Request for support of the establishment of a UN rights monitoring mission for Sri Lanka

 

Dear Minister for Foreign
Affairs Nobutaka Machimura

 

3 3 September 2007

 

Request

 

We request the Japanese
government to take measures as described below in order to overcome the ongoing
human rights abuses in Sri Lanka

 

(1) To
support the establishment of a UN rights monitoring mission which monitors
whether parties involved in armed conflicts such as the Sri Lankan government,
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Karuna group are in accordance
with human rights law and humanitarian law; the monitoring mission should also
conduct capacity building and training in the field of human rights.

(2) To
patiently call on the Sri Lankan government to accept the UN rights monitoring
mission.

 

The
background of and reasons for request

 

Human rights crisis in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is currently
facing serious human rights and humanitarian crises. Since April 2006, Sri
Lanka has been in a crisis situation as the armed conflict between the Sri
Lankan government and LTTE broke out again though it seemed to find some peace
with a ceasefire agreement in February 2002. It is innocent Sri Lankan people
who are forced to pay the highest price for the conflict. Both the Sri Lankan
government and the LTTE ignore international humanitarian law and have
continued indiscriminate or reprisal attacks which involve civilians. A lot of
people are deprived of their lives by attacks and forcibly displaced. There are
more and more enforced disappearances, abductions, and extrajudicial killings.

The LTTE has often ignored
international humanitarian and human rights law. It has targeted civilians
using landmines or suicide attacks in the battle to establish a Tamil
independent state. It has also forcibly recruited soldiers irrespective of sex
or age, used child soldiers for fighting and continued political assassinations
mainly in the Tamil community.

 

However, since last year,
the Sri Lankan government has also breached international humanitarian and
human rights law. The current government has enacted Emergency Legislation
which obviously
contravenes the principle of human rights and accordingly takes a tyrannical
position, saying that it is not afraid of any costs in the battle with
the
LTTE.

People are forced by the
conflict to leave their homes. Since August 2006, over 315,000 people have been
internally displaced and since January 2006, more than 16,000 people have
reportedly escaped to India as refugees. In addition, since January 2006, over
1100 have been forcibly disappeared. LTTE are assumed to be involved in some of
the disappearances, but it is said that most of them are with direct or
indirect involvement of the government. Among those who disappeared, some are
believed to have been detained by the Sri Lankan government based on the
Emergency Legislation which recognizes arrest and search without warrant and
detention without prosecution for up to 12 months. It is obvious that this
detention contravenes international law stipulating the right of detainees (Article
9, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights).

  

Since last year, the Sri
Lankan government has been supporting and cooperating with Karuna group which
split from and is in the battle with the LTTE. With the initiative of the
French government, the UN Security Council’s working group on children and armed
conflict strongly condemned the abduction, recruitment and use of child
soldiers by the Karuna group and the LTTE. In addition to this child soldiers
issue, the Karuna group has been abusing human rights in various ways and the
Sri Lankan government has kept quiet about it. In November 2006, Alan Rock, who
is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed
Conflict, pointed out there was powerful and credible evidence that the Sri
Lankan government assisted abductions (enforced disappearance) by the Karuna
group and they even abducted children together. President Rajapaksa promised to
investigate it. The Karuna group also promised the UN not to use child
soldiers. However, up to now, the situation has not improved. The Sri Lankan
government finally established an investigation team on abduction and
recruitment of child soldiers on 29th August and  UNICEF condemned the Karuna group for failed
to cooperate with and for shielding itself from criticism.

  

The role expected of the Japanese government

Facing this human rights and
humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka, other governments including Japan and
international organizations are expected to play more significant roles. The international
community can protect vulnerable people, promote the rule of law and secure
precious human rights. Accordingly it should take actions to do so immediately.
 

The Sri Lankan government
has promised the international community, including the Japanese government,
that it shall ensure human rights and democracy over and over again. The
Japanese government should ask the Sri Lankan government to follow through as
promised. In particular, Japan is the biggest donor to Sri Lanka and one of the
co-chairs of the Tokyo Conference on the Reconstruction and Development of Sri
Lanka, therefore it is closely connected with Sri Lanka. We desire the Japanese
government, along with the rest of the international community, to call on the
Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to comply with international humanitarian
law and to protect the human rights of Sri Lankan people.

