NPC: Human Rights Council defeat a wake up call
May 23rd, 2008
Statement by National Peace Council of Sri Lanka:
Sri Lanka’s recent unsuccessful bid to maintain its representation on the UN Human Rights Council following a vote by the General Assembly is another event that highlights the deteriorating condition of human rights in the country. Sri Lanka was one of the initial members of elected to the Human Rights Council in 2006 and might have reasonably expected to be re-elected. The country’s failure to be elected for a second term, despite an aggressive campaign to seek re-election, is an indication of a grave human rights situation that has not been dealt with in a constructive manner.
The National Peace Council regrets that the government has responded to criticism of its human rights record with denial and deflection. Human rights violations continue to be a grave threat to all Sri Lankans. For example, recently over 60 Tamil prisoners were transferred from the New Magazine Prison in Colombo to the Boosa Prison in Galle, where they were reportedly abused and tortured. During the past two weeks a spate of abductions, disappearances and arrests have been reported from different parts of the country. The latest one was the abduction and physical assault of senior journalist Keith Noyahr outside his home in a residential suburb of Colombo.
Membership in the UN Human Rights Council confers a moral duty and great responsibility to uphold the highest standards of human rights throughout the world. Sri Lanka’s inability to obtain re-election is likely to hurt the country’s international reputation and be a psychological blow to the
government. NPC sees this reversal as being a wake up call to the government to improve the situation so that greater costs are not inflicted on the country in the future owing to the inability to maintain internationally acceptable standards of human rights.
In November 2007, NPC released a media statement discussing the possible consequence of not implementing international human rights commitments. We expressed our strong concern regarding the possible the removal of Sri Lanka from the General System of Preferences (GSP), giving us exemptions from significant tariffs for trade with the European Union, Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner. Losing these benefits will only worsen an already critical economic situation, which has seen drastic increases in gas, electricity, and food costs. Every Sri Lankan therefore has many reasons to be concerned about the Government not living up to its commitment to improve the human rights situation in the country.
NPC therefore appeals to the government to work with civil society organisations in the country for the benefit of all Sri Lankans and meaningfully respond to all human rights violations, no matter who the perpetrators are.
We recommend full implementation of the 17th Amendment of the Constitution in appointing an Independent Constitutional Council and an Independent Human Rights Commission and other oversight bodies.
We call for government-civil society dialogue on this and other issues, and stand willing to do our part to bring the human rights of Sri Lankan citizens to the forefront. Only through sustained cooperation will we be able to jointly achieve a just, peaceful, and prosperous Sri Lanka. We believe that human rights and peace are two sides of the same coin. It would be futile to imagine that we can have one without the other.
On behalf of the Governing Council
National Peace Council of Sri lanka
Entry Filed under: Press Statement