Joint Letter to Japanese Foreign Minister on the Sri Lankan conflict: Change Japanese foreign policy to protect internally displaced people

Lankan Conflict –
Change Japanese foreign policy to protect internally
displaced people

 (NGO Joint Letter May 25, 2009)


Joint Letter to Japanese Foreign Minister on the
Sri Lankan conflict

Change Japanese foreign policy to protect internally displaced people

May 25, 2009


Dear Foreign Minister Hirofumi



The undersigned
nongovernmental organizations are writing to you to call upon Japan to
make foreign policy changes to
protect internally displaced people (IDPs) suffering in the aftermath of the conflict
in Sri Lanka.

The humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka

Even after the end of the armed
conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE), it has been reported that many injured civilians remain trapped
in the conflict zone. According to the UN,
more than 7,000 civilians have been killed
and more than 13,000 have been injured
fighting since late January 2009

more people are feared killed or injured in the recent final fighting.

The UN describes the situation as
a “bloodbath” and the Red Cross calls the situation “nothing short of

Four UN Human Rights Council experts dealing with
summary executions, the right to health, the right to food and water and sanitation,
noted in a joint statement on May 8 that there is an urgent need to establish
an international commission of inquiry to document the events of recent months
and to monitor ongoing developments.  

Both the LTTE and Sri Lankan
government forces have repeatedly violated the laws of war in the recent

The LTTE used civilians as
human shields and forcibly prevented them from escaping the conflict zone.

The Sri Lankan government has carried
out indiscriminate attacks on hospitals and other densely populated areas.   

Japan’s marked passive posture at the UN

international community, especially the UN Security Council and the UN Human
Rights Council which should take immediate action to protect civilians in
emergencies, has continued not to take actions despite repeated requests from
civil society.

The Japanese government has
begun to build up a regrettable reputation with its passive stance on the UN’s
decision not to take immediate action.     

We welcome
the Japanese government’s dispatch of Yasushi Akashi, Japan’s government
representative, to Sri Lanka and its assertion of the emergency financial and
supply aid to support internally displaced people.

However, we regret that the
Japanese government continues to take a passive stance in urging the UN
Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council to formally take up the Sri
Lankan issue and protect civilians under the humanitarian crisis.

As a
result of the objections of few states including Japan, the UN Security Council
has not had a formal discussion on
the Sri Lankan situation and has failed to take concrete
actions to protect civilians.

A Special Session of the
Human Rights Council to discuss the situation in Sri Lanka is scheduled to be
held on May 26, 2009 by a call of 17 member states. However, the Japanese
government made a really disappointing decision not to join the special session
despite numerous requests from governments and civil society members.

The UN Security Council presented its position for the
first time in the form of a press statement on May 13. It expressed “grave
concern” on the recent humanitarian crisis and demanded the Sri Lankan
government and the LTTE “respect their obligations under international
humanitarian law.” It is positive progress.

However, the press statement
didn’t include a request for a humanitarian cease-fire which should be realized
immediately. The statement also neglected to call for accountability of war
crimes against the parties in dispute.

The UN Security Council would
not take concrete actions with the press statement.

Japanese government caused a regression of the content of the press statement
in its drafting process.

passive stance on the UN’s actions to protect civilians has become drag on those
UN’s actions concerned with protecting civilians under the humanitarian crisis
in Sri Lanka.

Many civilians including
children and women have become victims of the conflict while the UN Security
Council and the Human Rights Council continue not to take concrete actions,
including the dispatch of an international

Now is the time to shift
Japanese foreign policy

The UN
Security Council received extensive criticism because it did not take action in
the Rwandan genocide in 1994.


After that
historical failure,
the UN Security Council has
repeatedly emphasized the importance of the protection of civilians.


Resolution 1674 reaffirms the provisions of the
2005 World Summit Outcome Document regarding the responsibility to protect
populations from genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The UN Security Council needs
to take up the Sri Lankan humanitarian crisis formally and take action against
the crisis which
has repeatedly involved brutal war crimes by both parties in the conflict.

Japanese foreign policy claims to uphold the principle of
human security, and the
preamble to
the Japanese Constitution declares that Japan desires to “occupy an
honored place in an international society” reflecting its past. In order
to avoid Japan being remembered as a nation which has a responsibility not to
stop “the bloodbath” of civilians in Sri Lanka, and bring people who
committed war crimes in “‘bloodbath” to justice, the Japanese
government should immediately urge the UN to take action on the humanitarian
crisis in Sri Lanka including the dispatch of a fact-finding mission.

We, the nongovernmental organizations below, urge the
Japanese government to support the UN Security Council and the UN Human Rights
Council’s action on
crisis in Sri Lanka

Sincerely yours,


Active Museum on War and Peace

International Japan   

Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC)
Pacific Asia Resource Center (PARCIC)
International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism

Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Now


Human Rights Now (25 May 2009)