In an open letter to Commonwealth Foreign Ministers, ten rights groups from across the world condemned the possibility of Sri Lanka hosting the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
The ten international, Diaspora and Sri Lanka-based organisations included Human Rights Watch, Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA).
Highlighting the continued human rights violations and pressing need for an international investigation into allegations of war crimes, the authors called the consideration of Sri Lanka as host 'grossly inappropriate'.
'Awarding the next CHOGM to Sri Lanka would not only undermine the fundamental values on which the Commonwealth is based, but also has the potential to render the Commonwealth’s commitment to human rights and the promise of reforms meaningless.'
'The fact that the host country of the CHOGM goes on to hold the chairmanship of the Commonwealth (from 2013 to 2015) is also a serious concern.'
'Handing over leadership of the Commonwealth to a country with a questionable record in terms of human rights and democracy should not be the outcome of an event that will celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Harare Declaration.'
The authors outlined a set of seven benchmarks in order to assess Sri Lanka's suitability as host in 2013.
- 'bringing all legislation in line with international human rights standards'
- 'supporting and cooperating with independent and credible domestic and international investigations'
- 'Committing to collaborate with the Office of the UN Secretary General to initiate the implementation of the recommendations set out in the report of the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts'.
The Harare Declaration, instituted by Commonwealth nations on 20th October 1991, outlined the Commonwealth's aim as one of promoting democracy and good governance, human rights and the rule of law, gender equality and sustainable economic and social development across member nations.
See letter in full here and list of signatories below:
Yap Swee Seng, Executive Director
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
Wong Kai Shing, Executive Director
Asian Legal Resource Centre
Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Executive Director
Centre for Policy Alternatives
Maja Daruwala, Director
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
Brad Adams, Asia Director
Human Rights Watch
INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre, Sri Lanka
Souhayr Belhassen, President
International Federation for Human Rights
Law and Society Trust
Minority Rights Group International
Edward Mortimer CMG, Chair
Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace & Justice