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Sharma accused of bias

2013 Sep 27

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma has been accused of ignoring human rights issues in Sri Lanka and even shielding the country from criticism.

The New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that Sharma has stated that the Commonwealth is active in promoting its values in Sri Lanka, such as respect for human rights and free speech.

“Ahead of an April CMAG meeting, Sharma commissioned two independent legal reports on the impeachment of Sri Lankan Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranaike. Despite calls by the Canadian government and others to make those reports available to the group, Sharma has not released the reports, even to the members. One of the reports, leaked on September 8, states that the impeachment of the chief justice was unconstitutional and a “direct violation” of the rule of law and contravened Commonwealth Values and Principles,” HRW said.

Human Rights Watch reiterated its concerns that holding the summit in Sri Lanka casts serious doubts on the Commonwealth’s commitment to supporting human rights, democratic reform, and fundamental human rights enshrined in the Commonwealth Harare Declaration of 1991. The Commonwealth and its participants risk major embarrassment by holding the meeting in Colombo, particularly given Pillay’s September 25 statement to the Human Rights Council, which highlighted a range of human rights problems, Human Rights Watch said.

Two days earlier, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, reported to the UN Human Rights Council about ongoing human rights concerns in Sri Lanka and the government’s failure “to independently or credibly investigate the allegations” of war crimes during the country’s armed conflict. However, CMAG and the Commonwealth Secretariat have largely refused to discuss Sri Lanka’s human rights situation.

“The UN rights chief decried a worsening situation in Sri Lanka and listed past and present problems that contradict official ‘Commonwealth values,’” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Commonwealth should not bury its head in the sand and ignore Sri Lanka’s serious human rights problems.” (Colombo Gazette)

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