...

Prof John Whitehall and the plight of the Tamils
From the Townsville Bulletin, Queensland, Australia
Saturday May 19th 2007
http://slceasefire.blogspot.com/2007/05/prof-john-whitehall-and-plight-of.html

Australian Paediatrician John Whitehall, is married with six children and attends the Baptist Church.

Anonymous said...

Dr John Whitehall is a little known right wing Christian fundamentalist/white supremacist, associated with extremist fringe groups such as Family First.

concernedChristian said...

Just did a search on the internet to see if the information that Dr. John Whitehall is a fundementalist christian or belongs to the party that anon asserts he does. From looking at the Internet, Family First appears to be a Christian political party. There is no evidence that John Whitehall belongs to that party.

Anonymous may also not know that the Baptist church is not considered a fundamentalist group. It is part of the World Council of churches which also includes churches such as the Methodist and anglican church.

If anon could let us know where they got the information from it would be greatly appreciated.

Anonymous said...

I didn't say all Baptists are fundamentalists. Dr Whitehall is. He led a "crusade" against the "communist Satanists" a while back. Dr Whitehall is not that well known, he mostly writes racist articles to far-right publications using pseudonyms. He's associated with Family First and One Nation parties. It's only recently that he's been brought into the limelight by the LTTE.