UN role in Sri Lanka ‘inescapable’: rights group


New Delhi : The need for UN monitoring of human rights violations in Sri Lanka is "inescapable", a leading rights body has said, warning that the global community was getting disgusted with Colombo.

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In one of its most scathing commentaries on the deteriorating situation in Sri Lanka, the University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR) said: "The need for international (UN) monitoring is inescapable."

Said the 54-page report released Thursday: "A UN monitoring mechanism may be the most promising means to arrest the slide into anarchy of war, hold all sides to account, and ensure that civilian existence remains possible in the northeast (of Sri Lanka)."

The demand for UN intervention comes as fighting between the government troops and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is turning into a full-scale war leaving thousands dead and many more displaced.

UTHR said that the militarisation of state and society over the last three decades had led to a steady weakening of democratic institutions in the island nation.

This, it noted, "threatened the very democratic fabric of Sri Lanka".

The UTHR, run by a group of independent minded Sri Lankan Tamils, said that even international actors "are presently so disgusted with the government that the LTTE's true nature makes little impression on them".

It said Colombo could either carry on the way it is doing now or go for an equitable political settlement by upholding human rights and the rule of law as the way forward.

Both Sri Lanka and the government would "benefit enormously from UN involvement, in the form of a Human Rights Field Operation that includes human rights monitoring, reporting and technical support to strengthen our institutions", it said.

"UN monitoring could also be used to make it costly for the LTTE continue with political killings and (child) conscription by taking cover behind the state's conduct…

"We see a UN Human Rights Field Operation as the best hope of averting catastrophe and getting this country back to work… Monitoring of human rights should include both investigation and the creation of an environment where prosecutions are likely."

The report came down heavily on the Sri Lankan judicial system, saying ethnicity played a major role in its functioning.

"The very fact of Sinhalese nationalism pervading state institutions, and the constant appeals to the Sinhalese to support the security forces, ensures that institutions of justice become corrupted and the minorities are systematically denied justice…

"We have a system in which the judicial hierarchy actually protects human rights abuse and fosters a flawed system of investigation… It is a fact that minorities have lost faith in Sri Lankan justice."

It said while almost all killings were entirely by the LTTE from the time the now defunct ceasefire agreement was signed in 2002 until December 2005, the role had reversed since then.

"From January 2006, the defence ministry's assembled killed groups went on a spree. Those who helped the LTTE's propaganda under duress became targets.

"In many areas prominent citizens who raised issues against the state and whom the LTTE hoisted onto their Pongu Thamil (Tamil Resurgence) platforms had to flee or be killed.

"In Vavuniya, which has over the last year seen scores of killings, no one who took a notable part in Pongu Thamil celebrations remains."

It said the "present anarchy, the prevalence of unchecked human rights abuse and the humanitarian catastrophe in the east have principally their roots in one simple fact – the absence of process…

"Today most killings are by state agents or by persons, under duress or otherwise, acting on behalf of the state… The situation begs international monitoring."