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These blog postings do not necessarily represent the views of all members of the Advisory Council.

12/04/2014

Now that Gobi is dead, Jeyakumari must come home

We have just released a statement in response to the Government of Sri Lanka's announcement that they have killed the wanted LTTE revivalist "Gobi".

As we said in that statement, "There was never any credible evidence produced to link Jeyakumari Balendran or any of the other people arrested to Gobi, and their detention had always appeared to have more to do with maintaining a climate of fear, and preventing communication with the outside world, than it did with security concerns."

"Now that Gobi is no longer at large there is no longer even the illusion of a reason to continue to detain these people. They must be released without delay."

Jeyakumari Balendran and at least 60 others remain in Boosa detention centre, a place notorious for torture. No evidence has ever been produced against any of them, and Jeyakumari at least has now been detained for a month. They must be released, and the draconian law that has been used to keep them in jail must be repealed.

If they are not, the international community needs to take strong steps against the Sri Lankan Government. Only this will change their mind. We are suggesting that all members of the TID (Terrorist Investigation Department) - the organisation that is responsible for these detentions - be denied visas to travel abroad until Jeyakumari is released.

Please write to your Government, and make that argument. You can contact the British here, and the Americans here. A sample email is included below.

Sample email


Dear xxxx,

Jeyakumari Balendran, a prominent human rights activist, and at least sixty others remain in detention in Sri Lanka's notorious Boosa prison. No evidence has ever been produced against any of them, but the Government of Sri Lanka says that it needs to question them in connection with their hunt for Selvanayagam Kajeepan AKA Gobi.

Now that Gobi has been found, these people must be released and the draconian law that has been used to keep them in jail  (the PTA) must be repealed. If they are not then the international community needs to take strong steps against the Sri Lankan Government. Only this will change their mind. I suggest that all members of the TID (Terrorist Investigation Department) - the organisation that is responsible for these detentions - be denied visas to travel to our country until Jeyakumari is released.

Kind regards



Death of "Gobi" should mean the release of the detained

We are today calling for the release of Jeyakumari Balendran and at least 60 others detained under the prevention of terrorism act in the last month, following the Sri Lankan Army's announcement that they had killed suspected LTTE revivalist Selvanayagam Kajeepan AKA Gobi. We are suggesting a travel ban be placed on all members of the department responsible unless this takes place.

The manhunt for Gobi was repeatedly cited as the reason that Jeyakumari Balendran and others were detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act - a draconian piece of legislation which allows suspects to be detained without evidence for up to 18 months.

There was never any credible evidence produced to link Jeyakumari Balendran or any of the other people arrested to Gobi, and their detention had always appeared to have more to do with maintaining a climate of fear, and preventing communication with the outside world, than it did with security concerns. Now that Gobi is no longer at large there is no longer even the illusion of a reason to continue to detain these people. The Prevention of Terrorism act is an immoral, unnecessary, and unjustifiable piece of legislation and it must be abolished, and those held under it must be released without delay.

Jeyakumari Balendran and at least 60 others remain in Boosa detention centre, a place notorious for torture. We remain very concerned about their wellbeing. If they are not released immediately the international community must swiftly act to ensure there are meaningful sanctions - such as a travel ban on all members of the TID (Terrorist Investigation Department).

Little information is available about Selvanayagam Kajeepan AKA Gobi. As we pointed out earlier, the lack of information about Gobi, and the fact that such information as has been made available does not tally with credible eyewitness accounts, cast doubt on the official narrative of events. This pattern continued as the Uthayan newspaper reported Gobi was arrested on the 8th of April (eyewitnesses had suggested he had already been arrested on the 13th of March), and yet he was reported to be at large when he engaged in a firefight with security forces and was killed on the 11th of April. Clearly this raises the suspicion of extrajudicial killing, but without any further information it is impossible to say whether this was the case, or indeed whether the entire saga was a complete, or partial, fabrication, or merely an exploitation of real events for the purposes of quelling dissent. Certainly a degree of scepticism is in order.

Pro-government spokespeople immediately took to social media (some seemingly before the news had even officially broken, and with images apparently prepared in advance - raising further questions) suggesting the incident marked a return to war. This is patently absurd and there is no suggestion that this incident will have any subsequent consequences. Indeed the death of Gobi, whoever he is or was, must not mark the beginning of anything, but the end of a strange saga which the Government of Sri Lanka ruthlessly exploited to intimidate its critics into silence and strike a series of blows against those working for human rights in Sri Lanka. It is vital that this process is now put into reverse.


08/04/2014

Job posting - deputy director

The Sri Lanka Campaign are delighted to announce that we are expanding, and are looking to hire our second member of staff. The advert is below.

Generous individuals have underwritten the new employee's salary for the first six months, but our financial situation is still precarious. We are looking to expand now to increase our capacity in the hope of becoming more sustainable. If you can help us, please do make a contribution here. Many thanks.

----

The Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice seeks an exceptional candidate to fill the role of Deputy Director (finance and administration), to help a small but highly effective human rights organisation expand and achieve financial sustainability. The role is based in London.

Main Responsibilities
To work with the Campaign director to deliver a successful campaign, with a particular emphasis on administration and fundraising. Helping to build volunteer morale and motivation will be a key priority, as will fundraising activities, with the full support from Board and volunteers, to secure the Campaign’s future.

