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Civil society groups write to Commonwealth Sec Gen on SL

Seven international civil society and rights groups have urged the Commonwealth Secretary General to re-examine Sri Lanka in light of the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2013 (CHOGM) due to be held in Sri Lanka in March.

See here for full letter.

Strongly criticising reports that the Secretary General was urging the Canadian prime minister to change his mind on a threatened boycott of the event, the groups said,

"The Commonwealth Secretariat must lay down benchmarks of discernible, quantifiable and measurable steps that the government of Sri Lanka must take before it can hope to host a CHOGM that has the wholehearted participation of both Heads of Governments and civil society".

The groups, including Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Human Rights Law Centre (Australia), Human Rights Watch, Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace & Justice and United Nations Association of the UK, listed a 'minimum' benchmark as:

1.       Fully restore the rule of law;

2.       Lift restrictions on the enjoyment of all fundamental freedoms for all people within its borders ;

3.       Restore Constitutional provisions that guarantee separation of powers and re-instate the independence of the three branches of government;

4.       Restore the independence of government institutions such as the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission and ensure meaningful domestic implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

5.       Repeal or amend laws, including the Prevention of Terrorism Act, that do not conform to international human rights standards,

6.       Institute effective mechanisms to protect journalists, civil society groups and human rights defenders who work for the promotion and protection of human rights;

7.       Allow full and credible international investigations into all allegations concerning violations of international humanitarian law in the country; and

8.       Fulfill all recommendations directed to it by the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts and those recommendations of its own LLRC that are consistent with the recommendations of the UN Panel.

And asserted that, "in the context of the ongoing Commonwealth reform process, only such principled action by the Commonwealth Secretariat will be indicative of the official Commonwealth’s willingness to truly reform itself and to apply values of human rights, good governance and democracy".

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