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Sri Lanka: Four Activists Resigns from Rights Panel

Oct 15, 2007, 13:42 Digg this story!

Colombo - Dr. Sunil Abeyasekara, Nimalka Fernando, Rohan Ethirisinge and Dr. Pakiyasothi Saravanamuthu all these four well known rights activists from Sri Lanka who were part of the advisory groups to the Sri Lanka’s human rights ministers on human rights situations have resigned from the government advisory panel, the activists said Monday.


Sri Lankan Human Rights Minister Samarasinghe formed ten member panel last year to help the government to investigate and prosecute soldiers, police officers and allied gunmen blamed for numerous abductions, disappearances and unlawful and execution styles killings which were taking place with impunity in Sri Lanka especially ever since the current president took the office back in November 2005.


“I Just Arrived from Sri Lanka where Dire Rights Abuses are Intensifying with Impunity”


``It is with deep regret that we note that this has not been the case,'' said the letter submitted by those four who resigned from the panel.


``The best efforts of the committee to contribute to human rights protection has been vitiated by either the unwillingness and/or inability of the government to take its advice seriously. In fact, violations have increased since the committee was constituted.''


The Sri Lankan government refused to use the best opportunity of the recent visit by the highest envoy of the UN for human rights, Louise Arbour and her recommendations to eradicate the dire rights abuses in Sri Lanka, especially in the north and east of Sri Lanka, particularly by the Sri Lankan security forces and paramilitary forces in Sri Lanka, according to the sources in Colombo.


Arbour said the authorities had tried to dismiss allegations of human rights violations as propaganda by separatist Tamil Tiger rebels, but she believed there were "credible allegations that deserved to be investigated," she said.


"In the absence of more vigorous investigations, prosecution and convictions, it is hard to see how this will come to an end," Arbour said.


"There is a disturbing lack of investigation that undermines the confidence in the institutions set up to protect human rights," Arbour said, adding Sri Lanka's culture of "impunity" was a serious concern.


She said although the Colombo government asked for "technical help" and "capacity building" to strengthen institutions, she believed there should be thorough investigations and monitoring.


"In the context of the armed conflict and of the emergency measures taken against terrorism, the weakness of the rule of law and prevalence of impunity is alarming," she said.


"There are a large number of reported killings, abductions and disappearances which remain unresolved... While the government pointed to several initiatives it has taken to address these issues, there has yet to be an adequate and credible public accounting for the vast majority of these incidents."


``This is such a pity that these four individuals have decided to opt out of this panel because despite differences, despite disagreements, despite shortcomings, this gave them an opportunity to air their grievances,'' Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said.


Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu said, his participation in the panel had become counterproductive as the government was not taking seriously and constructively and ignoring its advice, while using the existence of the body to fend off international criticism.


Saravanamuttu said the government has shown no commitment to reining in the security forces and did not appear truly committed to constructive engagement with local activists either.

"We noticed that even presidential directives aimed at protecting rights of detainees were not followed by the police," Nimalka Fernando told to a International news agency.


"We noticed that the government was not serious about improving the human rights situation," she said.


Samarasinghe told Louise Arbour, that Sri Lanka would not agree to her call for UN monitoring.


At least 5,472 people killed, over 1000 people abducted and over thousands disappeared including hundreds of children in the enforced violence. There is no sign of let up in state enforced rights abuses in Sri Lanka as section of the citizens in the north and east of Sri Lanka are in quandary many rights groups said.


In the month of September alone, 64 civilians unlawfully killed while 29 civilians were disappeared without any traces. Many disappeared were turned up as corpses in the road sides, river sides, wells, and bushes within past 22 months.


More than two-decade conflict between ethnic Tamil separatists and the majority Sinhalese-dominated government that has killed more than 80,000 people while close to one million people have displaced and settled in many countries such as, Britain, Australia, France, Canada, US, Norway, Denmark and many other countries while another half a million people have internally displaced.


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