Hundreds of Tamil protesters gathered at the International Criminal Court in The Hague on Wednesday to demand justice.
If the international court prosecutors can request judges to issue arrest warrants on charges of crimes against humanity against Libyan leaders, then why not against the leaders in Sri Lanka too? This is the call from the international Tamil community.
Two years ago today, the Sri Lankan government declared the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), bringing an end to a civil war between the Sinhalese and the Tamil communities that lasted more than three decades. But, while the conflict is officially over, the scars run deep.
What frustrates the Tamil protesters is a perceived one-sided approach to justice. For example, Dutch prosecutors are conducting an investigation into alleged illegal activities of the Tamil Tigers in Benelux and overseas. The trial is due to start in September.
But so far no charges seem to be planned for the Sri Lankan government or army, despite the fact that the international community is already preparing to prosecute Libyan leaders. So the Tamils feel that they are being treated as second class citizens.
Ruban Thirunacukkarasu, president of the Dutch Tamil Forum, says more people must held accountable.
"We want to have justice, we agree that the LTTE is paying for their crimes now. But the Sri Lankan government should be held responsible as well for their war crimes."
"It’s even worse than you think," says Sangar Jopalapillai from the German Council of Eelam Tamils. "There is still a genocide going on. Every day people go missing in the North East of Sri Lanka. The only people in power there now are the Sri Lankan army. Tamils are being killed every day."
But the ICC can’t actually do much for the Tamils at this point because it has no jurisdiction in the area – Sri Lanka is not one of the 114 countries that have signed up to the court.
The only hope for the protesters would be a direct referral from the UN Security Council – as was the case with Libya.
It's not just Dutch Tamils who protested today. Showing their commitment to the cause, two Tamils from Denmark cycled over a thousand kilometers to The Hague to join the demonstration. Chairman of the Tamil Danish Association Maheswaran Ponnampalam:
"It took them 18 days to get here by bike, but they made it. We have sent multiple letters to the prosecutor of the ICC asking for action. We never got a response. That’s why we are here."
The ICC refused to comment on the protesting Tamils on its doorstep. When asked for a response, a spokesman refused to even acknowledge they were there.
The UN published a report in March, stating that it found 'credible allegations, which if proven, indicate that a wide range of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law was committed both by the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, some of which would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.'