INSCT Faculty Member David M. Crane testified in front of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations on June 19, 2018. The hearing, chaired by Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), investigated postconflict justice options and human rights issues related to the long Sri Lankan Civil War, which lasted from 1983 to 2009.
Joining Crane as witnesses were J.S. Tissainayagam, journalist and human rights advocate;
Michael Jerryson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Youngstown State University; and John Sifton, Asia Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch.
In his statement, Crane told the committee that, “I approach this issue as a neutral, someone who stands for the rule of law, particularly on the battlefield and for the protection of noncombatants. We live in an age of extremes. Dirty little wars arise across the globe. Parties to the conflict pay little heed to the laws of armed conflict. Many of these largely non-international armed conflicts see civilian casualties mount, most of
them women and children. The conflict in Sri Lanka was one such dirty little war, which saw the death and destruction of tens of thousands of human beings on both sides.”
Crane was a member of a panel of experts advising the Commission of Missing Persons set up by the Sri Lankan government in 2014. “I spent days walking the battlefields of the conflict in Sri Lanka, particularly of the final campaign in the Winter of 2009.”
Crane enumerated several humanitarian and war crimes issues that arose from the conflict and that have yet to be properly reconciled. These include violations of international humanitarian law committed by all sides, the intentional targeting of civilians in a campaign of terror to seek a military and political conclusion, and a brutal final campaign in the winter of 2009 that was exacerbated by an increasingly desperate Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam army (the LTTE, or “Tamil Tigers”).
Noted Chairman Smith, “Although the civil war ended almost 10 years ago, important work remains to make sure basic human rights are being respected in Sri Lanka. The resurgence of Buddhist Sinhalese nationalism poses a particular challenge to ethnic reconciliation. It is imperative for Congress to exercise leadership on this issue and ensure that a country as strategically located as Sri Lanka doesn’t collapse again.”