Sri Lanka: Human rights activists in danger

Socialist Resistance condemns the Sri Lankan government for intensifying its terror campaign against human rights and media activists following its setback at the UNHCR which adopted a resolution calling on the government to implement the recommendations of a presidential panel of inquiry on the war.

One of the latest of these threats was on March 25 when leading activist Sandya Ekneligoda was interrogated in a highly threatening manner in court by lawyers representing the state. She was trying to find out the whereabouts of her missing husband. The interrogation directed at Sandya was not about his disappearance but over her recent campaign in Geneva calling on UN member states to ask the Sri Lankan government to produce her journalist husband Prageeth Ekneligoda. Prageeth, who was abducted on January 24 2009, was also an opposition activist.

This attack on Sandya follows a series of hate broadcasts by state-run television ITN, Lakehouse publications and other pro government corporate media against human rights activists Nimalka Fernando, Sunila Abesysekara and Paikyasothy Saravanamuttu in addition to media activists Rohitha Bashana, Poddala Jayantha, Sanath Balasuriya, Sunanda Deshapriya and Manjula Wediwardena who have been forced to flee the country. Activists of Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) living in Sri Lanka were also targeted. . SLWJA President Gnanasiri Koththigoda, for instance, has been targeted in a sinister character assassination campaign by the government controlled television channel, ITN.

All the activists targeted by the Sri Lanka state media have been highlighting the human misery and war crimes committed during the genocidal war waged by the Sri Lankan government against the Tamils. The war, in which the Tamil Tiger militants were defeated militarily in May 2009, resulted in over a hundred thousand civilian lives being lost. Although the UN concluded that over forty thousand non-combatants died, it has so far been unable to take any action against Sri Lanka.

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to look into the war justified the killing of unarmed Tamils by the Sri Lankan military, charging that Tamil Tigers used the civilians as ‘human shields’. Despite this, recommendations by the LLRC presented to the Sri Lankan parliament in December 2011 have been swept under the carpet. The UNHRC, whose 19th session concluded on March 2012, adopted a resolution despite strong opposition from Sri Lanka and 15 other governments – including Russia, China and Cuba – urged Sri Lanka’s rulers to implement the LLRC recommendations.

A key factor in the UN taking this step nearly three years after the end of the war was the fact that Sri Lankan activists, living in a highly dangerous environment stuck out their necks by calling for accountability and justice.
Therefore, while unreservedly condemning the Sri Lankan state led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa for hounding those women and men seeking justice, we believe that it is the duty and responsibility of the UN to take steps to safeguard the lives of these and other handful of brave Sri Lankans who are a minority standing against a Sinhala nationalist militarised state. We consider that stopping the deportation of political asylum seekers from Sri Lanka is crucial in this regard.

We call upon all progressive forces around the globe to join hands in solidarity with oppressed Sri Lankans in general and Tamils in particular and to call upon their respective governments to condemn the Sri Lankan government’s destructive approach. We call on the UN to take measures that would enable the Sri Lankan human rights activists to continue with their fight for truth and justice without fear or intimidation. We also consider that human rights activists seeking asylum elsewhere in the world should be granted that asylum and not deported to Sri Lanka in the interim.

1 Comment

  1. The human rights issue is being used by a handful of countries as a pretext and tool to pursue selfish interests, demonize the image of other countries and intervene in their internal affairs.

    The US shouldn’t behave as a self-proclaimed human rights judge. The US has never hesitated to point the finger at other countries’ human rights and to advocate that “human rights are superior to sovereignty” when it serves its own interests. But the US has refused to sign some of the major United Nations human rights covenants. On March 18, the UN Human Rights Council made 228 proposals for the US to improve its own human rights conditions, including urging Washington to ratify some key international human rights treaties, improving the rights for minorities and reducing racial discrimination. However, the US refused most of these proposals on the grounds that its human rights allow no intervention from the outside.

    The double standard embraced by the US testify to the fact that human rights are being used by some countries as a tool to interfere with others’ internal affairs and the idea that “human rights stand higher than sovereignty” has become a political slogan for some to justify their hegemonic activities.

    Until the outbreak of World War II, Western countries were still enmeshed in their history of colonialism, racial discrimination and outside aggression. The widespread national liberation and democratic movements across the world following the end of World War II quickly resulted in the collapse of the West’s long-held moral excuses that were used to justify their past crimes and “use of force” and it turned to concepts, such as “humanitarian intervention” and “human rights are superior to sovereignty”, as the main means to regain their lost moral dominance and maintain their dwindling domain of influence throughout the world.

    By using abstract terms and their own criteria to define the concept of human rights, Western countries have attempted to completely separate human rights from sovereignty and then cause conflicts in specific countries and regions from which they can benefit and achieve their own political purposes.

    Human rights in individual countries can only be realized and protected in a sovereign country, when there are still strong and weak countries and when hegemonic activities and power politics still prevail.

    A country belongs to all its people and the country’s sovereignty is the concentrated embodiment of its collective human rights. The existence of sovereign nations constitutes the foundation of the current international society and under this precondition human rights conditions worldwide have made continuous advancements.

    In the absence of sovereignty, a country will have no ability and means to protect the human rights of its people. From Kosovo to Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, under the pretext of “human rights being superior to sovereignty”, Western countries have chosen to use guns and bombs against the governments of these countries to realize their own ulterior motives. But the use of force has failed to bring the people in these countries improved human rights, on the contrary it has plunged them deep into humanitarian disasters and cost many their lives.

    Protecting human rights is a universal pursuit of people of all countries across the world. But if this issue is rigged by a handful of countries as the excuse to interfere with other countries’ internal affairs, the human rights of these countries and their people are ignored.

    Military interventions under the guise of moral slogans are in essence a kind of neo-colonialism.

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