Key Tasks
  • To keep abreast of the political and human rights situation in Sri Lanka
  • To oversee the development and maintenance of the Campaign blog - including by commissioning and editing articles.
  • To develop and implement a comprehensive community fundraising strategy, and to organise, with support from Board and volunteers, fundraising events, with a view to raising around £5,000 per year via these methods
  • To organise volunteer meetings, to instill a sense of enthusiasm into our volunteers and supporters, and to use our volunteers and supporters in the completion of our campaign objectives
  • To maintain our financial, campaigning, and supporter contact databases and handle office administration and payroll
  • To hire and manage volunteer interns, as appropriate, to help in the completion of tasks.
  • Any other tasks that may be determined to take priority
Person specification
Essential
  • Self-starter, strong project management skills
  • High level of accuracy and attention to detail
  • Experience of working with volunteers
  • Strong commitment to engage with the fundraising challenge
  • Strong communication skills, including writing
  • An approach to organising which is inclusive and collaborative, ability to build relationships with a variety of different people
  • Proven track record on human rights (a detailed knowledge of Sri Lankan history is not needed but a willingness to get up to speed quickly is essential)
Desirable
  • Experience of working within a small “not for profit” organisation
  • Experience of working with interns
Remuneration
This post will be based in London. Salary: 2 days a week at £20,000 PA pro rata (ie with a take-home salary of £8,000 PA). The precise terms could be modified to suit an exceptional candidate, for example in the case of a PhD candidate not wishing to exceed their funder's maximum permitted allowance for external employment. The salary is underwritten for six months and will be extended on a permanent basis if finances allow.

The candidate would ideally be able to start immediately, but this will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Reporting and working relationships
Formally reporting to the Campaign Director.

To apply, please send your CV and a covering letter, using Deputy Director as the subject line, stating why you believe you are a good candidate for this position to info@srilankacampaign.org

The deadline for applications is 9.00 am on Tuesday 22nd April. Interviews will be held between the 24th and 30th of April.

03/04/2014

Offerings

A note from the Artist

Offerings are part of an ongoing project exploring the theme of blindness, the blurring of visibility and the literal and psychological whitewashing of ethnic identity in the aftermath and afterlife of war in the context of post-war Sri Lanka.

This chapter, entitled Offerings, portrays a series of hands belonging to one family of survivors from the Northern district of Mullaitivu. Shot in varying degrees of visibility the photographs are coupled with hand written texts inscribed directly onto the surfaces of the images by the survivors themselves.

Acknowledging the significance of the hand as an organ of performance the images work in unison with the accompanying texts to go to the heart of the feelings of one set of survivors who bore direct witness to the final months of fighting from the shorelines of the no fire zone.

Offerings give these survivors both form and voice to express their emotions to the outside world providing them with an avenue for traumas and emotions to surface empowering them as victims and transforming them into active agents working for change.

Previously when I asked one of the survivors how he felt he described a burning sensation deep inside. After he wrote on the images I asked him again and he told me it felt like the burning sensation had been reduced.

Translations of the texts have been offered in both English and Sinhala with the kind help of Dilma Ishwara.

To contact the artist or for any enquiries regarding this project please contact info@srilankacampaign.org

Offerings

How to chase a woman, strip her and kill her?
How to aim at a small child with a gun?
How to dance on the chest of the dead?
How to spit on the face of the Tamils left behind?
O World, don't forget to learn these from our motherland Sri Lanka.

නී ජ්නයිනි සිහි තබායගන - ඉයගනගන් ලංකාව නේ අයප මවු බියමන්මුලින් නිරුවත්
කරන අන්දම හඹා යගොස් අංගනාවක්
කුඩා දරුයවක් යවතට එල්ලෙ ගන්න හැටි බයියනත්තුවක්
හුදකලා යදමයළකුයග මුහුණට ගහන හැටි එක් යකළ පිඩක්
නටන තාලෙ තුටින් උඩපැන පාග පාගා හදවතක්

We don't need a motherland to live.
To call the names of those,
to drench in the memories of those who died fighting for our land
both these hands will always join together asking
give us freedom.

අයේ යපොළවට යුද වැදී මළ උන්යග නායමන් කෑ ගසන්නට
එවන් මතයකන් නිති යතයමන්නට අපට ඕනද මව්බිමක්
දෑත් එක්යකොට අෙැද සිටියනමු
යදන්න අපටත් නිදහසක්


We demanded our rights in the way of Gandhi
Yet we were abandoned.
We rebelled against the Black July riots,
Yet we were forsaken by the world.
What is remaining at the expense of lost lives
are these hands.

ඉල්ලුයව් අපි අයේ අයිතිෙ ගාන්ධි උතුමන් වයේ
කළු ජූලිෙට එදිරිවයි අපි - කැරලි ගසමින් ගියෙ මයේ
අනාථව ගිෙ අසරණුන් කර යලොවම අප හැර යගොස් වයේ
මළවුන්යග නායමන් ඉතිරි වී ඇත්යත අත් විතරයි වයේ

A country that cannot cry for the dead.
A country that deemed their grave an infamy and effaced it.
A country that refused the right to live.
To control the tears, mouths shut
we are pleading with our hands for freedom
at least to shed tears.

දිවියෙ අයිතිෙ උදුරගත් - මළවුන්ට නාඬන යේශෙක්
ින්දිතව වැළලී මැකී ෙන්නට - සිහින දකිනා රාජ්යෙක්
කඳුළු සඟවන් මුව වසා අප - යදෝත පා අෙදින්යන යේ
අවම තරමින් අපට ෙැයි හඬා වැයටනට නිදහසක්

28/03/2014

Our accounts

This isn't the most exciting blog post of the year, but our fully audited accounts for the year 2012-13 are now available on our website and here:



(The eagle eyed of you may have noticed one small mistake - by Human Rights Commission we, of course, mean the Human Rights Council)  

We often get attacked by supporters of the Government of Sri Lanka asking us to declare where our funding comes from. This is always a source of amusement to us, both because we have been doing exactly that ever since we first started, and because most of these individuals and groups are noticeably recalcitrant when it comes to revealing their own sources of funding.

