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

29/07/2014

Sri Lanka Campaign announces new Advisory Councillors

We are pleased to announce a number of changes to our advisory council. Prof Sharry Aiken becomes our first Canadian advisor since Craig Scott left the campaign to devote himself to politics. Nirmanusan Balasundaram, Natalie Samarasinghe, and J. S. Tissainayagam also join our advisory council while Allan Marson joins our board. Aitzaz Ahsan has also left the advisory council to devote himself to Pakistani politics.

From the very early days of the campaign many of the Sri Lanka Campaign’s closest advisors have been of Sri Lankan Tamil, Sinhalese, or Sri Lankan Muslim origin. This includes several of the people whose appointment we announce today, but who have been closely involved in the Campaign’s strategic decision making for many years. However, that involvement was not reflected in the make up of our advisory council since a fear of reprisal meant that many of our closest supporters could not (and many still cannot) make themselves publicly known. For Nirma, Natalie, and Tissa to stand up and be counted in this way is therefore no small feat, and a testament to their courage and commitment.

Here, in their own words, is why they joined the campaign:
"As a Canadian and the parent of two children with mixed Tamil/Jewish heritage, I feel a special responsibility to document the ongoing human rights catastrophe in Sri Lanka and contribute to efforts aimed at accountability and ending impunity." 

Sharry Aiken is an associate professor in the faculty of law at Queen’s University where she teaches international refugee law, international human rights law and other public law courses. A past president of the Canadian Council for Refugees, Prof Aiken currently serves as co-chair of the CCR’s Legal Affairs Committee and vice-chair of the board of directors of the Canadian Centre for International Justice.

"Since ‘Independence’ consecutive governments have targeted the Tamil nation in the island of Sri Lanka to eliminate their identity. In the peak of this process destructive mechanisms had been intensified by the present regime, which has already been accused of mass atrocities including genocide against the Tamil nation. In Sri Lanka, today exists a war by other means rather than a post-conflict situation."

Nirmanusan Balasundaram is an independent journalist and human rights defender. Growing up in the war torn region of Sri Lanka, Nirmanusan has been witness to the horrendous consequences of war, with these experiences and direct knowledge providing him the ability to accurately express to the world the ground reality.

  "What is – and isn’t – happening in Sri Lanka matters to us all. The bloodshed in 2009 and worrying developments since continue to challenge global rallying cry of ‘never again’. The failure to investigate past and current abuses is preventing the country from moving forward; tempting others to adopt the ruthless ‘Sri Lanka model’; and undermining hard-won global standards. Sri Lanka is a test case for the international community. We failed in 2009. We must not fail again."

Natalie Samarasinghe is Executive Director of the United Nations Association – UK (UNA-UK), a UK-based charity that provides independent analysis on UN issues. She is the first woman to hold this position.

"I am a Tamil from Sri Lanka who is a victim of State terror. For sustainable peace, all peoples in Sri Lanka should have the freedom to exercise their right to self-determination, nationhood and a homeland. I would like to contribute to realising that peace."

J. S. Tissainayagam worked in English-language national newspapers in Sri Lanka for over 20 years. In 2009 he was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for writing critically about the Sri Lankan government. Released after 675 days in detention following an international campaign, he now lives in the US.

03/07/2014

Has the Australian government been complicit in the disappearance of 153 Tamil asylum seekers?

Over the weekend, reports emerged that the Australian government had intercepted two boats carrying at least this number of individuals (including 37 children) somewhere off the coast of Christmas Island, Australia. The asylum seekers, of Sri Lankan Tamil origin, are reported to have embarked from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

Despite assurances from Tony Abbot over the last 48 hours that Sri Lanka, is ‘a country at peace’, there is strong documentary evidence that many returned Tamil asylum seekers have been subjected to torture and sexual violence at the hands of Sri Lankan security forces over the past few years. Worryingly, the Sri Lankan High Commissioner has already confirmed that the 153 individuals, if returned, will face a magistrates court upon arrival.

