Canada calls to boycott Sri Lanka CHOGM

Candian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has stated that he will not be attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2013, due to be held in Sri Lanka, unless there is improvement in human rights on the island. Speaking to journalists, Harper backed the United Nations Secretary General’s representatives call for an independent investigation into war crimes and urged other countries to join his stance. “I have expressed concerns about holding of the next Commonwealth Summit, the one after the one coming up in Sri Lanka. I intend to make clear to my fellow leaders of the Commonwealth...

US warned Sri Lanka against offensive on safe zones

Leaked US embassy cables reveal how then Ambassador Robert Blake warned Sri Lanka that mass civilian civilian deaths would ensue, if its military stormed the government-declared safe zone. A March 2009 cable , detailing a meeting with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Bogollagama, said: “Ambassador recalled continuing reports he has heard that the military intends to take the safe zone by force and told the Foreign Minister if the government did so thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, could be killed. “ If such casualties occurred the government would be accused of war crimes and its actions would diminish Congressional and public support for future US assistance to Sri Lanka.” Sri Lanka warned Blake, now US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, went on to urge Sri Lanka to think “very very carefully” on the next steps to be taken after the military surrounded the government-declared safe zone. Thereafter, Sri Lanka launched a massive air, sea and ground offensive, escalating the bombardment of civilians. The following month, in another meeting with Bogollagama, Blake said that, “comparisons are already being made to what transpired in Rwanda where the international community did not do enough to prevent a catastrophe. ” Blake added that if they pursued the military option then Sri Lanka could expect “escalating international criticisms.” “The Ambassador said such actions could include suspension of aid to Sri Lanka, closer scrutiny of IMF lending, possible war crimes investigations, and perhaps other actions. ”

ICG continues to call for investigation

The International Crisis Group has released a report rebutting government claims of progress since the end of the civil war more than 2 years ago. The report examines various government statements that progress has been made on a variety of issues, before looking at the “reality” of the situation. See the report here . The group argues that “the risk of an eventual return to violence is growing again” , and states, “ The Government of Sri Lanka has not taken credible steps to ensure accountability for the grave allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity identified in the April 2011...

Monks destroy Muslim shrine as police stand idle

Photograph Over 100 Sinhala Buddhist monks demolished a Muslim shrine in Anuradhapura on Saturday according to reports by the BBC . Monks, dressed in their saffron robes, encouraged other monks and Sinhala crowds to tear down the shrine. One photograph of the incident shows a monk burning the flag of Islam by the ruins of the shrine. The destruction was reportedly masterminded by a monk, named Amatha Dhamma Thero, who justified the attack by stating the local Muslims were attempting to convert the shrine into a mosque. According to Thero, despite local government officials attempting to pacify the Sinhala crowds by stating the shrine would be closed within three days, angry crowds proceeded to raze the shrine, shouting "we cannot wait". Thero explained to reporters that the shrine was located on land 'given' to the Sinhalese Buddhists over 2000 years ago - an ideology central to the Sinhala Buddhist text, the Mahavamsa. According to locals, senior members of the Sri Lankan police force witnessed the entire incident, but did nothing to intervene.

Sri Lankan doctors "complicit in torture"

The British Medical Journal has published a report which has detailed how doctors in five countries, including Sri Lanka, have been complicit in torture. The report , compiled by global health charity Medact, examined case studies in the UK, US, Israel, Italy and Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka they found cases where doctors not only failed to report torture, but actively refused to treat or even examine victims of torture. Marion Birch, director of Medact said, "The climate of impunity that may have been created, lack of support that may be given, really need to be discussed."

Blake turns up pressure on Sri Lanka

US Assistant Secretary of State, Robert Blake, speaking at a news conference to mark the end of his three day visit to Sri Lanka, urged the Sri Lankan government to ensure accountability, stop paramilitary activity in the North-East and pursue devolution through talks with the TNA. “We are not in the business of making threats to our friends. There is a need for a credible process of accountability for those who have violated international humanitarian law and there will be pressure for some mechanism to ensure that this takes place. However we hope that (such pressure) is not necessary.” "The solution to achieving a just and lasting peace in Sri Lanka is not just about accountability," he added, however. Highlighting the recent mock protest orchestrated by Douglas Devananda's EPDP, Blake condemned the use of paramilitaries in the North to maintain law and order, insisting the government must make progress on disarming such groups. “ I am concerned about human rights . I discussed with relevant officials the importance of disarming paramilitary groups, on which progress is being made. It is important to deploy Tamil policeman in the north so the military no longer needs to perform these functions.” “Paramilitary groups are not allowed to carry weapons in public. While I was in Jaffna I myself, experienced the power of the EPDP who was able to prevent me from meeting with some university students. ”

Pressure grows for action on Sri Lanka

Officials from the European Union and the United States have welcomed the informal discussions at the Human Rights Council in Geneva and called for a speedy process to bring accountability for crimes committed during the warin Sri Lanka. United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillai used her speech at the opening of the UN Human Rights Council Session (HRC) to criticise Sri Lanka for its human rights record. Whilst talking about the ‘insufficient regard for human rights’ by the anti-terror measures adopted by several member countries, she pointed out Sri Lanka as a prime example of a state which undermines human rights to combat terrorism.

Ban sends expert panel’s report to UN Human Rights Council, launches probe into UN’s conduct

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has sent the UN panel of experts’ report on wartime mass killings in Sri Lanka to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday , the Associated Press reports . The report (see here ) concluded that tens of thousands of people were killed in the last five months of Sri Lanka's civil war, primarily by government troops. UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said the Sri Lankan government was informed that the report was sent to the rights council and to UN human rights chief Navi Pillay, but that it declined to respond. Instead Sri Lanka "has produced its own reports on the...

Sri Lanka: White lies and brute force

See NDTV ’s report from Vanni (broadcast Sep 10, 2011) which includes: - survivors' accounts of mass killings of Tamil civilians during the final months of the conflict, - victims accounts of torture, rape and persecution by Sri Lanka’s military after the war’s end, - and the Sri Lankan government's denials and excuses .

Full international investigation, nothing less - HRW

Human Rights Watch today joined the growing chorus urging the UN Human Rights Council to hold Sri Lanka accountable for war crimes. In a statement released on Tuesday, Brad Adams, Asia director at the group said, “When a UN Panel of Experts report concludes up to 40,000 civilians died amid war crimes, the Human Rights Council should feel compelled to act . The council should order a full international investigation – anything less would be a shameful abdication of responsibility. ” The report commissioned by the UN Secretary-General was sent to the Human Rights Council on the opening day of...