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TNA, allies call for outfit like IIIM in Syria to probe SL

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Three Tamil political parties represented in Parliament backed by several other civil society groups, have urged the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to set up an evidence gathering mechanism, similar to the International Independent Investigatory Mechanism (IIIM), in relation to Syria, established as a subsidiary body of the UN General Assembly, with a strict time frame of 12 months duration to investigate Sri Lanka war crimes.

The following is the text of the letter addressed to UNHRC members by the TNA, TNPF and TMTK: “We, the elected representatives of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka, leaders of Tamil national political parties, members of the Tamil victim communities and Tamil civil society organizations write this letter in the lead up to the 46th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) when the situation in Sri Lanka is to be evaluated.   We note that within a week of the end of the armed ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, a joint communiqué by the Government of Sri Lanka and the United Nations was issued at the conclusion of UN Secretary-General’s visit to Sri Lanka on 23 May 2009 with the following:   “Sri Lanka reiterated its strongest commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, in keeping with international human rights standards and Sri Lanka’s international obligations.  The Secretary-General underlined the importance of an accountability process for addressing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.  The Government will take measures to address those grievances”   Upon Sri Lanka failing to take meaningful steps to address the above commitments, the UN Secretary General appointed on 22 June 2010, a three-member panel to look into human rights and accountability issues during the final stages of the armed ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. This report of the Panel of Experts (POE) was handed over to the Secretary General in March 2011. Subsequently, the Secretary General referred the POE to the President of the UNHRC and the High Commissioner for Human Rights in September 2011.   Thereafter, the UNHRC adopted Resolution 19/2 “Promoting Reconciliation and Accountability in Sri Lanka” in March 2012 and since then has been seized of the matter with several resolutions in March 2013 and March 2014. Subsequently, the Government of Sri Lanka co-sponsored Resolutions 30/1 (October 2015), 34/1 (March 2017) and 40/1 (March 2019).     Leaders across the political spectrum in Sri Lanka including from both the major political parties have categorically and without exception stated that they will protect the Sri Lankan armed forces from prosecutions. It is now time for Member States to acknowledge that there is no scope for a domestic process that can genuinely deal with accountability in Sri Lanka.  

“The continuing and intensifying oppression against the Tamils including militarisation, indefinite detention of political prisoners, land grab in the name of archaeological explorations, the denial of traditional, collective land rights like cattle grazing rights, intensifying surveillance of political and civil society activists, the denial of burial rights during COVID19 to our Muslim brethren and the denial of the right to memory underscore the urgency of addressing the deteriorating situation.    As the UNHRC meets in February and March 2021 to evaluate the Sri Lankan Government’s commitments under Resolution 40/1 and plan further action, we urge that member states categorically come to this conclusion by way of a final Resolution. The Resolution must declare that Sri Lanka has failed in its obligations to investigate allegations of violations committed during the armed ethnic conflict and atrocity crimes including genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

“In such a context the Resolution must acknowledge that there is no prospect for accountability in Sri Lanka by way of its own domestic mechanisms or through hybrid mechanisms.    

We request the following:   1. Member States urge in the new resolution that other organs of the United Nations including the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly take up the matter and take suitable action by reference to the International Criminal Court and any other appropriate and effective international accountability mechanisms to inquire into the crime of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

 

2. The President of the UNHRC refers matters on accountability in Sri Lanka back to the UN Secretary General for action as stated above.

 

3. Member States to mandate the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to continue to monitor Sri Lanka for ongoing violations and have an OHCHR field presence in country.

 

4. Without detracting from that which has been stated in point 1 above, take steps to establish an evidence gathering mechanism similar to the International Independent Investigatory Mechanism (IIIM) in relation to Syria established as a subsidiary body of the UN General Assembly with a strict time frame of twelve months duration.

 

We reiterate the need for concrete action with accountability and for the above the matter to be escalated to higher forums.   Thus, we urge Member States to take decisive and timely action to grant redress to the people who have been denied justice thus far.”



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Scotland Police to stop training Lankan cops

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Sujeeva Nivunhella
reporting from London

Concerns over the human rights record in Sri Lanka has led to the halt of the police training contract between the Sri Lanka and Scottish Police, Chief Constable Iain Livingstone of the Scotland Police confirmed.

He said they have written to the British High Commission in Colombo to inform the Sri Lanka government that they are no longer planning to renew the training contract with Sri Lanka’s police force due to end in March next year.

The British Foreign Office reported last week that Sri Lanka’s human rights situation deteriorated during the first half of 2021.

The report said: “Security forces increased their surveillance and intimidation of human rights activists and their use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, with a number of arbitrary arrests.

The government proposed new regulations with powers to arrest and send individuals to rehabilitation centres to be ‘de-radicalised’ with no judicial oversight or requirement for further process.”

News of Scotland’s Police not renewing the contract was welcomed by critics of Sri Lanka including Mercedes Villalba who is a Scottish Labour politician who has been a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for North East Scotland since May 2021.

