USTPAC Gives Cautious Welcome to UNHRC Resolution

US Tamil Political Action Council (USTPAC) Accords Cautious Welcome to the UN Human Rights Council Resolution on Sri Lanka

USTPAC Press Release UNHRC22 Resolution Mar222013

The Geneva based UN Human Rights Council adopted a second resolution on Promoting Accountability and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka, putting Sri Lanka under close scrutiny for
grave rights violations, but the new resolution falls short of creating an international investigation mechanism called for by the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

March 22, 2013: Washington, DC –The United States Tamil Political Action Council (USTPAC) appreciates the efforts made by member states of the UNHuman Rights Council to
bring about a follow-up resolution on promoting accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. Resolution 22/L.1, the second within the span of one year on Sri Lanka, again led by
the United States, was supported by 40 co-sponsorswith 25 of 47 states voting in favor of its adoption. The resolution endorses the recently released report ofthe Office of the High
Commissioner for Human Rights emanating from the previous UNHRC resolution 19/L.2, while failing to implement the High Commissioner’s most momentous – and repeated –
recommendation: that an independent and credible international investigation be established for alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

“Strong international action on Sri Lanka is well overdue”, saidUSTPAC spokeswoman Dhamy Rajendra. “In the nearly four years since the brutal end of the armed conflict, in which
estimates cite over 146,000 Tamil civilians killed, the Sri Lankan government has failed to initiate a single credible investigation or prosecution. Given Sri Lanka’s institutionalized and
well-entrenched impunity, it is deeply disappointing that Sri Lanka has been given one more year of ‘space and time’ to investigate itself.”

Although the Human Rights Council itself fails to implement the High Commissioner’s recommendation to create an international investigation for Sri Lanka through this resolution,
its explicit call on Sri Lanka to implement the High Commissioner’s recommendations is a significant and welcome departure from its usual aversion of country-specific interventions.
This stance is exemplified in the resolution’s expressed grave concerns regarding flawed domestic processes put forth by the Sri Lankan government’s Lessons Learned and
Reconciliation Commission and the National Action Plan for its implementation. In addition, it unambiguously calls on Sri Lanka to conduct provincial council elections in the North by
September, 2013 and engagewith special UNHRC mandate holders.“USTPAC, as well as watchdog human rights groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and International Crisis Group advocated strongly for the creation of an international Commission of Inquiry during this session. However, given Sri Lanka’s appalling track record of failed commissions of inquiry, this resolution, by calling for implementation of recommendations stipulated in the High Commissioner’s report, is an ultimatum to the government of Sri Lanka. It is clear that continued refusal to comply with this resolution will not be tolerated by member states and will inevitably lead to the next step of setting up an international commission of inquiry”, stated Rajendra.

USTPAC expresses Tamil Americans’ appreciation to the US government for bringing this resolution. “We also appreciate the widespread support extended by student groups and
political parties from Tamil Nadu, and scores of human rights defenders from Sri Lanka.

Though we came short this time, USTPAC resolves to advocate for the creation of an international commission of inquiry on Sri Lanka to conduct independent credible investigations for the war crimes, crimes against humanity and alleged genocide committed against tens of thousands of Tamil civilians,” concluded Rajendra.

For more information, visit www.ustpac.org
Media contact: eliasjey 919 247 4072

Sri Lanka Accused of Ongoing Torture

by Mark Townsend and Hussein Kesvani, ‘The Guardian,’ UK, March 23, 2013

He said he had his toenails extracted and was then electrocuted, rendering him unconscious for three days. Now convicted, he has been sent to prison in the central city of Kandy, far from his home in the north. He has barely been permitted contact with his wife or son, who was born just months after his arrest.

The report also criticises a government rehabilitation programme for former Tamil Tiger soldiers that, it says, is also blighted by violence and, despite officially being classed as voluntary, is frequently used as a tool to prolong detention without trial.

Sri Lanka Accused of Ongoing Torture and Abuse of Tamil Prisoners

A Sri Lankan Tamil woman holds a portrait of a missing relative

A Sri Lankan Tamil woman holds a portrait of a missing relative at a protest outside the United Nations office in Colombo. Photograph: Ishara Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images

The torture of Tamil political prisoners is increasingly rife in Sri Lankawith some detainees dying in custody after suffering prolonged abuse, a new investigation claims.

The findings will intensify pressure on Britain to withdraw from a controversial summit to be held in Sri Lanka later this year.

Tens of thousands of ethnic Tamils have been held without trial since 2009, when Sri Lanka’s military finally crushed Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels in a decades-long conflict for control of the island’s northern Jaffna peninsula.

Since then, according to a new report (pdf) by the London-based Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, the government has regularly flouted laws and violated promises of post-conflict reconciliation through systematic abuse of these prisoners, many of whom had no links to theTamil Tigers.

