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FORUM-ASIA Members Flag Human Rights Abuses in Sri Lanka

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In collaboration with other civil society organisations, INFORM and Law and Society Trust submitted a document outlining human rights issues of immediate concern to be considered in the meeting between the Sri Lankan President and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

On June 9, 2007, a broad group of civil society organizations NGOs and INGOs working in the field of human rights and humanitarian issues met in Colombo to discuss the present situation and to identify priority areas for action to be considered at the meeting between the President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapakse, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour.

The meeting was organized by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and the International Movement Against Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) in collaboration with the Centre for Humanitarian Agencies (CHA), INFORM and the Law and Society Trust (LST).

The overarching issues that emerged related to the observation of national and international standards in both the human rights and humanitarian fields. In this context, the fulfillment of the pledges made by the Government of Sri Lanka on
assuming membership of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) was flagged as one of particular concern. Participants were unanimous in their agreement that the situation was bad, and was likely to get worse. While participants condemned
violations committed by non-state actors including the LTTE and other armed paramilitary groups, and drew attention to their responsibilities for human rights protection, they emphasized the primary role and responsibility of the state in the
protection of the human rights of all its citizens and in the upholding of humanitarian standards throughout the country. Therefore, respect for minimum human rights and humanitarian standards remains a priority.

Human rights issues:

  • Establish an office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Sri Lanka with a field presence for the monitoring of human rights;
  • End impunity; bring perpetrators to justice; ensure appropriate reparation and protection for victims and survivors;
  • Ensure that paramilitary groups and other armed groups are held accountable;
  • Ensure that the GOSL’s meets its obligations in terms of its membership of the UN HRC, including issuing invitations to Special Rapporteurs;
  • Reaffirm the GOSL’s commitments to international obligations under human rights law;
  • Respect the freedom of expression; ensure newspapers are freely available, including in the North and East; and protect the right of media persons to engage in their profession;
  • Ensure that all national legislation, including Emergency Regulations, conforms with human rights standards;
  • Ensure that counter-terrorism operations do not violate human rights, including the right to reside in any part of the country and the right to freedom of movement;
  • Respect human rights in arrest and detention processes; enforce Presidential Directives on Arrest and Detention; consolidate list of detainees and of places of detention to be available with the Ministry of Defense, the Police Department, the Ministry of Human Rights and the Human Rights Commission;
  • Ensure that arrests are made by persons in uniform, acting in concert with local Police and following established legal procedures and the right of citizens to resist attempts to arrest or detain them by any person not in uniform;
  • Ratify the Convention on Disappearances; and introduce enabling legislation;
  • Re-appoint the Constitutional Council and council members in the independent commissions, including the National Human Rights Commission;
  • Revisit and implement recommendations of previous Commissions of Inquiry; revisit recommendations of UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances;
  • Recognize the role of civil society and NGOs/INGOs in the promotion and protection of human rights and humanitarian norms; including their right to lobby within and outside Sri Lanka;

Humanitarian issues:

  • Ensure access of civil society, NGOs and INGOs to areas affected by the conflict and its impact;
  • Facilitate the work and scope of humanitarian agencies, including on visa issues;
  • Create a national legal framework for the protection of IDPs, using the Guiding Principles of Internal Displacement;
  • Ensure disaster preparedness for dealing with displacement and other impacts of violence;
  • Ensure equality and non-discrimination in disbursement of relief assistance and compensation to avoid ethnicization of humanitarian assistance;
  • Ensure participation of and consultation with affected communities in decisionmaking, especially with regards resettlement and their futures;
  • Ensure coordination between and stream lining of various authorities mandated with working for displaced persons, reconstruction, resettlement, rehabilitation;
  • Ensure that processes of resettlement are respectful of human rights and human dignity, they are carried out by civilian administration with the support of security forces where required and ensure that returnees have adequate assistance and security;
  • Ensure that due attention is paid to property damages and the restoration of livelihoods of resettled people; including addressing the impact of HSZs and other security restrictions on livelihoods and the right to mobility;
  • Ensure more information and transparency regarding humanitarian policies; including resettlement and development of conflict-affected areas;

Signed by

Centre for Human Rights and Development
Centre for Policy Alternatives
International Centre for Ethnic Studies
International Movement Against Discrimination and Racism
Law and Society Trust
Muslim Information Centre
National Peace Council
Social Scientists’ Association
Women and Media Collective
June 12 2007