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These benefits will be withdrawn on August 15 unless Sri Lanka makes a written commitment by July 1, according to the EU…

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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.

EU to suspend GSP+ to SL

December 20, 2009 Comments Off on EU to suspend GSP+ to SL

AFP – EU to suspend trade concessions to Sri Lanka

The European Commission has decided to suspend Sri Lanka’s preferential trade status following a probe criticising the island’s human rights record, an official said Thursday.

Bernard Savage, the head of the European Union delegation to Colombo said the decision would be formally ratified within the next two months, with the suspension coming into effect six months later.

More SL news this week

October 26, 2009 Comments Off on More SL news this week

Le Monde diplomatique: Rehabilitating the tigers

Padraig Colman, 22 October 2009

Five months on since the defeat of the Tamil Tigers, Sri Lanka is trying to come to terms with its post-war problems. Despite ongoing international concern over the plight of Tamil civilians in government-run camps, there are new signs of reconciliation. These are apparent in the way the authorities are dealing with former LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) rank and file members.

Measures have been taken to rehabilitate some 10,000 LTTE fighters – many of whom were forcibly conscripted by the separatist rebels. On 20 September the Justice and Law Reforms ministry announced a $23m programme called Reintegrating ex-LTTE Cadres into Civilian Life, in association with the International Organisation for Migration. The United States, Japan, Britain and India have promised financial assistance to the programme; Unicef and INGOs will be helping; and many big Sri Lankan companies have offered their support.

International concern

The concern over the situation of Tamil civilians still living in government-run camps for internally displaced people (IDPs), expressed by foreign governments, the UN and international NGOs, is genuine and justified. Some of it has been fuelled by Tamils living in the West, Malaysia and India – mainly in the state of Tamil Nadu where people take a keen interest in the welfare of Sri Lankan Tamils, especially conditions in the IDP camps, and have demanded that the Sri Lankan government speed up the process of releasing the inmates. More

Sky News: Greens urge sanctions against Sri Lanka,

25 October 2009

Greens Leader Bob Brown has urged the federal government to consider sanctions against Sri Lanka amid concerns about the treatment of the nation’s Tamil population.

More than 250,000 people remain in camps in Sri Lanka after being displaced as a result of a long-standing civil war, which came to an end earlier this year.

Australia should be helping to stem the flow of asylum seekers by ramping up pressure on Sri Lankan authorities, Senator Brown said.

‘There should be a lot more pressure on the Sri Lankan authorities to be treating the Tamil populations with a great deal more decency than what we’re seeing at the moment,’ Senator Brown told the Nine Network. More

The Hindu: U.N. human rights chief calls for probe into Sri Lanka conflict

B. Muralidhar Reddy, 25 October 2009

The office of the United Nations human rights chief has said that an inquiry is needed to find out whether war crimes were committed in the final stages of the war between the security forces and the LTTE in Sri Lanka.

The suggestion came two days after the release of the U.S. State Department’s report that detailed alleged war crimes. Colombo rejected the report as “unsubstantiated and devoid of corroborative evidence”.

The BBC quoted a spokesperson for the U.N. Human Rights Commissioner, Navi Pillay, as saying that the allegations of war crimes were so serious that the fighting in Sri Lanka required an inquiry similar to that recently carried out into the Gaza conflict. More

Hindustan times: UN wants Gaza-style human rights inquiry in Sri Lanka’s last phase of war

Sutirtho Patranobis, October 24, 2009

The United Nations wants an inquiry similar to the one that looked into fighting in Gaza to determine if war crimes were committed in Sri Lanka in the final months of its 26-year war between government troops and the LTTE, which ended in May this year.

“There hasn’t been a full inquiry into what did or did not happen in the last months of the war,” Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner of Human Rights, was quoted by Reuters as having said in Geneva. More

WGNTV.Com: Former Tamil Tiger child soldiers try to reclaim their childhood in postwar Sri Lanka

Krishnan Francis, 24 October 2009

Vinojan’s boyhood ended when Sri Lanka’s civil war reignited.

Fifteen at the time, he says he joined the separatist Tamil Tigers to save his older brother from forcible conscription, and became a reluctant fighter as the rebels fought their last, desperate battles for survival.

