Asian NGOs call on UN member states to reject Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Council election bid

17 May 2008

Asian  NGOs  call  on  UN  memberstates  to  reject  Sri  Lanka’s  Human Rights  Council  election  bid  

Your Excellency,

the undersigned 84 non-governmental organisations working on human
rights in Asia, write to urge that your government not vote for Sri Lanka
for membership in the United Nations Human Rights Council in the
election taking place in the General Assembly on May 21, 2008, because
of the country’s evident failure to meet the Council’s membership

does not have a functioning regional human rights system, making the
United Nations’ human rights mechanisms, notably the Human Rights
Council, of increased significance for victims in the region. Under the
Human Rights Council,
Asia now has 13
members and an increasingly important role to play in steering the
global effort in favour of human rights. Ensuring the highest standard
of Council members from the Asian region is of great importance.

have therefore carefully scrutinized the human rights records of the
six candidates currently vying for the four seats available to the
Asian region in the upcoming election, based on our collective
experience as Asian NGOs working to improve human rights protection in Asia. Sri Lanka
stands out as the candidate that suffers from the gravest ongoing human
rights violations, the most significant lack of cooperation with the
Council, and the least evidence of measures being taken to protect
citizens from violations and to deliver justice and reparation to
victims of abuses. Sri Lanka
is without doubt the least suitable candidate of all those bidding for
election this year, making it vital for your government to not support

write to support the position of human rights organizations from Sri
Lanka that wrote to UN members on April 28, 2008, stating that the
government of Sri Lanka fails to meet the Council’s membership
standards, has “presided over a grave deterioration of human rights
protection” since first winning membership in 2006, and “has used its
membership of the Human Rights Council to protect itself from
scrutiny.”. We also strongly support the campaign launched on May 6,
2008, by a coalition of international NGOs opposing Sri Lanka’s candidacy (please see further at:

recall that General Assembly (GA) resolution 60/251 requires that
“members elected to the Council shall uphold the highest standards in
the promotion and protection of human rights” and “fully cooperate”
with the Council.

Failure to uphold the highest standards: It is very clear that Sri Lanka
has not only failed to meet this central criterion for membership in
the Council during the last two years, but has become one of the worst
human rights violators in the region and among the most negative



within the Council during this time. Sri Lankan government forces have
been directly implicated in a wide range of grave rights abuses,

•  hundreds of extrajudicial killings, including of humanitarian workers;

•  hundreds
of enforced disappearances, the highest rate of new cases recorded by
the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances in 2007;

•  arbitrary arrests and long-term detentions without charge or trial;

•  widespread
torture of detainees, “a routine practice … both by the police and
the armed forces” according the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture;

•  forcibly returning internally displaced persons to unsafe areas;

•  unwarranted restrictions on media freedoms, and threats and killings of journalists;

•  complicity with the recruitment of child soldiers by the Karuna militia;

•  denunciations and threats against human rights defenders and humanitarian workers.


if any proper investigations have been launched into these most serious
rights abuses and impunity reigns. Political will and sincerity on the
part of the authorities to address these human rights remains elusive.
These problems are compounded by the authorities having failed to
provide easily accessible avenues enabling victims of human rights
abuses to make complaints. Extreme delays in adjudication make it
near-futile to pursue such complaints, when made. Witnesses and victims
have been harassed and even killed while seeking redress.

Failure to cooperate: Sri Lanka
has been a member of the Council over the last two years, while its
government forces have continued committing widespread violations, so
there can be no pretence that its future membership will bring about
positive change. Instead, it is clear that
Sri Lanka
is making use of its Council membership to shield itself from
criticism, thus undermining the Council itself and all the efforts made
by UN members to create a Council free from the destructive forces that
fatally damaged the Commission on Human Rights.

with the Council should not just be measured simply by a state’s
inviting international officials to visit, but also through the quality
of the cooperation with such experts and other mechanisms, as well as
the extent to which their recommendations are implemented. On these
counts, Sri Lanka’s
record is deplorable. Sri Lankan government officials have launched
unacceptable and unfounded personal attacks on respected international
officials who have visited the country and raised human rights
concerns. These include U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise
Arbour, U.N. Special Advisor on Children and Armed Conflict Allan Rock,
U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes. When
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called such comments “unacceptable and
unwarranted,” a Sri Lankan cabinet minister said that he “didn’t give a
damn” what the U.N. secretary-general had to say.

Sri Lankan government has made desperate attempts to block a realistic
solution to the grave situation in the country by refusing much needed
international assistance, notably by rebuffing the key recommendation
by several special procedures and by the OHCHR to establish a human
rights monitoring mission under the auspices of the UN to document and
report on violations committed by all sides to the conflict and to
prevent further violations.



