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.