In addition, the Japanese
government should uphold the establishment of a UN rights monitoring mission
which monitors whether parties involved in armed conflicts, such as the Sri
Lankan government, the LTTE and the Karuna group are in accordance with human
rights law and humanitarian law. The mission should also conduct capacity
building and training in the field of human rights. Then it should patiently
call on the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to accept a UN rights monitoring
mission. The establishment of a UN rights monitoring mission is something many NGOs
in Sri Lanka, international NGOs, governments such as Australia and Canada, Louise
Arbor–the  
UN High Commissioner for Human
Rights and Philip Alston–UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or
arbitrary executions have asked for.

In this regard, on 12th
March, the Japanese government stated in response to a question in the Diet
from Tadashi Inuzuka, a member of the House of Councillors “we do not think
that a UN rights monitoring mission is unnecessary. However, as the Commission
of Inquiry initiated by the Sri Lankan government expressed that they wanted to
clarify what was happening by themselves, we will watch the progress and take
appropriate actions, based on comments of
Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur,
only when the result does not look good and therefore the UN should dispatch the
rights monitoring mission”.
 

The Commission of Inquiry (CoI)
that the Japanese government referred to is a significant step to terminate the
chain of impunity which has been usual in Sri Lanka for many years. However,
the response of the Japanese government that a UN rights monitoring mission is unnecessary
with the operation of CoI does not correctly reflect the function of CoI and
the current situation in Sri Lanka. The CoI is, at the moment, only authorized
to investigate 16 specific cases in the past and therefore is not a system to
investigate numerous and ongoing human rights violations-indiscriminate attacks
on civilians, abductions, enforced disappearances, the use of child soldiers
and political killings. Moreover, CoI can only give advisory opinion to the
government and does not have enforcement functions to protect human rights. It
is crucial to dispatch a UN rights monitoring mission consisting of the Office
of the High Commissioner for Human Rights which has such functions, in order to
break the cycle of impunity and then prevent human rights abuses in the future.

 

 

The Japanese government, in
response to the question from Mr. Inuzuka, mentioned that 11 international
independent experts including Professor Yozo Yokota, who is recommended by the
Japanese government, monitored CoI in order to ensure CoI operates in accordance
with international standards. However, those experts released statements on 11th
and 15th June, expressing serious concerns over the lack of
independence of CoI, schedule delays, and insufficient protection of witnesses.
They concluded that a UN rights monitoring mission cannot be replaced by CoI. On
27th June, the human rights situation in Sri Lanka was addressed at a
working lunch with Bogollagama, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka
visiting Japan.
 

The Japanese government
should address the concerns expressed by international independent experts and
call on the Sri Lankan government to urge the CoI to conduct an inquiry in
accordance with international standards. With the concerns over CoI and the
need for UN rights monitoring mission expressed by experts, the Japanese
government should immediately change the position of disapproval for UN rights
monitoring mission in the meantime and take all possible measures to have UN
rights monitoring missions operate in Sri Lanka.

 

The human rights of the
people in Sri Lanka have been violated daily. The international community
should not waste any time responding to the situation. Without prompt response,
numerous innocent civilians are going to be killed, abducted, recruited into
child soldiers and displaced. The Japanese government should take human rights
centered diplomacy as a responsible member of international community as well
as a country addressing value oriented diplomacy. In particular, the Japanese government
should start its efforts to promote the establishment of a UN rights monitoring
mission with the great influence (leverage) on the Sri Lankan government as its
biggest donor. Therefore, we request as above.

 

 

Amnesty International Japan

Kyodo Bldg. 2F, 2-2 Kandanishiki-cho, chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 101-0054, Japan

 

The International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and
Racism (IMADR)

3-5-11, Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0032, Japan

 

Human Rights Now

Marukou Bldg. 3F, 1-20-6, Higashi-Ueno, Taitou-ku, Tokyo 110-0015 Japan

 

Peace Boat

3-13-1-B1, Takadanobaba, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 169-0075, Japan

 

 

For more information, please contact:

Human Rights Now

Marukou Bldg. 3F, 1-20-6, Higashi-Ueno, Taitou-ku, Tokyo 110-0015 Japan

Phone: +81-3-3835-2110 Fax: +81-3-3834-2406