|Cartoon Courtesy: The Nation|
( February 28, Colombo/Geneva, Sri Lanka Guardian) The 19th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) began yesterday in Geneva. The UNHRC members will have debate on the situation in SriLanka on 23rd of March.United States announced that it would submit the resolution against the Lankan government at the AUNHRC session in Geneva. However at the moment Lankan government has taken various steps to defeat the resolution which submit against the government in Geneva.United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, South Africa, Belgium are schedule to support resolution submitted against SriLanka but however Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Uganda, Malaysia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar will support SriLanka at the session sources said.Group of Lankan delegates visited to the Geneva has continuously works on defeating resolution against the country but however according to the Geneva sources Lankan delegates fail to urge the support of European countries on this issue.
TNA to visit New Delhi, not Geneva
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) yesterday called off a proposed visit to Geneva, ahead of the UN Human Rights Commission, but will go ahead with its plans to visit India. The visit to Geneva was called off at the last moment by the party saying ‘ the TNA considers it imperative that in the present situation calm should be maintained, and that nothing should be done which could exacerbate tensions’.The TNA said it has publicly stated its commitment to a reasonable workable and durable political solution within the framework of a united and undivided Sri Lanka and reiterates its commitment to its position.“The TNA has constructively engaged with the Government to evolve such an acceptable solution for over a year, but has not achieved any progress due to the Government’s lack of sincere commitment towards the evolution of an acceptable political solution,” the TNA said.A TNA spokesman said the delegation headed by TNA group leader R.Sampanthan will leave for New Delhi for a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh next week. He said the invitation was extended during the last month’s visit of the Indian External Affairs Minister S.M.Krishna.The spokesman said that the TNA will be explaining to the Indian government about the reasons for the stalling of the TNA talks with the Sri Lankan government on reaching a political settlement to the ethnic conflict.The other members of the five member delegation are Mavai Senathiraja, Selvam Adaikalanathan, Suresh Premachandran and M.A. Sumanthiran.
EU to support US-led resolution on Sri Lanka
The European Council on Monday (Feb. 27) adopted its position on the UN Human Rights Council 19th session in Geneva and said it would support the efforts aimed at keeping Sri Lanka’s accountability issue on the UNHRC agenda.”The EU will support efforts aimed at keeping the issue of accountability in Sri Lanka on the agenda of the HRC. The EU will encourage the Government of Sri Lanka to fully implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission as a first step,” said the adopted position paper.Quoting informed sources, Asoka Jayawardena in Geneva reports that this is a diplomatic way of saying that EU will support the US-led resolution on Sri Lanka.Earlier, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton issued a statement on Sri Lanka which said,”the EU recalls that the issue of accountability is an essential part of the process of national reconciliation and implies inquiries into specific responsibilities for possible crimes committed by the regular forces as well as by the LTTE, which continues to be listed as a terrorist organisation in the EU. The LLRC has called for such investigations and the EU believes that Sri Lanka should begin by pursuing these.”
The full resolution adopted by the EU is as follows:
3149th FOREIGN AFFAIRS Council meeting
Brussels, 27 February 2012
The Council adopted the following conclusions:
“1. Ahead of the 19th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), the EU reaffirms its strong support to the Human Rights Council and welcomes the progress made in performing its mandate over the last year.
2. The EU appreciates in particular the readiness of the Human Rights Council to address urgent cases of human rights violations which require immediate attention by the international community. In this respect, the EU welcomes and supports the leading role of the Human Rights Council in addressing over the last year developments and human rights concerns in North Africa and the Middle East, in particular Libya, Syria and Iran, but also in the case of Belarus.
3. The EU recognizes the important contribution of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay and her Office in monitoring these and other developments, and reaffirms its strong support for her work and that of her staff, while underlining the full independence and integrity of the mandate of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
4. The EU is determined to continue contributing strongly to the important work of the Human Rights Council, in cooperation with all other stakeholders. The EU welcomes the efforts and initiatives of many countries aimed at making the HRC an efficient and effective body that contributes genuinely to the promotion and protection of human rights around the world. The EU stands ready to engage and cooperate with countries from all regions to work together to this end.
