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Last updated: 07 March, 2011 - Published 14:41 GMT
 
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UN told of 'deteriorating' HR situation
 
Hundreds of people gathered to testify before the commission (file photo)
Watchdogs say the LLRC hearings 'bear witness to the culture of impunity'
Rights watchdogs have complained to the United Nations that the human rights situation in Sri Lanka has deteriorated.

Several human rights groups have submitted written statements on Sri Lanka to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

The 16 session of the Human Rights Council is meeting in Geneva until the 25th of March.

International Movement Against All Forms of Racism (IMADR) in its statement accuses the Sri Lankan government of failing to fulfil pledges given to the UNHRC at earlier sessions.

It also says that the testimonies in the north and east to a commission of inquiry appointed by the president of Sri Lanka bear witness to the 'culture of impunity, collapse of the rule of law and other systematic rights violations'.

The government appointed Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) in May, last year.

18th Amendment

"Further, the 18 amendment to the constitution has removed any expectation related to the independence of the Human Rights Commission," says the IMADR.

Minister Samarasinghe (R) at a previous UNHRC session in Geneva (file photo)
LLRC head, CR de Silva (L) and Minister Samarasinghe (R) represented the Govt at previous UNHRC sessions

The 18th amendment that hugely increase the president's powers became law in last September amid local and international opposition.

Increasing militarisation in the north and east, continuing extra-judicial killings, arbitrary detention and disappearances are of serious concern, says the rights watchdog.

The government, however, says the LLRC will come out of recommendations to resolve remaining human rights and war-related concerns.

The International Catholic Movement Pax Romana in its submission has urged the Council to protect rights defenders and fundamental freedoms in the north and east.

Pax Romana accuses the Sri Lankan government of continuing with the suppression of freedom of assembly and association in former war-torn areas, particularly in Tamil heartland, Jaffna.

Protect rights defenders

While killings and threats against human rights defenders are continued in Jaffna, the government still impose restrictions on NGOs working the population, according to Pax Romana.

 It is the responsibility of all democratic countries to reject terrorism. But unfortunately in certain country pro terrorists activities are being allow to prevail
 
Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe

It also highlights the disappearance of rights activist Pattani Rafeek, who is missing since February 2010.

The Hong Kong based Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) accuses the Sri Lankan government of failing to cooperate with the UNHRC and eradicate torture despite repeated pledges.

It urges the council to adopt measures to strengthen local human rights protection bodies and mechanisms.

Addressing the opening session of the UNHRC, Plantation Industries Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe has said that the Sri Lankan government is dedicated to restore the human rights that was “denied to the people by the Tiger terrorists.”

“It is the responsibility of all democratic countries to reject terrorism. But unfortunately in certain country pro terrorists activities are being allow to prevail,” the minister was quoted by the state-run SLBC.

International investigation

The Amnesty International (AI) in its submission says the government has refused to acknowledge credible allegations of war crimes and other violations of international law despite mounting evidence.

 A UN-led independent international investigation into alleged crimes under international law is an essential step to ensuring justice for Sri Lankan victims and their families
 
Amnesty International

The Council, says the AI, should call on Sri Lanka to end reports of abductions, enforced disappearances and killings and other violations in northern Sri Lanka.

“A UN-led independent international investigation into alleged crimes under international law is an essential step to ensuring justice for Sri Lankan victims and their families,” AI submission to the UNHRC added.

The report of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Panel of Experts should be made public, it has urged.

But the government insists that the LLRC is mandated to inquire any violation of International human rights and humanitarian laws.

The Ministry of External Affairs in a statement said: “It is an universally accepted legal principle that consideration needs to be given to international measures, only when national domestic recourse is unavailable.”

Responding to the recent resolution by the US Senate calling for a UN war crimes investigation, the Ministry said that “those who framed the text of the Resolution, have overlooked the capacity and strongtrack record of the LLRC as a domestic mechanism, to work for reconciliation and the further strengthening of national amity.”

 
 
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