Now, having won the war, Sri Lanka is trying to make patriotic citizens out of child soldiers like Vinojan and others who just months ago were fighting against the nation.

———–

Meanwhile, the government is working to ensure they don’t pick up arms again. But it has done little to fulfill its pledge to tackle the Tamils’ long-standing grievances by sharing some power with them.

The ex-fighters’ treatment stands in stark contrast to the plight of nearly 300,000 displaced Tamil civilians who are held in overcrowded government camps in the north. U.N. officials have pressed for their release and aid workers fear coming rains could lead to outbreaks of disease. More

Tamilnet: Sri Lankan Flag to be hoisted in Jaffna Fort

25 October 2009

Son of Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa, Namal Rajapakse, who is presently staying in Jaffna along with the 250 youths he brought from the South will be officially hoisting the Sri Lanka Lion Flag Sunday in Jaffna Fort, sources in Jaffna said. In 1996 when Sri Lanka Army (SLA) occupied Jaffna, the then Deputy Defence Minister, Anurathe Rathwathe had ceremoniously hoisted the Sri Lankan Flag in the esplanade in front of Jaffna Fort. Tamils protested vehemently when Sinhala parties adopted the lion flag as the national flag soon after British left the island. Opposition to the flag, since then, has been part of the Tamil national movement. More

Tamilnet: SLA refuses permission to Jaffna civilians in Vavuniyaa camps to return home

25 October 2009

More than 300 families from Jaffna district, now detained in Sri Lanka Army (SLA) internment camps in Vavuniyaa, who had applied to return to their original places are held back as Jaffna SLA high command has refused clearance to them, sources in Vavuniya said. The clearance is denied as they are under suspicion and considered a threat to security, SLA authorities claimed. More

Tamilnet: US rescinds invitation to Fonseka to attend Hawaii event

25 October 2009

The US government has withdrawn the invitation earlier extended to Major General Sarath Fonseka, former Commander of the Sri Lanka Army and currently holding the post of Chief of Defence Staff, to attend a farewill event to US Pacific Command (PACOM) Commander Admiral Timothy J.Keating at PACOM headquarters in Hawaii, Colombo’s English weekly, the Sunday Times reported in its political column quoting diplomatic sources. More

Tamilnet: Tamils hold “Will Break the Obstacles!” rally in Berlin

25 October 2009

Tamil Diaspora in Germany gathered Thursday in Berlin to stage a protest march in an effort to draw the attention of the international community to the pathetic plight of Tamils interned in Sri Lanka Army (SLA) camps. Two youths, representing students in Tamil Nadu, T. Sreenivasa Rao and Iraa. Gnanasekaran, on their journey in Europe to take part in the UN conference on Global Warming Awareness in Denmark on 7 December, took part in the march and rally. They have made it their duty to raise their voices for the interned Tamils, in all the countries they pass through, sources in Berlin said. More

Mainstream: Behind Sri Lankan Bloodbath

24 October 2009

Colombo’s victory over the Tamils shows India’s power is on the wane.

Thousands of non-combatants, according to the United Nations, were killed in the final phase of the Sri Lankan war this year as government forces overran the Tamil Tiger guerrillas. Nearly five months after Colombo’s stunning military triumph, the peace dividend remains elusive, with President Mahinda Rajapaksa setting out—in the name of “eternal vigilance”—to expand by 50 per cent an already-large military. Little effort has been made to reach out to the Tamil minority and begin a process of national reconciliation. More

The Age: Freedom of speech vanishing in Sri Lanka

26 October 2009

FEARS over declining media freedoms in Sri Lanka have intensified after a newspaper editor was held by police and questioned about a report alleging tension between military officials and the Government.

Chandana Srimalwtte, editor of the popular Sinhalese-language newspaper Lanka Irida Sangrahaya, was detained by armed police and questioned for publishing a report detailing tensions between military chief General Sarath Fonseka and the Government.

Srimalwtte was in custody for more than three hours and investigators have made two subsequent visits to his office to question him. More

The Times of India: Tamil scholar hesitant to attend classical Tamil meet

M Gunasekaran, 25 October 2009

A renowned Sri Lankan Tamil scholar chosen to head the main research session in the Tamil Nadu government’s World Classical Tamil

Conference due to be held in June 2010, on Saturday expressed reservations about participating in the meet, as he feels the Tamils in the island nation are not satisfied with chief minister M Karunanidhi’s response to the plight of their community.