This move, if carried out by the Australian government, would therefore clearly constitute a violation of Australia’s obligations under international law – specifically, that individuals must not be involuntarily returned to a country where he or she has a well-founded fear of persecution. Until the status of these individuals can be properly established in accordance with fundamental refugee protection principles, any plans to transfer the passengers must be suspended. Already the UNHCR has expressed ‘profound concern’ about the manner in which these individuals have been intercepted and handled, amid reports that they are being subjected to the most rudimentary of screening processes at sea by immigration officials. 

To urge the Australian government to break its silence about its treatment of these asylum seekers, and to issue a reminder that it must adhere to its moral and legal duties to these individuals, please email the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, along with the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison here, and at minister@immi.gov.au.You can also voice your concerns to them via twitter, @TonyAbbottMHR and @ScottMorrisonMP, using the hashtag #wherearethe153.

Here is an example of what you might wish to say:
Dear Prime Minister Abbott and Minister Morrison,

I am profoundly concerned about the welfare and fate of the 153 asylum seekers (including children) reported to have been intercepted by the Australian Navy over the weekend, and the emerging reports of plans to transfer them to the Sri Lankan Navy.

As a matter of moral concern, I urge you to disclose information about the welfare, safety and whereabouts of these individuals. As a matter of legal concern, I also call on the government to clarify what next steps it intends to take with regards to screening and processing of these individuals, and whether plans are currently underway, or have been implemented, to transfer them to the Sri Lankan Navy.

It is imperative that such details are made public in order to establish whether Australia is acting in accordance with its obligations under the Refugee Convention – specifically, that individuals must not be involuntarily returned to a country where he or she has a well-founded fear of persecution. Despite recent claims by your government that Sri Lanka is a country ‘at peace’, the persecution of returned Tamil asylum seekers has been well documented in recent years. If it is the case that plans are underway for these asylum seekers to be returned to Sri Lanka, Australia is at serious risking of violating international law.

Until the status of these individuals can be properly established in accordance with fundamental refugee protection principles, any plans to transfer the passengers must be suspended pending a full and transparent screening process.

Yours sincerely,

[Your name]

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12/06/2014

The Sexual Violence Conference and Sri Lanka

It is fantastic that William Hague is taking the issue of sexual violence seriously by hosting the world's first global summit on the subject here in the UK. But he needs to make sure that the summit is more than a talking shop. Actions need to lie behind the words.

In particular, Hague would be a hypocrite if his Government allowed victims of sexual violence to be deported back to countries where they could face further abuse. And his "team of experts" whose role is to track down the perpetrators of sexual violence have not been deployed to take down the testimony of Sri Lankan victims. In fact Sri Lanka wasn't even anywhere on the conference agenda.

That was the thrust of our campaign, and after a lot of activity yesterday we had a breakthrough. Sri Lanka's omission from the conference became big news and William Hague was forced to announce that he would be investigating claims that rape victims are being deported back to Sri Lanka.

This is fantastic, but this makes it all the more urgent that deportations be stopped. And his team of experts still need to be deployed to track down the perpetrators.

Activist Bianca Jagger sent a number of tweets to the British Government, and a number of people shared our slogan in imaginative ways:


Last night we also took part in an event at the Canadian High Commissioner's residence at which a number of high profile women (and one man) read aloud the testimonies of victims of sexual violence - testimonies that the victims wanted the world to hear but which they couldn't give themselves because of the risk of retaliation against their families.

Jenni Murray introduced the event, then MIA, Maryam D'Arbo, Bianca Jagger, Cara Delevingne (via video), and Bashana Abeywardane read out testimonies of rape victims. You can see the whole thing here and MIA and Cara Delevingne's videos are below:

WARNING these videos contain graphic descriptions of rape and sexual torture that may be traumatic to watch, particularly if you have personal experience of these issues.


And there is a photo album here:



We hope William Hague got the message. But to be sure we now need your help.

We must make sure that William Hague does not backtrack on his promise to review asylum applications, and we must make sure his promise does not come too late for some victims. We think the most effective thing right now would be to write to your member of parliament and ask them to keep the pressure on.

You can find out who your MP is, and write to them, here.

We suggest sending the following message:
Dear xxxx,
William Hague announced in the Guardian on Tuesday June 10th that he would investigate cases featuring victims of sexual violence in Sri Lanka at risk of deportation. This is fantastic news, and very welcome. But it may be too late for some rape victims who risk being deported at any moment.

It is vitally important that deportations be halted until William Hague's investigation has taken place, otherwise he may discover that mistakes have been made that cannot be unmade, as people are sent back to their deaths or worse.

Moreover the victims of sexual violence want justice, and the most effective thing William Hague could do to ensure that they get justice would be for him to deploy his team of experts to take down the testimony of survivors.

Please write to the Foreign Secretary on my behalf, and ask him to urgently intervene to stop sexual torture in Sri Lanka.

Kind regards,
Thank you.

Can you support us?

 We are always in need of donations to cover our running costs. Please consider donating here: http://www.srilankacampaign.org/supportus.htm

11/06/2014

Thank you

It has been a great 24 hours.

Firstly our "thunderclap" twitter campaign sent a powerful message about rape in Sri Lanka from hundreds of you to your combined millions of followers. Twitter celebrities MIA, and Cara Delevingne and activist Bianca Jagger joined in; Bianca wrote a compelling article for the Huffington Post and Cara even took a suggestion from our blog and posed with the slogan of the campaign:


Then this morning it seemed to pay off. William Hague, put on the spot by the Guardian, announced that he would be happy to investigate cases of rape victims being deported back to Sri Lanka.

This is an incredible achievement that could save dozens of lives, but we still need to push them further. For a start while they are investigating they need to halt the deportations, otherwise it will be too late, and Hague still needs to deploy his team of experts to track down and prosecute the rapists.

We will be in touch shortly about what we will do to make this happen, but in the meantime: thank you.

Impressed by the work we do? We are always in need of donations to cover our running costs. Please consider donating here: http://www.srilankacampaign.org/supportus.htm

03/06/2014

William Hague: it's #Timetoact

We think it is fantastic that William Hague is hosting the first ever Global Summit on Sexual Violence in London next week, but we are concerned that he does not seem to be taking sexual violence in Sri Lanka seriously.

Hague's Preventing Sexual Violence initiative consists of two parts. The first part consists of persuading countries to sign the voluntary Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. He has been pushing Sri Lanka to do this but they have thus far refused. The second part is potentially much more effective and is aimed at ending impunity. This consists of a Stabilization unit team of experts: a team of 40 doctors, lawyers, police, psychologists, forensic specialists and experts in the care and protection of victims and witnesses who are tasked with investigating sexual violence worldwide.

They have various countries they target which include both ongoing (Congo, Syria) and historic (Libya, Bosnia) cases of sexual violence. This list was recently expanded to include Burma. We wrote to the William Hague asking him to include Sri Lanka, and helped 3,600 of you to write similar letters. The Foreign Office feel that including Sri Lanka is problematic because a) Sri Lanka haven't signed the voluntary declaration and b) because Sri Lanka won't allow the experts access to the country.

But it is ridiculous to make the voluntary declaration a precondition for investigations, as this essentially allows impunity for anyone that doesn't co-operate. Moreover, there is no need for the experts to visit Sri Lanka as there are many victims willing to be interviewed living here in the UK.

Our fear is that the UK's reluctance to include Sri Lanka in the initiative has more to do with immigration and asylum policy. The UK Border Agency has been deporting a number of victims of sexual violence and torture back to Sri Lanka. Last year they were forced to admit that 15 people they had deported back to Sri Lanka, had been tortured and often raped, and had then escaped to the UK once again. This could well be the tip of the iceberg.

New country guidance relating to deportations to Sri Lanka is coming out in 2 weeks. Anecdotally it seems the UK is trying to rush through as many deportations before then as it can. This is not on, but with the higher profile given to the issue we can make sure that this issue, and the letters we and you sent, are not forgotten and that Sri Lanka becomes part of William Hague's campaign. This is the purpose of the social media "thunderclap", and media work that we will be doing in the following week, and we appreciate all your help. Thanks to your support the "thunderclap" was fully backed in just 12 hours, but it's not too late to sign up: just click here. And keep your eyes peeled for more activities and events in the coming week.

Would you like to do more?

Here's a quick and simple way that anyone can support Sri Lanka's victims in getting the message out - you don't even need facebook or twitter!
  1. Print out this placard or simply write #StopTorture on a piece of paper.
  2. Take a photograph of yourself holding the placard. (If you are worried about your safety or anonymity then make sure that you hold the placard over your face and that you don't wear any identifying clothing or expose any scars or tattoos)
  3. Either: upload the picture to twitter or facebook (with the text #timetoact on rape in Sri Lanka #StopTorture) or: email them to us at info@srilankacampaign.org and we will do it for you.
Here's an example:


Many thanks for all your support.

31/05/2014

On facebook? Twitter? Sri Lanka's rape survivors need your help


Britain's Foreign Minister William Hague is about to launch the first ever Global Summit on Sexual violence, but he seems to have forgotten about Sri Lanka. Not only is Sri Lanka not on the conference agenda, but the team of experts William Hague has set up to look into sexual crimes around the world aren't going to look at Sri Lanka. And the British Government continues to deport victims back to Sri Lanka to face further abuse.

At the same time a new report has shown that rape and sexual torture are being systematically used in minority areas of Sri Lanka to oppress the Tamil community.

Click here to make sure Sri Lanka's victims are not forgotten

This summit cannot simply be a glamorous photo opportunity for William Hague and Angelina Jolie. Real actions have to come out of it, and Sri Lanka is somewhere where Hague's team of experts could make a real difference. Over the winter nearly 4,000 of you used our website to send Hague this message. But with the high profile of the Global Summit, now is the perfect time to make sure our demand is not ignored.

Please click here and add your voice to ours.

Thunderclap is a tool to combine people's voices on facebook and twitter strategically to have maximum impact. Simply click the link above and sign up with your facebook, twitter, or tumblr account - it is that easy.

Please do sign up straight away. Thunderclap's rules mean we need 89 more people to sign up in the next 9 days or it won't happen!

29/05/2014

Our "Crimes Against Humanity" report now available in Tamil and Sinhala

සිංහල

தமிழ்

We are pleased to announce that the executive summary, introduction, and selected excerpts of our Crimes Against Humanity report have now been translated into Sinhala and Tamil.

Click here to read it in Sinhala

Click here to read it in Tamil

The report presents credible allegations pointing to the commission of crimes against humanity by Sri Lankan security forces during the five years since the civil war ended.

This report was the first to allege that the Government's subsequent actions after the war and through to the present day also point to the commission of such crimes. These findings underscore the urgent need to demand accountability now, for both post-war and wartime violations. Yasmin Sooka's subsequent report on sexual violence backed up these findings.

This report makes the legal case for an investigation into post-war violations using the framework of international criminal law. It relies on public source reports of post-war violations that have been assessed as credible, corroborating these reports with 26 in-country interviews with survivors, attorneys, journalists, and human rights campaigners.

Some of these stories are truly horrible. The report documents 20 incidents involving rape, and two further incidents involving sexual assault, 12 incidents involving torture, eight other incidents involving severe violence, nine incidents of arbitrary arrest, four incidents involving murder, and two incidents involving disappearance. In all cases the perpetrators were members of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces or the Police, and the victims were Tamils from the Northern Province. These incidents have all previously been reported upon, but this report demonstrates that they can be linked together as part of a systemic attack on the civilian population of the Northern Province by members of the Sri Lankan Security apparatus.

Click here to read it in Sinhala

Click here to read it in Tamil


 

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: