3RD LEAD (NCCT in Canada joins collaboration)
Tamil Country Councils, TAG announce legal partnership
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 21 July 2010, 01:02 GMT]
Four democratically-elected Country Councils (CCs) of Eezham Tamils in Europe announced Tuesday the signing of a formal "Collaboration Agreement" with Tamils Against Genocide (TAG), a US-based activist group, to form a co-operative relationship to pursue criminal and civil litigation against Sri Lanka officials complicit in war-crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity in the courts of European Community member countries and in international courts. "Norway, Switzerland, France and Italy have already signed the preliminary agreement. The National Council of Canadian Tamils has also decided to formally join the partnership and other countries are expected to join the collaboration effort," spokesperson coordinating the effort in Europe told TamilNet.
Tharsika Pakeerathan, the president of Swiss Council of Eelam Tamils, Dr. Panchakulasingam Kandiah, the head of Norwegian Council of Eelam Tamils, T. Thiruchchothi, the head of Maison du Tamil Eelam, the elected country council of France, Sebestiampillai-Dunstan Rajkumar of Italian Council of Eelam Tamils (ICET) and Mohan Ramakrishnan of NCCT in Canada have come together in the latest joint effort of the Tamil diaspora.
Mohan Ramakrishnan, the president of recently elected National Council of Canadian Tamils (NCCT) told TamilNet that the NCCT welcomed the European move as a very positive one and said the Canadian country council would formally join the partnership as soon as the necessary formalities of the newly established NCCT are on place.
The Country Councils of Eelam Tamils in Switzerland and Norway have already taken concrete steps to file cases and have set up legal groups NCET-TAG and SCET-TAG.
"Efforts to file a case against a former Sri Lanka military official in the European Court of Human Rights is close to completion and a formal announcement is expected on this matter soon," Tharsika Pakeerathan, the head of SCET said. Dr. Panchakulasingam Kandiah, the president of NCET added that this will be followed by a filing in the Norwegian Courts soon.
The recital section in the copy of the Agreement received by TamilNet, said, inter alia:
TAG and CCs like to form a co-operative relationship to pursue criminal and civil litigation against Sri Lanka officials in the courts of European Community member countries and in international courts.
CCs would like to benefit from TAG’s expertise in developing a Model Indictment filed with the US Justice Department charging Sri Lanka Officials of war-crimes and genocide (January 2009), of filing of law suit in the District Court of District of Columbia, Washington D.C., against US Treasury Secretary against voting for IMF loan to Sri Lanka, (March 2009), and submission of written evidence and oral testimony to the Dublin War Crimes Tribunal (January 2010).
TAG, while providing assistance on legal action, would like to benefit from obtaining eye-witness testimonies and video depositions from victims domiciled in European countries of CCs for use in litigations in the U.S."
Article I of the agreement, describing the duties of the signing organizations, includes the following:
TAG will provide assistance to CCs in (a) formulating legal strategies; (b) choice of forum based on the applicable laws that has highest chance of success when applied to litigation facts at hand; and (c) research and help in drafting a broad outline of complaint for filing in the chosen forum.
Each CC agrees to (a) incorporate in its constitution provision to create a Litigation Group to execute litigation efforts bridging periodic CC election of office bearers; and (b) form a Litigation Group with a minimum of four members to take responsibility for pursuing litigation in areas of law that allow prosecution of Sri Lanka officials of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity, and to serve as a co-ordinating entity to other CCs, local Tamil organizations, and TAG.
Adding details to the on-going effort in a European country expected to be completed as part of the above agreement, a TAG spokesperson said, the first filing will be based on "Jus Cogens norms and individual criminal responsibility" and specifically on the "breach and continued breach of Articles 3 (Prohibition of Torture), Article 8 (Right to Respect for Private and Family Life), and Article 11 (Freedom of assembly and association) of the European Convention of Human Rights, in violation of fundamental universally-accepted values, morals, and principles of human rights unequivocally accepted and respected by the modern community of civilized nations and postwar European democratic political society."
Tharsika Pakeerathan, the president of Switzerland Council of Eelam Tamils said "more than one hundred video clips, taken during the first five months of 2009, catalogued and labeled with the source, time and place where the videos were taken, will support the first round of filings, together with video depositions of witnesses. The complete collection of evidence will also be submitted to a 'genocide database' maintained by an NGO in a European country. A preliminary count of the civilian dead appearing in the videos alone has exceeded 6,000, a number close to the numbers killed in Srebrenica genocide."
Other diaspora organizations, including War Without Witness (WWW), which have extended depositories of image, video evidence of war crimes, and eye-witness accounts are being invited to consider joining the partnership, TAG spokesperson said.
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