May 31, 2011 Comments Off on In other news…
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillai
Ms Pillai says HRC should reconsider its 2009 May verdict on Sri Lanka in light of “efforts to combat impunity worldwide”
Senior UN officials and sections of the international community have called for an international body to investigate alleged rights violations during Sri Lanka’s civil war.
Some other countries including China have opposed the call.
Speaking at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) annual session Navi Pillai, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said she supported special UN panel’s recommendations.
GENEVA — A U.N. human rights expert says gruesome new footage from the final days of Sri Lanka’s civil war is authentic and proves war crimes took place there, challenging the government’s claim that videos showing the army executing captured rebels in May 2009 are faked.
The U.N.’s independent investigator on extrajudicial killings says the five-minute video obtained by Britain’s Channel 4 corroborates an earlier, shorter video showing blindfolded, naked men being shot dead at close range.
“What is reflected in the extended video are crimes of the highest order — definitive war crimes,” the U.N. investigator, South African law professor Christof Heyns, said in a report released Monday to the global body’s Human Rights Council.
Heyns said he reviewed the new footage showing the apparent execution of unarmed men and women with technical and forensic experts. “The overall conclusion reached by the experts is that the video is authentic and the events reflected in the video footage occurred as depicted,” he told the council
Sri Lanka’s government has maintained that the video is not real.
…Among the nations not sending delegations are the United States, Britain, Australia, France, Japan and Switzerland, who had all pressed Sri Lanka to investigate the alleged war crimes…
May 31, 2011 Comments Off on Vanni doctor awarded prestigious humanitarian award
Each year InterAction acknowledges the contribution of individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to the world’s poor and most vulnerable people at our annual Forum.
Each year InterAction recognizes an individual or individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership in support of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the people they serve in the developing world. As our community’s national staff and national counterparts often must surmount significant obstacles in order to carry out their work effectively in their own home countries or regions, InterAction seeks to honor these individuals and their bravery and commitment to the most vulnerable populations in their own communities.
The award is meant to recognize individuals whose work reflects important leadership qualities such as courage, initiative, creativity, grace under pressure, personal integrity, personal sacrifice, and who have made significant contributions in the developing world in any of the following areas: disaster relief, human development, refugee assistance, civil society, equitable economic development, health, environment, education, population, or public policy.
Dr. Thangamuthu Sathiyamoorthyis a medical professional and administrator that has gone above and beyond in his service to the internally displaced and war-affected people of Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka during times of war and great distress. He has served in various official capacities under the Ministry of Health, including Medical Officer at Akkarayankulam Hospital (2000-2002), Regional Director of Health Services—Kilinochchi and Mullaithivu Districts (2003-2009), Medical Superintendent for Kilinochchi Hospital (2007-2009), Provincial Director of Northern Province (October 2009-June 2010), Chairman of the Dengue Task Force in Vavuniya District (December 2009-March 2010), Director for IDP Healthcare at Manic Farm, Cheddikulam (January 2010-July 2010), and now Medical Superintendant for Vavuniya Hospital (July 2010-present). In all the areas where he has served, he has been directly engaged with high numbers of impoverished and war-affected refugees and resettled persons. Dr.Sathiyamoorthy, a married father of three, has consistently acted with incredible courage and assumed great personal risk to his life and career.
May 31, 2011 Comments Off on Aust. Paediatrician condemns Aust gov't silence
News Weekly – SRI LANKA: Australia silent over war crimes against Tamils
by Dr John Whitehall
28 May 2011
Everybody should read the United Nations’ recent 214-page report on war crimes committed in Sri Lanka both by the government forces and by Tamils fighting for their homeland in the country’s north-east. (UN Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, March 31, 2011).
It is a timely reminder of “man’s inhumanity to man”.
If Australia’s Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd had declared that we must intervene in Libya because the world cannot allow another massacre of innocent civilians as had occurred in Sri Lanka, his call at the UN for intervention in Libya would have a certain logic.
If he condemned Mahinda Rajapakse, the President of Sri Lanka, and his younger brother, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse, with the same passion as he has condemned Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi for attacking unarmed civilians, there would be consistency.
