EU expresses serious concern of Sri Lanka's Rights abuses

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 19 March 2008, 12:00 GMT]
While noting with regret that Independent International Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) has decided to terminate work, and expressing concern that the Commission of Inquiries lack compliance with international standards, the European Union, in a press release issued Tuesday said, the EU "continues to believe in the importance of guaranteeing access to Kilinochchi for the Norwegian facilitator and other Co-Chairs, as well as the UN and other concerned organisations." The release also said, "[i]n 2006 the EU listed the LTTE as a terrorist organisation. Since then there have been a number of criminal prosecutions against LTTE fund raising in Europe."

Full text of the Press release follows:

A delegation of senior officials from the European Union (EU) visited Sri Lanka, 16-18 March 2008, to discuss EU concerns at the current situation in the country. The EU and Sri Lanka have deep, long-standing relations, covering economic, trade, political and cultural matters. The EU is committed to maintaining these, and welcomes the opportunity provided by this visit for open and frank discussions.

The EU welcomes such steps as have been taken towards a politically sustainable devolution plan for Sri Lanka. Having taken note of the interim proposal from the APRC, the EU looks forward to an ambitious final proposal in the coming months.

Following peaceful local elections in Batticaloa district on 10 March, key issues have been identified concerning the provision of proper electoral conditions, including the disarmament of paramilitaries. The EU sees effective action on this as key to ensuring free and fair voting at the provincial elections scheduled for May.

The EU has an active, well defined policy on counter-terrorism. This underlies the EU's unequivocal condemnation of all terrorist activities, including those by the LTTE. In 2006 the EU listed the LTTE as a terrorist organisation. Since then there have been a number of criminal prosecutions against LTTE fund raising in Europe.

The EU and Sri Lanka share binding commitments under the international conventions that they have signed, especially regarding human rights and international humanitarian law. The EU welcomes the assurances that it has received concerning respect for human rights, which is one of the key principles underpinning all EU-Sri Lanka relations, and an essential element of the EC-Sri Lanka Cooperation Agreement. Nonetheless, the EU continues to harbour very serious concerns about continuing reports of human rights abuses. The EU notes with regret that the Independent International Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) has decided to terminate its work with the Presidential Commission of Inquiry because of concerns about its compliance with international standards and institutional lack of support for the work of the Commission. The EU underlines the seriousness of calls by the IIGEP and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, for the Government to deliver concrete results through considering their recommendations seriously, taking cases to court, and ensuring effective and independent human rights monitoring.

The EU remains committed to its present role as one of the Co-Chairs of the Tokyo process. As such, it continues to believe in the importance of guaranteeing access to Kilinochchi for the Norwegian facilitator and other Co-Chairs, as well as the UN and other concerned organisations. This is needed to allow the delivery of key messages to the LTTE about returning to the peace process, observing humanitarian access and human rights.

The EU welcomes the assurances that it has received concerning the Government's continuous provision of services in war affected areas. The EU remains committed to providing humanitarian assistance (the EU is Sri Lanka's largest donor in this field). It is also vitally important, however, to create a more favourable environment to allow NGOs, UN and the ICRC to work effectively, without undue criticism. These organisations are here to help with the permission of Government and their work should be recognised and facilitated by all Sri Lankans. The EU appeals for steps to be taken to minimise civilian casualties and to ensure visas and access to NGOs, UN and the ICRC so they can reach the people in need.

Sri Lanka is currently taking considerable advantage of the EU's GSP+ special incentive arrangement for sustainable development and good governance. According to the rules of this scheme, all countries wishing to continue benefiting from the GSP+ regime will have to reapply by October 2008. The legal provisions of the GSP+ scheme also spell out the linkage between trade preferences and human rights. The EU confirms that the entire process, which has not yet started, will be governed by objective criteria.

In conclusion, the EU looks forward to holding the next EC-Sri Lanka Joint Commission meeting in June 2008 to explore various aspects in greater detail.

Background

The EU "Troika" is made up of representatives from the current Presidency of the European Union (Slovenia), the future presidency of the European Union (France), the European Commission and the Council of Ministers. It carries a mandate to speak on behalf of all 27 EU Member States: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

The Troika was led by Mr Janez Premoze, Asia Director in the Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs representing the current EU Presidency. The European Commission was represented by Mr James Moran, Director for Asia, Ms Helen Campbell, Head of Unit for South Asia and Mr Andrea Nicolaj, Desk Officer for Sri Lanka. The incoming French Presidency of the EU was represented by Mr Didier Leroy, Deputy Director for South Asia. The EU's High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy was represented by Mr Michael Swann, responsible for South Asia at the General Secretariat of the Council of the EU.

The Troika was received by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights, Minister of Science and Technology and Chairman APRC, Advisor to the President Hon Basil Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Hon Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Leader of the Opposition and Leaders of JVP, TNA and EPDP. It also met with representatives of civil society organisations. The Troika met with the local representatives of the Co-Chairs.

The EU is an active member of the Co-Chairs process, seeking to monitor the peace and conflict in the country.

The EU provides Sri Lanka with a very favourable range of support. On trade, Sri Lanka benefits from GSP+, giving the country duty free access to the EU which is the world's largest single market. The EU has provided EUR 100 million for tsunami reconstruction and is providing a further EUR 50 million from now to 2010 for helping IDPs and conflict affected communities. The EU is also providing up to EUR 40 million this year in addition for humanitarian assistance and shall continue to do so while the need exists.

 

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