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Angry Mob Invades Assembly of Families of Disappeared at Oblate Center in Sri Lanka August 12th, 2014

safe_imageOn the afternoon of August 4th, a group of Buddhist monks with a large number of civilians and media personnel forced their way into a meeting being hosted by the Oblate Centre for Peace and Justice in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The mob was intent on disrupting a meeting of families of the disappeared that were meeting in the place to tell their stories to an assembled group of priests, nuns, human rights activists, and representatives of civil society organizations as well as of diplomatic missions. The aim of the meeting was to pinpoint methods and strategies for helping the families of missing people locate their loved ones. The center, which is currently led by Oblate priest, Fr. Ashok Stephen, has been helping civil war victims for years.

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Despite repeated requests from the organizers and the diplomatic corp present, the police failed to disperse the mob, but suggested rather that the meeting be disbanded and representatives from both parties attend an inquiry at the police station. Fr. Ashok Stephen, OMI, Director of the CPJ, filed a complaint of criminal trespass against the one Buddhist whose name he was able to determine, but does not think anything will come of it. The families present, which included children, were frightened but the mob, which shouted abuse and took photographs of those present.

Statements on the incident from Fr Ashok Stephen, OMI and Fr Rohan Silva, OMI are available on the website of the Colombo Province.

The Conference of Major Religious Superiors of Sri Lanka have also issued a statement condemning the incident. (Download PDF here)



California Death Penalty Ruled Unconstitutional July 20th, 2014

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind...

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind…

On July 16, a federal judge in California ruled that the state’s death penalty is unconstitutional, based on the lengthy delays involved in executions. The Judge ruled that the “arbitrariness” and “unpredictability” with which the death penalty is carried out violates the constitution’s ban on “cruel and unusual” punishment.

Faith groups and Organizations supporting abolition of death penalty are now starting to assess all the implications of this ruling. The decision is not likely to lead to immediate changes regarding the death penalty in California, as there have been no executions there since 2006. If the State appeals though, the question of whether, and when, problems with a state’s death penalty system can render it unconstitutional will then be decided by a federal appeals court in San Francisco. A ruling from that court (the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals) in favor of this recent opinion would affect the death penalty in states throughout the west.

The OMI JPIC office will share with you the legal implications arising from this ruling on the death penalty in California, as well as action alerts from the California Catholic Bishops Conference.

The Bishops in California were strong supporters of Proposition 34 to end the use of the death penalty in California. Proposition 34 was defeated as a ballot initiative in 2012.

More information here: California Death Penalty Unconstitutional

Resolution Supported by Vatican Adopted at UN HR Council June 27th, 2014

250px-United_Nations_Human_Rights_Council_Logo.svgA resolution calling for establishment of a process to look into making the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights and Corporations enforceable was adopted yesterday by the UN Human Rights Council. Among other things, the resolution establishes “an open-ended intergovernmental working group on a legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, the mandate of which shall be to elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises…

Fr. Seamus Finn, OMI, who represents the Oblates in dialogs with major multinational corporations said: “This resolution from the UNHRC is an important milestone in advancing the protection and promotion of human rights and provides transnational corporations with both the opportunity and the framework to participate in this essential endeavor.”

The full text of the UN Resolution is available here….

Vatican Issues Statement on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights June 25th, 2014

Guiding_PrinciplesHis Excellency Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva submitted a statement on the UN Guiding Principles at the 26th Session of the Human Rights Council on June 11th. The statement, titled “Report of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises” is excellent, calling for the need to broaden dissemination of the principles, attain scale in implementation, build trust among stakeholders and overcome barriers to effective remedy.

The Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (Guiding Principles) were endorsed by the United Nations Human Rights Council on 16 June 2011. The Guiding Principles provide an authoritative global standard for addressing adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activity around the world.

The Guiding Principles set out, in three pillars, principles concerning the State duty to protect human rights, the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, and access to remedy for victims of human rights abuse.

The following gives a flavor of the statement that reflects fully the Vatican’s concern for the impact of powerful economic structures and activity on the lives of ordinary people:

“The ability of international corporations to partially escape territoriality and carve for themselves an existence “in-between” national legislation is rightly one of the concerns of the International Community. Their mobility in terms of their country of incorporation, management, production, and financial flows allows them to navigate national legislations, take advantage of regulatory arbitrage and choose the jurisdictions that may offer the best return in terms of profits. Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel”, and other religious leaders in the International Community have repeatedly pointed out that profit cannot be the only rationale of business activity. Transnational corporations are part of the human family and as such their activity should abide by the standard of human rights.”

“Another point of concern to the International Community is the inherent complexity of the transnational corporations regarding their diverse operating models (modus operandi) which makes them very hard to monitor and supervise. The resulting absence of robust and timely transparency makes it very difficult to measure compliance with rules and legislations. Human rights violations all too often occur out of utter neglect toward consequences that would have been foreseeable had anyone cared to think about them. These sorts of “neglects” are not casual, but systemic.”

Read the full statement here.

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

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