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Sharma and AI discuss Lanka

2014 Feb 08

The Secretary General of the London based international human rights group Amnesty International, Salil Shetty, met the Secretary General of the Commonwealth Kamalesh Sharma and discussed concerns on Sri Lanka, the Times of India reported.

This was the first time Sharma had agreed to meet Amnesty to discuss these issues. Shetty said the Commonwealth did not agree on an international probe in Sri Lanka although some individual Commonwealth countries have joined the chorus calling for an international investigation into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka.

Shetty said the main points at the discussion with Sharma focused on the Commonwealth’s silence on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. Shetty said the Commonwealth Secretariat has seemed to give far too much credence to the Sri Lankan argument that it needs “time and space” to investigate the conflict, rather than pushing the government to take action.

“The Commonwealth’s line that it’s “actively engaging” on human rights in Sri Lanka does not stand up to scrutiny. For example, why has no one from the Commonwealth spoken publicly on the well documented attacks on human rights defenders around the CHOGM? The silence really undermines the Commonwealth’s credibility as a whole – many of the crimes Sri Lanka stand accused of are in direct violation of its Charter,” Shetty said.

Shetty also said that there’s an overwhelming body of evidence on alleged war crimes by both the Sri Lankan army and the LTTE, during the armed conflict, in particular in the final bloody months in early 2009.

“We want the Commonwealth to stop taking the Sri Lankan PR machine at face value, and take genuine steps to push Sri Lanka to improve the human rights situation there. From the international community, a continued push for an international war crimes investigation is essential – it’s good to see that the momentum is gathering pace for just that ahead of the UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva in March. But what has happened since the end of the war is just as important to highlight. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been on a steady path to shore up power and repress anyone it thinks is standing in the government’s way, often violently. There’s been a disturbing pattern of cracking down on dissent, with anyone from families of victims, journalists, trade unionists, opposition members, and human rights defenders threatened, harassed or worse,” Shetty added

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