• Wednesday, September 20, 2006

    Reports presented to the Human Rights Council

    Philip Alston presented several reports to the Human Rights Council on 19-20 September 2006 and discussed their contents with the representatives of Member States.

  • Wednesday, September 20, 2006

    Parallel event on the Human Rights Council and Sri Lanka

    During the second session of the Human Rights Council, Philip Alston participated in a parallel event convened by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Commission of Jurists. CONGO has some notes on the event. Other participants on the panel and the debate included:

    Sunila Abeysekera, Executive Director of INFORM (Colombo)

    H.E. Ambassador Sarala Fernando, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka

    Asma Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion of belief

    Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (Colombo)

    Stephen Toope, Chairperson of the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances
    Wednesday, September 20th, 2006

  • Tuesday, September 19, 2006

    Human Rights Watch report on Sri Lanka

    Human Rights Watch has issued a major briefing paper, Improving Civilian Protection in Sri Lanka. The major recommendations are:

    Human Rights Watch urges the Sri Lankan government and armed forces and the LTTE to:

    1. Agree to designate demilitarized zones as sanctuaries in conflict areas and pre-position humanitarian relief in known places of refuge.
    2. Ensure the protection of displaced persons, regardless of ethnicity, and end forced returns.
    3. Ensure adherence to international law by all senior commanders and lower-ranking personnel and hold violators accountable.
    4. Improve humanitarian access to populations at risk, including by ending unnecessary governmental restrictions on humanitarian workers.
    5. End threats, harassment and violence against non-governmental organizations and their staff.
    6. Support inter-ethnic networks to reduce the likelihood of communal violence.
    7. Agree to the establishment of a United Nations human rights monitoring mission in Sri Lanka.

  • Monday, September 18, 2006

    Radio interview about the death penalty

    Daniel Hoare of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation asked Philip Alston about the problem with Australian exceptionalism on the death penalty.

  • Monday, September 18, 2006

    Address by Louise Arbour to the Human Rights Council

    In her address to the Human Rights Council, Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said:

    Also in Sri Lanka conflict has flared up again. In the past six months, the country has descended further into violence with the death toll climbing to include an increasing number of civilians. As the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary killings will report to this session, scores of extrajudicial and political killings, allegedly committed by Government security forces, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and other armed elements, continued. At present, several cases of killings and disappearances are reported each day in the Jaffna area. Since April 2006, some 240,000 people have been newly displaced from their homes, in addition to the hundreds of thousands who were forced to flee during earlier stages of the conflict as well as by the tsunami. Restrictions on humanitarian access have been imposed by both sides, worsening the vulnerability of these populations. The LTTE’s persisting record of forced military recruitment, including children, is a major concern.

    While LTTE abuses continue on a large scale, human rights violations by State security forces, and the failure of the Government to provide the protection of the rule of law to all its citizens also generate serious concerns. The Government’s public commitment to investigate these crimes, including the killings of 17 humanitarian workers of Action Contre la Faim, is welcome. In too many cases, however, investigations have failed to produce results and victims have been denied justice and redress.

    There is an urgent need for the international community to monitor the unfolding human rights situation as these are not merely ceasefire violations but grave breaches of international human rights and humanitarian law.

  • Friday, September 15, 2006

    Responses to statement on Sri Lanka in the press

    Here are several responses to Philip Alston’s 5 September 2006 press statement and other recent statements that have appeared in the press.

    The Politics of Extrajudicial Killings” by J.T. Janani in the Tamil Guardian.

    Importance of achieving international legitimacy for human rights” by Nikhil Mustafa in the Daily Mirror (via LankaPage).

    Sri Lanka -A case for human rights? ” by Shakuntala Perera in the Daily Mirror (via LankaPage).

  • Wednesday, September 13, 2006

    UK Parliamentary question on Sri Lanka

    The United Kingdom’s Minister of State responsible for South Asia, Dr. Kim Howells, discussed President Rajapakse’s proposal in response to a parliamentary question.

    Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the UK Government is taking to assist the government and people of Sri Lanka (a) to achieve a lasting internal peace agreement and (b) to promote civil and political rights for all citizens.

    Dr. Howells: Throughout the escalation in violence over recent months we have made our concerns clear in meetings at the highest levels, with the Government of Sri Lanka and also with political representatives ofthe Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. President Rajapakse, Foreign Minister Samaraweera, and senior Sri Lankan officials met my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at Chequers on 31 August 2006. The talks focused on the internal security situation in Sri Lanka and the state of the peace process. We are also in close contact with the Government of Norway as the peace process facilitators and we make clear to both sides our full support of their efforts.

    We have been deeply concerned following the reports of the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission, the International Commission of Jurists, about the deteriorating human rights situation in the North and East. Any abuse is to be deplored. We welcome President Rajapakse’s proposal to,

    “invite an international independent commission to probe abductions, disappearances and extra-judicial killings in all areas of the country”.

    We agree with the United Nations Special Rapporteur, on extra-Judicial killings, Philip Alston’s, statement that the commission must be independent, credible and effective and that the advice of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights would facilitate the establishment of such a commission.

  • Sunday, September 10, 2006

    Interview with Alejandro Giammattei

    An interesting interview with Alejandro Giammattei, director of Guatemala’s prison system has been published in Siglo XXI.

    ¿Qué opina de las declaraciones de Philip Alston, relator de la ONU, quien dijo que Guatemala es un buen país para cometer un crimen?

    Yo se lo dije. Es más, se quedó corto. Yo le dije que Guatemala es el paraíso de la impunidad. Cuando el 2% de los casos llega a condena, es un paraíso; hay 98% de probabilidades de ganar. Dénme una lotería en la cual tenga el 98% de posibilidades de ganar, y endeudo todo.

    Alston también mencionó que hay una poderosa demanda de “mano dura” en el país.

    Eso es pan de hoy y hambre para mañana. Las políticas de mano dura han sido un fracaso donde se han ensayado. Son buenas para ganar campañas, porque es decirle a la gente lo que quiere oír, pero eso no es precisamente lo que se necesita. No sirve tener cárceles repletas de mareros si no se sustentan los casos en los juicios. La única forma de combatir el mal, es el bien. Hay necesidad de instituciones fuertes, con menos impunidad y corrupción en el sector justicia.

  • Friday, September 08, 2006

    European Parliament resolution on Sri Lanka

    The European Parliament has passed a resolution on Sri Lanka in which it:

    Underscores the long-term need for a wide-ranging human rights agreement between the parties and its facilitation by an effective, independent international monitoring mission, complementing the agreement on the ground, as recommended by UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, with unhindered access to both Government and LTTE controlled areas.

  • Wednesday, September 06, 2006

    Press release on Lebanon and Israel

    Four Human Rights Experts to Visit Lebanon and Israel