Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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IED: Human Rights Situations Requiring the Council's Attention

by Karen Parker, International Educational Development, March 17, 2008

Due to the urgent need to monitor this armed conflict to aid in preventing a genocide and to ensure full humanitarian law rights of all, we urge the Council to call a special session on Sri Lanka as soon as possible, and to persuade Sri Lanka that it must, at the risk of sanctions, allow the High Commissioner to establish an expanded presence in the Country.

International Educational Development

Statement made by Karen Parker

 

UNITED NATIONS

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

6th session

Item 3

Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights

International Educational Development welcomes the attention of the Special Representative on human rights defenders to the situation of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka. (A/HRC/7/28/Add.1, paras. 1774 – 1783). In the past few years over 60 aid providers and human rights defenders have been killed. We thank her in particular for her communication to John Holmes, the new head of OCHA, prior to his visit to the Island last summer. We note that the government authorities would not allow Mr. Holmes to visit the Tamil-controlled areas, where Tamil civilians still languish from grossly inadequate post-Tsunami Karen Parker Esq at the UN 10 November 2006 courtesy TamilNation aid and are by far the largest group of victims of the armed conflict. We take particular note that the Special Representative indicates that those attending meetings in Jaffna with Mr. Holmes were told to not raise human right issues and that the meetings were noteworthy for the heavy presence of members of the Sri Lankan armed forces. We wonder how the UN can properly assess humanitarian needs of the Tamil people without being actually able to visit freely these areas. In this light we note that even the High Commissioner was denied access to the Tamil-controlled areas in the course of her visit in October 2007, and her meetings with the Tamil civil society in the North were held under conditions that in our view were not conducive to a free exchange of information. In fact no United Nations mandate holder except Alan Rock have been allowed to visit the Tamil-controlled areas for several years, including the Special Rapporteur on Torture, the Special Rapporteur on Summary Executions, the Special Representative on Displaced Persons (most of the displaced are in fact Tamil civilians), and even former Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his post-Tsunami representative former US President Bill Clinton. This is, of course, completely unacceptable, and as we indicated in our submission to the UPR, indicates a lack of cooperation by the Sri Lanka authorities with the UN processes.

We welcome the attention to Sri Lanka by of the Working Group on Disappearances. Sri Lanka enjoys the dubious honour of being near the top of the list of countries with the most disappearances. Almost all of the disappearances in the past several years have been of Tamils. We are also pleased that Special Rapporteur Ligabo indicates concerns about the suppression of freedom of expression in Sri Lanka. In fact, most of the NGOs addressing freedom of expression note that the actual killings of Tamil journalists, coupled with severe threat to others, represents one of the gravest threats to freedom of the press in the world.

In the past several years we have transmitted urgent action communications regarding the rights to food, health and housing due to the continuing blockage of humanitarian aid to Tamil civilians in the North and East of Sri Lanka, including the Tamil-controlled areas. We again point out that blocking food and medicine to civilians in an armed conflict is an element of the crime of extermination under the Statute and Elements of the International Criminal Court. We hope that the mandate-holders of these issues will address Sri Lanka on an emergency basis given the gravity of the offences.

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International Educational Development

Statement made by Karen Parker

UNITED NATIONS

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

7th session

Item 4

Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention

            International Educational Development welcomes the report of Special Rapporteur Pinheiro on the situation in Burma (A/HRC/7/18) and we most strongly urge that this mandate be continued.

            We cannot accept the failure of the Council to address two situations, Iraq and Sri Lanka, which directly and indirectly relate to policies and interests of the United States. The Council’s failure to address these clearly weighs heavily on its credibility.

The United States invaded Iraq in clear violation of the UN Charter. It has carried out persistent and systematic illegal military operations, including  “shock and awe” terrorism in armed conflict and the targeting of protected persons and facilities such as hospitals, schools, and places of worship. The United States frequently uses illegal weapons, including those containing depleted uranium. The world is in horror over the persistent violations of human rights by the US occupation forces. While in our view there will be no change in US policy until after the upcoming elections there, we feel that the Council should at least express its concerns in the hope that countries with more will to support humanitarian law norms and the rule of law would ensure that their policies do not facilitate the United States or cause further damage to respect for humanitarian law.

Regarding Sri Lanka, the United States interests in securing navy and air force bases in the Tamil areas of that country and other interests in the region is in our view a major factor in the prolongation of the conflict that now hovers on the brink of genocide. We note that the government of Sri Lanka is seemingly allowed by the Council to restrict the efforts of its own mandate-holders and prohibit visits to the Tamil-areas by all, including by such high UN officials as the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy and the High Commissioner.

Due to the assassinations of over 60 aid workers in the past two years, many more have now fled for security reasons. The International Independent Group of Eminent Persons, agreed to by the government of Sri Lanka in autumn 2006 to delay possible Council action, has now quit, citing its restrictive mandate and the failure of the authorities to go forward with any meaningful investigation of the issues under review. Due to the urgent need to monitor this armed conflict to aid in preventing a genocide and to ensure full humanitarian law rights of all, we urge the Council to call a special session on Sri Lanka as soon as possible, and to persuade Sri Lanka that it must, at the risk of sanctions, allow the High Commissioner to establish an expanded presence in the Country.