UN unhappy with GoSL's refusal of visas

June 27, 2010 Comments Off on UN unhappy with GoSL's refusal of visas

AFP – S.Lanka to block visits by UN probing war crimes

Sri Lanka will ban visits by the three-member United Nations panel investigating alleged human rights abuses in the final months of the island’s civil war, a senior minister said Thursday.

…”We will not issue them with visas. We will not allow them into this country,” External Affairs Minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris told reporters…

AFP – ‘UN war crimes panel chief criticises S.Lanka ban’

The head of a UN panel probing alleged war crimes during Sri Lanka’s civil war has criticised Colombo’s decision to ban him and colleagues from the country, a report said Friday.

…”Everybody loses out if we cannot go to Sri Lanka, it will make it harder for the truth to be unearthed,” Darusman told the BBC, describing the ban as “most unfortunate”…

SL trashes EU's demands for human rights

June 27, 2010 Comments Off on SL trashes EU's demands for human rights

AFP – Sri Lanka rejects ‘insulting’ EU trade conditions

Sri Lanka Thursday trashed “insulting” EU demands that it make a written undertaking to improve its human rights record in exchange for trade benefits.

Government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said Colombo also rejected a July 1 deadline issued by the European Union to agree to a host of other conditions to qualify for preferential trade tariffs.

“These conditions are unacceptable. They are an insult to every citizen of this country,” Rambukwella told reporters in Colombo. “We must put the EU demand in the dustbin.”

…The EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, has insisted on “significant improvements on the effective implementation of the human rights conventions” for the island to continue enjoying the trade benefits.

The EU trade scheme gives 16 poor nations preferential access to the vast European market in return for following strict commitments on a variety of social and rights issues.

These benefits will be withdrawn on August 15 unless Sri Lanka makes a written commitment by July 1, according to the EU…

Former Australian PM urges current politicians to be more compassionate

June 27, 2010 Comments Off on Former Australian PM urges current politicians to be more compassionate

The Australian – Stop playing politics with refugees, says former prime minister Malcom Fraser

FORMER prime minister Malcolm Fraser has called on our political leaders to stop playing politics with refugees in the interests of building a decent and more compassionate Australia.

Marking the launch of National Refugee Week, Mr Fraser said the “demeaning debate” over refugees must be replaced by a bipartisan immigration policy as an “absolute necessity”.

…”I believe playing politics with the lives of vulnerable people, seeking votes out of their misfortune, is about the worst thing any politician can do in any country in any part of the world,” Mr Fraser said…

New PM Gillard urged to show compassion towards asylum seekers

June 26, 2010 Comments Off on New PM Gillard urged to show compassion towards asylum seekers

TJ bloggers at the rally today said there was between 500-800 people at the rally

SMH – Gillard urged to act on refugee claims

Rights activists have rallied in Sydney urging Prime Minister Julia Gillard to immediately end the freeze on refugee claims for people from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

Hundreds of protesters, including Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and author Tom Keneally, gathered in the CBD on Saturday demanding a more humane approach to refugees.

The Refugee Action Coalition says it wants to see an end to offshore processing and the closure of detention centres.

ABC – Gillard urged to act on asylum seekers

A protest in Sydney has called on the Federal Government to act more fairly and justly in dealing with asylum seekers.

Around 150 people rallied at Sydney’s Town Hall today to urge Prime Minister Julia Gillard to close Christmas Island and end mandatory detention of refugees.

Author Thomas Keneally told the protest that a bipartisan approach needs to be reached by the country’s leaders.

“I ask all politicians of goodwill on both sides of the house to commit themselves to this cause,” he said.

“Open our gates to a reasonable degree and advance Australia not with hysteria, not with a snarl, but with fraternity.”

Senate motion on SL war crimes passed in Australian Parliament

June 24, 2010 Comments Off on Senate motion on SL war crimes passed in Australian Parliament

The following motion was proposed by Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and passed with support from all major parties in Australian Senate on Thursday 24 June 2010.

That the Senate:

(a) notes:

(i) the recent report from the International Crisis Group on War Crimes in Sri Lanka;

(ii) this report recommends, among other things, for the United Nations to conduct an independent international inquiry into the alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka during the last year of the conflict;

(b) welcomes:

(i) The United Nations Secretary General’s establishment of an Advisory Panel on Sri Lanka;

(ii) The establishment in Sri Lanka of a Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission, and urges the Sri Lankan Government to ensure the Commission operates in an independent way; and

(c) reaffirms the importance of credible investigations into all allegations of violations of human rights, and

(d) Calls on the Australian Government to support an effective process of national reconciliation, to allow Sri Lanka to move forward after years of conflict.

SL denies visas for UN officials; rejects EU demands

June 24, 2010 Comments Off on SL denies visas for UN officials; rejects EU demands

Reuters – Sri Lanka rules out visas for UN war crimes panel

* UN panel not needed, Sri Lanka says
* Sri Lanka also rejects EU demands
* EU wanted written rights reform pledges

Sri Lanka on Thursday ruled out giving visas to members of a U.N. panel looking into possible war crimes and said it would not accept European Union conditions for extending trade concessions.

Sri Lanka for more than a year has defied Western pressure over accountability for potential war crimes and human rights violations in the last stages of its quarter-century war with the separatist Tamil Tigers, which it won in May 2009.

Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris said the government would not issue visas to the U.N. panel, which the world body says is merely there to advise Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on methods of accountability, and is not an investigative body. [ID:nSGE65M05J]

“We will not issue visas to the panel. We don’t think we need them,” Peiris told reporters.

Sri Lanka has its own commission looking into the last seven years of the war, and insists that despite a three-decade history of ineffectual local investigations into rights violations, this one will uncover any wrongdoing.

Rights groups took advantage of the victory anniversary to renew a push for a war crimes probe, saying there was evidence — which they did not make public — that both the government and Tigers were responsible for thousands of civilian deaths.

They hope that the U.N. panel will provide a roadmap to a full international inquiry. Sri Lanka denies it ever targeted civilians and says the accusations have been maliciously manipulated or fabricated by Tiger supporters.

NO TO EU DEMANDS

Peiris also said the cabinet had reviewed the EU’s offer to extend access to the Generalised System of Preferences Plus trade scheme, due to be withdrawn on Aug. 15 unless the Indian Ocean nation made a written pledge to certain rights reforms. [ID:nSGE65L06T]

“We were not prepared to obtain these concessions at any cost. That’s not the attitude of a self-respecting government,” Peiris told reporters.

That will cost Sri Lanka about 100 million euros ($123 million) annually, with its biggest trade partner for garments, one of its top foreign exchange earners, and other products.

Among the EU demands were lifting of wartime emergency laws that grant the government wide arrest powers and implementation of a constitutional amendment that would make the police and judiciary independent from presidential influence, Peiris said.

“These are matters in which the judgment must be made by an elected government. These are not matters in which any foreign government can take decisions, he said.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government says the Western push for accountability is fuelled by Tamil Tiger supporters in the diaspora and is hypocritical, given Sri Lanka was fighting a group on U.S. and EU terrorism lists.

Washington and Britain, he has said, cannot point an accusing finger over civilian deaths or human rights, given the thousands of civilians killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and indefinite detentions of terrorism suspects.

SL whinging and whining again…

June 24, 2010 Comments Off on SL whinging and whining again…

AFP – S.Lanka furious as UN’s Ban names war crimes panel

Sri Lanka is “deeply unhappy” at a move by UN chief Ban Ki-moon to name a panel to look into alleged war crimes committed during the final months of the island’s civil war, an official said Monday.

…”Our troops carried a gun in one hand and a copy of the human rights charter in the other,” the president said. “Our guns were not fired at a single civilian.”

UN finally announces advisory panel on SL war crimes

June 23, 2010 Comments Off on UN finally announces advisory panel on SL war crimes

Reuters – U.N.’s Ban names advisory panel on Sri Lanka war

U.N. Secretary-General on Tuesday announced the formation of a three-member panel to advise him on whether any crimes were committed in Sri Lanka during the final months of its war against Tamil Tiger rebels.

The Sri Lankan government had urged Ban not to appoint the advisory panel, saying it has its own commission to investigate possible human rights violations at the end of its war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam separatists in May 2009.

The panel will be chaired by Indonesia’s former Attorney General Marzuki Darusman, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters. Darusman was also recently named the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in North Korea.

The other two members of the panel, Nesirky said, are Yasmin Sooka, a human rights expert from South Africa, and Steven Ratner, a U.S. lawyer who advised the United Nations on how to bring the Khmer Rouge to justice in Cambodia.

Nesirky said Ban’s panel “will advise him on the issue of accountability with regard to any alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka.”

“The panel hopes to cooperate with concerned officials in Sri Lanka,” he said.

“ROADMAP” FOR AN INVESTIGATION

Amid heavy Western pressure, Ban has insisted the panel must go forward despite Sri Lanka’s urging against it, and assertion that it is a violation of its sovereignty.

Peggy Hicks of the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Ban’s panel was necessary since “the Sri Lankan government is unwilling to seriously investigate war-time human rights abuses.” She added that she hoped the panel would produce “a roadmap for an international investigation.”

Hicks urged Ban not to waste any time getting the long-delayed panel to work. “It’s important that there be no further delays,” she said.

