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Why Sri Lanka should not host CHOGM

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, an independent organisation created to support human rights in Commonwealth countries, have released a press statement detailing why the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting should not be held in Sri Lanka.

The press release answers “Frequently Asked Questions” on Sri Lanka’s planned CHOGM and argues that allowing the meeting to be held there would infringe on the Commonwealth’s fundamental principles.

Extracts have been reproduced below:

Q: Sri Lanka has already formed a domestic inquiry into allegations; why not wait for the outcomes of that process before acting on Sri Lanka?

A: Sri Lanka’s domestic mechanism, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) has been found by international and UN experts (such as the Panel of Experts) as well as civil society groups to lack both an adequate mandate and the impartiality necessary for credible investigations. The mechanism will submit its report in November 2011. CHOGM venues are usually decided at the preceding CHOGM and CHOGM 2011 in October is the last chance to decide against Sri Lanka hosting the event. By November when the LLRC report comes out, it will be too late to prevent Sri Lanka from hosting CHOGM. Pinning hopes on an internationally discredited mechanism at the risk of losing the Commonwealth’s legitimacy is dangerous.

Q: Why target Sri Lanka when all countries within the Commonwealth are not perfect. Why block a developing island state’s first chance to host CHOGM when a large and developed Western player like Australia has held CHOGM thrice?

A: Sri Lanka’s human rights situation is one of the most acute cases within the Commonwealth. The nature of entrenched impunity and a long history of unaccounted for human rights violations coupled with allegations of egregious human rights violation at the end of Sri Lanka’s long running civil war makes it a special concern. The next CHOGM could be granted to another small developing country such as Mauritius which offered in 2009 to host CHOGM in 2011 as an alternative to Sri Lanka and is to host CHOGM in 2015.

Q: What will happen if CHOGM 2013 is held in Sri Lanka?

A: Endorsement of Sri Lanka as the host of 2013 CHOGM and the visit of 54 Heads of governments to the country will potentially amount to political apathy towards the human rights allegations Sri Lanka faces and may result in the condoning of such violations. The political clout Sri Lanka derives from hosting the meeting may be used to fend off all other international calls for accountability at forums such as the UN Human Rights Council. Hosting CHOGM 2013 will also allow Sri Lanka to preside over the Commonwealth as its Chair till 2015. The risks and potential consequences of having a country that has been implicated in gross human rights violations Chair the organisation outweighs bleak possibilities of positive engagement.

See the full release here.

Last month, CHRI Executive Director Maja Daruwala also wrote an article contending for the Commonwealth to take a firmer stand on Sri Lanka.

Extracts have been reproduced below:

“Unconditionally allowing the hosting of Commonwealth events like its 2018 Games, glittering international conferences, and summits like CHOGM 2013, lends an aid of legitimacy to government stances. This comes at the cost of diluting the measure of human rights values and their long-term worth to the Commonwealth.

CHRI urges that a final decision on Sri Lanka as the next venue for CHOGM 2013 be made only after a thorough and independent assessment is done of the country’s progress toward: ensuring honest accountability for past actions; providing effective redress to affected population; and assuring the future of human rights compliance in that country.”

See her article in full here.



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