Why the LTTE is Not a Terrorist Organization

Why the LTTE is NOT a terrorist organization

By Ms Karen Parker

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 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 are organized as 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 fulfil 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 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.

Both parties to the armed conflict on the island of Ceylon violate
the rules of armed conflict or humanitarian law. However, the mere fact that one side of the other violates humanitarian law norms does not deny either the rights or duties of combatant forces. Accordingly, the LTTE may not be called a “terrorist” organization because, in the course of armed conflict, some of its soldiers have violated the rules of armed conflict. In the same light, the government cannot be called a “terrorist” state because some of its military operations have violated armed conflict rules. Neither side, of course, can be considered to violate humanitarian law for
carrying out military actions. I have noted “condemnation” of the LTTE
by the government and others for carrying out military operations that are not prohibited in humanitarian law. For example, the LTTE shot down a number of airplanes and sank a number of ships of the Sri Lankan forces. These actions were called “terrorist” by the government of Sri Lanka. These are not violations of humanitarian law and therefore cannot be characterized as “terrorist”.

I do note, however the rampant disregard for humanitarian
rules by the government forces in persistent and repeated military operations against hospitals, schools, market places, churches and locations with a strong historical and cultural significance to the Tamil people. I also note the difficulty in establishing the culpable party(ies) in a number of situations where the LTTE has been accused by the Sri Lankan government of killing civilians. This is not to say the LTTE have not
resorted to the killing of civilians. However, the fact that the government accuses the LTTE does not mean the LTTE actually carried out the acts in question. The government’s rejection of impartial, international fact-finding makes ascertaining the truth ever more difficult.

The International Court of Justice decided that all states have an
obligation under Article 1 common to the Geneva Conventions to “ensure respect” for the Geneva Conventions even when not directly or indirectly involved in a conflict. From my point of view, this requirement mandates at least that the international community insist that the government of Sri Lanka to allow both humanitarian relief to all victims
of the conflict and international, impartial fact-finding to take place.

About the Author: Ms Karen Parker is an attorney specializing in international law, humanitarian (armed conflict) and human rights law. She
is Chief Delegate at the United Nations for the Humanitarian Law Project/International Education Development.

Her work involves consultations with governments, international
bodies, opposition groups, non-governmental organizations and attorneys; fact-finding missions; and representations before national, foreign and international courts and tribunals.

She has testified before the United Nations on the situation in
Sri Lanka since 1983. Her written statements on Sri Lanka are published by the United Nations as part of the official records. She has also presented papers and made numerous speeches at universities, community forums and international events on the crisis in Sri Lanka.

Because of her special emphasis on humanitarian (armed conflict)
law, she has worked with victims and for compliance with the Geneva Conventions and other humanitarian norms in Sri Lanka. She also presents legal arguments defending the Tamil right to self-determination.

Mr Parker has been invited to US Congress many times to give
special briefings on international law and US policy and has presented testimony on Sri Lanka at hearings.

thadhasinhalaya posted October 11, 2000, 10:22 PM Click Here to See the Profile for thadhasinhalaya Click Here to Email thadhasinhalaya Edit Message Karen Parker – A high priced human rights lawyer was tossed out on her highly paid ass when she attempted to the US Congress arguing that LTTE were not terrorists and that their human rights were being violated.
perhaps Ms.Karen Parker would like to give an address to Congress about the human rights violations inherent in the LTTE campaign to force children into combat, the torture for those who refuse and the extortion of their families, the ‘human rights’ inherent in a mother being returned the pieces of her 13 yr old son from combat and the ‘human rights’ violations involved with the denial of children’s education by forcing schools to subvert the educational curriculum in favour of terrorism military training.
If anybody were to talk about human rights … the LTTE must stand up and be the biggest violator of them all.