HRW and other rights groups took advantage of last month’s first anniversary of the defeat of the Tamil Tigers to renew pressure for a probe of the end of the war, when they say tens of thousands of civilians died in the bloody final battles.

The government denies any war crimes took place, but rights groups say that both the government and the Tamil Tigers were guilty of human rights violations that resulted in large numbers of civilian deaths.

Nesirky said that the panel was not a formal investigative body and would be available to the Sri Lankan government, should they choose to take advantage of it. The group will have four months from the time it starts to complete its work.

If the panel decides to travel to Sri Lanka to interview witnesses and conduct research, it will need the permission of the government, Nesirky said.

Last month, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa named an eight-person “Commission on Lessons Learned and Reconciliation” to look into the last seven years of the war. U.N. officials say the world body is interested in its progress.

Aussie Tamils Urge Politicians to Support UN Probe on SL War Crimes

June 23, 2010 Comments Off on Aussie Tamils Urge Politicians to Support UN Probe on SL War Crimes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – 23 June 2010 11.00AM

Tamils Urge Politicians to Support UN Probe on Sri Lankan War Crimes

Following yesterday’s announcement by the United Nations (UN)Secretary-General of a three-member advisory panel on alleged human rights abuses during the final stages of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009, the Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) urges all sides of Australian politics to support an Australian Senate motion scheduled for tomorrow on the very same issue.

“We welcome the UN’s announcement of an advisory panel and we hope the
UN will soon take the next step towards actually investigating these alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka,” said Dr Sam Pari, ATC spokesperson. “We hope all sides of Australian politics see the importance of bringing the perpetrators of these crimes to justice and support the Senate motion tomorrow,” she added.

Several eminent Australians have confirmed their support on this issue,
including Australian of the Year, Prof. Patrick McGorry.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young will propose a Senate motion tomorrow calling “on the Australian Government, as an active member state of the United Nations, to encourage the UN to investigate the alleged war
crimes in Sri Lanka.”

Last month, independent reports by the International Crisis Group and Human Rights Watch cited photographs and eye witness testimonies strengthening claims of war crimes and reiterated their calls for an independent investigation into Sri Lanka.

Media contact:
Dr Sam Pari – 0433 428 967

International Crisis Group – War Crimes in Sri Lanak
http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/asia/south-asia/sri-lanka/191-war-crimes-in-sri-lanka.aspx

Human Rights Watch – Sri Lanka: New Evidence of Wartime Abuses
http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/05/20/sri-lanka-new-evidence-wartime-abuses

Channel 4 News – Sri Lanka Tamil killings ‘ordered from the top’
http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/politics/international_politics/sri+lanka+option/3652687

83% of Aussies say people fleeing persecution should be able to seek protection in another country

June 21, 2010 Comments Off on 83% of Aussies say people fleeing persecution should be able to seek protection in another country

ABC – Refugee debate out of touch: Red Cross

The Australian Red Cross says much of the political debate over asylum seekers and refugees is out of step with community attitudes.

Its survey of 1,000 people across the country found more than 80 per cent of respondents were willing to assist a refugee to settle in Australia.

Of those surveyed, 67 per cent agreed refugees have made a positive contribution to Australian society, while 83 per cent agreed people fleeing persecution should be able to seek protection in another country…More

The Age – Take the politics out, says professor

AUSTRALIAN of the Year Patrick McGorry has called for the asylum seeker issue to be taken out of the coming federal election and replaced by a return to a bipartisan approach…

…He said people should vote on economic issues, the health system and mental health.

”Mental health is really a huge issue that needs support and obviously refugees and asylum seekers need to be part of that whole process.”

Sri Lankan Aran Mylvaganam, 26, told refugee supporters who marched to Fitzroy Town Hall that he was 11 when in 1995, he saw the bombing of his school in Jaffna by the Sir Lankan Army and the killing of 72 Tamil school children and the wounding of more than 200.

”On that day my 14-year-old brother was cut into half and murdered in cold blood by the Sri Lankan Army,” he said.

That same day, he came upon his close friend, ”hanging from the tamarind tree by his intestines”.

In 1997, aged 13, he came to Australian on his own and spent three months in detention.

He was treated for depression. For three years the Immigration Department refused to admit his parents until, under pressure from doctors and welfare bodies, it relented.

Mr Mylvaganam, a finance officer, told The Age, his parents arrived in 2000 but he continued to to be depressed until 2006.

”The effects of war don’t go away even when you have your parents,” he said.

He said the situation facing Tamils in Sri Lanka today was much worse today than when he was there in 1996. More than 2000 youths being held as suspected Tamil Tiger supporters, faced torture.

Every day, young girls and boys disappeared at the hands of government-supported paramilitaries, he said.

”How can Australia say it is safe for refugees to return?” he said. More

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