5. The EU will actively participate in the sessions of the HRC in 2012 through statements and interventions in the debates under the various agenda items, as well as by introducing thematic and country-specific initiatives targeting key human rights concerns and promoting accountability for human rights violations.
6. In light of the continued brutal crackdown on its citizens by the Syrian Government, the human rights situation in Syria must stay high on the HRC agenda and the HRC should preserve a strong, effective capacity to monitor the situation.
7. The EU expects the Human Rights Council to continue to closely follow the different human rights situations in the world. The EU expects the HRC to extend the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran in order to maintain international attention on the worrying human rights situation in the country. Elsewhere in the region, of special concern are also the situations of Yemen and Bahrain. The situation in Libya should also remain on the agenda of the HRC.
8. The EU will work closely with Japan in order to secure the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to address the continued critical human rights situation in the country.
9. The EU will present a resolution on the situation of human rights in Burma/Myanmar, which will fully reflect the important recent developments in the country and also recognize that serious human rights concerns, particularly in ethnic areas, remain. The resolution will seek to encourage further reforms and seek the extension of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur to this end.
10. The EU will support efforts aimed at keeping the issue of accountability in Sri Lanka on the agenda of the HRC. The EU will encourage the Government of Sri Lanka to fully implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission as a first step.
11. Regarding thematic issues, in the light of recent attacks on members of religious minorities and as a follow-up to the Conclusions of the Council on this issue of February 2011, the EU will present a resolution on freedom of religion or belief. Together with Latin American and Caribbean countries, the EU will promote an omnibus resolution on the rights of the child with a specific focus on children and administration of justice. The EU will also work with others, in particular South Africa, to ensure an appropriate follow-up to the landmark resolution adopted last year on discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, and to deliver an adequate response to the High Commissioner’s study on the matter. The EU will also support efforts for the promotion and protection of the right of persons with disabilities.
12. The EU underlines the need for the Human Rights Council to maintain its focus on freedom of association and assembly, as well as freedom of expression, including on the internet, and to provide concrete support to human rights activists and civil society organizations whose role is essential for the strengthening of democracy.
13. In preparation of the next meeting of the Working Group of the Human Rights Council on private military and security companies, the Council stresses the importance of effective regulation to prevent or remedy human rights violations which have a connection to the activities of private military and security companies. In this context, the Council endorses the initiative of the High Representative to express the EU’s support for the Montreux Document on “pertinent international legal obligations and good practices for States related to operations of private military and security companies during armed conflict”, as a contribution to the stronger international regulation and control of the activities of private military and security companies.
14. The EU continues to attach great importance to Special Procedures; their access to countries and the free and unhindered contact and cooperation with individuals and civil society are indispensable. The EU also reaffirms the importance of the work of Human Rights Treaty Bodies and therefore welcomes the consultation process initiated by the High Commissioner on how to make them more effective.
15. The EU renews it interest in discussing with partner countries ways and means to implement relevant recommendations stemming from the Universal Periodic Review, as well as recommendations formulated by Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures, including through technical assistance.
16. The Council stresses the importance of raising the priorities for HRC in meetings and contacts with third countries at all levels, with a view to seek their support, as well as to listen to their views and ideas.”
