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British MPs urge action on Sri Lanka

At a recent debate in the House of Commons, British MPs urged the British government to ‘speak out loudly’ and raise human rights issues in Sri Lanka with the UN and other organisations.

Labour MP Kerry McCarthy called for a debate in the House of Commons about the controversial LLRC report.

“We have recently had the report published by the LLRC. I hope that, at some point over the next few weeks, we will find time for a full debate on that in the House, because there are many question marks over the report, in relation to the terms of reference of the commission and its recommendations.” said McCarthy.

She also called on the government to "use opportunities presented by forthcoming events such as the Olympics, to promote the Government’s human rights message.”

Mike Gapes, MP for Ilford South, reiterated calls for the UN to address accountability issues in Sri Lanka.

“We reaffirmed our view that an independent international war crimes inquiry should be held to investigate the allegations of atrocities carried out by both sides."

"The Government said in their response that they would await the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission set up by the Sri Lankan Government. As many of us predicted, that commission did not carry out the kind of investigation or produce the kind of report necessary to deal with the issues adequately.

"It is time to return to the Human Rights Council to push the issue up the agenda again. I know that last time there was a blockage, the HRC, disgracefully, commended the Sri Lankan Government on their behaviour and refused to hold an international inquiry.

"There are issues involving settlement and what is regarded as an attempt to change the demographics in the north of the island, and there are serious concerns about individual human rights abuses in Sri Lanka.

"The Government are all-powerful, the constitution gives the President great control and the Opposition—not just the Tamil Opposition but others—are intimidated or inhibited in many ways from doing what is needed internally.

"They need international support and solidarity. That is why it is important that the British Government speak out loudly, clearly and unambiguously, using whatever channels they can—the UN, the HRC and the Commonwealth—to raise those issues continuously."

The Parliament Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Alistair Burt, responded to the calls by the MPs.

“The fact that so many colleagues have such a strong commitment to this area matters a lot to the Government. I hope they feel that we share that commitment. We could debate each of the areas mentioned—Sri Lanka, Israel, the occupied territories, Iran and Pakistan—and I suspect that we will in due course.”

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