U.N. mission imperative to curb rights violations in Sri Lanka- HRW

[TamilNet, Saturday, 22 December 2007, 21:17 GMT]
Human Rights Watch (HRW) officials currently touring the U.S. lobbying for a U.N. mission to monitor human rights violations in Sri Lanka, told the Chicago Public Radio that their current focus is on the "shocking" disappearances and killing in Sri Lanka where the Sri Lanka Government has done "shamefully little" to investigate the cases. They added that Democratic Institutions that would otherwise be capable of highlighting human right abuses, infringements to freedom of speech, and erosion in independence of judiciary in Sri Lanka, have collapsed under an ineffective Parliament.

Voice: Chicago Public Radio Interview

MP3 AudioDirect Link (mp3)
Fred Abrahams, Senior Researcher for Emergencies, Human Rights Watch (HRW), and Sunila Abeysekera, Director of INFORM human rights documentation center in Sri Lanka, honored as a Human Rights Watch Defender at the 2007, Voices for Justice Dinner Worldview, spoke with Chicago Public Radio, Producer Andrea Wenzel when they were in Chicago Saturday.

Fred Abrahams
Fred Abrahams, Senior Researcher, HRW (NY)
Mainly Tamil men between ages 18-35, are being abducted or killed at a rate of four persons a day. Men are often taken in for questioning, interrogated, tortured; some of them may be held in detention facilities but the government does not release their names; under Emergency Regulations the abductees are not charged and can be held for long periods of time, Mr Abrahams said.

The abductions are often done in a way to terrorize the entire community, Ms Abeysekera said. White van abductions by armed men take place in broad day light in public places, and these have many witnesses, but there is no possibility to push for an investigation. Proliferation of armed groups have further complicated the situation, Abeyesekara said. In the north, it is possible to place the blame on the security forces as many abductions take place inside high security zones close to the presence of Sri Lanka security sentry points, Ms Abeysekera said.

Sunila Abeysekera
Sunila Abeysekera of INFORM (Sri Lanka)
In the east, complicity of the Sri Lanka Government with the Karuna faction in the abductions, has been pointed out by the HRW, and U.N. ambassador Allan Rock, she said.

However, in Colombo businessmen have been abducted for huge ransom, and although security forces, army deserters and individuals are involved, it is difficult to pinpoint the blame on any one, Ms Abeysekera added.

Abeysekara said that she was sad that political manipulation of identity has destroyed tradition of of harmonious co-existence between communities. Since the power is concentrated between two individuals, Sri Lanka's President Rajapakse on one hand, and the Liberation Tigers leader Pirapaharan on the other, there is little space for compromise. But she said she has hope; deteriorating economy, and increasing number of bodies coming to the south may generate a shift in attitudes to war in the South, Ms Abeysekera said.

On Karuna's situation, Mr Abrahams said, if Britain extradites Karuna to Sri Lanka, HRW believes Colombo will not prosecute him. Colombo will likely engineer killing Karuna, and for this reason, and for international justice to be served, Mr Abrahams said he would like to see Britain prosecuting him.

Democratic institutions have either collapsed or not functioning, Mr Abrahams said. Police, prosecution, and the courts are not effective. Colombo has taken very concrete steps to undermine the function of the Human Rights Commission. A U.N. Monitoring mission is necessary to contain the increasingly hostile engagements between the parties by reigning in on human rights violations, Mr Abrahams said.

External Links:
CPR: Chicago Public Radio: Human Rights in Sri Lanka


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