[This message has been edited by thadhasinhalaya (edited October 11, 2000).]

thadhasinhalaya posted October 11, 2000 10:33 PM Click Here to See the Profile for thadhasinhalaya Click Here to Email thadhasinhalaya Edit Message
A reply to MS Parker:

Gamini Iriyagolle, Sri Lanka

This is a response to an article by Karen Parker, said to be a specialist in international law, published on 14th June 2000 in the Ottawa Citizen. The writer declares that the LTTE is not a terrorist organization but is a legitimate armed force fighting a war of Tamil liberation against the armed forces of the Sri Lanka government. The article also states that the Tamil people had a separate state before British colonization which the LTTE is now fighting to liberate.

The writer seems to be unaware of both fact and principle relative to the LTTE and to Tamil political claims.

It is well known that the LTTE carries out massacres of Sinhala people living in villages and carries out bomb attacks in cities such as the capital Colombo. Its atrocities are committed as a matter of policy in pursuit of the declared goal of a Tamil state. Detailing each and every one of them would fill a volume. Only some of the acts of terrorism can be referred to here.

After early operations such as robberies and murders of individual policemen and off duty military personnel in the seventies, the LTTE commenced massacres of non combatant civilians and attacks on places of worship sacred to Buddhists in 1984 and 1998. In May 1985 its cadres descended on the sacred city of Anuradhapura, massacred 146 people and machine gunned the precincts of the 2000 year old Sacred Bo Tree killing a number of devotees worhipping there. Later the LTTE boasted that it took the massacre at Anuradhapura to bring the government to the negotiating table in July 1985. In 1986 a passenger aircraft waiting to take off from the Colombo International Airport was bombed on the tarmac killing and maiming a number of passengers seated in the aircraft . The victims were of various nationalities. If ever there was an act of international terrorism this was it. In 1987 a powerful bomb was exploded during the evening rush hour close to the central bus station in Pettah, Colombo killing over 150 Sinhalese most whom on their way home after work. Tamil office workers had been secretly warned to stay away. Another bomb at Maradana also in the heart of Colombo killed and maimed a number of commuters.

During this period several Sinhala villages both in and outside the area claimed for a Tamil state were attacked with submachine guns and carving knives. In a village I visited soon after an attack I was shown two huts the inhabitants of which had been attacked two weeks before. The victims in one were a young mother and her two year old child who was being fed. The mother fled with the child. Karen Parker’s “freedom fighters” shot and killed both with the sophisticated weapons Parker says the alleged legitimate Tigers are duly armed with (I must state here that I used to visit the scenes of such attacks and also threatened villages till September 1990 when I was crippled by a spinal injury). Serunewa was a miserably poor Sinhala village in a forest reserve in Anuradhapura District ; its crime was to be located on a forest route used by the “freedom fighters” to move from the Northern Province to the Eastern Province. The LTTE attacked it twice murdering a number of villagers each time; the village wa abandoned. After one attack the LTTE cut off the heads of two young women and strung them up on a tree at head level at a bend in the footpath to be thus discovered by officials.

In June 1990 the honeymoon between President Premadasa and the LTTE was violently terminated by the latter simultaneously attacking polic e stations and army camps. The LTTE negotiators were enjoying government hospitality at a 5 star Colombo hotel at the time. The Police stations were ordered by the government to surrender to the attackers with their armouries. 600 policemen, in various stations, who surrendered in obedience to these orders had their hands tied behind backs, shot dead and buried in mass graves presumably in the name of self determination. Several of these graves were discovered later. How does this fit in to Parker’s scheme of conformity to law ? When I visited the largely Muslim town of Kinniya in Trincomalee District in the Eastern Province in August 1990 I was shown the shell of the police station set fire to by the LTTE in June. 37 Sinhala policemen had been locked into one room and burnt alive. The distinctive smell of death was still there two months after the atrocity.

I leave out of this account for want of space the details of terrorist atrocities (including raping of girls in front of their parents in a night attack on the remote village of Mangalagama ) such as the bombing of the election meeting at Grand Pass in Colombo, the Central Bank, the Temple of the Tooth, the passenger train at Dehiwala, the Heroes Day procession on June 7th 2000 and so many others acts of systematic terrorism. The LTTE is a Tamil terrorist organization waging a war against ordinary Sinhala people as much as or more than against the state armed forces. When a Sinhalese sets out to work in Colombo in the morning neither he nor his family could be certain of his return. The Tamil population of Colombo is so confident of its security that in the period between the last national census of 1981 and the partial census of 1994, the Sri Lanka Tamil population of Colombo District had increased by 39% mainly by to migration from Jaffna and Batticaloa while the Sinhala population increased by only 15%, a natural increase.