This year we have made it even easier to see where our money comes from by voluntarily declaring a greater amount of information than is required for the audit. As you will see the truth is far less glamorous than apologists for the Sri Lankan Government imagine. The truth is that we don't have very much money, and never have, and that we operate on a shoestring budget thanks to the contributions of ordinary people via our website. People like you.

So, if you are able, please click this link now, and make a donation. However much you can afford.

27/03/2014

A step closer to peace and justice



The Sri Lanka Campaign was founded nearly five years ago with four key objectives. The first was the establishment of an independent international investigation. Today that objective was achieved.

The Human Rights Council has voted for the High Commissioner for Human Rights:
To undertake a comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka during the period covered by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, and to establish the facts and circumstances of such alleged violations and of the crimes perpetrated with a view to avoiding impunity and ensuring accountability, with assistance from relevant experts and special procedures mandate holders.
No resolution is going to do 100% of the things we want, but the High Commissioner for Human Rights now has a clear mandate for a robust and thorough investigation into what took place, and is taking place, in Sri Lanka.

It is important that she, and her successor, use it and use it well, and that is why our work here isn't done, and won't be done until there is justice in Sri Lanka, and the peace that that will bring.

Our work also isn't done because we are very worried about what the next few weeks will bring, as the Sri Lankan Government no longer feels any need to hold back in its attempt to crush dissent. Campaigner for the Disappeared Balendran Jeyakumari, and at least 10 others, remain in detention without access to their lawyers, and without any evidence having been produced. Meanwhile freed activists Ruki Fernando and Fr Praveen Mahesan remain subjected to a gagging order and continued judicial harassment.

Here are three things you can do:
  1. Support our campaign. Unfortunately our work is not free, and we rely on the donations of people like you to keep going. 
  2. Join our effort to free Balendran Jeyakumari and others held without evidence. 
  3. Support the Human Rights Observatory's attempt to have the gag order on Ruki Fernando and Father Praveen Mahesan lifted.
The next few weeks could be tough, but at least tonight we are one step closer to ending Sri Lanka's culture of impunity, and stopping the suffering that brings.

Here are the full details:

The vote passed by 23 votes to 12 with 12 abstaining. (Procedural votes also took place: a delaying motion was defeated by 16 votes to 25, and a vote on para 10 was defeated by 14 votes to 23)


The full list of how each nation voted is as follows:

On the resolution itself:

For: 23 Argentina, Austria, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cote D’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Montenegro, Peru, Rep. of Korea, Romania, Sierra Leone, Macedonia, UK, USA.

Against: 12 Algeria, China, Congo, Cuba, Kenya, Maldives, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Venezuela,Vietnam.

Abstain: 12 Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Morocco, Namibia, Philippines, South Africa.

On the decision to retain Paragraph 10: (changed votes from vote above underlined)

For: 23 Argentina, Austria, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cote D’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Montenegro, Peru, Rep. of Korea, Romania, Sierra Leone, Macedonia, UK, USA.

Against: 14 Algeria, China, Congo, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Maldives, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Venezuela,Vietnam.

Abstain: 10 Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gabon, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Morocco, Namibia, Philippines, South Africa.

On the decision to defer the vote:  (changed votes from vote above underlined)

For: 17 Algeria, China, Congo, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Maldives, Morocco, Namibia, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, UAE, Venezuela, Vietnam

Against: 25 Argentina, Austria, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Montenegro, Peru, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Romania, Sierra Leone, Macedonia, UK, USA.

Abstain: 5 Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kazakhstan, Kuwait

The resolution was brought by the following countries: (those in bold are HRC members and so voted yes as well as cosponsoring the resolution

Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mauritius, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America.

Plus four late additions: Czech Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Malta, Slovenia


Here's the full text of the resolution

Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka

The Human Rights Council,

Reaffirming the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations,

Guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Human Rights and other relevant instruments,

Bearing in mind General Assembly resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006,

Recalling Human Rights Council resolutions 5/1, on institution-building of the Council, and 5/2, on the Code of Conduct for Special Procedures Mandate Holders, of 18 June 2007,

Recalling also Human Rights Council resolutions 19/2 of 22 March 2012 and 22/1 of 21 March 2013 on promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka,

Reaffirming its commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka,

Reaffirming also that it is the responsibility of each State to ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of its entire population,

Reaffirming further that States must ensure that any measure taken to combat terrorism complies with their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights law, international refugee law and international humanitarian law, as applicable,

Reaffirming that all Sri Lankans are entitled to the full enjoyment of their human rights regardless of religion, belief or ethnicity, in a peaceful and unified land,

Welcoming and acknowledging the progress made by the Government of Sri Lanka in rebuilding infrastructure, demining and resettling the majority of internally displaced persons, while noting nonetheless that considerable work lies ahead in the areas of justice, reconciliation, land use and ownership, the resumption of livelihoods and the restoration of normality to civilian life, and stressing the importance of the full participation of local populations, including representatives of civil society and minorities, in these efforts,

Welcoming the successful holding of Provincial Council elections on 21 September 2013 and, in particular, the high turnout and participation in all three provinces, while noting with concern reports of election-related violence, as well as of voter and candidate intimidation,

