The Sunday Leader

Government Under Pressure On Human Rights Issue

  • Delegation led by Mangala to brief UNHRC members at side event

by Easwaran Rutnam

Participants of a side briefing on Sri Lanka held at the UNHRC last Thursday

The government is under pressure as the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Tamil Diaspora demanded last week that the government agree to have foreign judges in the domestic accountability process.

A side event at the UN Human Rights Council building in Geneva last week saw civil society and Diaspora groups also pushing for international participation in the domestic accountability process.

Organised by the International Peace Bureau in Geneva, the speakers at the event included President of Inter-Faith International, Geneva, Dr. Charles Graves, academic, human rights activist and Director of international programme – TCHR, UK, Deirdre McConnell, human rights activist Nimalka Fernando and S. V. Kirupaharan, founder General Secretary of the Tamil Centre for Human Rights in France.

Kirupaharan told The Sunday Leader that the side event was well attended and well accepted by those who attended it.

He said that in her speech Nimalka Fernando agreed that the accountability process was going at a slow pace in Sri Lanka.

“The international community must put pressure on Sri Lanka to fully implement the Resolution adopted on Sri Lanka at the Council last year,” Kirupaharan said.

The side event took place as the UN Human Rights Council was meeting for its  32nd session. An oral update on Sri Lanka will be presented to the council this week.

Meanwhile a government delegation is to brief members of the UNHRC ahead of the presentation of the oral update on Sri Lanka.

Kirupaharan said the briefing by the Sri Lankan delegation is expected to take place tomorrow by Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera.

Meanwhile a leading Diaspora group, the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) appealed to the International Community to remain fully engaged with Sri Lanka to ensure that all aspects of the UNHRC resolution A/HRC/30/1 are faithfully implemented.

The Diaspora group said that the pursuit of truth, justice for victims and accountability are essential elements of the healing process in post-conflict societies that have suffered systematic violations of human rights. The adoption of a consensus resolution last year at the UNHRC – which recognised terrible crimes committed by both parties during the armed conflict – was a turning point for human rights in Sri Lanka.

Although far from perfect, GTF said it endorsed the Guiding Principles of the resolution co-sponsored by the Sri Lankan Government, and consistently welcomed the progressive changes implemented in Sri Lanka during the last 18 months.

“These included significant improvements in democratisation, the rule of law and increased freedoms experienced by most citizens. From a Tamil perspective, we welcome the releasing of some prisoners and lands, and the less triumphalist approach adopted during the end of war anniversary on May 18th. We also welcome the much improved cooperation with UN agencies on human rights mechanisms, and the initiatives taken towards setting up the ‘Office of the Missing Persons’ – though there is much to be desired on the pre-consultations carried out. Like many others, we are keenly watching the developments regarding constitutional reforms, having submitted our own proposal to the consultative committee,” GTF said.

However, GTF says it is deeply concerned about the lack of progress on the many issues affecting Tamils in the North and East as reflected in the resolution – such as the release of hundreds of detainees held under the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act (the Act itself has not been repealed despite repeated promises by the government), the return of land held by the military (large swathes of land is yet to be returned to rightful owners), investigations into the tens of thousands of forcibly disappeared people, and the removal of the military from civilian affairs.

GTF also noted that overpowering militarisation and its pervasive influence in civilian affairs is severely impeding full normalisation in the North and East, and the Government has yet to come up with a credible plan for the demilitarisation of the region.Further, the UNHRC resolution calls for the inclusion of “Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers and authorised prosecutors and investigators” in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism.

“This aspect of the resolution – a negotiated and compromised clause – is crucial, as Sri Lanka has time and time again shown it is both unwilling and unable to investigate allegations of war crimes against its own forces or hold perpetrators of grave abuses to account. It appears the government is now trying to back away from this commitment. Given the history of failures of Government Commissions and judicial processes, international participation as specified in the resolution is a must to guarantee the credibility and effectiveness of the Special Court. GTF therefore calls upon the Council Members and the High Commissioner of the UNHRC to urge the Sri Lankan government not to renege on this all important commitment to the UN,” GTF said.

