From 14 March – 22 April, the UN Commission on Human Rights is holding its sixty-first session at its headquarters in Geneva. The various committees meeting include Human Rights, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Torture, Rights of the Child and Migrant Workers. The Commission will review ongoing assessments and adopted plans of action.
An Independent Eminent Experts panel of five experts representing Jordan, Finland, Tanzania, Brazil and Poland will present a programme of action that promotes international standards underscored in the 2001 Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. The panel was appointed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to highlight efforts to uphold these international standards in regards to racism and xenophobia.
At the opening of the Commission, Louise Arbour, High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated, "In situations of crisis where the lives of many are in immediate peril and where governments are unwilling or unable to protect persons within its jurisdiction or control, our collective responsibilities become more pressing".
(See http://www.unhchr.ch/huricane/huricane.nsf/view01/527ED2F6E7DD06ADC1256FC400406C8D?opendocument for her full speech)
To follow the Commission meetings or for further information, go to UNHCHR's webpage: http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/chr/index.htm
18 Rue Des Pâquis, 1201 Geneva, Switzerland
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March 15, 2005
Sri Lanka Misleads The United Nations
The International Federation of Tamils (IFT) wishes to register a strong objection to the distortion of facts in the address made by Mr Lakshman Kadirgamar, minister for foreign affaires, at the High Level Segment of the 61st Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights on the 15th of March, 2005.
Mr Kadirgamar, who had, a decade earlier, ridiculed the highly respected UN as an ordinary institution whose work in the Third World countries was confined only to the eradication of malaria, lavished encomium on the UN body, and attempted to reassure the august assembly that the Sri Lankan Government which he represented, was willingly upholding the lofty ideals of the UN and working hand in glove with its members in eradication of poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women.
He tended to assure the assembly that the implementation of the Tsunami reconstruction programme mechanism, undertaken by the Sri Lankan government was in an orderly full swing, contrary to the standstill prevailing in the killer-wave ravaged areas. He identified only the South and the East as parts of the country that were affected. But he hurriedly elaborated on how the Government had moved swiftly with its relief programme and commenced distribution of food and other relief items to the north, south, east and west within an hour of the Tsunami attack. In actual fact, with the president out of the country on a holiday and prime minister engrossed in an overnight religious ceremony, official relief work in the south was delayed for hours, whereas relief work had commenced almost immediately in the LTTE administrative areas and many lives were saved and victims moved to safer areas. It is also noteworthy that the Tsunami reconstruction programme mechanism in Colombo had failed as admitted recently by the President herself and proved again by disbanding of the ad hoc management bodies, such as CNO commandeered by the president. It is an irony that when the Minister is assuring the disaster management mechanism is fully operative, the International Humanitarian agencies, The US, Japan, Norway and The EU, on the other hand are trying to prevail on the Government almost every day, to institute early, a suitable mechanism to commence reconstruction programme.
Geneva demonstration by Tamils, April 2000 (photo courtesy TamilNet)
Although the minister reiterates that the Government was distributing relief items to all parts of the country without any discrimination, government’s insulting of Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the UN, by refusing to let him visit the Tsunami affected LTTE area of Mullaitivu, should be proof enough to convince the international community of governments duplicity which would have exposed governments neglect of the Tamil areas in its relief work had the Secretary General been allowed to visit.
In his address, Lakshman Kadirgamar, quoting the Graca Machel Report of 1996 and The Olara Otunnu Commitment of 1998, cunningly refers only to the recruitment of Child Soldier problem with his blame on the LTTE, while he completely ignores "killing or maiming of children; attacks against schools or hospitals; rape and other grave sexual violence against children; abduction of children and denial of humanitarian access for children," mentioned in the same reports, as they tend to point accusingly at the government which is prevaricating inquiries, detrimental to it.
It should also be noted that the LTTE has conveyed to the UN, its disagreement on the statements found in the UNICEF report on matters relating to its conduct and offered to have a discussion to clarify its position with the UN body, a fact acknowledged by Olara Otunnu, Special representative of the UN Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, in his subsequent reporting to the UN Security Council.
Posted March 17, 2005