March 20, 2013
Item 2 – General Debate
OHCHR Report on Sri Lanka
Thank you Mr. President.
Pasumai Thaayagam [Chennai] wishes to express our sincere gratitude for the High Commissioner’s report on Sri Lanka to this Council.
The role of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is an extremely important one, and one of the strongest stalwarts our global community has for the safeguarding of human rights. Even while there are some who seek to undermine it for political purposes, today the Office of the High Commissioner continues to discharge its responsibility within the spirit of its mandate.
We wish to thank the High Commissioner for the dignity and courage with which she continues to undertake and fulfill her obligation to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms throughout the world.
With respect to the OHCHR country report on Sri Lanka, we are incredibly disturbed by the details provided, particularly concerning the breakdown of the rule of law and the administration of justice. The report underlined on-going and widespread allegations of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture, detention and land-grab, severe threats to the right to freedom of expression and assembly, lack of demilitarization, especially in the Tamil areas of the North and East, as well as the eight long-outstanding visit requests by Special Rapporteurs appointed by this Council. Real victims, the majority of whom are Tamils, are affected when violations of human rights such as these and many others occur and go unchecked in Sri Lanka.
Mr. President, the international community represented by this Council has an incredibly important role to play in ensuring the realisation of human rights for all. Pasumai Thaayagam echoes the High Commissioner’s sentiments contained in this report that an independent and credible international investigation is the only mechanism that has the possibility to ensure genuine accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.
Thank you Mr. President.
Thank you Mr. President, Madam High Commissioner, Your Excellencies:
Lawyer’s Rights Watch Canada welcomes your report on Sri Lanka. We note that this is the first comprehensive report undertaken on Sri Lanka by your office.
We welcome your reference to the Panel of Experts Report and would call upon you to encourage this Council to adopt it as a formal document. We reject the statements of Minister Samarasinghe and others that this was a “private consultation” undertaken by the Secretary General. We wish to remind this Council that the Secretary General is the head of the United Nations and as such cannot commission private work – in effect, all of his undertaking ought to be in the public realm, inline with the principles of transparency and accountability.
Your report outlines the litany past and present violations of human Rights in Sri Lanka, however, we wish to stress the urgent need to address the imminent loss of democratic space, and franchise for the Tamil people in the North and East of the island.
The North and East of Sri Lanka are traditional Tamil territory with a unique language and culture. Sri Lanka has undertaken a campaign against the Tamil people to systematically mute their voice, and agency over a 65 year period. This campaign has progressively curtailed the democratic franchise of Tamils in the East.
The same ruthless program is now undertaken in the North. Increased militarization, land grab, and the establishment of new Sinhalese settlements in traditional Tamil areas are exasperating the Sinhalization and Budhization of the North, This is no longer an armed conflict – but a demographic one – one that is based on artificially changing the population that would assimilate Tamils as one monolithic group within the island. This campaign should also be viewed in the context of, and in the absence of a proper, a peace proposal.
Finally, we are encouraged by your resolve to ensure that accountability takes place in Sri Lanka, and to that end we echo your call for “a credible international investigation into alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.” We thank you for discharging your duties with diligence, care, and integrity.
Thank you Mr. President.
March 15, 2013
Item 6: Universal Periodic Review
Thank you Mr. President. We would also like to thank Dr. Manoharan for his passionate and courageous plea this morning, seeking justice for the death of his son, Ragihar, who was executed in cold blood by Sri Lankan security forces on New Year’s Day in 2006.
The work of the United Nations is often consumed by paper, but Dr. Manoharan is a living testament to the unceasing struggle for justice and the challenges that victims’ families face inside the country in discovering the truth of how their children died. Dr. Manoharan’s heartbroken appeal for our help should serve as a compelling reminder of our collective responsibility to him and countless others like him. We would like to echo Dr. Manoharan’s call for an international investigation into past and present human rights violations in Sri Lanka.
Turning to Sri Lanka’s Universal Periodic Review, the Working Group reported on Sri Lanka’s progress in resettling Internally Displaced Persons, while simultaneously noting the need for “durable solutions” regarding their plight.
Deep concerns remain about the conditions of those resettled. Despite the closing of Menik Farm, the largest internment camp for IDPs in history, over 115,000 IDPs were reportedly still living in camps, transit sites, or had been relocated, often against their will, to areas other than their places of origin, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre last September.
A prime example is the village of Keppapilavu in the Northern province. The inhabitants of this village were detained in the Menik Farm internment camp until last September, when 110 families were resettled by the military in a clearing in the jungle, without so much as lights or tents, outside their actual village, and were not allowed to return to their own homes. The Army has transformed the village into a massive military base, as the families of Keppapilavu still languish in the jungle, without any hope of returning to their original homes.
This tactic of land grabbing is repeated across the Tamil region in the North and East of Sri Lanka.
Given the existence of ongoing human rights violations such as these, the continuing impunity for the deaths of thousands of Tamils like Ragihar Manoharan, as well as credible allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity from 2009, we ask the Council to establish an independent, international Commission of Inquiry (CoI) for Sri Lanka.
http://webtv.un.org/watch/item:6-general-debate-contd-39th-meeting-22nd-regular-session-human-rights-council/2228422662001/ — Chapter 22 (Canadian Tamil Congress)
Considering the communication of Special procedures, we welcome the report A/HRC/22/67, on Agenda items 3, 4, 7, 9 and 10
RADDHO [Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme] also welcomes (1) the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts report on Sri Lanka of 31 March 2011; (2) his Internal Review Panel report on UN action in Sri Lanka and (3) the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on advice and technical assistance for the Government of Sri Lanka, on promoting reconciliation and accountability (A/HRC/22/38).
It is our view, that the above mentioned reports mirror the current situation in Sri Lanka.
RADDHO is pleased to see this wider acknowledgement throughout the UN human rights mechanisms by mandate holders, treaty bodies and VVIPs of the United Nations. We salute and appreciate the dedicated contributions made by courageous local and international human rights defenders.
RADDHO would like to underline concerns already expressed about reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN Human rights mechanisms.
We would also like to add that misinformation spread in this council and internationally, denying the grave and serious human rights situation in Sri Lanka, is deliberately distributed with the aim of avoiding accountability. Sadly, such misinformation can appear to be true and appealing to those who do not know the historical facts and current realities in Sri Lanka.
Our organization wishes to express its shared views in line with the recommendations of the Forum on Minority Issues, in that, minority-sensitive intercultural education approaches must be adopted. We also support the recommendation that governments must develop and implement education policies that are inclusive and targeted, in order to ensure all persons belonging to minority groups are given access to high-quality education.
RADDHO hopes that members and observer States of this HRC will address these issues in cooperation with the UN VVIPS and other actors.
http://webtv.un.org/watch/item:6-general-debate-contd-39th-meeting-22nd-regular-session-human-rights-council/2228422662001/ — Chapter 30 (International Educational Development)
Item 6, General Debate, Universal Periodic Review
International Educational Development has followed the progress of the UPR since its inception. Now, in its second cycle we note a decided failure of some States to implement the recommendations of the first review Ц as is glaringly apparent in the second review of Sri Lanka.
The review of Sri Lanka also demonstrates the paucity of opportunities for a people, such as the Tamil people, who identify as a collective political entity – that is as a Nation – based on historical independence, ethnicity, language and customs to be heard and taken into account. Their genuine grievances and aspirations are reduced to mere individual human rights problems rather than the destruction of their Nation. Sadly, except for one statement made by Austria concerning the rape of Tamil women, the Tamils as a people are not even named, the UPR is ‘de-Tamilized’ to the point that, anyone not fully cognizant of the facts of the 65 year long Tamil-Sinhala conflict would not even know who is to be a party to ‘reconciliation.’
Indeed it was the systematic dismantling of the existence of the Tamils as a distinct Nation in Sri Lanka that led to the 26-year-long war. We are alarmed with the government’s assertion that it aims to create Уa true Sri Lankan identity, which in Sri Lanka is a code term for a Sinhala Buddhist State.