Sri Lanka has a very poor record on cooperation with the Council’s special procedures: the government did not reply to any of
the 12 questionnaires sent by special procedures mandate holders
between 1/1/2004 and 31/12/2007, nor to over half of the 94 letters of
allegations and urgent appeals sent by special procedures in that
Sri Lanka
has not implemented the principal recommendations of the Working Group
on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and the Special Rapporteur on
Extrajudicial Killings. The Special Rapporteur on Torture and other
Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment observed that Sri
Lankan authorities impeded his fact-finding, citing “instances where
detainees were hidden or brought away shortly before the Special
Rapporteur arrived.”

abhor all acts of violence and recognise that the armed separatist
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are responsible for numerous
and ongoing serious human rights violations. We call on them to cease
all such abuses immediately. However, abuses by non-state armed groups
do not justify rights violations by state forces. The government has
been hiding behind such justifications rather than taking concrete
action to protect rights and deliver justice to victims.

Don’t vote for Sri Lanka: A vote for Sri Lanka
is a vote for disappearances, widespread torture, extra-judicial
killings and impunity. It is a vote to undermine the Human Rights
Council and therefore a vote against victims of human rights the world
over. We who work directly with victims urge you in the strongest
possible terms to take this opportunity to show your government’s
support for present and potential victims of human rights, as well as
support for the Human Rights Council. The rejection of
Sri Lanka‘s
bid would strengthen the Council, shielding it from those that seek to
misuse it at the cost of many lives. Local, regional and international
NGOs are united in calling on you to resoundingly reject this year’s
worst candidate.

Don’t vote for Sri Lanka.

Signed by the following 84 NGOs:

1. ADHOC, Cambodia, Mr. Thun Saray, President

2. Advocacy Forum, Nepal, Mandira Sharma, Executive Director

3. All India Catholic Union, India, Mr. John Dayal, Chairperson

4. Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (KARAPATAN), Philippines, Ms. Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Secretary General

5. Angikar Bangladesh Foundation, Bangladesh, Muhammad Hilaluddin,

6. Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC), Hong Kong, Sanjiv Padita, Director

7. AsianCenter for the Progress of Peoples (ACPP), Hong Kong, Linda Noche, Coordinator

8. Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), Philippines, Mary Aileen D. Bacalso, Secretary General

9. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Thailand, Yap Sweeseng, Acting Executive Director

10. Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Hong Kong, Michael Anthony, Programme Coordinator

11. Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Bahrain, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, President

12. Balay Rehabilitation Center Inc. , Philippines, Sister Arnold Maria Noel, Secretary-Board of Directors

13.  Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), India, Kirity Roy, President

14.  Bhumi Haqdari Morcha, India, Mr. Maheshanand Bhai , Secretary

15.  Bhumi Hukka Andolan , India, John.P.Abraham, Executive Director

16.  CambodianCenter for Human Rights (CCHR) , Cambodia, Mr. Ou Virak, President

17.  Campaign for Alternative Industry Network, Thailand, Penchom Tang, Coordinator

18.  Catholic Human Rights Committee (CHRC) , Republic of Korea, Bae Yeo-jin , Activist

19.  Center for Peace Education, Philippines, Loreta Castro, Executive Director

20.  Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), Philippines, Daisy Arago, Executive

21.  Centre for Organisation Research & Education (CORE), India, Dr D Roy Laifungbam, Director

22.  Citizen Front, India, Mr. Tanweer Ahmed Sidiqui , Convener

23.  Citizens Alliance Unified for Sectoral Empowerment in Davao del Sur (CAUSE-DS), Philippines, Peter Jason Senarillos,

24. Committee to Support Imprisoned Workers , Republic of Korea, Lee Gwang-yeol, Director

25.  Commonwealth
Human Rights Initiative, India , R.Iniyan Ilango, Consultant &
Acting Co-ordinator, Human Rights Advocacy Programme

26.  Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Rome, Japan, Ludo Goossens, Missionary

27.  Cross Culture Foundation, Thailand, Pornpen Khongkajonkiet

28.  Dalit Women Forum (DWF), India, Ms. Ch. Vijaya Kumari, Executive Secretary

29.  Documentation Research Training Centre, India, Ms Pamela Fernandes, Extension Worker, Hotline India

30.  Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace (EMJP), Philippines, Girlie Padilla

