UN Human Rights Council at its12th session in Geneva has concluded general debate on human rights situations that require the council’s attention. Representatives from several countries and NGOs participating in the debate expressed concern about the situation in camps for internally displaced persons in the north of Sri Lanka.
KAREN PARKER, of International Educational Development, said in her statement that there should be institutional reform and study of the root causes of conflicts as essential to transitional justice. In Sri Lanka, the Government resisted any purview of accountability, and was still prosecuting the war against the Tamil people. The only remedy for the latter was to submit to ever-harsher oppression and abuse. The international community had not looked into the underlying causes of the Sinala-Tamil war for many years. The people were in detention camps because they were Tamil, not because they were civilians. The whole issue of this war was because the Tamil people had sought their right to self-determination, among other rights, and the Government had refused them. Massive ethnic cleansing was occurring, and the Council should act for the Tamils.
Excerpts from some of their statements are as follows:
CHRISTIAN STROHAL (Austria) said that no country had a perfect human rights record and all needed to work constantly and self-critically to address their shortcomings and do better for the promotion and protection of human rights. This fact obliged countries to openly address situations that were of particularly concern to them in order to enter into a dialogue on how to improve the implementation of international standards on the ground. Austria pointed to the human rights situations in Iran, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Sudan, which were all situations where Austria failed to see the necessary political will and determination to improve the protection of human rights effectively.
JANICE MCGANN (Ireland) said that the situation in Sri Lanka was over but the peace there remained to be won as serious breaches of humanitarian and human rights law had taken place during that war.
PETER HERTEL RASMUSSEN (Denmark) said the Government of Sri Lanka should fully respect all human rights.
CHRISTINE GOY (Luxembourg) said that Luxembourg was equally concerned for the grave situation in Sri Lanka with regards to the freedom of expression. The situation of internally displaced persons and the allegations of violations of international law during the armed conflict had not yet been the subject of an independent international enquiry, and therefore required particular attention from the Council.
MURIEL BERSET (Switzerland) said that the evolution of the situation in Sri Lanka remained of concern to Switzerland which reiterated its appeal. The humanitarian actors needed to be able to conduct their work without constraints. The holding of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced peoples must end and their safe and voluntary prompt return enabled.
CAROLINE MILLAR (Australia) said Australia remained concerned that over 300,000 civilians remained displaced in camps in northern Sri Lanka.
REINHARD SCHWEPPE (Germany) said as for the situation in Sri Lanka, Germany stressed that reconciliation was strongly based on the full respect of human rights and urged the Sri Lanka Government to create conditions which ensured the safe and dignified return of all internally displaced persons.
WENDY HINTON (New Zealand) said In Sri Lanka, New Zealand remained concerned about the situation for those in camps for internally displaced persons. The Government should engage in a reconciliation process taking into account the legitimate aspirations of all minority groups.
GOTZON ONANDIA ZARRABE, of Franciscans International, said in Sri Lanka, internally displaced persons were not being resettled as promptly nor as safely as the Government promised to the Council, and they continued to suffer within the camps. Human rights defenders, journalists and anyone voicing a differing opinion on the Government’s current policies continued to be the target of violent attacks and harassment by both State and non-State actors.
LUKAS MACHON, of International Commission of Jurists, said in Sri Lanka, humanitarian aid had been continuously obstructed by Government limitations on access to internally displaced persons and the maintenance of internment camps through unjustifiable restrictions on freedom of movement.
MICHAEL ANTONY, of Asian Legal Resource Centre, said the Universal Periodic Review was clearly not a sufficient mechanism to address the worst human rights situations in an effective or timely manner. The Council was currently failing to effectively address situations of human rights crisis, such as those in Sri Lanka and Myanmar; this was not simply a failing of political will, but also one of approach. In Sri Lanka, the continuing grave situation of internally displaced persons was testimony to this.
KAREN PARKER, of International Educational Development, said there should be institutional reform and study of the root causes of conflicts as essential to transitional justice. In Sri Lanka, the Government resisted any purview of accountability, and was still prosecuting the war against the Tamil people. The only remedy for the latter was to submit to ever-harsher oppression and abuse. The international community had not looked into the underlying causes of the Sinala-Tamil war for many years. The people were in detention camps because they were Tamil, not because they were civilians. The whole issue of this war was because the Tamil people had sought their right to self-determination, among other rights, and the Government had refused them. Massive ethnic cleansing was occurring, and the Council should act for the Tamils. There should be a protective presence in Camp Ashraf as soon as possible. The Council should reflect its decision on Honduras in taking a new decision on Myanmar, where a similar situation prevailed.
SATHLYASANGARY ANANDASANGAREE of Lawyer’s Rights Watch Canada, said so far the Sri Lankan Government had failed to live up to its commitments to the international community. Over 300,000 Tamil civilians were still being held against their will in open prisons and their freedom of movement restricted; clean water, sanitation, food, medicine and the basic necessities of life were in dire need. The Government had also failed to allow independent observers access to the camps. The deteriorating situation in Sri Lanka desperately required the attention of the Council - the international community must demand the unconditional release of the civilians within the 180-day timeline proposed by the Government of Sri Lanka and supported by a majority of Council members.
NIMALKA FERNAND, of International Movement against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), in a joint statement with Asian Forum for Human Rights; and Asian Legal Resource Centre, said with regard to the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, although the war had arguably ended, the threats to democracy as well as the human rights violations had not diminished. Further, over 250,000 people were living in camps as internally displaced persons and a leading human rights defender had received a death threat for his advocacy with the European Union. Against this backdrop, the International Movement Against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism wished to remind the members of the Council, the concerned Member States, the United Nations Secretary-General and other international institutions, of the various commitments and pledges given by the Government of Sri Lanka. It also called on the Sri Lankan Government to facilitate investigations of all allegations that had been revealed by various media institutions regarding extra-judicial killings. Finally, the International Movement Against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism wished to point out that the implementation of the 13th and 17th amendment was still outstanding and national legisla