More than 100,000 people were killed on both sides of Sri Lanka’s 26-year territorial war between minority Tamils and troops from the Sinhalese majority government. Both the rebels and government forces were accused of widespread atrocities during the fighting.

But with Sri Lanka now regaining credibility through its revival as a popular tourist destination and its role hosting a major Commonwealth summit later this year, campaigners warn that unless pressure is put on the country’s leadership, a vital opportunity to secure lasting peace will be squandered.

Pressure is also mounting closer to home with calls for the Queen and David Cameron to boycott the Commonwealth heads of government meeting to be hosted in Colombo in November.

A Foreign Office source said on Friday that they had not ruled out attending the Colombo summit despite mounting unease over Sri Lanka’s human rights record, explaining it was “too early to talk about UK attendance”.

An FCO spokesman added: “The UK government has been clear in public and private that we have a range of concerns about post-conflict reconciliation, accountability and the protection of human rights in Sri Lanka.”

On Thursday, The UN’s human rights council passed a resolution highly critical of Sri Lanka’s record, encouraging the country to conduct an independent and credible investigation into alleged war crimes with a previous UN investigation, saying up to 40,000 people were killed in the final five months of fighting alone.

The report documenting the island’s human rights abuses was undertaken by Tamil and Sinhalese researchers from Sri Lanka and London, and specifically examined the treatment of detainees in the wake of a riot in the country’s Vavuniya detention centre last June, that triggered brutal police retribution.

It found that prisoners from the riot were kept in “abominable conditions and deprived of basic human rights”. One case study documents the treatment of Ganesan Nimalaruban, an aspiring post office worker who was arrested in 2009 and subjected to three days of torture that left him with heart and respiratory problems, the report says. He later died in custody.

Nimalaruban’s family said their 28-year-old son was beaten regularly in prison and required frequent visits to hospital where, shackled on the floor and denied food and water, he also contracted dengue fever. Authorities claim Nimalaruban suffered a fatal heart attack because of the riot.

His mother, Rajeswari, insists her son died because of repeated beatings that police have attempted to cover up. She says her family, left impoverished by Nimalaruban’s legal battle, has also been subjected to intimidation.

Another case study describes the ordeal of an artist, identified as MM, who was arrested in 2007. The 28-year-old, who has suffered from polio since childhood, claims he was forced after days of torture into signing a false confession stating he had assisted Tamil Tiger rebels.

He said he had his toenails extracted and was then electrocuted, rendering him unconscious for three days. Now convicted, he has been sent to prison in the central city of Kandy, far from his home in the north. He has barely been permitted contact with his wife or son, who was born just months after his arrest.

The report also criticises a government rehabilitation programme for former Tamil Tiger soldiers that, it says, is also blighted by violence and, despite officially being classed as voluntary, is frequently used as a tool to prolong detention without trial.

The Sri Lanka Campaign report says the treatment of Tamil prisoners has, along with other human rights violations, been largely unnoticed by an outside world eager to believe that the country’s recent conflict is consigned to history.

Fred Carver, campaign director, said: “The report is an important reminder that not only were atrocities and war crimes committed on a large scale by both sides during the war but torture, arbitrary imprisonment and other human rights abuses continue on a large scale in Sri Lanka.

“This is particularly important in the light of continuing attempts by the UK government to deport Tamil asylum seekers, despite clear evidence – to which this report contributes – that those, such as returnees, who are identified by the regime as troublemakers are under considerable risk of falling victim to the worst kinds of rights violations: torture, murder, rape, and arbitrary detention.

“David Cameron must show leadership by announcing that he will not attend the Commonwealth summit if it takes place in Colombo.”

The island is currently enjoying a rejuvenation of its tourism industry. Lonely Planet, the travel guide book, recently voted Sri Lanka as its top tourist destination for 2013.

 

UNHRC Resolution on Sri Lanka

Introduction to Voting on Resolution by the US

US Introduction to Voting on Resolution on Sri Lanka March 2013 [PDF]

Vote Count on Resolution

Revised – Gabon voted YES late

Voting on Sri Lanka Resolution at UNHRC March 2013 [PDF]

For = 26
Abstain = 8
Against = 13

Tamil version of resolution 22/1 [PDF]

Co-sponsors of the resolution:

Austria, Canada, Croatia, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, St Kitts and Nevis, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and United States of America.