At this juncture, we call for the establishment of a transitional administration, under international supervision, in the North and East of Sri Lanka, the traditional homeland of the Tamils, as an urgent measure to stop the on-going destruction of the Tamil people.
Finally, taking note that the Government rejects all recommendations most likely to bring about accountability and remedy as required by international humanitarian law, we urge an independent international investigation.
March 12, 2013
Item 4: General Debate
Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation
Thank you Mr. President.
The ongoing human rights crisis in Syria has reached a catastrophic level with an estimated 70,000 people killed. The apathy and inaction by some in the international community has allowed the Assad regime to commit crimes against international law with impunity.
When the international community fails to respond meaningfully to governments that systematically assault the basic human dignity of their citizens, impunity for past crimes enables impunity for present crimes. This is emblematic of the humanitarian and political crisis in Sri Lanka, which in many ways served as a precursor for the tragedy now unfolding in Syria.
Impunity for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Sri Lanka in 2009 has now led to the unconstitutional expansion of the powers of the central government, and the exacerbated deterioration of the rule of law across the country.
According to the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts report, in the final nine months of the civil war in Sri Lanka, tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were killed, overwhelmingly due to intentional shelling by the Sri Lankan armed forces.
A mere five months ago the report of the Secretary General’s Internal Review Panel on United Nations Action in Sri Lanka cited credible estimates that over 70,000 Tamil civilians were killed in 2009, and stated, “there can be no lasting peace and stability without dealing with the most serious past violations and without a political response to the aspirations of Sri Lanka’s communities.”
Paralleling this statement, High Commissioner Navi Pillay reported to this Council and identified ongoing human rights violations such as extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, detention policies that lack basic procedural safeguards, and gendered violations resulting from continuing militarization.As Commissioner Pillay stated, these reports “highlight the urgency of action to combat impunity”. Yet these abuses by the Sri Lankan government remain unchecked, uninvestigated and unprosecuted.
Sri Lanka’s long history of impunity is structurally institutionalized. Thus, an independent, international Commission of Inquiry is urgently needed to combat Sri Lanka’s cycle of impunity and lay the foundation for a genuine peace.
Thank you, Mr. President.
 UN Secretary-General (UNSG), Report of the Secretary General`s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, 31 March 2011, available at: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4db7b23e2.html.
 UN Secretary-General (UNSG), Report of the Internal Review Panel on United Nations Action in Sri Lanka, November 2012, page 29, available athttp://www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/Sri_Lanka/The_Internal_Review_Panel_report_on_Sri_Lanka.pdf.
 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, A/HRC/22/38, 11 February 2013
March 11, 2013
Item 3 – General Debate Torture and the State
Thank you Mr. President.
Pasumai Thaayagam welcomes the report of Mr. Juan Mendez, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The act of torture represents one of the gravest forms of abuse of power by a state. In his latest report, Mr. Mendez affirms the state’s imperative role in ensuring freedom from torture, and particularly stresses that special protection be afforded to minorities and marginalized groups. A state’s obligation is not simply to refrain from inflicting torture, but to prohibit, prevent and redress torture within its borders and by its agents.
Mr. President, many of Mr. Mendez’s observations and recommendations apply to countries outside this report. Similar to his observations on Western Sahara, the state of Sri Lanka exhibits a pattern of torture and ill-treatment by police officers and armed forces. Human Rights Watch and Freedom from Torture have compiled medical evidence of over 55 cases since the end of the armed conflict detailing the use of torture by Sri Lankan police and military personnel, overwhelmingly against Tamils. Evidence of the prevalence of torture in Sri Lanka has also been corroborated by the testimony of a former Sri Lankan soldier, who served in the army for over fifteen years, and testified at his own refugee hearing in Canada that the military tortured civilians.
Despite recommendations by several states during its Universal Periodic Review in November, Sri Lanka has yet to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. To echo Mr. Mendez’s recommendation to the government of Tajikistan, it is important for the government of Sri Lanka to expedite a prompt, impartial and thorough investigation into all allegations of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. However, the state’s failure in this regard, reflects the culture of impunity institutionally entrenched in Sri Lanka.
The Government of Sri Lanka’s behavior demonstrates the need for the Council to convene an independent international mechanism to investigate Sri Lanka’s alleged violations of international law, as recommended by the High Commissioner. Furthermore, we urge the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture to request a visit to Sri Lanka, so that the ongoing crimes may be documented.
Thank you Mr. President.
March 4, 2013
http://webtv.un.org/watch/id-and-gd:-hcsg-thematic-reports-12th-meeting-22nd-regular-session-human-rights-council/2201757960001/ — Chapter 19 (Pasumai Thayagam)
Item 2 – Annual Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Mr. Vice President & Madam High Commissioner.
The High Commissioner’s report recognizes that the failure of the international community and the UN to understand and address the causes of widespread violence and conflict in certain countries, such as in Syria and Mali, leads to prolonged suffering for those caught in such violence, and widespread impunity.
We are encouraged by the High Commissioner’s focus on combating impunity. Combating impunity is quintessential to sustainable peace. We applaud the increasing use of commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions to investigate allegations of serious violations. The allegations made against the Syrian regime resonate with those allegations of serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law in Sri Lanka at the end of its civil war, including extrajudicial killings, sexual violence against prisoners by the armed forces, and the shelling of hospitals and ‘no fire zones’. All such egregious acts require the full engagement of the Council, and require the establishment of independent international investigations. The Council has done so, for example, in Syria and Libya in 2011. We urge the Council at this session to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate the allegations of serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law that occurred in Sri Lanka at the end of the civil war. Failure to do so will encourage the cycle of impunity that exists in Sri Lanka and elsewhere.
Four years since the war, the Government’s domestic process has not addressed accountability in good faith, as outlined under the LLRC framework and there is strong historical evidence it has no intention of doing so. The National Plan of Action entrusts the very agencies subject to investigation with implementing the LLRC recommendations, hence it’s no surprise a military court of inquiry would refute the targeting and killing of civilians. A domestic process simply does not work because Sri Lanka is not capable of investigating itself. Any action by the Council that falls short of a credible international investigation will lead to irrevocable damage being inflicted on the Tamil population.
Thank you Mr. Vice President & Madam High Commissioner.
Item 2 – Interactive Dialogue with High Commissioner
Lawyers Rights Watch Canada
March 4, 2013
Thank you Mr. President,
Madam High Commissioner, on behalf of Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada and the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), we welcome your annual report, and thank you for your continued resolve to protect human rights around the world.
The situation in Sri Lanka is deteriorating, with an increased level of militarization, suppression of free speech, the breakdown of the rule of law and the loss of any democratic space. The Tamil people are living under army occupation. Students from the University of Jaffna were illegally arrested and detained for peacefully protesting. Journalists continue to live and work in fear of reprisals. The Chief Justice, Shirane Bandaranayake, was illegally impeached this January. We are encouraged by your optimism that findings of the Secretary General’s landmark internal review undertaken by Charles Petrie, would allow for increased responsibility, transparency and accountability within the UN system. To effectively promote accountability in Sri Lanka, Council itself must act to ensure acceptance of the UN Panel of Experts Report as an official document. The Panel of Experts concluded that there were credible allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by both sides of the conflict in Sri Lanka.
We are deeply concerned by the continued attacks on your credibility, impartiality and neutrality. Human Rights defenders in Sri Lanka, and elsewhere continue to be the subject of attacks meant to silence calls for adherence to international human rights norms. We encourage you to continue to advocate for the cessation of systemic human rights abuses in Sri Lanka and to call for remediation of past violations.
Just last week, new evidence has surfaced where a 12 year old boy, Balachandran Prabaharan, was summarily executed while in Sri Lankan army custody on the last days of the war in 2009. These and other violations of international law, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, must be investigated by a neutral party.
Madam High Commissioner, we look forward to your report to Council wherein you reiterate your call for a Commission of Inquiry in Sri Lanka, in order that the senseless slaughter of a child and other crimes are addressed.