The claim that the LTTE is an organization which should be recognized as a legiimate army engaged in a war of national liberation is disproved by Parker’s own criteria. It never had independent control over any area at any time. I say this because in every area it dominated militarily all the civilian public servants and all the civilian services have been provided and funded throughout by the central government from the national budget. The LTTE was not capable of providing any of these; it could only terrorise Tamil public servants and ordinary Tamil citizens to obey their commands. Food supplies have been sent from Colombo. One of the vociferous LTTE demands has been that the government it was fighting should provide the supplies and services in the areas under its (LTTE) control.

The claim for a separate state and of a right of self determination are so untenable that the Tamil groups demand that they be accepted without evidence.The following facts serve briefly actually to disprove them.

The All-Ceylon Tamil Congress was formed in 1944 to claim the rights of the Tamils and to put forward proposals for constitutional reform before the Soulbury Commission. The leaders who included Chelvanayakam, the inventor in 1949 of a right of self determination and in 1976 of an ancient Tamil state, submitted a memorandum to the Commission and gave oral evidence before it at a public sitting.

Chelvanayakam was so dissociated then from the idea that the Tamils had a right of self determination that the main constitutional demands made by him and the other leaders orally and in writing were that the British continue to be rule the entire island, that the powers of the colonial Governor be increased, and that the Sinhalese be reduced to the status of a political minority. Thus in 1945, according to the Tamil leaders themselves, there was no Tamil nation, no separate ancient Tamil state in the island and no “right of self determination”. All these were invented between 1945 and 1949 by the very Tamils who sought perpetuation of colonial rule.

After the grant of independence in 1948 Chelvanayakam changed his plans and purposes and formed the Lanka Tamil Government Party (dishonestly called the Federal Party) inventing an exclusively Tamil historical homeland, more than half of which had been populated and ruled by the Sinhalese for centuries. Minority rights ceased and “national” rights were born just 50 years ago.

In 1976 Chelvanayakam invented an ancient state of “Tamil Eelam” and formed the Tamil United Liberation Front to fight for its “restoration”; he and his lieutenants also sponsored terrorist groups including the LTTE to take up arms to enforce the false claim by violence. The present situation is the result.

All the political assertions made by the TULF, the LTTE and its advocates are demonstrably false. The history of the island is very well documented and it is impossible to falsify that history. The word “Eelam” is itself the Tamil form of the word “Sinhala”. “Tamil Eelam” is thus “Tamil Sinhalaland” a piece of nonsense that could come straight out of Through the Looking Glass.

Note from SPUR :

Gamini Iriyagolle is a law graduate of the Universities of Ceylon and Cambridge and is also an Attorney-at-law. He was in the elite Ceylon Civil Service till its abolition and was absorbed into the Ceylon Administrative Service thereafter. He has held several public appointments including those of Deputy Land Commissioner, Deputy Director of Agricultural Development, Director Agrarian Research and Training, Director Industrial Policy and Chairman Industrial Development Board of Ceylon, all before he was 40. As a very young public servant he was briefly in Jaffna in 1961 in charge of civil adminstration. After he reverted to legal practice, he was for some time a visiting lecturer at the Sri Lanka Law College and a Vice President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka. At the height of the anti-Tamil riots of 1983 he, like many other Sinhalese, he risked himself and his family to rescue and gave shelter to Tamil victims. He has made an intensive study ot the Sri Lanka Tamil issue and its background, written extensively on the subject for the past sixteen years and addressed many audiences in Sri Lanka and abroad. When requested by President J.R. Jayewardene in 1984 to agree to political compromises with Tamil extremism, he refused, and instead offered to live in Jaffna and to eliminate terrorism while dealing fairly with ordinary Tamil citizens if he were given the necessary civil and military authority. President Jayewardene was not interested.

SpeedyGonzalez posted October 12, 2000 01:04 AM Click Here to See the Profile for SpeedyGonzalez Click Here to Email SpeedyGonzalez Edit Message
I was waiting to see who would lead the charge in venting their frustration and anger on Ms. Parker since she supports the Tamils and LTTE and looks like TS is doing leading the way. Can’t say I’m all that surprised.
Ms. Parker was arguing it from a military point of view. Her point was that since the LTTE uses convential military weapons and its administration within its rank is military just like the Sri Lankan Army, it’s illogical to call the LTTE a terrorist outfit. If by your account the LTTE is a terrorist organization, then the Sri Lankan Army is a terrorist group as well.

thadhasinhalaya posted October 12, 2000 01:34 AM Click Here to See the Profile for thadhasinhalaya Click Here to Email thadhasinhalaya Edit Message
SG … firstly, an attorney does NOT support anyone. Ethically, they are forbidden to get involved at that level with a client. Lets be truthful and put Ms Parker in her proper context … a paid mouthpiece that is hired to put forward the view of those that pay her bill couched in legal terminology.
The army is the military arm of the democratically elected government of a soverign state. the legitimacy of the powers they exercise and their powers to bear arms arise on that basis. There is a big difference in legal legitimacy of the Army and the questionalble legitimacy (if at all) of a ‘self proclaimed’ military force such as the LTTE.

Interesting how Ms Parker copletely shied away from the rights available to the government of a sovereign state to take action to defend it’s constituent people, infrastucture and organs of society when faced with INTERNAL CIVIL CONFLICT.

SpeedyGonzalez posted October 12, 2000 01:48 AM Click Here to See the Profile for SpeedyGonzalez Click Here to Email SpeedyGonzalez Edit Message
Oh spell it out, spell it out!!
Ms. Parker is a terrorist, right?

thadhasinhalaya posted October 12, 2000 02:11 AM Click Here to See the Profile for thadhasinhalaya Click Here to Email thadhasinhalaya Edit Message
SG … can you admit that as an attorney Ms Parker is someone who is paid to forward a particular point of view and correct yourself when you referred to Ms Parkers support for the LTTE so the context is clear??
In fact, if the truth be told, by referring to her “support for the LTTE” – quote “since she supports the Tamils and LTTE ” unquote – it is actually you who are closer to accusing her of being a terrorist than I am.

SpeedyGonzalez posted October 12, 2000 02:20 AM Click Here to See the Profile for SpeedyGonzalez Click Here to Email SpeedyGonzalez Edit Message
Ah, but then again – I don’t consider the LTTE as a terrorist organization. I would say Ms. Parker is an active supporter of rightful national liberation.
Could you tell me why Ms. Parker needs to get paid by a group in a third world country in Asia when she obviously doesn’t have to given her credentials at the UN and the US Congress?

thadhasinhalaya posted October 12, 2000, 07:52 PM Click Here to See the Profile for thadhasinhalaya Click Here to Email thadhasinhalaya Edit Message
“Ah, but then again – I don’t consider the LTTE as a terrorist organization. ” – maybe so, but sadly, most other people consider it to be one of the worst terrorist organisations in the world with a leader who has been likened to Pol Pot so I am afraid what you think doesn’t mean much there.
Perhaps her speech could have made it clearer whether she was engaged to appear in Congress by the LTTE or whether she was doing it ‘out of the goodness of her bleeding little heart”.

SpeedyGonzalez posted October 13, 2000, 12:54 AM Click Here to See the Profile for SpeedyGonzalez Click Here to Email SpeedyGonzalez Edit Message
The comparison to Pol Pot was made by some obscure journalist in The New York Times I believe and since you’re canvassing support for state terrorism, you’re trumpeting it. In regards to your question, check out the
below news article.

Anti-Tamil protesters threaten Karen Parker at UN

TamilNet, August 14, 2000 14:34 GMT]

Karen Parker, a human rights lawyer was intimidated and threatened by anti-LTTEடிdemonstrators 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 organisation’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 backwards,” 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]


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Writer and Journalist living in Canada since 1987. Tamil activist.

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