Protestors burn Obama’s effigies
Effigies of US president Barrack Obama were set on fire by protestors, who gathered in towns across the country against the American-sponsored resolution on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Commission session in Geneva.According to our correspondents, large crowds are attending the district-level ‘Jana Pavura’ or ‘people’s wall’ demonstrations organized by the ruling UPFA.The main event began in front of Colombo’s Fort Railway Station at 3.00 pm.Ministers Maithriapala Sirisena and John Seneviratne led the protestors in agitations at Kaduruwela in Polonnaruwa and Ratnapura respectively.In Kandy, several protests took place, while black flags were raised at Theldeniya, Ududumbara, Hasalaka and Menikhinna Deputy minister Sarath Gunaratne and western province minister Nimal Lansa led the protestors in Negombo town, while deputy minister Susantha Punchinilame attended an agitation in Trincomalee town.Similar protests took place in Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullativu and other areas of the north, our correspondents report.At Mullaitivu town, Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala protestors set fire to an effigy of UN chief Ban ki Moon and then marched to the district secretariat where a rally took place.People also took to the streets in several areas of Gampaha district, including at Kirindiwela and Minuwangoda.In Moneragala, shops remained closed in Wellawaya town, where politicians and the people gathered to stage a protest.Deputy minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena led a demonstration at Deiyyandara in Matara.
Sri Lanka rejects need for U.N. war crime resolution
Sri Lanka Monday rejected U.N. involvement in probing allegations of army atrocities in the long war against Tamil rebels that ended in 2009, saying U.N. calls to prosecute soldiers guilty of misconduct were “unwarranted incursions.”Mahinda Samarasinghe, Sri Lanka’s minister of plantation industries, told the 47-nation U.N. Human Rights Council that the Indian Ocean state needed “time and space” to carry out its own investigations into any abuses.”We need to ensure that the process is allowed to advance unimpeded. We do not need unwarranted incursions that will compromise successful implementation,” Samarasinghe said.Western governments and rights groups are pushing Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations of a U.N. probe that urged prosecution of soldiers guilty of misconduct in the final phases of the war against the Tamil Tiger rebels.The United States, the 27-nation European Union and other countries at the council are offering a resolution calling on Sri Lanka to put the probe’s recommendations into effect. The council began its four-week spring session Monday.Samarasinghe said there was no need for a resolution, as the government had already taken steps to carry out recommendations made by a national Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) that investigated the army’s role.The U.N. sponsored-panel that looked into the final stages of the war said in its report last year that it found “credible evidence” the military killed tens of thousands of Tamils, mainly civilians.Samarasinghe rejected that conclusion, calling reports of the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians “a gross exaggeration.”Across Sri Lanka Monday, authorities organised rallies to oppose the resolution, with many state employees demonstrating in their uniforms against the United States’ position.In the capital Colombo, about 10,000 people turned out to support the government and marched peacefully on the U.S. embassy to present a petition urging Washington not to pressure Sri Lanka.”Whose conspiracy is this? It’s the conspiracy of the bloody foreigners!” the crowd chanted.”Sri Lanka is a sovereign country and the Western nations have started a conspiracy against Sri Lanka. They are trying to do the same thing they have done to Egypt, Libya, Syria and Iran,” Buddhist monk Kotapala Mangala told Reuters, dressed in a the customary saffron robe.As a precaution, the United Nations office in Colombo sent employees home early. A hardline nationalist minister in 2010 besieged the office with supporters and led a three-day hunger strike there against the call for a war crimes investigation.
Raise plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka at UNHRC: CPI
Concerned at the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka following reports of alleged war crimes and violation of human rights during the war, the Communist Party of India asked India to raise the issue at the current United Nations Human Rights Commission meeting at Geneva.CPI Member of Parliament D. Raja said the party had consistently raised the issue of Sri Lankan Tamils both inside and outside Parliament. Even during the last phase of the war, the CPI pleaded with the Centre to prevail upon Colombo to stop the genocide and work out a political solution. On the other hand, India continued to extend its support to the Sri Lankan government.Stating that the Sri Lankan government strategically utilised the geo-political equations and launched bombings on innocent Tamil civilians, leading to the killing of nearly 45,000 people on a single day, Mr. Raja said the international community was shocked by the war crimes and gross violations of human rights.In view of this, the U.N. Secretary-General constituted an advisory panel to examine the situation. Having gathered credible evidence on war crimes and human rights violations, the U.N. Advisory Panel, in its report, highlighted its concern: “It is imperative that international steps to ensure accountability not be held hostage to unnecessarily slow or otherwise ineffective national efforts. Thus, while the Sri Lankan government should immediately embark on a genuine investigation of the alleged violations in this report, the panel considers that an independent and complementary international approach is imperative,” he said in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.Sharing his concern over the U.N. advisory anel, Mr. Raja said he strongly believed that the country and the government had the moral responsibility to raise the issue in the international arena to bring the perpetrators of this “heinous crime” to justice. through appropriate international bodies and mechanisms.
G.L. in Africa to solicit support against HR resolution
External affairs minister Prof. G.L. Peiris left for the African continent yesterday (Feb. 26) on the instructions of the president.He will solicit the support of African nations against the US-sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council session, said head of the delegation to Geneva Mahinda Samarasinghe.Out of the 47 members at the UNHRC, 13 are from the African continent, while there are also 13 from Asia, eight from Latin America and the Caribbean, seven from Western Europe and six from Eastern Europe.The session that began today will continue until March 23.
‘Lankan govt. should learn a lesson from Gaddafi’s fate’
As a smaller nation, Sri Lanka cannot challenge the might of the United Nations, warns UNP national organizer Daya Gamage, and asks the Rajapaksa regime to keep in mind the fate of Libya’s Gaddafi who had attempted to do so.Addressing a function organized by the UNP Paris branch in the French capital as part of a drive to increase the party’s overseas membership to 100,000, he said Iran would also suffer the same outcome for opposing the UN, reports Rohan Rambukwella in France.Speaking further, he said Sri Lanka cannot make enemies of India, the US and other western nations which are the island’s major donors unlike China which provides only credit, and become an international recluse in the process.It is pointless for the government to criticize these countries, he said, adding that more attention should be paid to Arabian countries, where Sri Lanka has not much recognition.Mr. Gamage went onto say that the country was now facing international criticism because the LLRC recommendations have not yet been put into practice, although it was a commission appointed by the president himself.Had democracy been strengthened through the establishment of independent police and election commissions, instead of empowering the executive with the 18th amendment, the country would not have encountered such a situation, said Mr. Gamage.He said that the UNP has launched Hasthi Senanka programme at the grassroots level in order to defeat the repressiveness of the present regime, adding that a government under his party would grant more powers to the legislature.Except for the D.B. Wijetunga and Chandrika Kumaratunga regime, under every government, the powers of the executive remained with the devil, he said.Mr. Gamage requested the Sri Lankans in France to start business ventures in order to help their motherland to revive economically, after all the swindling of public funds by the Rajapaksas.A large number of Sri Lankans resident in France attended the meeting, where new UNP members received their membership cards and a raffle draw in aid of a child development fund took place.The Ranavi Bandara couple, Sunil Bandara, Priyanka Wijesinghe and several others expressed views and spoke about their problems.UNP MP Anoma Gamage and southern provincial councillor Vindana Prasad also participated.
UK: Halt Deportations Of Tamils To Sri Lanka
The United Kingdom should suspend deportations of ethnic Tamil asylum seekers to Sri Lanka and immediately review its policies and information about the country’s rights situation used to assess their claims, Human Rights Watch said today. Research by Human Rights Watch has found that some returned Tamil asylum seekers from the United Kingdom have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and torture upon their return to Sri Lanka.In recent months the British government has sent Tamil asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka on charter flights. Human Rights Watch expressed particular concern about the next scheduled deportation from the United Kingdom of about 100 Tamil asylum seekers, scheduled for February 28, 2012.“The British government has an international legal obligation not to deport people who have a credible fear of torture upon return,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Convincing reports of arbitrary arrests and torture demand that the UK government suspend returns of rejected Tamil asylum seekers to Sri Lanka until it can fairly and thoroughly assess their individual claims based on up-to-date human rights information on Sri Lanka.”Human Rights Watch has documented eight recent cases in which people deported to Sri Lanka have faced serious abuses. A Tamil deportee from the United Kingdom, RS (a pseudonym for security reasons), said that army soldiers in Sri Lanka arrested him on December 29, 2011. He alleged that during interrogation he was beaten with batons and burned with cigarettes, and that his head was doused with kerosene. He also said that his head was submerged in a bucket of water, that he was hung upside down, and that hot chilis were placed under his head and chest. He said that as a result of this torture, he confessed to being a member of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which were defeated in May 2009. He said that he paid a substantial bribe to escape from detention, and fled back to the