He would not need to emulate the NATO missile strike that killed the Libyan dictator’s son and three grandsons. With Sri Lanka, the power of the spoken word would be sufficient. Rudd could have used his authority to revoke Australia’s invitation to President Rajapakse to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth later this year, on the grounds of the Sri Lankan government’s abominable record of butchery…
Read full article here
May 31, 2011 Comments Off on 11 human rights org's urge USA to speak up at UNHRC
May 27, 2011
Secretary Hillary Clinton
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Clinton,
We write to urge you to take advantage of the opportunity of 17th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council to highlight the need for effective accountability in Sri Lanka for war crimes and other abuses committed by both sides during that country’s civil war that concluded in May 2009. The United States Government should press for prompt action by the international community to provide such accountability and end the ongoing impunity in Sri Lanka for these abuses.
The Panel of Experts appointed by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to advise him on issues of accountability in Sri Lanka found credible allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by both the Sri Lankan government forces and the opposition Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam during the war in Sri Lanka…
Read full letter here.
May 31, 2011 Comments Off on Aust Greens Senator blogs about Tamil plight
Standing among the 1000 plus Australian Tamils at Martin Place last week (18th May) to remember the Tamils massacred in the 2009 war in Sri Lanka, it was very obvious that the trauma for the community is still so deeply devastating.
What has become clear to me is that the Australian Government’s silence during and since the 2009 war adds to the pain the community is enduring.
My Greens colleague in NSW Parliament David Shoebridge in an adjournment speech last night addressed this point. While the UK, US and European countries are taking a stand against the human rights abuses committed under the Rajapakse Government, the Australian Government’s concern regarding Sri Lanka is minimal.
It was encouraging to see that at the recent forum organised by the The Australian Human Rights Commission the issue of Australia’s voice on Sri Lanka’s war crimes was discussed.
The question submitted by Dr Sam Pari from the Australian Tamil Congress was: “With war crimes and human rights violations forcing thousands of Tamils to jump on boats and come to Australia seeking asylum, should Australia be more vocal on the issue of war crimes?”.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay responded saying: “In this region Australia has a crucial responsibility to urge respect for rule of law and urge a end to impunity for serious crimes. Australia has ratified the Rome Statute which set up the ICC and in the preamble to the Rome Statute is that there has to be a determination to end impunity for serious crimes. So on one level you have countries like Australia ratifying and committing to ending impunity. There is a responsibility then for it to speak up and call for accountability in this region.”
As my colleague David Shoebridge said:
“A generation of Tamils have been killed, brutalised and marginalised right under the gaze of the world, including Australia, and those who have been left behind are subject to a brutal military rule … I hope that soon the survivors are respected and remembered by the Australian Government as it belatedly raises its voice for justice for the Tamil people”.
When I enter Federal Parliament on July 1 I will continue advocating for the equal rights of the Tamils and all those living in Sri Lanka. The Greens have a deep commitment to speak up for those who suffer the injustice of discrimination, marginalisation and state sponsored terror.
Photo – Lee addressing the Australian Tamil community at Martin Place on May 19th 2011. Upto 40 000 Tamils were massacred in the 5 month war and another 300 000 Tamils imprisoned in Sri Lankan Government run camps in the aftermath, some for more than a year.
Photo – More than 1000 Australian Tamil community members gathered to remember their loved ones who had perished during the Sri Lankan Government’s offensive in 2009.
May 31, 2011 Comments Off on Former Aust-of-the-year urges Rudd to speak up
26th May 2011
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
“For over ten years I have been involved in the mental health care of very many Sri Lankans who have come to Australia seeking asylum from the civil war and the extensive use of torture and other human rights abuses that have occurred there. Most of my patients have been Tamil, however some have been Sinhalese or Muslim. Based on this knowledge of the situation in Sri Lanka in recent years, as seen through the eyes of my patients, all of whom have been granted asylum in Australia. I fully support the recent call from the UN Expert Panel for an independent investigation into war crimes in Sri Lanka, and respectfully urge the Australian government to support this call.”
Professor Patrick D McGorry AO
May 28, 2011 Comments Off on Greens MLC calls on Labor to break silence on SL war crimes
NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge makes a compassionate speech on war crimes against Tamils in Sri Lanka
Conflict in Sri Lanka
Adjournment speech: 26 May 2011
Just two years ago the 26-year civil war in Sri Lanka between the Sinhalese ruling elite and the Tamil minority came to a catastrophic end. Up to 40,000 Tamils had been massacred in the five months before 18 May 2009 and some 300,000-plus were in the process of being imprisoned behind barbed wire in mass camps.
