UN Failed during Final Days of Lankan Ethnic War

by Press Trust of India in ‘Zee News,’ September 25, 2013

UN Rally Sept. 24 2013

UN rally Sept. 24, 2013

New York: In a rare admission of “systemic failure” of the UN, its chief has said the world body had failed during the final stages of Sri Lanka’s ethnic war in 2009 that saw military defeat of the LTTE.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also blamed member countries for not providing the UN with support to meet the tasks set by themselves.

Ban made the remarks while addressing the UN General Assembly’s 68th session on Tuesday where Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa was also present.

Ban said an internal review of UN action in Sri Lanka identified “systemic failure” and that member states did not provide the organisation with support to meet the tasks they themselves had set and the UN system did not “adapt properly or deliver fully”.

In 2012, the Secretary-General had set up an Internal Review Panel (IRP) on UN actions in Sri Lanka. The IRP headed by Charles Petrie completed an eight-month study.

UN Rally NY Sept. 24 2013The panel was tasked with providing an overview and assessment of UN actions during the final stages of the war in Sri Lanka and its aftermath, particularly regarding the implementation of its humanitarian and protection mandates.

It was also tasked with assessing the contribution and effectiveness of the UN system in responding to the escalating fighting and in supporting the Secretary-General’s political engagement, identifying institutional and structural strengths and weaknesses, and providing recommendations for the UN and its Member States in dealing with similar situations.

The Petrie panel reviewed about 7,000 documents, including internal UN exchanges with the government of Sri Lanka.

The panel also met with a large group of people, including representatives of civil society and member-states, and its recommendations build on previous reviews of UN action in theatres of escalated conflict.

The Secretary-General said as an immediate first step, he will organise a senior-level team to give “careful consideration” to the report’s recommendations and advise him on the way forward. “Other action will follow in short order,” he added.

The Petrie panel came to be appointed as the UN operation in Sri Lanka faced criticism that it had failed to protect a large number of civilian deaths in the final battle. Sri Lanka government dismissed the Petrie report as “unsubstantiated, erroneous and replete with conjecture and bias”.

Military had eliminated rebel Tamil Tigers in 2009. Nearly three decades of ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka had left over 100,000 dead.


Read more at: http://www.firstpost.com/world/un-failed-during-final-days-of-lankan-ethnic-war-ban-ki-moon-1133061.html?utm_source=ref_articl

Stop Harassing Victims, Activists

Security Forces ‘Visit’ People Who Met UN Rights Chief

by Human Rights Watch, New York, September 3, 2013

The Sri Lankan government should promptly investigate allegations that security forces harassed people who met with the visiting United Nations human rights chief, Navi Pillay, during her recent trip to the country, Human Rights Watch said today.

Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, expressed concerns at the end of her week-long visit on August 31, 2013, that victims of abuses and their family members, activists, and journalists had received visits and other harassment and threats from the authorities after meeting with her and other UN officials. She said that reprisals against people who talk to the UN were an extremely serious matter and that she would report it to the UN Human Rights Council.

“It’s outrageous for a government that is hosting the UN human rights chief to have their security forces harass the people who met with her,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The Sri Lankan government should announce that ‘visits’ or other forms of harassment of those who spoke to the high commissioner will be punished. And the government should make sure they punish officials who’ve already done so.”

When in Sri Lanka, Pillay held extensive meetings with people in the formerly embattled north and east of the country, as well as with government officials, politicians, and activists. The Centre for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, based in Trincomalee in eastern Sri Lanka, reported being harassed by military personnel a few hours after its staff met with Pillay. Father Yogeswaran, who runs the center, said that they had been visited at midnight and in the early morning, and was aware that others who had met with Pillay were similarly approached. Several other victims, witnesses, and rights activists told a leading Colombo-based organization that they were visited by military personnel following meetings with Pillay.

Pillay herself, in her statement, said that she had received disturbing reports about “the harassment and intimidation of a number of human rights defenders, at least two priests, journalists, and many ordinary citizens who met with me, or planned to meet with me. I have received reports that people in villages and settlements in the Mullaitivu area were visited by police or military officers both before and after I arrived there in Trincomalee, several people I met were subsequently questioned about the content of our conversation.”

