The period from July 24-29, 1983, known as “Black July” in Sri Lanka, is often considered the catalyst for the 26-year armed struggle by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) against the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL). However, the seeds of ethnic tensions were sown long before, with the Sinhala Only Act of 1956 and subsequent anti-Tamil pogroms. In this article, we will explore the evidence supporting the classification of Black July as a genocide, discuss the importance of genocide recognition, and highlight the specific context of the Tamil people’s need for justice.
Evidence of State-Sponsored Genocide During Black July
Under modern international law, the intent to destroy a substantial part of a protected group constitutes genocide. The evidence from Black July points to the GoSL’s specific intent to commit genocide, as evidenced by then-President J.R. Jayewardene’s exclusionary statements and the systematic attacks on Tamils. The state-sponsored Sinhalese mobs, armed and transported by the GoSL, carried out brutal killings, causing serious bodily and mental harm, and deliberately destroying Tamil homes and businesses. The scale and nature of these acts align with the characteristics of a genocide.
State Responsibility for Genocide
State responsibility for genocide holds important consequences, particularly when individual criminal responsibility may be unlikely due to political barriers. Genocide recognition serves multiple purposes, including facilitating international interventions and providing redress for victims. However, world leaders often shy away from recognizing genocide for political reasons. Recent cases, such as The Gambia’s case against Myanmar, highlight the increasing importance of state responsibility for genocide.
Tamil People’s Need for Genocide Recognition
For the Tamil people, genocide recognition is crucial because Black July was just one instance in a series of genocidal acts against them. Sri Lanka has a history of organizing anti-Tamil violence, culminating in the allegations of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in 2009. The lack of accountability for these mass atrocities has perpetuated the impunity of the Sri Lankan state and its perpetrators. Recognition of genocide would not only promote justice but also help preserve crucial evidence and address the cultural trauma experienced by survivors.
The Eelam Tamils have endured multiple genocides, including Black July in 1983 and the Mullivaikkal Massacre in 2009. It is imperative that these allegations of genocide are addressed and recognized. The international community’s disparate treatment of similar allegations highlights the need for courageous leadership to end impunity for Sri Lanka’s decades of genocide and mass atrocities against the Tamil people. Justice must prevail, and accountability must be upheld to ensure a brighter future for all. Join DHPL Travels on a journey through Sri Lanka’s rich history and resilient spirit. DHPL Travels