Allegations of disappearance, sexual abuse, torture and extrajudicial killings at the hands of Sri Lankan Government officials during the war were rife.
The 2009 war is often referred to as the war without witness. The Sri Lankan Government administered a complete media blackout for the entire last five months of the war. Aid organisations were forced out in late 2008. The blackout has continued in the camps ever since. It was only because of the courage of some British journalists that evidence of atrocities initially was brought to light.
The response by Australian Government leaders to the war in Sri Lanka, when compared with that of the United States of America, the United Kingdom and some European leaders, has been shamefully minimal. As Sri Lanka is a country in our region we should have taken a leadership role.
Since entering New South Wales Parliament I have spent significant time with the Sydney Tamil community. I have often heard of the complete sense of betrayal by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd the community felt. They were shocked that even after the war, with their family and friends imprisoned like livestock, the Australian Government has been more worried about a tiny minority of Tamils who came to Australia on a boat than the conditions faced by hundreds of thousands in camps that drove so many Tamils to such desperate measures.
Shamefully, this silence continues.
A few weeks ago the United Nations released the report of the Secretary-General’s panel of experts on the final stages of the armed conflict. The report states:
The panel found credible allegations which, if proven, indicate that a wide range of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law were committed both by the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, some of which would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
It also states:
The Government shelled on a large scale in three consecutive no-fire zones, where it had encouraged the civilian population to concentrate, even after indicating that it would cease the use of heavy weapons … most civilian casualties in the final phases of the war were caused by Government shelling.
Finally, the report noted:
The conduct of the war represented a grave assault on the entire regime of international law designed to protect individual dignity during both war and peace.
As the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, stated:
… I hope the disturbing new information contained in this report will shock the conscience of the international community into finally taking serious action. As the report itself says, addressing violations of international humanitarian or human rights law is not a matter of choice or policy; it is a duty under domestic and international law.
Despite that, Australia has remained silent.
In March the United States Senate passed a resolution calling upon Colombo, the international community and the United Nations to set up an international mechanism to inquire into war crimes allegations. It also called on President Obama to formulate a Sri Lanka policy that would reflect Washington’s views on human rights and democracy besides economic and security interests.
Even the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has called for an independent investigation into war crimes in Sri Lanka. He stated:
We need to see an independent investigation. Everyone has read the papers and seen the TV footage, but we need an independent investigation to work out whether [this] is right.
It is astounding that the Australian Government continues its silence on Sri Lanka and the war. Is it our bilateral trading relationship with the island nation, or upsetting the power struggle between China and India in the Indian Ocean that has led to this?
In another disturbing development, Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe recently was approved by the Australian Government to become the next Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Canberra. Admiral Samarasinghe was chief of staff of the Sri Lankan Navy when in 2009 it shelled Tamil soldiers and civilians who were trapped in what had been declared a safe zone. The navy then blocked attempts by the International Committee of the Red Cross to evacuate injured men, women and children from the safe zone.
Yet the Australian Government has accepted that man’s credentials as a diplomat.
As retired diplomat and political commentator Bruce Haigh recently wrote in the Drum,
it is a crying shame that the Australian Government has refused to stand up for international human rights and has settled for low standards by accepting Admiral Samarasinghe’s credentials.
The Australian Tamil Congress stated:
… it is now time for Australia to step away from the soft diplomacy it practices with Sri Lanka and openly call for an international independent inquiry into war crimes that were committed in the island, with trade sanctions and travel bans for Government officials being imposed if Sri Lanka fails to follow.
Last week on 18 May I stood in Martin Place with more than a thousand people to remember the tens of thousands of Tamil civilians who have been killed for simply voicing their wish to live freely, with respect and dignity.
A generation of Tamils have been killed, brutalised and marginalised right under the gaze of the world, including Australia, and those who have been left behind are subject to a brutal military rule.
I also remember the thousands of men, women and children who lost their lives in that little civil war.
I hope that soon the survivors are respected and remembered by the Australian Government as it belatedly raises its voice for justice for the Tamil people.