Human Rights Watch called on the authorities to take all necessary measures to end the harassment of all those who met with Pillay and ensure their security. Human Rights Watch reiterated its call, also made by Pillay, for a strong and effective victim and witness protection program in Sri Lanka.

Pillay is due to deliver an oral report on her trip to the UN Human Rights Council later in September.

Sri Lanka has a long history of silencing critics of the government. Members of activist, religious, and human rights groups as well as media workers have faced reprisals for reporting critically on government abuses. Risks are greatest for those working in former contested areas in the north and east or away from major urban areas such as Colombo.

“Despite promises to Pillay of unfettered access, Sri Lankan authorities have gone about business as usual in harassing those courageous enough to come forward to talk about the country’s many human rights problems,” Adams said. “A government that doesn’t care enough to call off its security forces for a few days while the UN’s rights chief is visiting is a government that plainly doesn’t care about respecting basic human rights.”

Still No Human Rights Accountability in Sri Lanka

Still no end to serious human rights violations


Amnesty No Accountability Aug 28 2013

Amnesty’s Live Wire blog film on “Sri Lanka’s Authorities Must Tell the Trut”

29th August 2013
Index Number: ASA 37/021/2013
UN Human Rights Council
Twenty-Fourth Session
9th-27th September
Item 4

Still no human rights accountability in Sri Lanka: still no end to serious
human rights violations

Sri Lanka has still not taken genuine, substantial measures to meet
important human rights obligations. It has done little to end impunity;
serious human rights violations remain ubiquitous. Since the Human Rights
Council (HRC)’s adoption in March 2013 of Resolution 22/1 on ‘Promoting
reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka,’ the government, has made
some new promises to investigate alleged violations and to implement more
of the recommendations made by its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation
Commission, but it has made little progress implementing the reforms it
had already promised.

There is a growing body of evidence of serious violations of human rights
and humanitarian law during the armed conflict, some amounting to war
crimes or crimes against humanity. These include enforced disappearances,
extrajudicial executions and the intentional shelling of civilians and
protected areas such as hospitals. The Sri Lankan government continues to
deny these violations outright without adequate investigation. It denies
credible allegations of crimes under international law committed by its
forces during Sri Lanka’s armed conflict and resists calls to investigate
senior officers allegedly responsible for violations.

Authorities continue to threaten and harass critics, particularly media
activists, students and even artists. Torture in police custody persists with
impunity. They claim to seek reconciliation between communities, but
appear to tolerate escalating attacks on minorities.. There have been more
than 20 reported attacks on Muslim places of worship, as well as businesses
in the past year. There was no known investigation into a July attack on
Arafa Jumma mosque in Mahiyangama; a government Minister simply
ordered the mosque closed.

In the run-up to the first ever provincial council elections to be held in the
Tamil majority Northern Province, opposition candidates, activists and
journalists engaged in public debates over key political issues– such as
military control of land — have come under attack. Unidentified assailants
have attacked the staff of Jaffna based Uthayan newspaper three times in
the past six months. In July its journalist Kunalan Dileep, who was covering
election issues, was assaulted. None of these incidents have been
effectively investigated.

On 1 August three people were killed and scores injured when soldiers fired
automatic weapons to disperse unarmed villagers protesting against
industrial pollution of their water supply.iii One victim was allegedly beaten
to death by security forces while sheltering from the violence in a church.
The authorities continue to rely on the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in
lieu of ordinary criminal law for routine policing. The PTA restricts freedom
of expression and association and has been used to detain critics. It permits
extended administrative detention, and reverses the burden of proof where
torture or other ill-treatment of detainees is alleged. The PTA should be
substantially amended to conform with international standards or repealed.iv
Human rights and political activists, lawyers and journalists have been
interrogated, threatened and assaulted as a result of their work. None of the
incidents known to Amnesty International have been effectively investigated,
and no prosecutions have been initiated. People calling for accountability
for past and ongoing human rights violations, including human rights
defenders attempting to communicate concerns to the UN, have been
harassed and threatened. In some instances, individuals suspected of
‘internationalizing’ these issues through associations with foreign colleagueshave been detained and tortured.

