Amnesty International welcomes the decision by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) to hold a Special Session on Sri Lanka on Tuesday 26 May.
“For the sake of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people in Sri Lanka, as well as its own credibility, the Human Rights Council should ensure that the Sri Lankan government takes immediate and concrete steps to address this crisis, beginning with providing immediate, unhindered access to international aid workers and monitors,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director. “This is also an opportunity to establish an international commission of inquiry to address the long history of human rights violations by the government and abuses by the Tamil Tigers and other para-military groups.“
In its submission to the HRC, Amnesty International urges the Council to assist over 250,000 civilians who have been displaced by the fighting and are now held by the government in de facto internment camps where they live in difficult conditions without adequate security, food, water, and medical care. Many of these people have survived weeks under heavy combat and are badly injured, malnourished, exhausted and traumatised. Amnesty International continues to receive consistent reports of widespread and serious human rights violations, including enforced disappearance, extra-judicial executions, torture and other ill-treratment, forced recruitment by paramilitary groups, and sexual violence. “It is important to note that the human rights issues in Sri Lanka are older, broader and more pervasive than those related to the current humanitarian crisis situation,” said Sam Zarifi. The current catastrophe exists against a backdrop of pervasive human rights violations, weak institutional mechanisms to protect human rights and a culture of impunity for perpetrators that has continued for years.”
Amnesty International also points out that in addition, Sri Lankans living in areas controlled by the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) suffered from years of abuse, including harassment, threats, enforced disappearances and the recruitment of child soldiers. The LTTE quickly and brutally silenced any critical voices within the Tamil community.
Amnesty International calls on the Human Rights Council to:
Urge the government of Sri Lanka to give immediate and full access to national and international organizations and observers, including aid agencies, human rights organizations and journalists, to all relevant parts of the country to monitor the situation and provide a safeguard against human rights violations. The UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross must have immediate and full access, according to their mandates, to critical locations – notably at displaced peoples’ registration and screening points, all places of detention and camps for the displaced – in an effort to prevent violations such as arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment, enforced disappearance and extrajudicial executions. Such access is equally critical to ensure that much needed humanitarian assistance reaches displaced people in a timely manner. Set up a fact-finding mission to inquire into allegations of serious violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law by Sri Lankan forces and by the Tamil Tigers in the recent military hostilities, with a view to establishing the facts and making recommendations on how best to ensure accountability for those violations and abuses.
Call for the establishment of an effective UN human rights monitoring mission, to assist the government of Sri Lanka in implementing legislative and other reforms that would safeguard human rights for all Sri Lankan citizens.
Decide to remain seized of the situation in Sri Lanka after the conclusion of the Special Session, which should be the beginning of sustained attention by the HRC to the situation in the country.