7:19 am - Wednesday June 26, 2019

Raise rights at Sri Lanka summit, rights groups say

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New York – Governments attending the Commonwealth summit should press the host, Sri Lanka, on accountability for alleged war crimes and ongoing human rights abuses, Human Rights Watch said Monday.

Human Rights Watch and the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice released a media guide for the Nov 15-17 summit providing information on both the summit and Sri Lanka.

This includes practical tips on getting around the country to the human rights situation four years after the end of the 26-year conflict with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

It encourages journalists at the Commonwealth meeting to look behind the official statements and tourist attractions and to ask government delegations about concerns over rights issues in Sri Lanka.

“The Sri Lankan government’s promises of accountability since the war’s end have come to very little,” said Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch.

“If the Commonwealth has to have its meeting in Colombo, then human rights protections in Sri Lanka need to be prominently on the agenda.”

The Sri Lankan government has taken few meaningful steps to address the massive violations of human rights and the laws of war that have been reported by the UN, the media, and human rights groups, it said.

A UN panel of experts found that up to 40,000 civilians died in the final months of fighting. Government authorities have committed torture, including rape, against suspected rebel supporters both during and since the conflict, it said.

Nearly 6,000 victims of enforced disappearances reportedly remain unaccounted for.

The government is also acting in a heavy-handed way in connection with the Commonwealth summit itself, Human Rights Watch and the Sri Lanka Campaign said.

Given Sri Lanka’s human rights situation, the Commonwealth should not have agreed to hold the summit in Sri Lanka or to award the two-year Commonwealth chairmanship to Colombo, the two groups said.

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