GTF is also disappointed at the Government’s insufficient effort in embracing the critically important transitional justice mechanisms, which GTF says, should be embedded in the constitutional reform process to permanently end the culture of impunity and to promote genuine reconciliation.

At such a critical time when the Sri Lankan Government’s political will and its ability to fully implement the key recommendations of the UNHRC resolution are being questioned, GTF says the International Community needs to resolutely engage, so that Sri Lanka stays on course towards genuine reform, and implements the resolution it co-sponsored without any exceptions.

Also last week, the Tamil National Alliance insisted that the government must have foreign judges in the accountability process.

TNA leader R. Sampanthan said that only foreign judges can ensure Tamils obtain justice for those killed during the war.


7 Comments for “Government Under Pressure On Human Rights Issue”

  1. raj

    If we have standards for politics, Sri Lanka will very low for political ethics. Most it was Singhalese leaders and their diplomats have been dishonest and backtracking from their promises locally and globally (at UNHR). Now the whole world knows that Sri Lanka cannot be trusted regardless of who is in power because most Singhalese leaders are dishonest like the current leaders.

    • Ratnam

      Politicians of all shades where ever you poke, will find shady characters irrespective of ethnicity. All the Tamil minority representative members in the parliament supporting the Sinhala Prime minister and President today are Ministers with power to plunder. They are well off. Further they object other Tamil MPP lurking to join the Govt. J’lalita, K’nidi not saints in Tamil Nadu. 75% of Sinhalese will not vote for a Tamil to be the Prime minister or President in Sri Lanka. 17% of Tamils will not satisfy what ever given by UNHR unless a separate block of land given to them at last to elect a Tamil President or Prime Minister. Then enjoy power, voters may get only what they are getting now or sometimes less. Best possible a Tamil can get under this system in Sri Lanka is already given by the present Sinhala President to Mr. Sambandan. Otherwise Rajapakse should have been the Leader of Opposition. All are doing fine with the arrangement. UNHR Leave us alone. Sri Lanka is not Madras, ” the paradise”.

  2. Mahen

    Observing the outcome of even small matters like “Ali Horas” and “public land horas”, in the hands of our highly biased and influenced Judiaciary, how can the minorities ever begin trust that serious matters such as war crimes and missing persons will be dealt with the impartiality and sensitivity it warrants by these half baked Judges?

  3. The governments of SL were like an ostrich for the past 67 years, having their heads buried in sand. They still appear to want to continue with that wrong behaviour.

    BREXIT referendum is something SL must learn from, about resolving Tamil national question.

    Britain was in EU for 40 years. Now, the people have decided to exit and be free and independent.

    Also, 40 years ago, the indigenous Tamils of N&E of SL, captured by Britain, independently of the South SL, resolved and voted “ÿes” to have independence.

    The GSL must make itself aware that the final say or decision to exit from the EU was NOT with EU but with the people of Britain.

    Therefore, the decision for N&E to exit from SL, IS and WILL BE that of the people of NE only, and NOT SL or its government.

    Unless the GSL addresses the Tamil national issue speedily and appropriately, according to the legitimate rights and expressed wishes of the people of N&E, SL will have demands for “NEEXIT” or “TEEXIT” .

  4. nanda

    This is only one side of the story. No genuine local voices there to reflect the feelings of the ordinary people who suffered 3 decades under the LTTE brutality. If there are wrong doings, those cases can be handled separately, without discrediting the whole country and its people. Tamils are an integral part of the Sri Lankan community and the foreigners and power hungry politicians trying to separate them and treat only them as victims of the war. We must remember the whole country were victims of the war in general and if there are few cases such as suicide bombings, villagers hacked to deaths, indiscriminate shootings, bombing the hospitals, killing of surrendered or captured ordinary people and policemen, shooting of air planes etc, let these cases be investigated impartially under the local lows.

  5. raj

    If you ever doubt that if there is any connections Buddhist extremis and crime against Tamils, the article below can give the answer to your question:

  6. raj

    Sri Lanka is one of the most corrupted countries in the world. If that so, how can Tamils and International community place trust on any of the Sri Lankan government whether it is present or past? Here is why/

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