Producers of a film ‘Flying Fish’ that
officials deem to have depicted Sri Lanka’s armed forces in a negative light,
were threatened with legal action; its director was called a “traitor” by statecontrolled media.

In July, Sri Lanka announced the arrest of security force personnel alleged
to have been involved in the January 2006 extrajudicial execution of 5
students in Trincomalee. These suspects were once arrested in 2006, and
released, supposedly for lack of evidence. The commanding officer, named
by several witnesses as having been present during or ordering the attack,
was not arrested. The government also announced that it had directed the
police to compile a list of witnesses to the August 2006 massacre of 17 aid
workers with Action Contre la Faim (ACF) in Muttur – something that should
have happened years ago. These apparent efforts to investigate these cases,
albeit seven years late, are encouraging, but it is too early to determine if
they are genuine. In both cases, witnesses have reported threats by security
forces to prevent them from revealing what they know about the killings, and
several have fled the country. Given Sri Lanka’s climate of impunity,
relatives of victims have told Amnesty International they fear these
investigations will stall. Renewed investigations in these cases must be
followed by effective prosecution and punishment of the perpetrators,
including all persons in positions of command responsibility who knew or
should have known about the killings and did not take measures to prevent
them or punish those responsible.

In late July, President Rajapaksa ordered the creation of another
commission of inquiry into enforced disappearances during the conflict, the
10th disappearance commission since the early 1990s. Amnesty
International has previously questioned the efficacy of such ad hoc bodies,
which have lacked independence and effective witness protection, made
recommendations that are rarely implemented, and have undermined law
enforcement and criminal justice processes.

Amnesty International is
concerned that this new commission may exclude important cases,
particularly of persons who were taken from sites other than their places
residence – the focus of inquiry identified in its mandate.

Meanwhile police have failed to comply with court orders to submit remains
for analysis and take witness statements regarding a mass grave recently
discovered in Matale, thought to hold victims of enforced disappearances
between 1989 and1990. In 1989, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa
commanded an army unit in Matale.

The government’s most recent promises of action on particularly egregious
human rights cases precede the August visit of the High Commissioner for
Human Rights (HCHR); the HRC’s 24th session, and Sri Lanka’s hosting of
the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in November. This last is
an event of questionable legitimacy due to Sri Lanka’s extremely poor
human rights performance. The timing of the government’s recent
announcements shows that the Government of Sri Lanka responds to
international attention. Sri Lanka’s recent actions leading up to this Council
session are evidence of the importance of the HRC continuing to encourage
Sri Lanka to meet its international human rights obligations. But the
encouragement must be sustained to ensure these latest human rights
commitments are fulfilled. The HRC cannot afford to be satisfied by half
measures; it should demand proof that Sri Lanka is willing to hold
accountable all those responsible for human rights violations.

Even then, there are limits to what change can reasonably be expected from
domestic mechanisms, given the enormous backlog in unresolved cases and
demonstrated lack of political will to address command responsibility for the
most egregious violations.

HRC Resolution 19/2 of 2012 called on Sri Lanka to ensure accountability
for alleged violations of international law; Resolution 22/1 of 2013
expressed concern over reports of continuing violations of human rights,
reiterated the demand for accountability and noted the call of the HCHR for
an “independent and credible international investigation into alleged
violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian
law” in Sri Lanka. The government’s increasing intolerance of dissent and
continued failure to ensure justice in even the most publicized cases make
it clear that there is insufficient action to end impunity and promote human
rights. An independent international investigation remains essential to
ensure accountability in Sri Lanka.

Amnesty International urges the HRC to:

• Continue to monitor closely the human rights situation in Sri Lanka,
including of the effectiveness of any domestic accountability
• Strengthen UN measures to prevent intimidation or reprisals by or
tolerated by the Sri Lankan government against individuals who seek
to cooperate or have cooperated with the UN, its representatives and
mechanisms in the field of human rights;
• Establish a credible and independent international investigation into
allegations of crimes under international law committed by Sri Lankan
government forces and allied armed groups as well as the LTTE. The
investigation should be conducted in accordance with international
standards and, where sufficient admissible evidence is found, lead to
the criminal prosecution of individuals found responsible in full
conformity with international standards for fair trial;
Amnesty International urges the Government of Sri Lanka to:
• Ensure that all suspected perpetrators of crimes under international
law are prosecuted in proceedings that comply with international
standards for fair trial.
• Ensure the protection of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom
of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, and demonstrate
unequivocally that harassment, intimidation and attacks against
individuals or groups of individuals exercising those rights will not be
tolerated, regardless of the opinions such individuals hold and
express, and regardless of the position or political affiliation of the
suspected perpetrator;
• Take all measures necessary to end attacks on businesses owned by
Muslims and Christians and on Muslim and Christian places of
worship;• Substantially amend to bring into conformance with international
standards or repeal the PTA and end the abusive use of other
legislation to violate the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of
peaceful assembly, and freedom of association;
• Cooperate fully with the UN special procedures including by
responding positively to outstanding their requests for invitations to
visit Sri Lanka and by providing them with full access.

UN Official Criticizes Sri Lanka over Human Rights

by Krishnan Francis, Associated Press in The Boston Globe, Sept. 1, 2013

Navi Pillay, of the UN, said Sri Lanka shows signs of going in an “authoritarian direction.”

Navi Pillay, of the UN, said Sri Lanka shows signs of going in an “authoritarian direction.”

Video of UNHCHR’s speech, plus Q & A at http://www.dailymirror.lk/news/34698-signs-of-sri-lanka-moving-towards-authoritarianism-pillay.html

Text of UNHCHR’s speech at http://un.lk/news/opening-remarks-by-un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-navi-pillay/

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The United Nations human rights chief chastised Sri Lanka’s government on Saturday, saying it is showing signs of becoming more authoritarian despite the end of the country’s long civil war more than four years ago.

In a hard-hitting statement ending a weeklong visit to assess the rights situation in Sri Lanka, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, said she was ‘‘deeply concerned that Sri Lanka, despite the opportunity provided by the end of the war to construct a new, vibrant all-embracing state, is showing signs of heading in an increasingly authoritarian direction.’’

During her stay, Pillay met with government officials, politicians, rights activists, and people affected by the war. Her visit followed a resolution by the UN Human Rights Council in March that urged Sri Lanka to more thoroughly investigate alleged war crimes committed by government troops and separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in the quarter-century civil war that ended in May 2009.

A UN report has indicated Sri Lanka’s may have killed up to 40,000 minority Tamils in the final months of the war, which ended with the rebels’ defeat.

The rebels were also accused of killing civilians, using them as human shields, and recruiting child soldiers.

Pillay is to report her findings to the rights council next month, as called for by the resolution.

‘‘The war may have ended, but in the meantime democracy has been undermined and the rule of law eroded,’’ Pillay said, citing the government’s move three years ago to abolish provisions for independent police, judiciary, and human rights commissions, and to give the president the power to appoint officials to the commissions.

‘‘The controversial impeachment of the chief justice earlier this year and apparent politicization of senior judicial appointments have shaken confidence in the independence of the judiciary,’’ she said.

Describing her visit to the former war zone in northern Sri Lanka, Pillay said she was concerned about the military’s increasing involvement in civilian affairs and urged the government to speed up demilitarization. She also said there were more reports of sexual harassment of women and girls.

‘‘I was concerned to hear about the degree to which the military appears to be putting down roots and becoming involved in what should be civilian activities, for instance education, agriculture and even tourism,’’ Pillay said.

Image of equipment clearing wreckage in Mullivaikkal August 31 2013 BBCShe said it was disturbing to hear reports of military personnel or police visiting and questioning villagers with whom she spoke in the former war zone and alleged intimidation of rights activists she met with.

‘‘This type of surveillance and harassment appears to be getting worse in Sri Lanka, which is a country where critical voices are quite often attacked or even permanently silenced,’’ she said. ‘‘Utterly unacceptable at any time, it is particularly extraordinary for such treatment to be meted out during a visit by the UN high commissioner for human rights.’’

She said the United Nations ‘‘takes the issue of reprisals against people because they have talked to UN officials as an extremely serious matter,’’ and that she would report it to the human rights council.