Oral Statement on Enforced Disappearances

by Gary Anandasangaree, Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, September 15, 2011

We remind the Council that an unresolved disappearance is a continuing crime and that the law prohibits the use of amnesties to protect suspected perpetrators from accountability.

Date: September 15, 2011
Item 3 – General Debate
Topic: Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances Report / Accountability
NGOs: Lawyers Rights Watch Canada
Speaker: Gary Anandasangaree

Madam President.

Gary Anandasangaree 2011Lawyers Rights Watch Canada join with the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances in calling for increased resources to deal with the 43,000 cases reported to the working group that remain unresolved. We join the working group in deploring the fact that states around the world continue to use enforced disappearances, to prevent remedies for victims and to ensure impunity for perpetrators.

We remind the Council that an unresolved disappearance is a continuing crime and that the law prohibits the use of amnesties to protect suspected perpetrators from accountability. Disappearances reported to the WG that remain unresolved number in the thousands.

States continue, in violation of international law, to prevent investigations likely to expose state officials to criminal sanctions and refuse to investigate disappearances by other states. The working group also notes that victims and others involved in investigations are subjected to intimidation. For example, last May the working group issued a statement expressing concern at the suspension of Judge Baltasar Garzón in Spain for opening an investigation into over 100,000 unresolved disappearances that occurred during the Spanish civil war and the Franco dictatorship.

Even though the suspension violates international law obligations to remedy those continuing crimes and also contravenes the paramount duty to safeguard judicial independence and maintain the rule of law, the Council has been silent.

We now call on the Council and all its members to use diplomatic and legal measures to ensure finally that all persons are protected from enforced or involuntary disappearances as required by law.

Finally, we welcome the transmission from his Excellency, the Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, the Report of the Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka on September 12, 2011. We are disappointed that the government of Sri Lanka categorically rejected the report and any discussion of it at this Council. It is within the purview and mandate of this Council to ensure that the report be discussed in detail and the recommendations contained therein adopted without delay. We therefore call upon this Council to adhere to its mandate and responsibility and keep those who grossly violated human rights and international law to account.

UN: Truth and Justice Needed to Resolve Sri Lanka Rights Crisis

by Amnesty International, Sept. 12, 2011

“The Secretary General’s panel of experts produced a strong, credible, well-founded report, and it is now time for the Human Rights Council to begin discussing these allegations fully with the Sri Lankan government,” Zarifi said.

The UN Human Rights Council must act immediately to end the crisis of impunity that plagues Sri Lanka more than two years after the end of the bloody civil war in the country, Amnesty International told the Council today.

Sri Lanka’s government has failed to provide justice for victims of ongoing human rights violations, has not provided adequate assistance to all communities affected by the conflict, and has significantly weakened independent public institutions, the organization said after remarks by Sri Lankan Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe.

The minister told the Council that his government’s response to human rights concerns was “second to none” in the post-conflict period.

“Any sustainable peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka will depend on a genuine, independent effort being made to learn the truth about serious violations during the civil war and deliver justice to the victims and their families,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.

“National efforts to date have fallen far short of the mark, and the ongoing culture of impunity in Sri Lanka is shielding those responsible for past and ongoing abuses from being brought to justice.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has indicated he will officially transmit to the Human Rights Council the findings of his expert panel’s report that finds “credible allegations” of war crimes and crimes against humanity by all sides to the Sri Lankan conflict.

As of today, the report has not been officially transmitted, although no explanation has been given for the delay.

“The Secretary General’s panel of experts produced a strong, credible, well-founded report, and it is now time for the Human Rights Council to begin discussing these allegations fully with the Sri Lankan government,” Zarifi said.

Since the armed conflict ended in May 2009, Amnesty International has documented ongoing human rights violations, especially in the north and east of the country.

These include humanitarian workers being denied access to communities who returned after the fighting, allegations of ill-treatment including sexual assault by security forces, and lack of consultation with local communities in the resettlement process. Media critics face threats while the government has failed to prosecute killings of journalists.

Since 2009 alone, Sri Lanka’s national Human Rights Commission has received more than 8,000 complaints.

Sri Lankan authorities have failed to implement the interim report of its internal inquiry into civil war abuses, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). A report published by Amnesty International last week exposed how the LLRC is fundamentally flawed and is yet to provide accountability.

Sri Lanka’s government has ignored commitments it made after the UN Human Rights Council reviewed the country’s human rights situation in 2008, including a pledge to prosecute those responsible for a variety of crimes under international law.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government recently lifted the state of emergency that had been in place for nearly three decades, but other repressive laws are still active, including the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Detainees have been held arbitrarily for prolonged periods – sometimes years – without charge.

“It’s time for the Human Rights Council to actively promote truth, justice and reparations for the country’s thousands of victims of grave human rights violations that took place both during and after the civil war,” said Zarifi.

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AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
NEWS FLASH

Tuesday 13 September

Sri Lanka: Human Rights Council must take opportunity for action

In reaction to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s transmission of the findings of his expert panel’s report on Sri Lanka to the Human Rights Council, Amnesty International said:

“For months we have been waiting for the report’s findings to be presented to the Human Rights Council. Now there can be no more excuses for inaction or delays,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director.

The panel of experts report, made public in April 2011, found ‘credible allegations’ of war crimes and crimes against humanity by all sides to the Sri Lankan conflict.

“The panel of experts produced a strong, credible report – for the first time an international body acknowledged the extent of human rights abuses committed in the last days of Sri Lanka’s brutal conflict, when at least 10,000 civilians were killed.

“It’s time for the Human Rights Council to act on the panel of expert’s findings and hold those responsible for massive atrocities in Sri Lanka to account. The thousands of victims have waited long enough,” added Sam Zarifi Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director.

Amnesty International also reminded the Human Rights Council of ongoing human rights abuses the organization has documented in Sri Lanka since the conflict ended in 2009. These include lack of humanitarian access to displaced communities, lack of consultation with communities in the resettlement process, and threats to media freedoms.

Public Document
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