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Sri Lanka Slams Door on Human Rights Monitors After UN Blow

by Mel Gunasekara, AFP, May 22, 2008

"I reiterate our position again -- we don't see a need for a foreign body to monitor us. We have the necessary laws and procedures in place to monitor cases of human rights," Rohitha Bogollagama told reporters...

Bogollagama said international NGOs "representing the LTTE carried out the campaign against us" and had "maybe bought votes" against Sri Lanka at the United Nations.

COLOMBO - Sri Lanka's hawkish government on Thursday angrily ruled out allowing foreign monitoring of the island's human rights situation after being denied a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.

The war-torn country's foreign minister also blamed the diplomatic drubbing on what he alleged was an anti-government conspiracy by international rights groups in league with Tamil Tiger rebels.

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama in Colombo in ...

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama in Colombo in January 2008. Sri Lanka's hawkish government on Thursday angrily ruled out allowing foreign monitoring of the island's human rights situation after being denied a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.

"I reiterate our position again -- we don't see a need for a foreign body to monitor us. We have the necessary laws and procedures in place to monitor cases of human rights," Rohitha Bogollagama told reporters.

Sri Lanka secured 101 votes at the UN's 192-member General Assembly but this was not enough to beat the other Asian nations competing for the diplomatically prestigious seats on the UN Human Rights Council that are allotted to the region.

"We don't see the vote as a defeat, it's not a setback," Bogollagama said. "In fact 101 countries backed us, which is a show of support for our government."

In recent weeks a coalition of international non-governmental organisations and rights groups has been lobbying UN members to oppose Sri Lanka's candidacy to the Geneva-based rights body.

Nobel peace laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter have also spoken out against Sri Lanka's government, which is on the offensive in a drawn-out war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

"It was not an easy ride for Sri Lanka," Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said, referring to the campaign to oppose Sri Lanka's re-election.

"We were specifically targeted by these groups. Had this kind of subjective campaign not been there we would have had a fair chance."

Human Rights Watch has branded Sri Lanka one of the world's worst perpetrators of "disappearances" and abductions.

But Bogollagama said international NGOs "representing the LTTE carried out the campaign against us" and had "maybe bought votes" against Sri Lanka at the United Nations.

According to New York-based Human Rights Watch, at least 1,500 people "disappeared" between 2006 and 2007 -- mostly ethnic Tamils living in the Sinhalese-majority island's restive north and east.

Right groups say the situation has also worsened since the government pulled out of a Norwegian-brokered truce with the Tamil Tigers in January.

"The Human Rights Council vote should be a wake-up call for the Sri Lankan government," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

"President Mahinda Rajapakse hopefully will get the General Assembly's message and start taking real action to end human rights abuses in Sri Lanka."

The rights group urged the government to reassess its human rights policies and practices, including its rejection of a UN human rights monitoring mission.