Noam Chomsky, CC BY 2.0, Andrew Rusk, via Wikimedia Commons

Leading US Human Rights Advocates have Joined Forces to Urge UN and World Leaders to Act to Stop the Imminent Catastrophe

October 19, 2009 Sri Lanka Campaign Comments Off

Press Release

Three leading US human rights advocates have joined forces to urge UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, President Obama, and other world leaders to put an immediate end to an imminent humanitarian catastrophe in Sri Lanka.

Prof. Noam Chomsky, Professor Rajan Menon and Professor Michael Grodin are the latest prominent world figures to lend their support to the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace & Justice. The three award-winning professors come from very different academic and professional backgrounds but are united in calling world leaders to act.

Announcing his support, Dr Grodin said: “At the Nuremberg Trials following the Nazi Holocaust, Justice Robert Jackson exclaimed ‘The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored because it cannot survive their being repeated’ These words echo and reverberate as we witness the crimes against humanity perpetrated in Sri Lanka.”

According to Professor Menon: “Now is the time to settle the civil conflict in Sri Lanka, which has consumed thousands of lives and brought severe misery to countless others. In the short term, access should be provided to the UN and international relief agencies to deal with the humanitarian problems facing refugees and lists of detainees should be made available. In the long run, economic development in the war torn areas must proceed hand in hand with political measures aimed at reconciliation and empowerment.”

And Professor Chomsky added: “The fate of Tamils in Sri Lanka has been a shocking story of mounting horrors. It would be unconscionable to stand by in silence as the remnants face still more torture and disaster. Every effort must be expended to bring this tragedy to an end while there is still time.”

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group – all of whom have in the past criticised the LTTE – have also called for immediate action to deal with the imminent crisis affecting at least 50,000 children.

The Sri Lanka Campaign is chaired by Edward Mortimer, journalist, and former Communications Director to Kofi Annan. Other members of the Advisory Council include Lakhdar Brahimi (a former high level UN envoy and member of the Elders – an independent group of global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela, to address difficult global challenges), Brahma Chellaney (a senior Indian foreign policy adviser), Charles Glass (the internationally renowned journalist) and Chibli Mallat (the Lebanese legal specialist) and Bianca Jagger (prominent human rights advocate, a member of the Executive Directors Leadership Council of Amnesty International USA, and a Council of Europe Goodwill Ambassador).

Professors Chomsky, Menon and Grodin and the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace & Justice call on the international community and the Government of Sri Lanka to take the following actions immediately to alleviate this humanitarian catastrophe:

1) The UN, international Red Cross and voluntary agencies must be given full and unrestricted access to care for and protect the civilians in the camps and help them return to wherever in their own country they choose to live. Meanwhile, these civilians should have their right to freedom of movement restored in time to escape the devastation that the monsoon will otherwise bring.

2) A list of all those still alive and in custody (in internment camps or elsewhere) should be published, so that families can stop searching for loved ones who are dead.

3) Those who continue to be detained as alleged LTTE combatants must be treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, and urgently given access to legal representation. ICRC should be given immediate access.

4) Accountability processes must be established to ensure that international aid is not diverted to purposes other than those for which it was given.

5) The Sri Lankan Government should allow conflict reconciliation specialists unhindered access to help rebuild lives and communities.

6) Sri Lanka should request or accept a full UN investigation into war crimes committed by all parties during the war.

7) The UN Secretary General should appoint a Special Envoy to Sri Lanka.

Noam Chomsky is a linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, political activist, author, and lecturer. He is Professor Emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and considered to be one of the fathers of modern linguistics. The New York Times has called him “Arguably the most important intellectual alive.” Beginning with his opposition to the Vietnam War, Chomsky has also established himself as a prominent critic of US foreign and domestic policy. Chomsky has lectured at many universities and is the recipient of numerous honorary degrees and awards. He has written and lectured widely on linguistics, philosophy, intellectual history, contemporary issues, international affairs, and U.S. foreign policy. He is a prolific writer, and his new book is Hopes and Prospects (2009).

Michael Grodin is an internationally renowned medical specialist in the relationship of health & human rights, medicine & the holocaust, bioethics, and the philosophy of psychiatry & psychoanalysis
. He has won numerous awards for his book and has edited or co-edited 5 books. He is Professor of Health Law, Bioethics and Human Rights (Boston University School of Public Health), Professor of Socio-Medical Sciences and Community Medicine and Psychiatry (Boston University School of Medicine) and the Medical Ethicist at Boston Medical Centre, Co-Founder of Global Lawyers and Physicians, and Co-Director of the Boston Centre for Refugee Health and Human Rights.

Rajan Menon is the Monroe J. Rathbone Professor of International Relations at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and, in August 2010, will become the Spitzer Professor in Political Science at the City College of New York/City University of New York. He has authored or edited five books and more than 60 articles in leading academic journals and edited volumes. He writes often for the Los Angeles Times and has also written opinion pieces for Newsweek, the International Herald Tribune, Financial Times, washingtonpost.com, Christian Science Monitor, and the Chicago Tribune. He has been a commentator on the BBC, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, CNN, and National Public Radio.