Amnesty urges Commonwealth to act

Amnesty International has called on the Commonwealth to block Sri Lanka from hosting the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2013 or risk becoming “irrelevant”. The statement was released to mark the opening of the 2011 CHOGM in Perth, where Sri Lanka has come under increased pressure to deal with issues if war crimes and human rights. Madhu Malhotra, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director said, "It's absurd to even consider allowing Sri Lanka to host CHOGM as long as it fails to account for alleged war crimes". "Today Commonwealth leaders are faced with a choice –...

Canadian MPs back call for action on Sri Lanka

Paul Dewar, a Member of Parliament and candidate for the leadership of the New Democratic Party in Canada, has released a statement urging the Commonwealth to hold Sri Lanka to account for alleged war crimes. He joined Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in his call for an independent investigation into war crimes in Sri Lanka and called to boycott the next CHOGM unless Sri Lanka had made progress on human rights. In his statement , Dewar said, “ The Commonwealth must not condone impunity. Once again, I call on the government of Sri Lanka to agree to a full, independent inquiry into the...

A view on Australia’s response to war crimes case against Rajapaksa

Dr Gideon Boas , Associate Professor in the Monash University Law School and a former Senior Legal Officer at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, writes on Australia’s response to war crimes charges filed in a local court against Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa: “Despite our recent endeavours (driven by Kevin Rudd) to make a case for a seat on the UN Security Council, and our purported desire to assert our relevance in the international community, the fact remains that we are a parochial and unsophisticated country, both socially and politically . “Fearful of...

Sri Lanka: war crimes concerns are "propaganda" and "hearsay"

The Sri Lankan government dismissed human rights concerns raised by delegates at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia, this week as "propaganda" from the Eelam Tamil diaspora, referred to as the "LTTE rump". Speaking on Thursday to the ABC news channel, the Sri Lankan president's spokesperson, Bandula Jayasekera, said, " This is hearsay. These are mere allegations... we have ended 30 years of terror ." " This is the well-oiled propaganda machinery of the LTTE rump " Sri Lanka's comments come the day after the Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, personally...

‘Malaise and drift’ in the Commonwealth

Sir Malcolm Rifkind , a former British Foreign Secretary and member of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group, wrote in The Times on Monday: “Commonwealth heads of government are meeting in Australia this week. During the anti-apartheid struggles, such a summit would have been an event of world importance. On this occasion the world will hardly notice . “Even the most ardent supporters of the Commonwealth, of whom I am one, would acknowledge that a sense of drift and malaise has begun to set in . “Most damaging has been a deviation from the focus on human rights for which the Commonwealth has...

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...

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