Why the LTTE is NOT a terrorist organization
By Ms. Karen Parker
October 11, 2000
Ms.Karen Parker is an attorney specializing in international law, humanitarian (armed conflict) and human rights law. She is a member of the California Bar and has a J.D.(Honours-1983) from the University of San Francisco School of Law and a Diploma (cum laude -1982) in Droit International et Droit Compare des Droits de l’Homme (Strasbourg, France).
Canadians have asked me to set out my views on whether the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is a “terrorist” organization. I state categorically that the LTTE is not a “terrorist” organization, but rather an armed force in a war against the government of Sri Lanka. Characterization of the LTTE as a “terrorist” organization is politically motivated having no basis in law or fact. This memorandum provides a brief legal analysis to support my view.
There is a war in Sri Lanka. By war, I mean that there is an armed conflict occurring between two parties. An armed conflict is defined by the use of military material in an organized fashion by at least two groups organized into military fighting forces fighting each other. The LTTE is organized militarily, with a military commander and military chain of command. The LTTE uses traditional, modern military weaponry in its combat against the military forces of the government of Sri Lanka. The LTTE uses a variety of military tactics, including open warfare, raids or guerrilla warfare. The government armed forces use similar military means against the armed forces of the LTTE. Most armies in the past 200 years have utilized essentially the same tactics.
The war in Sri Lanka may be characterized as either a civil war or a war of national liberation in the exercise of the right to self-determination. A civil war exists if there is armed conflict inside one country between government armed forces and at least one other force having an identifiable command and having sufficient control over the territory to carry out “sustained” and “concerted” military action and the practical capability to fulfill humanitarian law obligations. The LTTE has clearly met this test for more than 10 years.
A war of national liberation exists if an armed conflict exists between the armed forces of a government against the armed forces of a people that have the right to self-determination. In my view, the war in Sri Lanka is a war of national liberation because the Tamil people have the right to self-determination. This is because the Tamil people, the original inhabitants of the north and east of the island of Ceylon, had their own state complete and separate from the Sinhala prior to colonization by the British. The Tamil people, primarily Hindu, and secondarily Christian and Muslim, speak their own language and have their own traditions and customs. The Sinhala people are primarily Buddhist and secondarily Christian and their traditions and customs reflect that heritage.
With the forced unitary rule, first as a result of colonization and then under the post-colonial Sinhala majority rule, the Tamil people were increasingly threatened. In the late 1970s, after nearly thirty years of an attempted peaceful resolution to the many points of profound differences, the Tamil people began forming armed defense forces. At present, Tamil forces are consolidated in the LTTE, which continues to defend Tamil areas in a war against the Sinhala government’s armed forces, “home guards” and other armed entities.
If the war in Sri Lanka is a civil war, outside states are required to be neutral – a civil war is by definition an internal affair of a state. This is known as the duty of neutrality. If the war is a war of national liberation, outside states are required to support the side with the self-determination claim – The Tamil side. This is because of the jus cogens nature of the right to self-determination. This does not mean that another state must provide direct aid to the Tamil people or the Tamil armed force. However, other states must not engage in any activity with the Sinhala government that in any way undermines the realization of self-determination by the Tamil people.
Anti-Tamil protesters threaten Karen Parker at UN
August 14, 2000
Karen Parker, a human rights lawyer was intimidated and threatened by anti-LTTE demonstrators protesting outside the United Nation in Geneva Friday. Some of the demonstrators had pursued her, screaming insults and confronted her when they caught up, Ms. Parker, who is a well-known figure in legal circles interested in Sri Lanka, told TamilNet Monday. She had been rescued by a passing Swiss national, she said, adding that the matter had been reported to the Swiss police and would be filed with the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the independence of the judiciary.
Ms. Parker had left the UN building where the organization’s Commission on Human Rights was in session before the day’s scheduled activity had concluded, and she was alone when she walked towards a bus stop to go home, she told TamilNet when contacted Monday regarding reports of the incident.
She had to pass an estimated 100 Sinhala protesters to do this, and as she approached, one protestor shouted out her name and began screaming “there she is, the LTTE lawyer,” whereupon several others began shouting at her.
“They were saying I was an enemy of the Sinhala people, that I was living off the misery of the Sinhalese,” Ms. Parker told TamilNet. “The said human rights lawyers lived off their misery.”
The man who shouted out her name was rallying the mob, she said. “I was surprised -they were too far away to see my name tag, I wonder now if my photograph had been given to them by the Sri Lankan government.”
“They were shouting that I was a paid lawyer of the LTTE -which is not true, I have not worked for the LTTE,” she said.
“As I got further from the UN building and the UN guards, they [protestors] become more agitated and abusive,” she said.
Ms. Parker had to cross a street to wait for the bus at the stop, which was deserted, and as she did so, a number of protestors broke away and pursued her, she said. They were led by a Sinhala protester and a white protestor who crossed the street behind her.
As the pair reached her, the white protestor got in front of her first, screaming at her.
“He blocked my path and shouted at me. He claimed he was Canadian.”
“His face was barely an inch from mine, and he was forcing me backward,” she said. “In the meantime, a number of other demonstrators had arrived and were closing around me. I was frightened, thinking I was going to be attacked.”
“Fortunately, a Swiss man who happened to come along intervened, forcing his way into the group and confronting the Canadian and forcing him to back away.”
“The group moved a little distance away, and I stayed behind the bus stop sign and the Swiss man waited, remaining between the Sinhala protesters and me. The bus arrived shortly and I got on board. I was not able to thank the gentleman who saved me.”
“I called the police when I reached downtown and they said they would investigate. I will also be taking up the matter with the UN’s Special Rapporteur concerned with the independence of the judiciary and lawyers”
“I am shocked at their [demonstrators’] vehemence,” she said. “I believe in free speech. By their intimidation, they are interfering with my practice as a human rights lawyer.”
[Courtesy of TamilNet]