Text of UNHRC Resolution 22/1

UNHRC Resolution 22 L 1 Rev 1_English March 21 2013 [PDF]

The Human Rights Council,

Reaffirming the purposes and principles contained in the Charter of the United Nations,

Guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Human Rights and other relevant instruments,

Bearing in mind General Assembly resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006,

Recalling Council resolutions 5/1 and 5/2 of 18 June 2007, on institution-building of the Human Rights Council,

Recalling Human Rights Council resolution 19/2 of 22 March 2012 on promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka,

Reaffirming that it is the responsibility of each State to ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of its entire population,

Reaffirming also that States must ensure that any measure taken to combat terrorism complies with their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights law, international refugee law and international humanitarian law, as applicable,

Welcoming the announcement by the Government of Sri Lanka to hold elections to the Provincial Council in the Northern Province in September 2013,

Welcoming and acknowledging the progress made by the Government of Sri Lanka in rebuilding infrastructure, demining, resettling the majority of internally displaced persons, and noting nonetheless that considerable work lies ahead in the areas of justice, reconciliation and resumption of livelihoods, and stressing the importance of the full participation of local populations, including representatives of civil society and minorities, in these efforts,

Taking note of the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission of Sri Lanka and its findings and recommendations, and acknowledging its possible contribution to the process of national reconciliation in Sri Lanka,

Taking note of the National Plan of Action to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission of the Government of Sri Lanka and its commitments as set forth in response to the findings and recommendations of the Commission,

Noting that the national plan of action does not adequately address all of the findings and constructive recommendations of the Commission,

Recalling the constructive recommendations contained in the Commission’s report, including the need to credibly investigate widespread allegations of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, demilitarize the north of Sri Lanka, implement impartial land dispute resolution mechanisms, re-evaluate detention policies, strengthen formerly independent civil institutions, reach a political settlement on the devolution of power to the provinces, promote and protect the right of freedom of expression for all and enact rule of law reforms,

Noting with concern that the National Plan of Action and the Commission’s report do not adequately address serious allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law,

Expressing concern at the continuing reports of violations of human rights in Sri Lanka, including enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, and violations of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as intimidation of and reprisals against human rights defenders, members of civil society and journalists, threats to judicial independence and the rule of law, and discrimination on the basis of religion or belief,

Calling upon the Government of Sri Lanka to fulfil its public commitments, including on the devolution of political authority, which is integral to reconciliation and the full enjoyment of human rights by all members of its population,

Expressing appreciation for the efforts of the Government of Sri Lanka in facilitating the visit of a technical mission from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and encouraging the Government to increase its dialogue and cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner,

Noting the High Commissioner’s call for an independent and credible international investigation into alleged violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law,

1. Welcomes the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on advice and technical assistance for the Government of Sri Lanka on promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka[1] and the recommendations and conclusions contained therein, in particular on the establishment of a truth-seeking mechanism as an integral part of a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to transitional justice;

2. Encourages the Government of Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations made in the report of the Office of the High Commissioner, and also calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to conduct an independent and credible investigation into allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, as applicable;

3. Reiterates its call upon the Government of Sri Lanka to implement effectively the constructive recommendations made in the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, and to take all necessary additional steps to fulfil its relevant legal obligations and commitment to initiate credible and independent actions to ensure justice, equity and accountability, and reconciliation for all Sri Lankans;

4. Encourages the Government of Sri Lanka to cooperate with special procedures mandate holders and to respond formally to their outstanding requests, including by extending invitations and providing access;

5. Encourages the Office of the High Commissioner and relevant special procedures mandate holders to provide, in consultation with and with the concurrence of the Government of Sri Lanka, advice and technical assistance on implementing the above-mentioned steps;

6. Requests the Office of the High Commissioner, with input from relevant special procedures mandate holders, as appropriate, to present an oral updateto the Human Rights Council at its twenty-fourth session, and a comprehensive report  followed by a discussion at the twenty-fifth session, on the implementation of the present resolution

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Indian statement:

March 21, 2013

Mr. President,

Allow me to make a few remarks on the resolution under discussion “Promoting Reconciliation and Accountability in Sri Lanka”.

India believes that the report of the LLRC and its findings and recommendation provides a window of opportunity to forge a consensual way forward towards a lasting political settlement through genuine national reconciliation and the full enjoyment of human rights by all its citizens. We note with concern the inadequate progress by Sri Lanka in fulfilling its commitment to this Council in 2009. Further, we call on Sri Lanka to move forward on its public commitments, including on the devolution of political authority through full implementation of the 13th Amendment and building upon it.

India has always been of the view that the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka provided a unique opportunity to pursue a lasting political settlement, acceptable to all communities in Sri Lanka, including the Tamils. We call for effective and timely implementation of all the constructive recommendations contained in the LLRC report, including those pertaining to missing persons, detainees, disappearances and abductions, reduction of ‘high security zones’, return of private lands by the military and withdrawal of the security forces from the civilian domain in the Northern Province. We reiterate our call for an independent and credible investigation into allegations of human rights violations and loss of civilian lives. We urge Sri Lanka to take forward measures to ensure accountability. We expect these measures to be to the satisfaction of the international community.

As Sri Lanka’s closest neighbour, India remains engaged in a substantial way in the relief, resettlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction process in that country. Our efforts have contributed to the resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons and the rebuilding of infrastructure and development, especially in the Northern and the Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka.

