Australia should withdraw from CHOGM in Sri Lanka: Lee Rhiannon

[TamilNet, Thursday, 28 February 2013, 05:24 GMT]
While Australian Liberal MPs Scott Morrison and Julie Bishop gave a clean chit to the genocide-accused Sri Lankan state after their recent visit to the island, Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon has called on Australia to end its silence on Sri Lanka and to withdraw from the CHOGM in a statement on Thursday. Referring to the recent report by HRW on Sri Lanka’s systematic sexual violence on Tamils and to an earlier TamilNet’s feature on the genocidal rape of LTTE cadres, she further lamented Australia still not taking a decisive position for the Tamils. Speaking to TamilNet, Ms. Rhiannon said “The international community must no longer fail the people of Sri Lanka. With the UNHCR meeting in Geneva and the mounting evidence of war crimes emerging, this is an ideal moment to support the Tamil diaspora’s call for an international investigation into the charges of war crimes and genocide.”

Excerpts from Senator Rhiannon’s statement titled “Australia’s piercing silence on Sri Lanka must end” follows:

Lee Rhiannon, Australian Senator
Lee Rhiannon, Australian Senator
“Yesterday the international community that spectacularly failed to stop a massacre in Sri Lanka in 2009, woke up to yet more distressing news about the ongoing brutal persecution of the Tamil community:”

“The Sri Lankan security forces have committed untold numbers of rapes of Tamil men and women in custody,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “These are not just wartime atrocities but continue to the present, putting every Tamil man and woman arrested for suspected LTTE involvement at serious risk.”

“These details revealed in a new Human Rights Watch report are heartbreaking, but not surprising.

They echo what the Tamil Diaspora has been in anguish about for the past 4 painful years.”

“In May 2009, Britain's Channel 4 reported on sexual abuse and disappearance of the Tamils in detention. In 2010 a local media outlet, Tamilnet, reported that the Sri Lankan army was sexually abusing resettled Tamil women. In 2012 Tamilnet reported that sexual abuses was committed at two stages on ex-LTTE cadres, first in the internment camps and then after their ‘release’ from the camps.”

“My office has had contact with a Tamil woman who was held for months with other Tamil women and gang raped repeatedly by Sri Lankan officials. Some of the imprisoned women were murdered. She barely survived.”

“Over the past years I have called many times for Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Australia, Thisara Samarasinghe to be recalled and if not, then for our Prime Minister to expel him. I repeat this call again.”

“Mr Samarasinghe was a commander of the Sri Lankan navy during the last days of the war, when civilians trapped in the government designated 'no-fire zone' were shelled from the sea. While this UNHCR meeting in Geneva is taking place, representatives from the Tamil Diaspora are meeting in London and Geneva to discuss the next steps in their international campaign for justice for the Tamil people of Sri Lanka. I commend them on their consistency and dedication. I work very closely with many in Sydney, and I know their determination knows no bounds. Their dedication is deeply impressive.” “The Australian Tamil Congress in a recent (27/02) press release said theUNHCR meeting is an opportune moment for Australia to work with the US, Britain, Canada, the European Union and other countries in formulating a strong resolution to set up an international mechanism to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during and after the end of the war.”

“I also reiterate the Australian Greens' demand for Australia to withdraw from CHOGM, scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka this year.”

“It is deeply embarrassing that in December last year Foreign Minister Carr not only said Australia will be attending CHOGM in Sri Lanka, he also said that Australian "…will provide Sri Lanka with the technical assistance necessary for a successful summit”.”

“Once again, Australia's domestic political interests has taken precedence over human rights and justice.”

“Right now there is overwhelming credible evidence that the government of Sri Lanka committed war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Tamil people during the final stages of the 27-year long brutal civil war. It is estimated that between 40 000 and 100 000 Tamils may have been killed in those last five months. We have also learned that systematic rape and sexual violence is still being orchestrated by the Government officials, nearly 4 years after the end of the war. We have a Sri Lankan diplomat in Canberra who was a high ranking official during the final stages who is continuing to enjoy diplomatic immunity in Australia.”

“What more evidence does the Australian Government need before it is willing to acknowledge that Sri Lanka must be held accountable for its war crimes and crimes against humanity? Australia's piercing silence on this issue must end. An independent investigation into the war crimes that took place in Sri Lanka must take place. A perfect opportunity exists with the UNCHR meeting and CHOGM ahead.”


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