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UN HR Council Mandates Sri Lanka War Crimes Investigation March 28th, 2014
The UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution mandating an international inquiry into allegations of major human rights violations in Sri Lanka during the last seven years of the war, with 23 countries voting in favor of the document in the 47-nation strong body. While 12 countries including Pakistan, Maldives, Cuba, Venezuela, China, Russia voted against the Resolution, 12 member-states abstained from voting, including India and Indonesia.
The Resolution that passed this year’s session of the HR Council is stronger than those of previous years, largely due to the recent report on Sri Lanka by Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Her report concluded that the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), which identified the need to ensure independent and credible investigations into past violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, had failed in this. The UN estimated that 40,000 people – mostly Tamil civilians – were killed in the final stages of the war. Other estimates run as high as 80,000. Both sides have been accused of war crimes.
The International Crisis Group, the Chair and CEO of which is Louise Arbour, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, asserts that the “… government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) has failed to comply with two successive Human Rights Council (HRC) resolutions. Failure is most obvious with respect to accountability for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in the final phase of the civil war, but also by the lack of devolution of power, ongoing militarisation of the north and east, and deepening authoritarianism throughout the country. Decisive HRC action now is required in light of GoSL’s repeated failures to undertake the necessary steps alone; it is necessary also in order to decrease the risk of a return to deadly conflict in Sri Lanka.”
Read the resolution here…
Senate Foreign Relations Chair Supports UN Resolution on Sri Lankan War Crimes Investigation March 19th, 2014
Senator Robert Menendez, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter earlier today addressed to Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The letter supports the US-sponsored Resolution before the UN HR Council in Geneva calling for an international investigation into crimes committed during the Sri Lankan civil war. In his letter, Chairman Menendez also said: “Over the past year, this committee has noted with concern the deteriorating environment for the democratic process and human rights in Sri Lanka. While this is particularly acute in the north, there are also disturbing reports of an increasingly authoritarian approach across the South and East.”
Fr Praveen OMI and Ruki Fernando Released! Ms Jayakumari Still Held. March 19th, 2014
Fr. Praveen Mahesan OMI and Ruki Fernando, both staunch human rights defenders, were released from custody of the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the Sri Lankan government late Tuesday night. The two had been following up on the arrest of Ms Balendran Jayakumari, an outspoken critic of numerous ‘disappearances’, when they themselves were arrested. Ms Jayakumari, an activist who has vigorously protested the ‘disappearance’ of Tamils (including her son) since the end of the civil war in May 2009, is presently being held under a detention order in Boosa prison. By using a DO, she can be held for up to 18 months without formal charges. The Oblate JPIC Office is deeply concerned for her safety and well-being and joins an international demand for her unconditional release. Torture is alleged to be common in Sri Lanka.
The arrests have taken place in the context of an alarming crackdown on human rights defenders and others protesting various abuses by government military forces, especially in the past five years.
Weak UN Resolution on Sri Lanka Creates Problems March 12th, 2014
In a well-reasoned analysis of the situation in Sri Lanka, JS Tissainayagam argues that the UN resolution put forward by the United States at the UN Human Rights Council needs to be strengthened in order to avoid creating additional problems in Sri Lanka. According to the award-winning Sri Lankan journalist, “A resolution that establishes a weak investigating body will only render ineffectual what the international community says it is working for – strengthening human rights to promote reconciliation in a country recovering from war.” Even worse, a weak resolution is likely to lead to less protection for human rights advocates and discourage those who have been working for justice. It would also undermine the legitimacy and relevance of political party voted into power in the north, which has called for a credible investigation as the basis for negotiation of a political solution.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and other human rights campaigners have urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to commit to an independent international investigation in the form of a Commission of Inquiry into human rights violations in Sri Lanka.
The following is the text of their statement:
We, concerned individuals and organisations from around the world, urge the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to use their March 2014 session to pass a resolution that will include a commitment to an Independent International investigation in the form of a Commission of Inquiry. Only this will help to put the country on the path to justice and reconciliation.
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Mannar Bishop and Over Two Hundred Tamil Catholic Priests and Sisters Call For International Investigation of Sri Lanka Human Rights Abuses March 4th, 2014
“…we are concerned about the post war intensification of systematic efforts to destroy the identity of the Tamil community.”
Two hundred and five Tamil Catholic Priests and Sisters from the North and East of Sri Lanka, including the Rt. Rev. Dr. Rayappu Joseph, Bishop of Mannar and many Oblates, have written to the members of the UN Human Rights Council calling for an international investigation into Sri Lanka’s war crimes and human rights violations. The religious have called for the adoption of a strong and action-oriented resolution on Sri Lanka at the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council. That session opened this week in Geneva.