Expressing appreciation for the efforts and cooperation of the Government of Sri Lanka in facilitating the visit of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and providing her with open access, and welcoming the visit of the High Commissioner to Sri Lanka in August 2013,

Expressing deep concern at reported intimidation and retaliation against civil society members who engage with United Nations human rights mechanisms, including those who met with the High Commissioner during her visit,

Expressing serious concern at the continuing reports of violations of human rights in Sri Lanka, including sexual and gender-based violence, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture and violations of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, threats to judicial independence and the rule of law, as well as intimidation of and reprisals against human rights defenders, members of civil society, lawyers and journalists,

Alarmed at the significant surge in attacks against members of religious minority groups in Sri Lanka, including Hindus, Muslims and Christians,

Calling upon the Government of Sri Lanka to fulfil its public commitments, including on the devolution of political authority, which is integral to reconciliation and the full enjoyment of human rights by all members of its population,

Taking note of the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission of Sri Lanka, its findings and recommendations, and acknowledging its possible contribution to the process of meaningful national reconciliation in Sri Lanka,

Recalling the constructive recommendations contained in the Commission’s report, including the need to credibly investigate widespread allegations of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, demilitarize the north of Sri Lanka, implement impartial land dispute resolution mechanisms, re-evaluate detention policies, strengthen formerly independent civil institutions, reach a political settlement on the devolution of power to the provinces, promote and protect the right of freedom of expression for all persons and enact rule of law reforms,

Taking note of the national plan of action to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission of the Government of Sri Lanka and its commitments as set forth in response to the findings and recommendations of the Commission,

Noting that the national plan of action does not adequately address all of the findings and constructive recommendations of the Commission, and encouraging the Government of Sri Lanka to broaden the scope of the plan to adequately address all elements of the Commission’s report,

Noting with concern that the national plan of action and the Commission’s report do not adequately address serious allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law,

Emphasizing the importance of a comprehensive approach to transitional justice incorporating the full range of judicial and non-judicial measures, including, inter alia, individual prosecutions, reparations, truth-seeking, institutional reform, vetting of public employees and officials, or an appropriately conceived combination thereof, in order to, inter alia, ensure accountability, serve justice, provide remedies to victims, promote healing and reconciliation, establish independent oversight of the security system, restore confidence in the institutions of the State and promote the rule of law in accordance with international human rights law, with a view to preventing the recurrence of violations and abuses,

Underlining that truth-seeking processes, such as truth and reconciliation commissions, that investigate patterns of past human rights violations and their causes and consequences are important tools that can complement judicial processes, and that, when established, such mechanisms have to be designed within a specific societal context and be founded on broad national consultations with the inclusion of victims and civil society, including non-governmental organizations,

Recalling the responsibility of States to comply with their relevant obligations to prosecute those responsible for gross violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law constituting crimes under international law, with a view to end impunity,

Recalling also the High Commissioner’s conclusion that national mechanisms have consistently failed to establish the truth and to achieve justice, and her recommendation that the Human Rights Council establish an international inquiry mechanism to further investigate the alleged violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law and monitor any domestic accountability processes,

Encouraging the Government of Sri Lanka to increase its dialogue and cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner, including with regard to technical assistance,

1. Welcomes the oral update presented by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-fourth session[1] and the subsequent report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka[2] and the recommendations and conclusions contained therein, including on the establishment of a truth-seeking mechanism and national reparations policy as an integral part of a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to transitional justice;

2. Calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to conduct an independent and credible investigation into allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, as applicable; to hold accountable those responsible for such violations; to end continuing incidents of human rights violations and abuses in Sri Lanka; and to implement the recommendations made in the reports of the Office of the High Commissioner;

3. Reiterates its call upon the Government of Sri Lanka to implement effectively the constructive recommendations made in the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, and to take all necessary additional steps to fulfil its relevant legal obligations and commitment to initiate credible and independent actions to ensure justice, equity, accountability and reconciliation for all Sri Lankans;

4. Urges the Government of Sri Lanka to investigate all alleged attacks, by individuals and groups, on journalists, human rights defenders, members of religious minority groups and other members of civil society, as well as on temples, mosques and churches, and also urges the Government to hold perpetrators of such attacks to account and to take steps to prevent such attacks in the future;

5. Calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to release publicly the results of its investigations into alleged violations by security forces, including the attack on unarmed protesters in Weliweriya on 1 August 2013, and the report of 2013 by the court of inquiry of the Sri Lanka Army;

6. Encourages the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure that all Provincial Councils, including the Northern Provincial Council, are able to operate effectively, in accordance with the 13th amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka;

7. Welcomes the visit by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons in December 2013, and calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to facilitate the effective implementation of durable solutions for internally displaced persons, including the long-term displaced;

8. Also welcomes the invitation to the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants and the Special Rapporteur on the right to education;

9. Encourages the Government of Sri Lanka to cooperate with other special procedures mandate holders and to respond formally to their outstanding requests, including long-standing requests;

10. Takes note of the recommendations and conclusions of the High Commissioner regarding ongoing human rights violations and the need for an international inquiry mechanism in the absence of a credible national process with tangible results, and requests the Office of the High Commissioner:

(a) To monitor the human rights situation in Sri Lanka and to continue to assess progress on relevant national processes;

(b) To undertake a comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka during the period covered by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, and to establish the facts and circumstances of such alleged violations and of the crimes perpetrated with a view to avoiding impunity and ensuring accountability, with assistance from relevant experts and special procedures mandate holders;

(c) To present an oral update to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-seventh session, and a comprehensive report followed by a discussion on the implementation of the present resolution at its twenty-eighth session;

11. Encourages the Office of the High Commissioner and relevant special procedures mandate holders to provide, in consultation with and with the concurrence of the Government of Sri Lanka, advice and technical assistance on implementing the above-mentioned steps;

12. Calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner in the implementation of the present resolution.

[1] See A/HRC/24/CRP.3/Rev.1.
[2] A/HRC/25/23. 

