Sri Lankan officials will be absent from the upcoming Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, but we are calling upon activists and global citizens to bring awareness of sexual violence in Sri Lanka to those attending by sharing or tweeting the following images with the hashtags #TimeToAct #SriLanka.
Three women at the opening of the Kataragama Festival, Sri Lanka’s largest interfaith gathering. Photo Credit: Brett Davies.
On May 8, members of the WPSN-C and local civil society organizations met with Yasmin Sooka in Ottawa to discuss her latest publication “An Unfinished War: Torture and Sexual Violence in Sri Lanka (2009 to 2014)”. A lawyer based in South Africa, Yasmin Sooka is the Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights and was integral to the post-apartheid South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Sierra Leone.
Her most recent report compiles the statements of 40 men and women who were victims of torture and sexual violence at the hands of the Sri Lankan military in the wake of the 2009 defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Based on the evidence of these testimonies, Sooka concludes that the Government of Sri Lanka is guilty of employing the systemic use of torture and rape to terrorize Tamil civilians, among them disproportionately high numbers of women and children.
Although the armed conflict ended in 2009, the Sri Lankan forces continue to wage war on the bodies of Tamil civilians, leaving them in fear of the consequences of speaking out. Witness testimony reveals the sharp increase in “abduction, arbitrary detention, torture, rape and sexual violence” following the ceasefire that was declared in 2009. Sooka’s report is a testament to the calculated and systematic nature of the crimes, exposing the ongoing corruption, impunity and lack of accountability plaguing Sri Lanka’s government.
Next week’s Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict faces a formidable challenge – to not only inspire commitments to end sexual violence in conflict, but to elicit concrete actions to resolve this insidious and enduring issue.
As the Summit approaches, Women, Peace and Security Network – Canada members
will examine issues of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), and efforts to combat it, on our blog. For the next 8 days, posts will highlight the situation in fragile, conflict-affected and post-conflict states, including the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Syria and Zimbabwe. We’re drawing on the expertise and interests of our members to increase awareness and discussion in advance of the Global Summit.
Once the Summit starts, we’ll turn our attention to the proceedings, then wrap-up shortly after its conclusion.
Residents of the Manik Farm IDP camp await the arrival of the United Nations Secretary-General in Vavuniya, Sri Lanka. Photo credit: Eskinder Debebe/United Nations.
On May 8, Yasmin Sooka, a South African human rights lawyer and activist, will be speaking about women’s rights and violence in Sri Lanka at a brown bag lunch. The event is free and open to the public, and will be held from noon-1pm at Amnesty House, 312 Laurier Avenue East in Ottawa.
This is a great opportunity for anyone interested in learning more about women’s rights issues in Sri Lanka and for those who want to stand in solidarity with Sri Lankan women as they assert their rights.
Yasmin is the Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa, and also served on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She is known internationally due to her assistance in writing two significant reports concerning human rights in Sri Lanka.
One of these reports is the Panel of Experts’ report on Sri Lanka issued in April 2011. This document advised UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on the issue of accountability with regard to alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka.
The other report is An Unfinished War: Torture and Sexual Violence in Sri Lanka, May 2009-March 2014 issued in March 2014. This report is based on the testimony of 40 women and men who were witnesses to violence in Sri Lanka and concludes that their credible accounts establish a prima facie case for post-war crimes against humanity. These crimes involve torture, rape, and sexual violence by the Sri Lankan military five years after its defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May 2009. Despite the conclusion of the military conflict, continued human rights violations have taken place, and still happen, in “a climate of impunity” and “absence of accountability” – endorsed at the “highest level” of government.