While noting the commitment of Sri Lanka to hold elections to the Northern Provincial Council in September 2013, it is our expectation that the people of the province can exercise their democratic rights freely and without delay as guaranteed to them by the Sri Lankan Constitution.

We note the invitation extended by Sri Lanka to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and urge her to undertake the visit at an early date. We hope that the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and UN Special Procedures continue their engagement in accordance with their mandate.

We encourage the Government of Sri Lanka to expedite the process of a broad-based, inclusive and meaningful reconciliation and political settlement that ensures that all communities live in dignity with equal rights and equal protection of the laws. As a neighbour with thousands of years of relations with Sri Lanka, we cannot remain untouched by developments in that country and will continue to remain engaged in this matter.

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International Commission of Jurists

Resolution First Step, Goal is to Eventually Establish International Mechanism

“The resolution is a first step in bringing the issue of accountability in Sri Lanka onto the agenda of the Human Rights Council, The goal should be to eventually establish an independent international mechanism to ensure justice and accountability for the war-time abuses in this country.”

PRESS STATEMENT – 22 March 2012

The International Commission of Jurists welcomes key Human Rights Council resolution on Sri Lanka

Geneva, Switzerland – The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) welcomes the resolution of the Human Rights Council adopted today on promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka.

The resolution urges the Government of Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations of a report issued last November by the Sri Lankan Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), a commission of inquiry appointed by Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa in May 2010. It calls on the Government to fulfil its legal obligations to initiate credible and independent actions needed to ensure justice, equity, accountability and reconciliation for all Sri Lankans.

“The time for assurances, commitments, plans and intentions has long passed”, said Alex Conte, the ICJ’s Representative to the United Nations. “The time now is for action by the Government of Sri Lanka, and for the Human Rights Council to be actively seized of the situation”.

“The resolution is a first step in bringing the issue of accountability in Sri Lanka onto the agenda of the Human Rights Council,” Conte further said. “The goal should be to eventually establish an independent international mechanism to ensure justice and accountability for the war-time abuses in this country.”

The resolution comes almost three years after President Rajapaksa undertook to ensure accountability for violations of international humanitarian law and human rights perpetrated during the six-year conflict in Sri Lanka.

The ICJ deplores that the Sri Lankan Government has been unwilling to undertake prompt, independent and effective investigations into credible allegations of gross violations of human rights and serious violations of humanitarian law, including torture, unlawful killings and other crimes under international law.

“The lack of meaningful action by the Government of Sri Lanka is not surprising,” Conte added. “It follows a long history of using national commissions of inquiry that ineffectively address issues of accountability and reinforce the systemic and institutionalised impunity within this country’s criminal justice system.”

The UN Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, appointed by the UN Secretary General, reported in March 2011 there were “credible allegations, which, if proven, indicate that a wide range of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law was committed by both the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), some of which would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity”. This included allegations of the Government’s indiscriminate shelling, attacks on hospitals, denial of humanitarian assistance, extrajudicial executions, and enforced disappearances; and the use by the LTTE of human shields, forced recruitment and forced labour, and exposing civilians to
unnecessary harm.

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Tel: +41(0) 22 979 3800 – Fax: +41(0) 22 979 3801 – Website: http://www.icj.org/- E-mail: info@icj.org
For further information, please contact:
Alex Conte, ICJ Representative to the United Nations, t +41 79 957 27 33; email alex.conte@icj.org

NOTES TO EDITORS:

–           The resolution of the Council was adopted by 24 votes in favour, 15 against, and 8 abstentions (with Bangladesh, China, Congo, Cuba, Indonesia, Kuwait, Maldives, Mauritania, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Uganda voting against; and Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia and Senegal abstaining).

–           The LLRC report emphasized the importance of ensuring the Rule of Law and called for the restoration of independent constitutional commissions for the police and public service in particular, for the delinking of the Department of the Police from the Ministry of Defence and made several recommendations in regard to ensuring media freedoms, including the enactment of a Right to Information Act.

–          Composed of 60 eminent judges and lawyers from all regions of the world, the International Commission of Jurists promotes and protects human rights through the Rule of Law, by using its unique legal expertise to develop and strengthen national and international justice systems. Established in 1952 and active on the five continents, the ICJ aims to ensure the progressive development and effective implementation of international human rights and international humanitarian law; secure the realization of civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights; safeguard the separation of powers; and guarantee the independence of the judiciary and legal profession.

INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION OF JURISTS

Commission internationale de juristes – Comisión Internacional de Juristas ~ ” Protecting and promoting human rights through the Rule of Law”

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Tel: +41(0) 22 979 3800 – Fax: +41(0) 22 979 3801 – Website: http://www.icj.org/- E-mail: info@icj.org