Here was our statement:

The Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice today welcomed the decision of the UN Human Rights Council to establish an independent international investigation, while warning of a backlash against activists in Sri Lanka.

Edward Mortimer, Chair of the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, said,

"It has been obvious for at least three years that only an independent international investigation can establish the truth about what happened in Sri Lanka in the last months of the civil war. There is credible evidence that both sides committed crimes against humanity, and the lack of accountability for this has engendered a culture of impunity which has led to further outrages. We believe that these too amount to crimes against humanity, and that they persist to this day.

"The High Commissioner for Human Rights now has a clear mandate to conduct a robust and thorough investigation into what took place, and is taking place, in Sri Lanka. It is important that she, and her successor, make full use of this mandate.

"The international community must not now look away from Sri Lanka. In the last two weeks we have seen a severe crackdown on all forms of dissent. Campaigner for the Disappeared Balendran Jeyakumari, and at least 10 others, remain in detention without access to their lawyers, and no evidencehas been produced against them. Meanwhile Ruki Fernando and Fr Praveen Mahesan, the activists who were released last week, are still subjected to a gagging order and other forms of judicial harassment. It is terrifying to think how much further the Sri Lankan authorities will go if the international community's attention moves on. They need to be told firmly that there will be real consequences if the crackdown continues."

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22/03/2014

#stoptorture


A shocking report detailing the ongoing sexual violence and torture in Sri Lanka (some as recent as February 2014) was launched by our very own Yasmin Sooka this Friday. You can see it at www.stop-torture.com and people are talking about it on social media using the hashtag #stoptorture.

It is very very upsetting to read, but it is important for two reasons. Firstly because it develops the case we made earlier, that the situation in Sri Lanka constitutes an ongoing crime against humanity. And secondly because the victims themselves wanted the story to be told. As one said, "I have lost everything in my life. So I will fight at least to prevent the same evil happening to other Tamil women."

The report is introduced by Archbishop Tutu:


And the story of the report is probably best told in these three infographics:




At the bottom of the website is a map, clicking on each of the icons on the map brings up a story. These stories are truly horrible, but the people who lived through them wanted these stories to be told. Now it is vital that we stop torture. You can do your part by sharing this report with those who might be interested, and by supporting the campaign for an independent international investigation in Sri Lanka.

Many thanks.

21/03/2014

The very worrying current situation in Sri Lanka

Dear friends,

I'd like to share a release we have just sent out concerning media reports from Sri Lanka.

Here's how you can help
  1. Support Amnesty International's Urgent Action to keep Jeyakumari safe
  2. Spread the word, by sharing the statement below far and wide
Here's the statement:

The Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice is outraged by recent attempts by the Government of Sri Lanka to silence its critics.

As reported in the media, freed activists Ruki Fernando and Fr Praveen Mahesan were today hit with a ban on speaking to international media and ordered to hand over their sim cards and ipads. Police told the BBC that was because they were involved in an incident in Killinochi, which mustn’t be divulged until investigations were over.

Meanwhile Jeyakumari Balendran a human rights activist who was arrested in connection with the same alleged incident is at high risk of torture. Credible reports allege she was assaulted in front of her daughter at the time of detention in Killinochchi. Currently she is being detained at the Boossa facility under the Prevention of Terrorism Act that permits suspects to remain in police custody for 18 months without charge.

Amnesty International has documented extensive use of torture and other ill-treatment by TID officers in both Colombo and Boosa Detention Centre, and is concerned for the welfare of Balendran Jeyakumari. She has been held without access to her lawyers or any family being allowed to see her. Her only child is now willfully orphaned by the state and remains in a children’s welfare home because of her mother’s arrest.

Sri Lanka Campaign calls on all governments for her immediate release to ensure her safety.

Increased doubt has been cast on the alleged incident that the Government of Sri Lanka claims is the root of all three arrests.

The Government of Sri Lanka’s version of events alleges:
- that an LTTE cadre known as "Gobi" was believed to be sheltering in the house
- that he had acquired a number of weapons and was looking to revive the LTTE,
- and that Jeyakumari, Ruki and Fr Praveen had close association with various individuals and locations which were of interest to police in their search for Gobi.

But eyewitness statements, circulated online by credible sources, tell a very different story, that an armed stranger did enter the house of Jeyakumari, but that the army entered the house seconds later and detained the stranger; and that the stranger and members of the armed forces then left together without any obvious signs of hurry or any seeming injury on either part.

It should be noted that it has been a common tactic of the Sri Lankan Government in the past to use the idea of an cadre attempting to reform the LTTE, or the recovery of hidden caches of arms, as an excuse for crackdowns of this sort, and that such actions have never resulted in the alleged cadre ever being produced before a court or indeed ever being heard from again.

Nevertheless the phantom of a resurgent LTTE has once again been used as an excuse to clamp down on dissent. A statement by Sri Lankan Civil Society circulated earlier in the week pointed to two further arbitrary arrests under anti-terror legislation and new checkpoints and an increased military presence have been felt across the north and east.

