Oral statement made by Ms. Ramni Muttetuwegama on behalf of FORUM-ASIA, Pax Romana as part of the interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights
3rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Geneva, Nov. 29, 2006
It is with grave concern that we take the floor to draw your attention to the grave deterioration of the human rights and humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka since the second session of the Council in September 2006, when the High Commissioner, the Rapporteur on Summary and Arbitrary Executions and many others spoke to the issue.
In the month of October alone, over 500 members of the security forces and of the LTTE have died as a consequence of the on-going conflict in the north and east of the country; this includes the deaths of over 100 Navy personnel in a single LTTE suicide bomb killing.
The civilian death toll for October is over 300. Both the LTTE and the government have continue to display a callous disregard for the lives of civilians caught in the conflict, often violating principles of humanitarian law in the process. Army shells that fell on a school in Kathiraveli, Batticaloa, sheltering internally displaced persons, killed 45 persons and injured over 100; in an army shooting on the premises of an agricultural college in Vavuniya in November, five students were killed. The numbers of extra-judicial killings, abductions, disappearances and appearance of mutilated dead bodies in public places have risen. The assassination of TNA MP Raviraj in broad daylight in the capital, Colombo, is the most recent example.
The lack of credible and unbiased investigations into on-going human rights violations and attempts to intimidate and silence civil society voices working in the human rights and humanitarian arenas serve to strengthen the culture of impunity and the environment of silence and fear.
In November, Mr. Allan Rock, representing the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict visited Sri Lanka. His initial observations have affirmed what civil society groups and parents of abducted children have been stating throughout this year, regarding the abduction and conscription of children by the LTTE and by the Karuna faction, the latter with the complicity of government troops. Once again, the lack of any credible response to these complaints proves the absence of avenues for justice and redress within the country.
Continued restriction of access to conflict-affected areas means that hundreds of thousands of people trapped in the Jaffna peninsula and in other parts of LTTE-controlled areas of the north and east are deprived of access to food and other needs. The re-opening of the A9 road, which is the main supply route to the north and which was closed in August 2006, has become a tool in the political tug of war between the government and the LTTE instead of a matter of urgent humanitarian concern.
In September 2006, we came before this Council as a broad coalition of Sri Lankan and international civil society organizations, with an appeal for international monitoring of the human rights and humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka. The appointment of a National Commission of Inquiry with an Independent International Group of Eminent Persons as observers and with a limited mandate of inquiry into specified past violations is not, we feel, a substitute for independent international monitoring of on-going violations with a view to ending impunity, preventing future violations and offering redress and relief to victims and survivors of human rights violations.
We are here today to call on this Council to impress upon both the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE the need to return to the path of negotiations and the proper implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement. We feel this is an imperative first step towards civilian protection in a crisis situation.
We call on the Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue with their efforts to create credible and independent international mechanisms for monitoring the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. Such a process would be complementary and supportive of national initiatives.
We also call on the Council to ensure that regular reports from the government of Sri Lanka and various mechanisms of the UN human rights system are brought before this Council. Such a move for systematic scrutiny would be a significant step towards ending impunity in Sri Lanka.
ASIAN FORUM FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEVELOPMENT
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