British MPs and MSPs jointly sent a letter to the Scotland Police and the British High Commission in Sri Lanka a few weeks ago requesting them to stop the training programme.

Villalba was one of the signatories and after this announcement, she said “I have been pleased to support the campaigners and thank them for their tireless efforts in securing the commitment from the chief constable. I also want to thank Police Scotland for being responsive to the real concerns which were expressed about Sri Lanka’s record of human rights violations.”

Talking about the decision to stop training, Chief Constable Livingstone said that a review must be done to accurately reflect the current security and human rights issues in the region, which have changed since the initial deployment after the end of the Civil War in 2010.

“We remain of course committed to supporting the international development of policing services right across the world so that we can enhance and enable human rights and we can underline the values that we hold dear in Police Scotland of integrity, fairness and respect. Those values will always be at the heart of the work we deliver in Scotland and at the heart of everything we do internationally”, he added.

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Interfaith Week celebrated in London

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Sujeeva Nivunhella reporting from London

A Pooja to celebrate Interfaith Week was organized here last week with the advice and guidance of Ven. Bogoda Seelawimala Nayake Thera, head of the London Buddhist Vihara and the Chief Sangha Nayake of Great Britain.

This annual event begins on Remembrance Sunday, a memorial day observed in Commonwealth countries since the end of the World War I to remember armed forces personnel who died in the line of duty. This tradition was inaugurated by King George V in 1919.

Adhering to the country’s Covid guidelines, this year’s celebration was held using Zoom technology on the theme “Altruism in each religion”.

Ven. Seelawimala welcomed everyone who joined the session. Notable participants of the event were Ven. Thawalama Bandula Thera, Ven. Kalugamuwe Kassapa Thera from London Buddhist Vihara, Dr Harriet Crabtree – Director of Interfaith Network, UK, Ranjish Kashyap, General Secretary/Director Hindu Council,UK, Dr. Pujya Samaniji Pratibha Pragya, who is a Jain nun from Harrow, Rev Gyoro Nagase, Japanese monk, London Peace Pagoda, Battersea, Dr Desmond Bidulph – Chairman of Buddhist Society and Charanjith and Ajith Singh MBE, Hounslow Friends of Faith, who represented the Sikhs.

All present chanted prayers according to their own faiths to eradicate human suffering, to have peace and especially to see an end to the pandemic situation in the world.

A pre-recorded video of Devotional Songs by London Buddhist Vihara Dhamma School Children was played at the event.

Interfaith Network – UK was founded in 1987 with representatives from the Buddhist, Bahai, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Islam, Sikh and Zoroastrian communities,

National and local interfaith bodies, academic institutions and educational bodies concerned with inter-religious issues are affiliated to the organization. Then head of the London Buddhist Vihara late, Ven. Dr. Medagama Vajiragnana Nayaka Thera was actively involved in forming the Network and was a founding member.

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Frankfurt Consulate massive white elephant, alleges Lankan living there

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Foreign office looking at closing some overseas mission due to financial constraints

by Harischandra Gunaratna

Sri Lanka’s Consulate in Frankfurt has turned out to be a white elephant although the Sri Lankan government spends a whopping Rs. 200 million per year for its operations, Azad Shaukatally, a businessman and a Sri Lankan expatriate in Frankfurt told the Sunday Island.

“Over the years, this consulate has not contributed anything tangible to the country. All that has happened is successive governments appointing political loyalists to head the Mission. None of them have done anything concrete to promote business between the two countries,” he said.

According to him, the Mission could have contributed a great deal by promoting Sri Lankan exports and tourism as Frankfurt is the business hub of Germany.

“What actually happens is, the Consulate in Frankfurt simply replicates several tasks performed by the Embassy in Berlin and that’s it. But it cost the country exorbitantly without the knowledge of the authorities. This is sheer waste of national resources and it needs to be brought to an end,” Shaukatally said.

When the Sunday Island contacted the Foreign Ministry on the matter, its Acting Director General Sugeeshwara Gunaratna said: “The Foreign Ministry regularly evaluates individual performance of each Sri Lankan mission abroad, and constructively engages with them from time to time on specific issues or matters which are mutually beneficial in promotion of Sri Lanka’s bilateral and multilateral relations with the host country and various international organizations while ensuring best interests of the people of Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan citizens living abroad.”

He said that any decisions related to opening of new missions or closure of particular Missions/Posts abroad including the Consulate General in Frankfurt would be taken after wider consultation with relevant stakeholders based on the relevance of each Mission/Post in promotion of Sri Lanka’s relations abroad.

“Under the current financial constraints, the Foreign Ministry is in the process of closing down some of the Sri Lankan Missions/Posts abroad after obtaining the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers. However, no final decision, has so far, been taken with regard to the Missions/Posts which would be closed down in the near future,” Gunaratna said.

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