Australian detention centre suicide sparks outrage

A 27-year old Tamil man died last night after committing suicide in Sydney's Villawood detention centre, drawing the ire of many refugee advocacy groups who blame the Australian immigration system. The man was deemed to be a genuine refugee and was awaiting security clearance from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). He had been held in detention by Australian authorities for over 2 years after fleeing Sri Lanka, first at Christmas Island before being transferred to Villawood. Australia's Immigration Minister Chris Bowen confirmed that the man had recently requested to leave the centre to visit friends for the Hindu festival of Deepavali. The request was denied yesterday. The young man was found dead in his room at approximately 3am after a suspected overdose of sleeping tablets. It marks the sixth suicide of a refugee in Australian detention since last year, with four of them having occured at Villawood. The death has led to anger from many refugee advocacy groups who blame government policies of mandatory detention of having a profound detrimental effect on the lives of genuine refugees. Ian Rintoul, spokesman for Refugee Action Coalition told reporters, "How many more lives will it take before the government acts to end mandatory detention? "How absolutely tragic, but how telling, that an accepted refugee could feel despair enough to take their own life in a detention centre."

More evidence of war crimes

Yet more photographs documenting executions, extrajudicial killings and the degradation of Tamil women have emerged said the president of the International Commission of Jurists Australia, John Dowd QC, on Wednesday. Dowd confirmed the damning evidence had been mailed to him, and he had passed on the evidence to the Australian Federal Police. Describing the shocking images, Dowd said, "(The evidence) deals with executions, it deals with such (things) as shooting through the forehead, ... it deals with the exposure of women's bodies, presumably after death, and it deals with other evidence...

India and Australia back Sri Lanka venue for CHOGM 2013

India and Australia have confirmed separately that they will not seek a change of venue for the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, due to be held in Sri Lanka. Prime Minister Gillard reassured Sri Lankan President Rajapakse at a meeting in Perth that there will be no debate on Sri Lanka hosting the next CHOGM. "My understanding is there is no intention to revisit the question of hosting of the next CHOGM meeting," she said. Meanwhile, commonwealth sources told The Island that a Canadian official asked for a recall of the decision to hold the next meeting in Sri Lanka, but the move...

Australia urges UNHRC to examine war crimes

Australia's foreign minister, Kevin Rudd, urged the UN Human Rights Council to examine allegations of war crimes in Sri Lanka. Drawing attention to Sri Lanka's 'LLRC report', due out next month, Rudd reiterated the importance of addressing the concerns raised in the report by the UN panel of experts earlier this year. "It is of fundamental importance that the upcoming Reconciliation Commission report deal with various questions which have now been raised in the UN report on allegations of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka ," " Australia's national position is that the Human Rights Council also...

Case against Rajapaksa halted citing diplomatic immunity

Australian Federal Attorney-general, Robert Mc Clelland, has halted the criminal proceedings against Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa, citing diplomatic immmunity. Mc Clelland's spokesperson explained that Commonwealth laws extended immunities to heads of state and heads of diplomatic missions. "The attorney-general has refused to grant this consent as continuation of the proceedings would be in breach of domestic law and Australia's obligations under international law," " Those immunities include personal inviolability, including from any form of arrest or detention and immunity from...

Sri Lankan Airlines may be banned from Europe

The national carrier of Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan Airlines, is at serious risk from being barred from entering European airspace due to safety concerns by the European Aviation Authority. Sri Lanka’s The Island reported the airline is on ‘virtual notice’ and safety audits on the carrier’s planes have become almost mandatory at European airports. The barring of the airlines from Europe will have serious implications for the future of the airline, as a huge proportion of its flights operate to and from Europe. See The Island report here .

Ofcom declares “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields” impartial

The UK’s independent media regulator, Ofcom, has found that Channel 4’s documentary examining war crimes in Sri Lanka did not breach any broadcasting codes and was impartial. The documentary, broadcast in June this year, examined the final events of the Sri Lankan government’s offensive in the Vanni, where they have been accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. In a statement Monday, Ofcom said, "Channel 4 has a unique public service remit to provide programming that is challenging, diverse and likely to provoke debate. Consequently, the broadcaster has a history of broadcasting very challenging material from war zones (including graphic footage) and seeking out the voices and views of those who may not be represented.” "Ofcom therefore concluded that overall Channel 4 preserved due impartiality in its examination of the Sri Lankan government's actions and policies during its offensive and there was no breach of [the broadcasting code]." See report from the Guardian here .

Former Australian PM calls for tougher approach on Sri Lanka

Malcolm Fraser, the former Liberal Australian Prime Minister, has urged the Australian government to toughen its stance on Sri Lanka until there is an investigation into war crimes on the island. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Fraser said , ''There ought to be a proper investigation and if that leads to indictments before the International Criminal Court or the War Crimes Tribunal, so be it. '' Fraser, who will be attending the 2011 CHOGM in Perth in a few days time, also slammed the decision to host the 2013 CHOGM in Sri Lanka saying, "Under current circumstances, holding the Commonwealth...

Amnesty sends report to UN Committee against Torture

Amnesty International has called on the Sri Lankan Government to bring to justice those who have committed acts of torture, in a report submitted to the UN last week. The 32-page report documents allegations of torture, enforced disappearances and sexual abuse, and also slams the “routine use by Sri Lankan authorities of prolonged administrative detention”. The group also called for “a public and impartial investigation” to reveal the existence and extensive use of secret detention sites, where torture has taken place “ with a view to holding state actors accountable for actions and providing...

Commonwealth at crossroads

Ahead of the CHOGM in Perth, writing in the Trinidad Express on Monday, Peter Kellner, journalist and chairman of the Royal Commonwealth Society, accuses the conference and the institution of the Commonwealth of " sleeping walking into irrelevance ". Urging it to reconsider its plans to hold the next meeting in Sri Lanka, a country that has refused to investigate credible allegations of war crimes, Kellner states, " The Commonwealth's ability to become a respected 21st century global network rests on its commitment to democracy and human rights. For this week's meeting to confirm Sri Lanka...

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