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“Alarms Sounding for Sri Lanka”

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United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions has made an urgent plea to the General Assembly to call upon the UN Secretariat to establish a full-fledged international human rights monitoring mission in Sri Lanka. The killings taking place currently are best characterized as human rights violations, that is the systematic targeting of civilians in which the government, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and proxy groups are implicated.Excerpts of the United Nations Special Rapporteur’s address on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions makes an urgent plea for international human rights monitoring.

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) “should call upon the UN Secretariat to establish a full-fledged international human rights monitoring mission in Sri Lanka”, said the UN independent expert on arbitrary executions, Professor Philip Alston, in his address to the UNGA on 20 October 2006.

Waiting for a political resolution amidst increasing human rights violations is based on flawed logic because during the course of the most recent conflict, the killings taking place “are best characterized as human rights violations”, referring to the systematic targeting of civilians in which the government, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and proxy groups are implicated.

Alston notes that since his visit to the country between November to December 2005, attacks on both combatants and civilians have increased sharply and that since August 2006, the rate of killing has increased dramatically.

Alston believes the violations and conflict in general is best addressed through an appeal to human rights ideals because the logic of human rights is central to understanding of the historic basis of the conflict.

He added that struggle for international legitimacy by all parties to the conflict and thus, interventions by the international community could be crucial and “effective monitoring would stand a real chance of inducing genuine rather than simulated respect for human rights”.

Meanwhile, Alston took both the government and the LTTE to task, mentioning that the Government should not interpret the widespread proscription of LTTE as a terrorist organization as an endorsement of its own record.

Noting that neither government’s past nor its present conduct would justify great faith in its ability to respect equally the rights of all citizens, Alston calls it an “enduring scandal” that there have been virtually no convictions of government officials for killing Tamils.

The urgent appeal for international human rights monitoring was backed up also by the context where there has been an undermining of independent oversight bodies such as National Human Rights Commission and National Police Commission, through direct executive appointments.

Furthermore, Alston noted that the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) which had been tasked to monitor ceasefire violations has been severely weakened by the decision of LTTE to insist on the withdrawal of monitors who are nationals of EU member States.

“The SLMM was never going to be a perfect human rights monitoring mechanism, but today even the opportunity for it to serve as a “second best” option may be passing” said Alston.

According to Alston, an international monitoring mission must publicly report its findings, should be equipped with “investigative and forensic capacity” and “independent of the peace process”.

Its mandate must include witness’ protection and should geographically cover all areas where conflict related human rights abuses happen.

Without such a presence, any gains made in the last few years will be lost and Sri Lanka will move closer to unprecedented levels of violence.

The full report can be downloaded at: