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Genocide in Sri Lanka

by Bruce Fein

The barrage of media reporting of the grim conflict in Sri Lanka has captured popular imagination, but has overlooked the grisly Sinhalese Buddhist genocide of innocent Hindu or Christian Tamil civilians by a US dual citizen and US green card holder. The two should be investigated and prosecuted in the United States.

Acting on behalf of Tamils Against Genocide, I recently delivered to US Attorney General Eric H. Holder a three-volume, 1,000 page model 12-count genocide indictment against Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Sarath Fonseka charging violations of the Genocide Accountability Act of 2007. Derived from affidavits, court documents, and contemporaneous media reporting, the indictment chronicles a grisly 61-year tale of Sinhalese Buddhists attempting to make Sri Lanka "Tamil free."

Rajapaksa and Fonseka assumed their current offices in December 2005. They exercise command responsibility over Sri Lanka's mono-ethnic Sinhalese security forces. On their watch, they have attempted to physically destroy Tamils in whole or in substantial part through more than 3,800 extrajudicial killings or disappearances; the infliction of serious bodily injury on tens of thousands; the creation of punishing conditions of life, including starvation, withholding medicines and hospital care, humanitarian aid embargoes, bombing and artillery shelling of schools, hospitals, churches, temples; and the displacements of more than 1.3 million civilians into camps, which were then bombed and shelled. This degree of mayhem inflicted on the Tamil civilian population because of ethnicity or religion ranks with the atrocities in Bosnia and Kosovo that occasioned genocide indictments against Serbs by the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

During the past month, a virtual reenactment of the Bosnian Srebrenica genocide of more than 7,000 Muslims has unfolded. Sri Lanka's armed forces employed indiscriminate bombing and shelling to herd 350,000 Tamil civilians into a government-prescribed "safety zone," a euphemism for Tamil killing fields. There, more than 1,000 have been slaughtered and more than 2,500 have been injured by continued bombing and shelling.

As a preliminary to the horror, roads and medical aid were blocked, and humanitarian workers and all media were expelled. During a BBC radio interview on Feb. 2, Rajapaksa declared that outside the "safety zone" nothing should "exist." Accordingly, a hospital has been repeatedly bombed, killing scores of patients. Rajapaksa further proclaimed that in Sri Lanka, any person not involved in fighting the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam is a terrorist.

The United States assailed and sanctioned Serbia for noncooperation in apprehending genocide defendants Slobodan Milosevic, Radovan Karadzic, and Ratko Mladic. The United States should be no less scrupulous in prosecuting suspected genocide by its own citizens or permanent residents. Further, under Article 5 of the Genocide Convention of 1948, ratified by the United States Senate in 1986, the United States is obligated to provide "effective penalties" for genocide. That imposes an obligation on signatory parties to investigate and to prosecute credible charges - a benchmark that has been satisfied by TAG's 1,000-page model 12-count indictment of Rajapaksa and Fonseka.

The predictable defense of counter-terrorism will not wash. Not a single Tamil victim identified in the model indictment was involved in the war between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The lame excuse of defeating terrorism was advanced by Sudanese President Omar Bashir to a genocide arrest warrant over Darfur issued by chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo of the International Criminal Court. The chief prosecutor retorted that although Bashir's pretense was counterterrorism, his intent was genocide.

The State Department lists Sri Lanka as an investigatory target in the Office of War Crimes. The New York-based Genocide Prevention Project last December labeled Sri Lanka as a country of "highest concern." President Barack Obama has made the case for military intervention in Sudan or elsewhere to stop genocide. All the more justification for the United States to open an investigation of the voluminous and credible 12 counts of genocide against a United States citizen and permanent resident alien assembled by Tamils Against Genocide.

A genocide indictment would probably deter Rajapaksa and Fonseka from their ongoing atrocities against Tamil civilians. There is no time to tarry. [courtesy: Boston Globe]

Bruce Fein is counsel for Tamils Against Genocide and former associate deputy attorney general under President Reagan.


This is a test for the independence of the US judiciary. There is amble evidence to convict individuals from both sides of the conflict but the burden of protecting civilians or Sri Lankan citizens, regardless of their ethnicity, rests with the GOSL. Sadly the GOSL has miserably failed in this regard and contributed to the unlawful killing of civilians on a grand scale. These two individuals present themselves as patriots but ironically they hold national affiliations with the USA. This reality is truly hilarious and should serve as a wake up call for those who blindly follow these communal politicians.

Posted by: Nitharshan | February 15, 2009 12:40 AM

what does bruce know? ethnic cleancing by tamil tigers, racism by tamils, human shield and mass suicide by tamils, and blame it all on the islands people, bull!

Posted by: ross | February 15, 2009 08:30 AM

>> Sinhalese Buddhists attempting to make Sri Lanka "Tamil free."
This writer, whoever it is seem be clueless about Sri Lanka.
If the sinhalese are trying a tamil genocide, he should ask himself , how come
there are more than 50% of tamils living in the south with the sinhalese, there are tamil members in the parliament, an ex-foreign minister killed by LTTE was a tamil, many government heads and advisers, ambassadors are tamils, many big business people are tamils and so on and on?
Hey man, I have one quesiton to you. Have you seen these if you ever have beento Sri Lanka? First study the facts before you write!

Posted by: Garawi | February 15, 2009 09:18 AM

I do not know how this effort will help the Tamils in general. This project targets just two men and not the govt. During the next elections, these two men could become just another ordinary citizens.At that stage even if the prosecutions are taken further that is not going to help the Tamils.
Again another waste of Tamil money at this time.

Posted by: Mani | February 15, 2009 11:48 AM

Thank you Bruce Fien Sir,for your self centred,non biased community must act immediately stop this genocide on tamils.Un agencies must be involved in supervising internment camps for displaced civilians which are run by SL army THUGS currently. There are reports already shocked us hundreds of youths are being removed from these camps, killed and buried in down south to pevent the outside world to know this genocide.As per Tamil parlimentarian's report 130 girls & young mothers are raped & killed without any witnesses.India is watching this all silently because India is behind this Tamil genocide helps nazi Sri lankan rulers in all ways possible.India mistakes our strugle for our self determination over last 60 years, dreams to eleminate in over night.The day time dream of Sri lankan rulers of military solution to our aspirations will come to end soon.

Posted by: nket | February 15, 2009 05:07 PM

Bruce Fein, Thanks a lot for your tireless effort. War criminals should be punished.Day will come for Gotta and gang to pay the price for their crimes against Tamils.

Posted by: R Maran | February 16, 2009 04:50 AM

Hello Mani,

I don't agree with you that it is a waste of money. Efforts like this to hold at least two people at the top echelons of power in Sri Lanka accountable for their crimes will send some fear through other war criminals in the government and may act as a deterrent. It is just the beginning and will act as a model for later efforts. Obviously, doing it via Fein is a costly way of doing it, but at the moment, it is necessary and everyone should support it.

At later stages, I would suggest using less costly ways, like hiring human rights lawyers from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, etc., and also using Tamil lawyers, to file charges against the SL regime in Spain and at the International Criminal Court. This is because the effort by Fein depends on the Dept of Justice to bring charges. Only directly affected parties living in the US can file criminal charges directly in US courts. So doing it in Spain is important because Spanish courts recognize universal jurisdiction in matters of war crime.

Posted by: Expatriate | February 16, 2009 12:47 PM

Garawi, Have you ever been in North or East in war time? Can Journalist go to that area? Did you forget 1977 and 1983? Mr.Fein, this is the good way to go. Thank you. Money is worthless compare with human life.

Posted by: Keethan | February 17, 2009 10:39 AM

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