Karthigesu Sivathamby, 77, emeritus professor in Jaffna university and secretary general of the International Association of Tamil Research (IATR), told the Times of India over telephone from Colombo that he had written to the Thanjavur Tamil University vice chancellor M Rajendran, who is coordinator for the international event, that Tamils in his country felt that “the chief minister has not responded well enough to the Sri Lankan Tamil crisis, and that Tamils expect a favourable response from him”. More

EU resolution on SL

October 24, 2009 § 1 Comment

Untitled

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

21.10.2009 Session document
JOINT MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION

European Parliament resolution on Sri Lanka
The European Parliament,

– having regard to its previous resolutions of 18 May 2000, 14 March 2002, 20 November 2003 and 18 May 2006 on Sri Lanka, of 13 January 2005 on EU aid after the tsunami disaster, and of 5 February 2009 on the situation in Sri Lanka,

– having regard to the open letters of the European Commissioner for External Relations of 16 June 2009 and 21 September 2009 on the situation in Sri Lanka,

– having regard to the declaration of the Presidency of the European Union of 4 September 2009 on the verdict against the Sri Lankan journalist J.S. Tissainayagam,

– having regard to the Council conclusions on Sri Lanka of 18 May 2009,

– having regard to Rule 122(5) of its Rules of Procedure,

Read full resolution here

SL likely to lose GSP+ concessions

October 17, 2009 Comments Off on SL likely to lose GSP+ concessions

Reuters : EU probe slams Sri Lanka on human rights
A European Union probe has found Sri Lanka in breach of international human rights laws, meaning the South Asian country is likely to lose concessions worth over $100 million for its top exports to Europe, EU sources said.

…”The assessment report says Sri Lanka does not fulfil the requirements of GSP plus,” one EU source said on Friday in reference to the system of preferential tariffs for the world’s poorest countries.

“The evidence is very clear that Sri Lanka does not fulfil the basic human rights conditions of GSP plus,” the source said, citing the report.

…EU sources said the report shows evidence of police violence, torture and breaches of labour laws, notably the use of underage children.

Click here for full artilce.

SL has no excuse to lock up the Tamils

October 5, 2009 Comments Off on SL has no excuse to lock up the Tamils

International Crisis Group – Testimony by Andrew Stroehlein, International Crisis Group’s Communications Director, to the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights, 1 October 2009.

Thank you, Madam Chair, for offering Crisis Group the opportunity to present our assessment of the situation in Sri Lanka today.

Since the end of the war and the defeat of the terrorist Tamil Tigers, the government of Sri Lanka has been imprisoning without charge over a quarter of a million ethnic Tamils displaced by the conflict. The state has locked them in internment camps in the north of the country. The camps are surrounded by barbed wire, and as an incident just this past weekend in Vavuniya demonstrates, the Sri Lankan army will shoot at anyone who tries to escape.

Such restrictions on freedom in the absence of due process are a violation of both national and international law.

Conditions in the camps are poor and deteriorating. They are overcrowded, with medical facilities, access to clean water and sanitation all woefully inadequate. These conditions are expected to worsen dramatically with the onset of monsoon season. The military is preventing humanitarian organisations, including the UN and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), from undertaking effective monitoring and protection in the camps.

The government has made numerous promises to release those held in the main camps, but these are little more than attempts to deliberately mislead the international community. Very little has come of any of Colombo’s pledges. The worst kind of duplicity was seen just a few weeks ago, when the government announced it had released 10,000 displaced persons. In fact, we know at least 3,300 people had been moved from an internment camp to another detention facility. (UNHCR press release, 29 September 2009)

Here are the numbers as we understand them today (as of 15 September, UNHCR with government figures). Of the estimated 289,000 internally displaced Tamils at the end of the war, some 10,000 are held in detention centres on suspicion of having links to the Tamil Tigers, about 5,000 have managed to buy their way out of the camps by paying off the right people, and only 6,000 have been resettled. Those in the main camps in the north number about 264,000.

The ICRC has not been able to visit the main camps in the north since July, and they have never been able to visit those in detention facilities who are accused of working with or for the Tigers.

Click here to read full testimony

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