Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Need for New Global Conventions

By Thrishantha Nanayakkara, Radcliffe Fellow, Harvard University

On Feb. 9, an LTTE suicide bomber killed herself inside a crowded transit camp maintained by the government for displaced Tamil civilians in northern Sri Lanka. She killed and injured scores of Tamil men, women, and children awaiting transport to safer areas. A day later, the LTTE shot and killed 19 civilians as they attempted to cross over to government held areas. The incident was not widely reported in international media, perhaps due to its low political appeal. However, it is absolutely imperative that we resolve—as a global community—that no rebel group or government be allowed to commit such crimes against humanity again.

As a Sri Lankan who has spent most of his life in a brutal conflict between the government and the LTTE—also known as the Tamil Tigers—I have seen many instances in which crime against helpless civilians could have been avoided had the global community devised better mechanisms and conventions to those affected by conflict.

Just as gravity pulls together the local chaotic movements of water droplets to orchestrate the outer geometric identity of a waterfall, conventions pull together human turmoil to orchestrate the notion of humanity. The Tamil Tigers can perpetrate the above crime and face mere condemnation from a few countries, because almost no convention to protect war-affected communities exerts enough pressure on rebel groups who abuse civilians. Nearly all mechanisms are devised to limit the scope of military action that a government can take to face a rebellion, which has been proven insufficient to protect internally displaced persons. Moreover, this pressure imbalance is often abused by parties with vested interests to interfere in the internal politics of war-affected countries like Sri Lanka, further compounding the vicious cycle for those affected.

>> Full story on Harvard Crimson