Fred Carver, Campaign Director of the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, said,

"The continued harassment of activists demonstrates that the Government's actions have nothing to do with preventing a resurgence of the LTTE, and everything to do with intimidating its critics into silence.

"These unacceptable attempts to stifle free speech and intimidate activists must not be allowed to succeed. Only a strong resolution at the Human Rights Council, calling for an independent international investigation in Sri Lanka, and the threat of strong action by the international community if detainees are not released and restrictions lifted, will prevent Sri Lanka from sliding deeper into tyranny."

And here's a video of Human Rights Defender P Saravanamuttu talking at a press conference in Colombo yesterday:


20/03/2014

Help Jeyakumari and others detained without evidence

Dear friends,

Ruki Fernando and Fr Praveen Mahesan have been released but Jeyakumari Balendran and a number of others remain in detention. The situation in Sri Lanka continues to be incredibly troubling with the Government of Sri Lanka continuing a general crackdown on all forms of dissent. The latest news is:
We must continue our campaign  for those still in detention. The Government of Sri Lanka has taken the view that, while they could not stand up to the amount of pressure the international community brought to bear for Ruki and Fr Praveen, they can pick on those less protected with impunity. We must prove them wrong, and show we care just as much about all those unlawfully detained.

Here are three things you can do:
  1. Sign this petition, from the Asian Human Rights Commission, calling for Jeyakumari's release.
  2. Write to your Government, asking them to take up the case. You can contact the British here, and the Americans here. A sample email is included below.
  3. Spread the word, about these cases. On social media people are using the hashtags #FreeJeyakumari and #Freethe1000s.
Jeyakumari is a prominent activist in the movement for the relatives of the disappeared. She led the demonstrations when David Cameron went to Jaffna, and her daughter (on the right) garlanded UN High Commissioner Navi Pillay when she visited Sri Lanka. As a Hindu, a Tamil, and a woman, she belongs to a much less well protected minority than Ruki and Fr Praveen, but she needs our support just as badly.


Please take a few moments to help. 

Sample letter:

Dear xxxx,

An outpouring of international pressure managed to secure the release of two Sri Lankan human rights defenders, arrested without evidence early in the week. But a third remains in detention, along with many others held under the unjust Prevention of Terrorism Act, which allows the Sri Lankan Government to hold people without evidence for up to 18 months.

Jeyakumari Balendran led the demonstrations when David Cameron went to Jaffna, and her daughter garlanded UN High Commissioner Navi Pillay when she visited Sri Lanka. The Government of Sri Lanka are gambling on the international community not paying as much attention to her arrest because she doesn't speak English, and is a Hindu Tamil woman, a minority who have very little voice in international affairs.

Please prove them wrong by pushing for her release, and that of others held under the PTA.

18/03/2014

Ruki Fernando and Fr Praveen released

It has been an emotional day. At about 1:30 am Sri Lanka time Father Praveen and Ruki Fernando were released without charge.

This is fantastic news and a testament to the power of a joined up campaign involving virtually everyone who had ever met either of them, and many many hundreds who haven't. But this is far from the end of the story.

Jeyakurami is still in detention, and we have heard troubling reports of other arrests, not to mention the many hundreds routinely held under the draconian and unfair Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Moreover this should in no way be seen as magnanimity by the regime. Their appalling and libelous statement, since taken down, clearly showed that they intended to keep them locked up for some time and were subsequently forced to backtrack. There is no way that the arbitrary detention of two blameless activists for three days, without access to legal counsel, or anyone at all until the very last day, can be spun as anything other than an outrage. It was an action clearly designed to send a message and terrify the human rights community into silence, and if we turn away now then it will work.

Therefore it is more important than ever that we push for a strong resolution from the Human Rights Council calling for an independent international investigation. The draft resolution currently circulating is much improved, and does do that, but it doesn't call for the repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act which enabled this, and so many other, violations. Above all though, the Government's actions over the last few days must cause a strengthening, not a weakening, of the text.

Above all we must not forget Jeyakurami and the many others like her. We will be in touch tomorrow about what direction that campaign will take.

Update on the Killinochi three


Dear friends,

I am sorry to say that not much has changed with respect to the three brave activists currently held without evidence in Sri Lankan Jail.
  • Jeyakumari remains in Boosa detention centre, her daughter remains with children's services.
  • Outrageously lawyers and family members still haven't been allowed to see Ruki and Fr Praveen. We do at least now know where they are: in the HQ of the Terrorist Investigation Department in Colombo. We are told that they have been visited by the National Human Rights Commission, and that they appeared well, but we feel that nothing other than family and legal visits will reassure us on that score.
  • Under the terms of the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act all three can be detained without trial for up to 18 months. Ruki and Fr Praveen have not even been charged yet while Jeyakumari has been charged with harbouring a suspect. If they are not released Ruki and Fr Praveen should be produced before the courts within the next 2 days for charging. They are under suspicion of the patently absurd charges of supporting terrorism and fermenting ethnic discord - which carries a 20 year sentence.
  • There appears to be a general crackdown across Sri Lanka with local news reporting on at least four other arrests, one apparently involving a severe beating and one involving a pregnant woman being detained. Local journalists have also tweeted pictures of the significantly increased military presence around the town of Killinochi.
Meanwhile with respect to the campaign for their release:
We will of course keep you posted on any new developments. We'd finally like to leave you with the thought of how ridiculous it is that this man is currently in jail for fermenting ethnic discord:


17/03/2014

Free the Killinochi three

Update: it appears they have been issued with a 72 hour police detention order, with no specific charges, but arrest was on suspicion of inciting ethnic hatred which is manifestly absurd. Police say they will be produced before the courts within 72 hours. They will then have to either charge them, release them, or issue a detention order under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. More worryingly lawyers and family still haven't been granted access.

Jeyakumari 
---

Dear friends,

These are dark days. On Thursday the prominent campaigner for the disappeared Jeyakumari Balendran was arrested along with her 13 year old daughter. While the daughter was released, Jeyakumari continues to be held in Boosa detention centre. She is being held under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism act, under which a person can be held without charge for up to 18 months.

Fr Praveen
Then yesterday at 10pm two other activists Ruki Fernando and Fr. Praveen Mahesan were arrested in Killinochi. To date, there has been no official reason given for their treatment. Police have informed the media and lawyers that they are being brought to Colombo for further questioning. However, there is still no clear information on their current location. Family and friends are extremely concerned for their safety.

Fr. Praveen is the former Director of the Centre For Peace And Reconciliation, a Kilinochchi based organisation working for peace and understanding between communities. Ruki is one of Sri Lanka's most prominent and vocal human rights activists and has worked for many years with the families of the disappeared.

We have not heard from them since they were arrested and are very worried for the safety of all three.

Ruki Fernando 
Here are three things you can do:
  1. Bombard UK Prime Minister David Cameron with emails asking for his help in securing their release. You can use the email info@davidcameron.com or via http://www.number10.gov.uk/footer/contact-us. We attach a short sample email below. In the USA you might want to try contacting John Kerry: http://contact-us.state.gov/app/ask/
  2. Write to your local Sri Lankan embassy asking for their release. You can find contacts for the UK here, Canada here, and the US here. Again there is a short sample email below.
  3. Spread the word about the arrests. The hashtag #freerukiandpriest is being used on social media.
Many thanks,

The Sri Lanka Campaign

Sample letter to Cameron

Dear Prime Minister, 

When you visited Sri Lanka in November you promised to shine a light on what was happening in that country. Now one of the people who came to meet you, a priest, and one of Sri Lanka's most prominent and outspoken activists are in custody. Jeyakumari Balendran is a prominent campaigner for the disappeared. She was arrested on Thursday along with her 13 year old daughter. 

While the daughter was released, Jeyakumari continues to be held in Boosa detention centre. Yesterday (Sunday) at 10pm two other activists Ruki Fernando and Fr Praveen Mahesan were arrested in Killinochi. To date, there has been no official reason given for their treatment. Family and friends are extremely concerned for their safety. 

You have endorsed Rajapaksa as President of the Commonwealth. Please use your influence to unwind these appalling and unjustified arrests.

Sample letter to High Commissioners

Excellency,

Please help to secure the release of three activists detained in Killinochi over the last few days

Jeyakumari Balendran is a prominent campaigner for the disappeared. She was arrested on Thursday along with her 13 year old daughter. While the daughter was released, Jeyakumari continues to be held in Boosa detention centre. She is being held under the Prevention of Terrorism act. Yesterday (Sunday) at 10pm two other activists Ruki Fernando and Fr Praveen Mahesan were arrested in Killinochi. It is not clear yet if they have been charged but they have apparently been moved to Colombo for further questioning.

We are very worried for them, and find their continuing detention to be entirely without justification. Please help to secure their release.

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14/03/2014

13 year old and mother arrested after demonstration

Yesterday (13th March 2014) a woman and her daughter who have been protesting on behalf of the disappeared were arrested by the police (CID).

Balendran Jayakumari (from Tharmapurum) and her daughter "Vibooshika" (13 years) have been detained in their home from around 4 pm. Jayakumari called a politician around 4 pm with a complaint that her house has been surrounded by the army. Around 4.30 one of Jayakumari’s friends (K) called. Jayakumari answered the phone and said she is at home but that there were "problems". Then her phone was answered by a man who asked her friend (K) who she was, and why she was calling her. When K said her child is sick and that she was at the Vavunia hospital and needed Jayakumari’s help, the man cut the call and thereafter Jayakumari’s phone was switched off. Since then there has been no communication with her but it is now believed both mother and daughter have been detained in Vavuniya. Lawyers have not been granted access.

Jayakumari was a mother of three boys (two of them were killed and one is missing) and one girl. Both the mother and daughter have attended protests organized by Mannar citizens committee and families that are looking for missing and disappeared members. She and her daughter have been featured in many video documentaries on the disappeared including "white van stories" which was previewed on Channel 4.

One of Jayakumari’s sons was killed in Trincomalee, the second died in a shell attack in Mullivaikal. She handed over her third son (Balendran Mahinthan) to the Sri Lankan army in May 2009; at that time he was 15 years old (having been recruited by the LTTE in the final phases of the war). One of the Government's LLRC publications (on the release of rehabilitated cadres) carried his photo but he hasn't been seen since.

Police spokesperson Ajith Rohana told BBC Tamil yesterday night that a shooting incident took place in Tharmapurum on 13th morning in which a police officer was injured. They are claiming the women were detained as part of that investigation. However the fact that no charge has been brought, the fact that they are being held incommunicado, the fact that under the Prevention of Terrorism Act they can now be detained without charge for up to 18 months, and the fact that many people disappear under very similar circumstances, gives us cause for severe concern.

05/03/2014

Archbishop Tutu and 38 activists from around the World demand an international investigation in Sri Lanka


In a statement released today in the Mail and Guardian (South Africa) Archbishop Desmond Tutu and 38 Human Rights activists and organisations from around the world demanded that the UN Human Rights Council set up a Commission of Inquiry to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Sri Lanka.

Signatories came from South Africa, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Pakistan, Uganda, India, Cambodia, Malaysia, Brazil, Japan, Bosnia, Mongolia, Cote d'Ivoire, Nepal, Thailand and organisations representing individuals from all over the world.

If you want to support the call, please sign this petition. Here is the statement and list of signatories in full.
We, concerned individuals and organizations from around the world, urge the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to use their March 2014 session to pass a resolution that will include a commitment to an Independent International investigation in the form of a Commission of Inquiry. Only this will help to put the country on the path to justice and reconciliation. 
Although the long-running civil war ended in May 2009, a lasting peace is not in sight and we remain gravely concerned for the future of the people of Sri Lanka. A fear and sense of injustice persists, not just among minorities and political activists, but among ordinary people desperately trying to rebuild their lives. A number of unresolved issues remain, including ongoing human rights violations, credible allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes, and the lack of progress towards longer-term political solutions and reconciliation. Left unaddressed, these issues could lead to renewed conflict. 
Post-conflict processes do take time, but what matters is getting on the right path. Nearly five years after the war ended, the situation appears to be getting worse, not better. 
The biggest issue Sri Lanka faces is a systemic lack of respect for the rights of its citizens, particularly - but not exclusively - its minority citizens. This is rooted in a culture of impunity which is in turn rooted in a failure to hold to account those, on both sides, who committed some of the worst atrocities this century.
Only an independent international investigation of these atrocities will end this culture of impunity and give the people of Sri Lanka a chance to climb out of the cycle of violence towards a lasting peace. For these reasons, there have been numerous calls over the years for such an investigation: from a renowned panel of experts appointed by UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon, from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, from a host of Sri Lankan and international individuals, Non Governmental Organisations, and politicians, and from many thousands of petitioners all over the world. 
We represent organisations and individuals in many countries. The Sri Lankan Government claims that attempts to set up an international inquiry in Sri Lanka come exclusively from the west, and represent a form of imperialism. Not so. Many of us come from countries that have also seen conflict, and attempts at reconciliation after it. We know Sri Lanka is going to need help from the international community to get back on track. Standing in solidarity with the many Sri Lankans who feel their government is making a mistake, we urge the United Nations to establish a Commission of Inquiry. 
1 Archbishop Desmond Tutu, South Africa
2 Yasmin Sooka, Executive Director, Foundation for Human Rights, South Africa
3 Rt Rev Rayappu Joseph, Bishop of Mannar and President of Tamil Civil Society in Sri Lanka
4 Hon. Rajavarothayam Sampanthan - Leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and Member of Parliament of Sri Lanka
5 Hon. C.V.Wigneswaran - Chief Minister of Northern Provincial Council (NPC) and former Supreme Court Judge (Sri Lanka)
6 Danny Sriskandarajah, Secretary General, CIVICUS, the world Alliance for Civilian Participation, South Africa
7 Dr. Irene Fernandez, Right Livelihood Award, Malaysia
8 Bashana Abeywardane, Exiled Sinhalese Journalist, Co-ordinator Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka
9 Maggie Ndagire, Program Director, on behalf of Women And Children's Empowerment Network in Africa (WACENA), Uganda
10 Flavia Piovesan, Professor of Human Rights and Constitutional Law, Catholic University of Sao Paulo, Brazil
11 Arul Prakkash, Executive Director, Pusat KOMAS
12 Chibli Mallat. chair, Right to Nonviolence, Lebanon
13 Dr. Nezamuddin Katawazi, Director of Peace and Human Rights Organization (PHRO), Pakistan/Afghanistan
14 Dr. Bruce White Director, Organization for Intra-Cultural Development (OICD), Japan
15 Francis Paul Siah, Leader, Movement for Change, Sarawak, Malaysia (MoCS)
16 James Offuh, President and Founder, ONG UFPACI, Ivory Coast
17 Jerald Joseph, Human Rights Activist, Malaysia
18 Kannan Ramasamy, President of RARE Msia (Respect All Race & Religion of Msia), Secretary of Tamilar Action Force Malaysia, Malaysia
19 Lena Hendry, Programme Co-ordinator, Pusat Komas Human Rights organisation, Malaysia
20 Ng Yap Hwa, Coordinator of Malaysians for Beng Hock movement, Malaysia
21 Nora Ahmetaj, Executive Director, Centre for Research, Documentation and Publication (CRDP), Kosovo
22 PY Wong, Tindak Malaysia, Malaysia
23 Ratna Osman, Executive Director of Sisters of Islam, Malaysia
24 Richard Obedi, Executive Director, The Populace Foundation International, Uganda
25 S. Gobi Krishnan, Founder & Secretary General of NewGen Party Malaysia
26 Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, on behalf of 15000 supporters in 66 countries around the world
27 Tan Jo Hann, President of Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS Movement of the Urban Poor. ), Malaysia
28 Yu Ren Chung, Human Rights Activist, Malaysia
29 As an organisation, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Thailand
30 As an organisation, Association for Democratic Initiatives in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia and Herzegovina
31 As an organisation, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), India
32 As an organisation, Destination Justice, Cambodia
33 As an organisation, Globe International Center, Mongolia
34 As an organisation, INSEC, Nepal
35 As an organisation, Life Watch Manipur, India
36 As an organisation, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI), India
37 As an organisation, Redress, UK (representing victims from all over the world)
38 As an organisation, SDO ( Sanayee Development Organization), Afghanistan
39 As an organisation, UNA Sweden, Sweden.

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