Sri Lankan massacre highlights failings of IC: Amnesty International

[TamilNet, Friday, 28 May 2010, 08:34 GMT]
The Sri lankan Governments lack accountability for “one of the worst human rights crises of recent times” and the complicity of global powers and the United Nations in protecting the Sri Lankan Government highlights a failure of the international instruments of justice said Amnesty International Asia Pacific director, Sam Zafiri in an interview with Austrlian media this week. Singling out China and India as part of a “Coalition of governments” that chose not only to ignore the Rajapaksa Governments targeting of Tamil civilians, but who “passed a [U.N] resolution congratulating the Sri Lankan Government” amid attempts to block “efforts at seeking justice”, Zafiri also accused the Australian Government of violating its human rights obligations by refusing to accept Tamil refugees.

Speaking to the ABC days after the release of the Amnesty International 2010 Global report entitled “The State of the World’s Human Rights”, Zafiri described the responses of various governments to the bloodshed in the North and North East of Sri Lanka as “examples of governments that have put their own interests ahead of their international obligations”.

“Unfortunately in 2009, we witnessed one of the worst human rights crises of recent times in Sri Lanka where nearly 300-thousand civilians were caught between the retreating Tamil Tiger and the Sri Lankan armed forces. Most reports indicate that at least 10-thousand people were killed. There are very credible reports that just may be twice as many if not more than that were also killed” Zafiri said.

Highlighting the Sri Lankan Government failure to deliver on its dubious promise of investigating its own alleged war crimes, Zafiri agreed that the global community had remained relatively silent on the need for accountability, with some powers aiding and abetting Sri Lanka’s attempts to avoid accusations of misconduct in the latter stages of armed conflict, a move that ultimately exposed the United Nations failings as a watchdog against human rights abuses.

“When the events in Sri Lanka were playing out, the Human Rights Council, which is the UN body tasked with looking at these issues simply failed to take action”.

“In fact, Sri Lanka managed to put together a Coalition of governments that for a variety of political reasons chose to ignore the human rights of the Sri Lankan people and actually passed a resolution congratulating the Sri Lankan Government” he said, in reference to a motion drafted by the GoSL in May last year in praise of its commitment to human rights despite continued accusations of war crimes by various aid organisations, human rights groups and independent monitors”.

“That was a real failure of the Human Rights Council and of course, it's members, with China and India in particular protecting the Sri Lankan Government and blocking efforts at seeking justice” he observed.

Citing progress made in some parts of the world, including the indictment issued by the International Criminal Court against Sudanese President Al Bashir based on events in Darfur as “unprecedented” and “a major step forward for international law”, Zafiri expressed alarm at the actions of Western democracies, specifically Australia, who recently announced its refusal to accept Tamil and Afghan refugees fleeing persecution.

“Even in a place like Australia, we have seen unfortunately some failures in some basic protections for the ability of people to seek justice, a failure of the Australian Government to bring in a human rights act has been very disturbing as well as the failure of providing some support to asylum seekers and refugees, in particular, from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan” he said.

Describing the freeze on refugee asylum claims as a “very short sighted decision by the Australian Government to actually turn its back on these people at precisely the time when by all indications, they need the most help”, Zafiri accused Australia of failing to take a leadership role in dealing with refugees and asylum seekers, and ultimately “[falling] short of its own international obligation”.

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