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Cameron Must Speak Up Over Sri Lanka's Human Rights Abuses

Cameron Must Speak Up Over Sri Lanka's Human Rights Abuses

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Published by nelvely

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Published by: nelvely on Oct 10, 2013
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 Ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, the PM must show leadership and prevent the regime from presenting an airbrushed image to the world.Sri Lankan paramilitary Special Task Force commandos on patrol in Colombo on August 12, 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.BY KERRY MCCARTHY 
 
PUBLISHED 10 OCTOBER 2013Next month, Sri Lanka is due to host the Commonwealth
 
Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in its capital Colombo. Hosting the summitis an honour that was rightly denied to the country two years ago because of the itsfragile state after the civil war. But just how much progress has Sri Lanka made onhuman rights since 2011? Many, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former UNHigh Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, and Amnesty Internationalhave warned that Sri Lanka has not yet done enough.THERE IS LITTLE EVIDENCE THAT THE SRI LANKAN REGIME IS TRULY COMMITTED TO ADDRESSING HUMAN RIGHTS CONCERNS. IT HAS FAILED TOFULLY IMPLEMENT THE POST-WAR LESSONS LEARNT AND RECONCILIATIONCOMMISSION (LLRC) AND ITS PEOPLE ARE STILL WAITING FOR A CREDIBLE,INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION INTO THE ALLEGED ATROCITIESCOMMITTED DURING THE WAR WHEN TENS OF THOUSANDS LOST THEIR LIVES. IT IS STILL, QUITE RIGHTLY, DESIGNATED BY THE FOREIGN OFFICE AS A 'COUNTRY OF CONCERN'.Sadly, it is not only historic wrongs that need to be redressed. In March this year, theUN Human Rights Council expressed its concern at the "continuing reports" of "enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture and violations of the rights tofreedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as intimidation of and reprisals against human rights defenders, members of civil society and journalists, threats to judicial independence and the rule of law, and discriminationon the basis of religion or belief."In August – the same month we heard reports that protestors demonstrating overaccess to drinking water were killed by the Sri Lankan army - the UN HighCommissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, visited Sri Lanka. She concluded thatthe state "is showing signs of heading in an increasingly authoritarian direction". Amongst other concerns, she noted the expanding military presence; the vulnerability of women and girls to sexual harassment and abuse, including from the military; asurge in the incitement of hatred and violence against religious minorities; and theintimidation and harassment of human rights defenders she met during her visit. A new documentary just released in association with Channel 4, No Fire Zone: Thekilling fields of Sri Lanka, provides further harrowing evidence from the war,underlining the need for an international inquiry and for the international community to stand up for the people of Sri Lanka. It should be compulsory viewing for anyoneconsidering going to Colombo next month.Given this continued concern about the human rights record of the regime, it is only right that questions are asked about the propriety of Sri Lanka hosting theCommonwealth meeting. But given the time scale and the fact that theCommonwealth collectively agreed on Colombo as the 2013 venue, it is now not aquestion of whether CHOGM will go ahead in Sri Lanka, but a question of who willattend. And will those who do attend use the platform to speak out against continued

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