Act Now and Save Lives in Syria - Urges USTPAC

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The US Tamil Political Action Council (USTPAC) urges the US government to take urgent and immediate action to invoke R2P – Responsibility to Protect, to save the lives of Syrians facing continued massacres from Syrian security forces that are following the ‘Sri Lanka Model’ for the suppression of rebels.

As a persecuted community, Tamils all over the world stand in solidarity with the Syrian people in their hour of need and call for concerted action.

The New York Times on August 14 said that “In Aleppo…fighting continued on Tuesday, with rebels trying to hold contested areas amid an extended government ground assault,”[1] while refugees are streaming out of Damascus, the capital “fearing a major assault from government forces.”[2] According to another article from the same source, General Gaye, the commander of the UN monitoring mission, “strongly condemned Mr. Assad for using heavy weapons, which rebels say include jets firing on at least three cities.”[3] On August 10 Human Rights Watch said in a press release that “Civilians in and around the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo are increasingly at risk from aerial attacks, artillery shelling and gunfire.”[4] The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told The Huffington Post on July 19 that almost 12,000 civilians[5] had been killed in the civil war so far.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on August 3, 2012, “Aleppo, one of the most ancient and storied cities in the world, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is the epicenter of a vicious battle between the Syrian government and those who wish to replace it… All of us have a responsibility to the people of Syria.”[6]

“USTPAC strongly believes any delay in a firm and committed international response will only embolden the regime to continue its murderous campaign. Tamils know all too well about facing an onslaught from a government’s military forces and how inaction by the world community resulted in the death of tens of thousands of innocent Tamil lives in 2009. Syrians deserve immediate and urgent help from the world community, and the UN with help from the US should invoke Responsibility to Protect (R2P),” said USTPAC President, Dr. Elias Jeyarajah.

Referring to the 2009 mass killings of Tamils by Sri Lanka’s security forces, Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch noted in a statement on May 23, 2011 that, "Sri Lanka's self-proclaimed ‘model' of counterinsurgency included repeatedly shelling civilians, targeting hospitals, and trying to prevent the world from finding out about it.”[7] In addition, commenting on the UN resolution passed on Sri Lanka this March, Dr. S. I. Keethaponcalan, Chair of the Department of Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution at Salisbury University in Maryland, said in a April 2012 article in SA Global Affairs that “The US and other western co-sponsors of the resolution certainly wanted to preempt the possibility of Sri Lanka becoming a model for conflict resolution in terms of internal violent conflicts.”[8]

“It is now evident that the Syrian regime has been following the Sri Lankan model by cutting off the UN presence and preventing access by journalists to hide its abuses. The US government - along with other governments - has a moral obligation to ensure regimes like those of Rajapaksa and Assad do not have impunity to commit mass atrocities and crimes against humanity,” noted Dr. Jeyarajah.

The USTPAC president also said, “We support the recent petition launched by the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace & Justice (http://www.srilankacampaign.org/defenceseminar.htm) calls on the US not to participate in the August 8-12, 2012 Defense Seminar in Colombo, Sri Lanka[9] with the Sri Lankan military, which has been accused of potential war crimes and crimes against humanity by the State Department’s 2009 ‘Report to Congress on Incidents During the Recent Conflict in Sri Lanka.’”[10]

“We regret that US has chosen to send delegates to this seminar while making a case for the Syrian military to stop their crimes against humanity. This behavior will not go unnoticed by oppressive regimes like Syria and it further undermines the unified and principled stand the global community needs to take against governments that kill with impunity,” said Dr. Jeyarajah, adding that “As a persecuted community, Tamils all over the world stand in solidarity with the Syrian people in their hour of need and call for concerted action.”

Contact information: info(at)ustpac(dot)org, 202-595-3123

1. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/15/world/middleeast/ex-prime-minister-of-syria-assails-assad-government.html?ref=world
2 Ibid.
3. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/14/world/middleeast/syrian-rebels-claim-to-have-brought-down-a-jet.html?pagewanted=all
4. http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/08/10/syria-aleppo-civilians-great-risk
5. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/09/syria-crisis-death-toll-17000_n_1658708.html
6. http://www.un.org/sg/statements/index.asp?nid=6224
7. http://www.hrw.org/news/2011/05/23/sri-lanka-military-conference-whitewash-war-crimes
8. http://www.saglobalaffairs.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1186:a-turning-point&catid=35&Itemid=54
9. http://www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=Defence_Seminar_2012_Towards_Lasting_Peace_and_Stability_begins_today_20120808_01
10. http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/131025.pdf

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