Justice for victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity - Sri Lanka

In May 2009, the 26-year-long Sri Lankan civil war ended when the Government of Sri Lanka defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a separatist militant organization which fought to create an independent Tamil state named Tamil Eelam in the north and the east of Sri Lanka. With causality estimates ranging from 65,000 to 100,000 civilians, the war was devastating to the country both in terms of human life and economically.

SPEAK has been advising its clients on ways to render the Sri Lankan government accountable for war crimes and has initiated legal, and other, proceedings necessary in order to assure accountability:

  • SPEAK has spent over two years conducting witness interviews and private investigations in Canada, England, Switzerland, India, and the United States including representatives of local humanitarian organizations, government representatives, elected leaders, local cultural and political leaders, civilians, and refugees that have been affected by the conflict.

  • SPEAK, in collaboration with US law schools, has submitted two proposals to the United Nation’s Panel of Experts calling for the establishment of an international tribunal.

  • SPEAK has had meetings with UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Killings, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Christof Heyns. SPEAK has also met with the offices of Claudio Grossman, Chair of the United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNCAT).

  • ACF (Action Contre La Faim) and SPEAK made a joint submission to the Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations and are about to embark on intensive lobbying to raise awareness about the brutal killing of ACF employees in Sri Lanka.

  • SPEAK has brought its advocacy efforts to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the UN Credentials Committee urging them to recommend that the General Assembly revoke the credentials of the retired General. These letters have been made public and have received support from over a dozen premier global human rights-affiliated organizations.

  • SPEAK has submitted an amicus curiae brief to the federal courts of New York advising the judges on the issue of prosecutorial immunity for Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse

Most notably, SPEAK filed a lawsuit in the federal court of New York against Sri Lankan General Shavendra Silva, who currently resides in New York City. As the commander of the 58th Division of the Sri Lankan Army, Ambassador Silva is responsible for numerous breaches of Sri Lankan and international laws and conventions during the conflict. He currently is Sri Lanka’s Acting Permanent Representative to the United Nations. This case gained wide notoriety and made numerous international news headlines including Aljazeera, BBC Sinhala, the Economist, and various United States, Sri Lankan, Swiss and Mauritius news sources, and has gained overwhelming support and recognition from various human rights organizations and institutions in America and elsewhere around the world.