31.  Friend of Tripe Hill group, Thailand, Suriyan Thongnoo-ead

32.  Global Human Rights Defense, Bangladesh, Rabindra Ghosh

33.  Green and Purple Sanctuary (GPS), Philippines, Odalie Adiao-Garcia, Co-Founder

34.  Guria, India, Ajeet Singh, President

35.  Hong Kong Christian Institute (HKCI) , Hong Kong, TOO Kin Wai, Acting Director

36.  Hotline Delhi, India, Antony Arulraj, Extension Worker

37.  Hotline Human Rights Bangladesh, Bangladesh, Rosaline Costa, Human Rights Advocate

38.  Human Rights Alert, India, Babloo Loitongbam, Executive Director

39.  Human Rights Council of Australia Inc, HRCA, Australia, André Frankovits , International Project Director

40.  Human Rights Now, Japan, Kazuko Ito, Secretary General

41.  IMPARSIAL, the Indonesian Human Rights Monitor, Indonesia, Poengky Indarti, Director of External Relations

42.  InternationalCenter for Law in Development, United States of America, Dr. Clarence J. Dias, President

43.  IPANI, India, Fatima PBVM, Coordinator

44.  Jananeethi
Institute For Research And Training In Democracy, Human Rights, Rule Of
Law, Conflict Resolution, Gender,Therapeutic Jurisprudence, Clinical
Legal Education And Environmental Protection (Jananeethi Institute),
India, George Pulikuthiyil, Executive Director

45.  Japan Catholic Council for Justice&Peace, Japan, Fr.Francis Fukamizu, Board Member

46.  Jesuit Social Center, Japan, Ando Isamu, Director

47.  Justice and Peace Commission of Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia (KKP-KWI), Indonesia, Fr. Serafin Dany Sanusi, OSC , Secretary of Commission

48.  Kabir Panth – Kabir Chaura Math, India, Sant Vivek Das , Head

49.  Kapaeeng Watch, Bangladesh, Aungkyew Mong, Coordinator

50.  Kasiyana Peace and Healing Initiatives, Philippines, Florence Macagne-Manegdeg, Program Coordinator

51.  Korean House for International Solidarity (KHIS) , Republic of Korea, Regina Pyon Yeon-shik, Co-representative

52.  Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Masyarakat (Community Legal Aid Institute) , Indonesia, Taufik Basari, Chairperson of the Board of Directors

53.  Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Surabaya (Surabaya Legal Aid Institute), Indonesia, Mr. Athoillah, Head of Operational Division

54.  Mahila Adhikar Manch, India, Ms. Sandhya , Convener

55.  Mahila Samakhya, India, Ms. Kumkum , Secretary

56.  Migrant Forum in Asia, Hong Kong, William Gois , Regional Coordinator

57.  National Alliance of Women Human Rights Defenders (NAWHRD) , Nepal, Dr. Renu Rajbhandari, National Coordinator

58.  National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) – Pakistan, Pakistan, Kiran Afzaal, Extension Worker Hotline Asia

59.  Navsarjan Trust, India, Ms. Manjula Pradeep , Executive Director

60.  Neervazhi, India, Mr. T. K. Naveenachandran , Secretary

61.  Neethi Vedhi (Forum for Justice), India, Adv. Fr. Stephen Mathew, Director

62.  Nonviolence International, Thailand, Diana Sarosi

63.  People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL Bihar Unit), India, Mr. Ram Ashray Singh , Secretary General

64.  People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), India, Mr. Chitranjan Singh , National Secretary

65.  People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), India, Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi, Director

66.  People’s Watch, India, Henri Tiphagne, Executive Director

67.  Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims (RCT) – Denmark, Denmark, Erik Wendt, Program Manager Asia

68.  Rights Development Centre, Bangladesh, Mr. F. M. Abdur Razzak, Executive Director

69.  Sasvika Sangatan ( Organization For Community Based Health & Development), India, Carol Geeta, Director

70.  Savitri Bai Phule Women Forum (SWF) , India, Shruti Nagvanshi, Coordinator

71.  Swanchetan Society, India, Dr. Rajat Mitra, President

72.  Sophia Institute, India, Sr. Carol , Secretary

73.  South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM), India, Mathews Philip, Executive Director

74.  Southern Thai-NGOs-COD, Thailand, Bunjong Na-sae

75.  Stree Adhikar Sanghatan, India, Ms. Padma , Convener

76.  ThaiSea Watch Association, Thailand, Suppawan Chanasongkram

77.  Thai Volunteer Service, Thailand, Vattana Narkpradit

78.  The Human Rights Working Group (HRWG), Indonesia, Mr. Ali Akbar , Program Officer

79.  The Indonesian Association of Families of the Disappeared (IKOHI), Indonesia, Mr. Mugiyanto, Chairperson

80.  The Legal Aid Institute of Jakarta (LBH Jakarta), Indonesia, Mr. Asfinawati, Executive Director

81.  Women’s Rehabilitation Centre, Nepal (WOREC Nepal), Nepal, Ms. Jyotsna Maskay, Executive Director

82.  Working Group Justice for Peace, Thailand, Angkana Neelapaijit

83.  World Student Christian Federation Asia Pacific Region (WSCF AP), Hong Kong, Necta Montes Rocas, Regional Secretary

84.  Young Muslim Association of Thailand, Thailand, Abdulasis Tade-in