United Kingdom, where he has applied for asylum.DB, a Tamil deported from the United Kingdom in 2011, said that he was arrested at a Sri Lankan army checkpoint on December 10. He alleged that he was forced to strip naked and burned with cigarettes and beaten until he agreed to sign a document in Sinhala. He said the soldiers told him he had to work as an informer for the army to identify former LTTE cadres. Like RS, he said he escaped detention after a family member paid a bribe for his release, then secured false documents to return to the United Kingdom, where he has again applied for asylum status.Another 2011 deportee, AH, alleges that he was arrested by the police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) soon after arriving in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital. He said that he was stripped naked and was beaten and tortured until a family member paid a bribe for his release.Human Rights Watch has also documented cases of Tamil deportees who alleged to have been subjected to rape as a form of torture upon their return to Sri Lanka. In December 2010, CB was arrested at the Colombo airport on his return and was detained for a month by the CID. He said that during this time he was beaten with metal rods and raped four or five times by two men. As he described it, one man would hold him down while the other raped him.a Tamil woman, alleges that she was arrested at Colombo airport by the CID on her return in April 2010 and kept in detention. She says was raped by several men many times during the course of her detention. She described profuse bleeding as a result of these rapes. Both CB and BK managed to secure their release after relatives intervened to bribe the officials holding them. Both fled Sri Lanka and are seeking asylum in the United Kingdom.Human Rights Watch has obtained medical evidence supporting each of the above claims of torture.Asylum tribunals in the United Kingdom have recently concluded that the lack of an official identification card is not a risk factor for returnees. However, in two cases returnees alleged that they were specifically targeted because they did not possess the required IDs.At a parliamentary debate on Sri Lanka on February 22, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister Alexander Burt said: “We are aware of media allegations that returnees are being abused. All have been investigated by the high commission, and no evidence has been found to substantiate any of them.”Human Rights Watch and others have learned that returnees are met at the Colombo airport by UK embassy staff and given a document with the contact information for the embassy. British officials have stated that they do not have the capacity to monitor the safety of returnees and that returnees may fear retaliation from the Sri Lankan government if they make contact with the UK embassy.“The United Kingdom and other countries considering the claims of Tamil asylum seekers need to recognize the reality of what may await them on return,” Adams said. “Meeting returnees at the airport and giving them a phone number has not prevented them from being wrongfully arrested and mistreated. This should come as no surprise since abuses against Tamils suspected of links to the LTTE have long been recorded in official UK documents.”The UK Border Agency’s Operational Guidance Note on Sri Lanka, last updated in December, acknowledges that torture is widespread in Sri Lanka: “The UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) stated that they remain seriously concerned about the continued and consistent allegations of widespread use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of suspects in police custody, especially to extract confessions or information to be used in criminal proceedings. The Committee is further concerned at reports that suggest that torture and ill-treatment perpetrated by state actors, both the military and the police, have continued in many parts of the country after the conflict ended in May 2009 and is still occurring in 2011. In 2011 the UNCAT issued a scathing statement about Sri Lanka in which it called for an end to the practice.”However, the Operational Guidance Note in section 5 on “Returns” makes no mention of Tamil ethnicity as a factor to consider.The United Kingdom is a party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which states in article 3 that no state “shall expel, return (‘refouler’) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.” In making such determinations, the authorities “shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.”Human Rights Watch called for the Sri Lankan government to stop targeting Tamil returnees and end the use of torture and other ill-treatment in custody. Sri Lanka is also a party to the Convention against Torture.“The Sri Lankan government has a long record of torture and mistreatment that has not ended with the end of the long war with the LTTE,” Adams said. “The government needs to take serious and public measures to end these cruel practices.”