Sri Lanka in "interminable and intractable crisis"- UN

[TamilNet, Monday, 23 October 2006, 01:56 GMT]
Prof. Philip Alston, United Nation's Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, speaking to the United Nations General Assembly, Third Committee, 20 October 2006, said that the "dramatic attacks in recent days and spiraling number of extrajudicial executions" indicate that "Sri Lanka is not so much on the brink of a new crisis but, instead, only in the midst of an interminable and intractable crisis that has already exhausted its fair share of international attention," and called upon the United Nations Secretariat to "establish a full-fledged international human rights monitoring mission in Sri Lanka."

"Widespread violence during a faltering ceasefire is not the same as an all-out civil war that costs tens of thousands of lives. Real progress has been made over the past four years, and nothing that has happened in these past few months has made achieving a sustainable peace founded on respect for human rights impossible. But there is little reason to think that the opportunity will be available for much longer," Prof. Alston warned.

Philip Alston
He said although the "issue was placed squarely before the Human Rights Council last month but the signals are that any action the Council might take in November will do very little to make a difference as this tragic situation swells and threatens to reach bursting point." The following challenges should be immediately addressed, Prof. Alston told the UN assembly:
  • To acknowledge the need for significantly more sustained and high-level international involvement
  • To accept the fact that there is no national institution capable of monitoring human rights throughout Sri Lanka, and
  • To establish an effective international human rights monitoring presence.
In the report Prof Alston presented, he said: "The [Sri Lanka] Government should not, however, interpret the widespread proscription of LTTE as a terrorist organization as an endorsement of its own record. Neither its past nor its present conduct would justify great faith in its ability to respect equally the rights of all citizens. Indeed, it is an enduring scandal that there have been virtually no convictions of government officials for killing Tamils, and many Tamils doubt that the rule of law will protect their lives."

The warning from Prof.Alston comes in the wake of assurances given by Sri Lanka's President "of his intention to invite an international commission to inquire into recent killings, disappearances and abductions in Sri Lanka."

Human Rights bodies have raised serious doubts of the bona fides of Sri Lanka Government's intentions to set up an independent Rights body with international participation.

"Unless the government has announced something new, they have been calling for a Local Commission of Inquiry (COI) with international observers. However that is different from a human rights monitoring mission," Senior Legal Advisor, Human Rights Watch, New York, James Ross told The Sunday Leader.

"Just having international observers is insufficient as international monitors need to play a more direct role to ensure that the commission is independent and impartial and would report its findings publicly," Ross said, Sunday Leader reported.

The New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) sent a fact-finding mission to Sri Lanka has also denied government claims that they had decided to send observers to the local commission, the paper further said.

According to Ross, HRW has not held any discussions with the government on the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry nor had the terms of reference for such a commission been discussed.

The government had earlier in the month said that a eight member local commission headed by a Supreme Court judge with international representatives as observers would be set up in order to investigate human rights violations, the Leader reported.

External Links:
UMN: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
UNHCHR: International Standards: Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
UN: Universal Declaration of Human Rights
HRW: Improving Civilian Protection in Sri Lanka
UNHCHR: UN Expert Welcomes Proposed Sri Lanka Commission
NYU: Project on Extrajudicial Executions



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