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18th HRC Regular Session: Oral Statement on Burma and Sri Lanka

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18th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Item 4: Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention – General Debate

Thank you, Madam President. FORUM-ASIA wishes to sustain this Council’s attention to the distressing situation along the eastern border of Burma/Myanmar as gross violations of human rights are ongoing, particularly land confiscation, forcible recruitment of child soldiers, sexual violence against women and girls as well as the killings of ethnic civilians in conflict zones.[1] We regret that the recent visit of the Special Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana in August 2011[2] did not include these ethnic inhabited areas.

Madam President, FORUM-ASIA remains concerned that article 445 of Myanmar’s Constitution embeds impunity for its military and civilian leaders, which is reinforced by the failure of the judiciary to uphold the rule of law. As such, we maintain our call for an independent international investigation into violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, which is critical in preventing future violations from being perpetrated. Concerning the government’s 5 September announcement on the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission, we cannot but question the independence and effectiveness of the Commission as it is composed of members who are known to deny the existence of well-documented human rights concerns.[3] The government must take concrete efforts to ensure that the Commission is fully compliant with the Paris Principles and to raise awareness on its mandates and functions throughout the country, rather than hastily announcing it before the international community.

Madam President, FORUM-ASIA draws the Council’s attention to a host of emerging challenges facing the resettled population in the former conflict areas in Sri Lanka, many of whom still live in temporary shelters and encounter serious barriers in claiming their rights to housing, land and property restitution. Furthermore, we are disturbed to learn of the forcible acquisition of land by the Sri Lankan military for the construction of new military bases, as well as by opportunistic local politicians and foreign investors for the development of tourist resorts and Special Economic Zones such as in Mannar, Puttalam and Trincomalee districts.[4] The government of Sri Lanka must guarantee full involvement of the local population in any development planning and implementation process, based on the principles of free, prior and informed consent to ensure that they are the core beneficiaries. The international community must also pay due diligence to assure that any development projects by public or private foreign entities shall be undertaken with provisions for adequate reparation to the affected communities.

Lastly, Madam President, FORUM-ASIA recalls its joint NGO letter addressed to you last Friday calling for formal space at the 19th regular session for a dialogue and debate on the accountability process in Sri Lanka, including the findings of the LLRC. We are extremely disappointed that no such proposal has been tabled. We urge the Sri Lankan government to stop any disinformation campaign through its State media with regards to its 12 September side event and to work with the Council in a constructive and non-politicized manner that places justice and redress for victims at the center. Thank you, Madam President.

[1] Burma Partnership, “We Have Waited and Seen Enough: The UN Must Establish a Commission of Inquiry”, 26 August 2011

[2] UN Press Release, “Myanmar: Serious Human Rights Issues Remain Despite Positive Steps by the Authorities”, 25 August 2011

[3] Burma Lawyers’ Council, “Revealing Burma’s System of Impunity”, 9 September 2011

[4] M.A. Sumanthiran, Member of Parliament of Sri Lanka, “Issues and Problems Facing People of the Northern and Eastern Provinces”, 7 July 2011

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA

Oral Statement Delivered by Ms. Pooja Patel


Friday, 23 September 2011