Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Printer-Friendly Version

UN Member States Must Not Put Sri Lanka on Human Rights Council



 (Established in 1990)

(UN accredited NGO to the World Summit on Information Society)


Ref : DF009/PR/2006                                                    13 April 2006


An Appeal to the Member States in the United Nations

 How can UN member states vote for SRI LANKA’s membership in the newly created UN Human Rights Council?

The UN General Assembly resolution adopted on 3 April 2006, in the 60th session – agenda item 46 and 120, paragraph eight (8) says : 

"Decides that the membership in the Council shall be open to all States Members of the United Nations; when electing members of the Council, Member States shall take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto; the General Assembly, by a two-thirds majority of the members present and voting, may suspend the rights of membership in the Council of a member of the Council that commits gross and systematic violations of human rights".

We learned from various media that Sri Lanka is one of the candidates for membership in the newly created UN Human Rights Council and has submitted its pledge to stand for this election.

In fact, Sri Lanka has submitted a pledge which is a long way from addressing the deteriorating human rights record in Sri Lanka. If it were really committed to human rights, Sri Lanka would pledge to sign and ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court – (ICC). 

  • UN member states should not forget that Sri Lanka was one of the countries in the forefront, as a member in the UN Commission on Human Rights – (CHR), to discredit and destroy the image and work of the CHR. Obviously, the CHR has been replaced by this newly created Human Rights Council.
  • Sri Lanka was one of the countries which opposed a move by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to publish a yearly thematic report on the World Human Rights situation.
  • Sri Lanka was one of the key members who always opposed NGO activities in the CHR, as well as in Sri Lanka.
  • In the recent past, Sri Lanka has proved in many instances that it does not fulfill pledges, promises or agreements that it is party to.
  • In Sri Lanka, there is an Ethnic conflict which has resulted in twenty years of bloody war. This still continues, even though there is a Cease-fire Agreement – (CFA) in place. Even though the cease-fire has been in place for the last four years, many of the clauses in the CFA have not been implemented. In addition, no proper peace negotiations are taking place and the government’s option of a military solution still impends.  
  • While we write this appeal, government sponsored communal riots against the Tamils are taking place in the Eastern province – Trincomalee, in which 19 civilians have been killed, 45 injured and 20 Tamil shops burned.

It is clear that Sri Lanka wants to be in the Human Rights Council to defend its deteriorating human rights record rather than to strengthen the UN Human Rights Council.


Some of the systematic human rights violations in Sri Lanka in recent years:

  • Sri Lanka was declared to be the country with the second highest number of  Disappearances in the world, by the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. So far no proper remedies have been found for these disappearances.
  • More than thirty-five years of Emergency rule combined with twenty-five years of draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) enforcement, allow the security forces in the Island to torture, kill and 'disappear' people, violating human rights with impunity.
  • Over 79,000 Tamil people have been killed or “disappeared;”
  • More than 12,500 Tamil women raped and killed;
  • More than 2500 buildings of Tamils’ religious places of worship (Churches and Temples) have been destroyed in aerial bombings and artillery shelling;
  • Billions of rupees worth of material damage has been caused to the Tamils by the State;
  • Nearly 800,000 Tamil people were internally displaced;
  • More than 500,000 Tamils have sought political asylum in Europe and other countries;
  • High Security Zones still cruelly prevent civilians returning to their homes in breach of the CFA.
  • More Sri Lanka army personnel are now occupying the Jaffna Peninsula than before the CFA.


Status of ratification of International Law by SRI LANKA

Instrument of International  Law   Date signed  Date ratified

Optional Protocol to the CRC of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, 25 May 2000 (CRC-OPSC)

08 May 2002 Not ratified

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Optional Protocol II
(Abolition of death penalty) 

Not signed Not ratified
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (1998) Not signed Not ratified
Ottawa Landmines Treaty   Not signed Not ratified

In the recent past, Sri Lanka’s attitude towards the United Nations, its Secretary Generals and some International NGOs has been disturbing. We would like to quote a few incidents here which cannot easily be ignored in a civilised world.

  1. After the bombing of St Peter & St Paul's church on 9 July 1995, in which 165 people were massacred, the ICRC which had personnel on the spot issued a news release deploring the loss of life. The Minister of Foreign Affairs summoned the ICRC chief and warned him not to interfere.
  2. In September 1995, “Medecins sans Frontiers - MSF”, the international NGO which works with the war-injured, issued a press release on the bombing of a school which killed 71 children and injured 100. When UNESCO took up this matter with the government based on MSF reporting, Sri Lanka castigated UNESCO.
  3. In November 1995, when the UN Secretary General at that time, Dr. Boutros Boutros Ghali, called for aid on a significant scale to help 800,000 Tamil refugees, then Minister of Foreign Affairs discredited Boutros Ghali saying that the Secretary General did not know the facts, and that there were only 100,000 refugees - as if even those 100,000 refugees did not deserve help.
  4. In September 1999 criticism and denigration were heaped upon the United Nations for condemning the killing of civilians. The BBC reported:

    “The Minister of Foreign Affairs was quoted by the state-run Daily News as saying the UN should be concerned with malaria and mosquitoes and should not try to expand its mandate.”
  5. On 7th January 2005, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan made a humanitarian visit to Sri Lanka - a country severely affected by the devastating Tsunami on 26 December 2004.  Kofi Annan requested to visit the North East, the areas in the island most affected by the tsunami. The Sri Lankan authorities prevented the UN Secretary-General from making this humanitarian visit. This is a serious violation of the UN Charter, Chapter XV Article 100.
  6. BBC Sinhala news of 22 November 2004 reported, “…..Amnesty International wrote to the President in April 1999 saying that resumption of executions after 23 years of being a de facto abolitionist country would be blight on Sri Lanka's reputation and seriously undermine international confidence in the government's commitment to human rights and reform." (Excerpt)

We consider it appropriate here to mention an incident when Sri Lanka used the UN forum for its own propaganda purposes.

In 1998, Mr. Rajendra Kalidas Wimala Goonesekere and his alternate Ms Deepika Udagama from Sri Lanka were elected as members – “independent experts" - to the then UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. Since 1999 this body was known as the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

When the Sub-Commission began its 50th session in 1998 in Geneva, on the very first day, the Sri Lankan mission in Geneva organised a party for all the members of the Sub-Commission. As an indication of the respect the other members had for the Sri Lanka mission and its neutrality, out of twenty six experts only a few attended this party. In fact, it was considered by non attendees to be one of many government lobby exercises carried out by R.K.W. Gunesakara and his alternate Deepika Udagama. Those who attended the Sub-Commission between 1998 and 2001 knew how R.K.W. Gunesakara and his alternate were using the Sub-Commission to justify the government position on its bloody war – arbitrary arrests, torture, killings, 'disappearances', rape, displacement, ethnic cleansing and economic embargo.

We would like to ask the United Nations Member States whether you want a country with this sort of human rights record to be in the Human Rights Council that you all have worked so hard to bring into being?

Let all who are truly for human rights and democracy, wake-up and work on preventing Sri Lanka,  with its terrible human rights record, from becoming a member of the newly created Human Rights Council.

  • Publication date: