Statement regarding allegations made against the May 17 Movement regarding the Bremen Tribunal

It has been brought to our attention that the ‘People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka’ is being used in a widespread campaign to discredit the Tamil Nadu based ‘May 17th Movement’. It has been alleged that the reason that the jurors at the Bremen Tribunal did not rule on the issue of Indian complicity to genocide was because the May 17th Movement presented the evidence in such a manner as to deliberately sabotage the possibility of the jurors finding India guilty. As the organisers of the Bremen session of the ‘People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka’, we wish to state that these allegations are unfounded.

We had decided that, as well as the charge of Genocide against the Sri Lankan State, we would add US, British and Indian complicity to the list of accusations for the panel of jurors at the Bremen session to examine. We had seen video interviews with Mr. Thirumurugan Gandhi of the May 17th Movement on and decided that this movement would be well placed for putting forward the case for Indian complicity.

It must be said from the outset that the goals that the Bremen Tribunal had set for itself was difficult to achieve – due to the time limitations. Of course the Bremen session was the second part of the ‘Peoples Tribunal on Sri Lanka’.  Originally, we had intended to include the charge of genocide against the Sri Lankan state at the Dublin Tribunal (held in 2010). However, at that time preliminary discussions with members of the panel of judges convinced us that this was not practical at that time and so we decided to restrict our accusations to ‘war crimes’ and ‘crimes against humanity’. At the same time, we provided enough evidence in Dublin to convince the panel of judges that the charge of genocide should be considered in the future. It was the same with the question of US and British complicity. Our evidence in Dublin (see background document presented to the panel in Dublin in 2010 laid the basis for the accusations regarding British and US complicity – which we also put forward three years later in Bremen.

In reality the panel of jurors had to process an enormous amount of information in a short period of time. As Genocide was a controversial issue, the panel of judges were pushing to hear evidence from witnesses who had direct experience of the last stages of the war – so that they can make an informed decision on this central accusation. This generated a time squeeze, and the time allocated for international complicity had to be reduced.

Whereas the judges had previous knowledge of US/UK complicity, from Dublin tribunal onwards, Indian complicity was new to the panel. Further, India’s changing role during the period of the Eelam struggle (as distinct to the US and UK’s constant opposition to it) added to the complexity. To compensate for these hurdles, we intended to give the May 17th movement extra time to make their presentation on Indian complicity. But due to time overrun we had to reduce the time slot for India to the same level as for US and for UK. We took this decision with a heavy heart. The judges stated at the press conference that although they ‘believed’ that India was in fact complicit, that they would like to examine this issue further at a later date to make a considered determination.

We explain this to show the reader that it is baseless to suggest that the May 17th movement deliberately sabotaged the Indian complicity determination. We are disturbed that the name of the Bremen Tribunal has and is being used to undermine a vibrant political movement in Tamil Nadu.

Viraj Mendis for the Internationaler Menschenrechtsverein Bremen e.V

Jude Lal Fernando for the Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka