Daily Archives: October 3, 2011

Commission Joins in Call for Tough Action on Sri Lanka

Monday 3 October 2011

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission joined in a call for the Commonwealth of Nations to take tough action against Sri Lanka unless it agrees to an independent investigation into war crimes and human rights violations committed during the civil war which ended in 2009.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, recently attended a Parliament House round table in Canberra with representatives from the Australian Tamil community, the International Commission of Jurists, the University of Sydney and the Australian Greens where the call for action against Sri Lanka was made.  The call was made in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) which will take place in Perth in a few weeks.

Participants at the round table discussed the Sri Lankan Government’s refusal to accept the findings and recommendations of an independent expert panel appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and evidence of the Government’s on-going failure to respect the human rights of Tamil people.

Mr Arndt joined with the other participants in calling for the Federal Government and the Opposition to:

 

  • Support calls for the suspension of Sri Lanka from the Councils of the Commonwealth until the Government of Sri Lanka agrees to an international independent investigation into war crimes, restoration of human rights and the rule of law and implementation of all the recommendations of the UN expert panel report on war crimes in Sri Lanka
  • Oppose Sri Lanka hosting CHOGM in 2013.

 The  participants also called on Prime Minister Gillard to join Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, in saying she would not go to CHOGM in Sri Lanka in 2013 unless there is progress in Sri Lanka’s human rights record and in the establishment of an independent war crimes investigation.

MrArndt said that the Sri Lankan Government has shown no commitment to respecting the human rights of Tamils since the end of the civil war in 2009.

“The Sri Lankan Government established its own Commission after the war but has ignored its interim recommendations,” Mr Arndt said.

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission recommended over a year ago that the Government should release the names of those it has in detention, expedite the charging or discharging of detainees, disarm illegal militias in Tamil areas and make a clear policy statement about acquisition of land in Tamil areas,” he said.

“None of these recommendations have been acted on in whole or in part,” he said.

“It has told both Tamil Parliamentarians and foreign government representatives that it has published a list of detainees, but no-one can find it,” he said.

“The Sri Lankan Government is not only treating the Tamil people dreadfully, but it insults other nations with its false claims,” he said.

“The Sri Lankan Government recently ended its State of Emergency in order to give the impression that things are returning to normal, but it used its Prevention of Terrorism Act to promptly re-introduce extraordinary regulations which applied under the State of Emergency,” he said.

“When we also hear that security forces are doing appalling things like assaulting Tamil MPs at public meetings, we cannot accept that the Sri Lankan Government has any respect for human rights or the rule of law,” he said.

“The BBC’s documentary Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields showed how dreadfully both the Sri Lankan Government and the Tamil Tigers behaved during the war,” he said.

“The BBC has also released interviews with Sri Lankan military officials who said they were told to mutilate, rape and kill Tamil civilians,” he said.

“The Sri Lankan Government must be held accountable for its actions,” he said.

“It is an obscene joke on the part of the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Australia to tell Australian MPs that Tamil injury and death was accidental and ‘collateral damage’” he said.

“Australia must take a strong stand on Sri Lanka’s human rights record at CHOGM and we will continue to advocate this approach vigorously,” he said.

“As the theme of the CHOGM in Perth this year is human rights, it is imperative that Australia and the other Commonwealth countries tell the Government of Sri Lanka that its behaviour has been appalling,” he said.

“At the same time, in fairness, we believe that Australia’s human rights record in relation to asylum seekers and Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory should be fully scrutinised,” he added.

Participants at the round table were:

The Hon John Dowd AO QC (President of the International Commission of Jurists Australia)

Dr Sam Pari (Australian Tamil Congress)

Associate Professor Jake Lynch (Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Sydney University)

Dr Ben Saul (Professor of International Law and Director of the Sydney Centre for International Law at Sydney University)

Peter Arndt (Executive Officer of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of Brisbane)

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon.

For further information, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.

 NB  This release is issued with the approval of the Commission or its Executive under the provision of its Mandate which enables it to speak in its own right.  The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

Deaths in Custody Campaign Launched

Sunday 2 October 2011

Memorial Candle at Launch of Campaign

Memorial Candle at Launch of Campaign

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission and the Archdiocesan Murri Ministry Team joined together to launch a campaign to get Government action to address on-going Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths in custody.

The campaign was launched last Wednesday evening at Musgrave Park, South Brisbane, on the anniversary of the death in custody of a 16 year old Aboriginal youth, John Pat, in 1983.

John Pat was punched and kicked by off-duty police officers when he tried to help another Aboriginal man who was involved in a fight with the police officers outside a hotel in Roeburn, Western Australia.

Pat died as a result of his injuries.  Charges were laid against the police involved, but none was convicted.

John Pat’s death was one of 99 Aboriginal deaths in custody investigated by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody which delivered its final report to the Federal Government twenty years ago this April.

The event was chaired by the Director of Brisbane Murri Watch, Mr Ken Georgetown, and prominent elders, Aunty Alex Gater and Aunty Jean Phillips, led prayers during the launch.

Candles were lit to remember John Pat and all the other Indigenous people who have died in paddy wagons, watch houses and jails throughout Australia.

The Coordinator of the Murri Ministry Team, Ms Ravina Waldren, said she had a heavy heart as she remembered the many Aboriginal people who have died in custody over the years.

“I feel deep pain knowing that my people keep dying in custody,” Ms Waldren said.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that Governments must take action to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission if Aboriginal deaths in custody are to stop.

“The Royal Commission made 339 recommendations, but most of them have not been implemented,” Mr Arndt said.

“Since the Royal Commission handed down its report, there have been almost four hundred more black deaths in custody,” he said.

“The fact that the rate of Indigenous imprisonment continues to rise is a major contributing factor,” he said.

The campaign is supported by many Indigenous and community organisations.

Its objectives include:

A full audit of the implemantation of the Royal Commision’s recommendations and all deaths in custody in the last twenty years

  • Inclusion of justice as one of the key indicators which are targeted for improvement by the Council of Australian Governments;
  • The establishment of a fully funded national Deaths in Custody Watch Committee;
  • The establishment of a Royal Commission into the death in custody of Mulrunje on Palm Island in 2004 and all subsequent actions by the Queensland Government, police and other authorities involved in dealing with the case.

The campaign organisers are arranging a number of other events this year including a prayer vigil on 7 November, the anniversary of the death of young Brisbane Aboriginal man, Daniel Yock, and a rally and march on 19 November, the anniversary of the death of Mulrunje on Palm Island.

“It is high time that things changed for the better and we will keep going with our campaign to ensure that Governments listen and take action,” Ms Waldren said.

An initial information sheet has been produced and will be available on the Commission’s blog at http://cjpcbrisbane.wordpress.com/ Queensland Churches Together Indigenous Peoples Partnership will also distribute it to congregations and parishes in all member churches throughout the State.

For further information, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.

NB  This release is issued with the approval of the Commission or its Executive under the provision of its Mandate which enables it to speak in its own right.  The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.
Media Release Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Campaign 2011

Deaths in Custody launch fact sheet