In November, 2005 Sri Lanka presented its second periodic report to the UN High Commission on Human Rights’ Committee on Torture. The summary of the proceedings, including the statements made by the government representatives, the report of the independent country rapporteur who visited Sri Lanka, and the response and questions by the members of the committee can be viewed here.
The process seems rather a closed system, with the state talking to the members of the UN Committee, which itself represents an entity made up of states. There is a time allocated for NGO reports in private session. The Committee is also comprised of individual experts who are open to comments and suggestions from other governments, NGOs and independent parties. To bring Tamil concerns about torture to this Committee requires some individual or organization:
- to respond to this second report of Sri Lanka
- even better, to follow the schedule of the Committee for next time (not for another few years) that Sri Lanka presents its report and to make sure that a report on Tamil concerns makes its way into the Committee’s hands before the government makes its presentation, or that a Tamil NGO is allowed to make a statement during the Committee’s session on Sri Lanka.
The Committee and the High Commissioner also accept, compile and act on individual complaints of torture on a regular basis. Note that Sri Lanka has not yet ratified the Convention Against Torture.
Also note that the Committee has no punitive authority, only moral. The outcome of these proceedings is only a matter of hanging problems out to dry.
Many other UN bodies act in much the same manner as the Committee Against Torture and can be influenced in a similar fashion.
The two organizations that sangam is aware of that are working, with miniscule resources and a lot of dedication, with the UN human rights system are the Tamil Centre for Human Rights in Paris and the North East Secretariat for Human Rights in Kilinochchi. If there are others, please let us know.