Sri Lankan Peace Official Comments on TRO, UNICEF - 12th December 2007

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Statement by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha on behalf of the Sri Lankan delegation, at the debate in the United Nations Human Rights Council on December 12th on the Reports of Martin Scheinin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism and Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people.
by Rajiva Wijesinha
From http://www.peaceinsrilanka.org/peace2005/Insidepage/SCOPPDaily_Report/SCOPP_report121207.asp

Peace in Sri Lanka : The Official Website of the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP)


Mr President, let me begin by commiserating with the people of Lebanon on the effects of today’s terrorist attack there. That, and the continuing impact of terrorism, serves to make clear the importance of Special Rapporteur Scheinin’s task.

However I should first associate our delegation with the comments of various colleagues, in particular from the Asian group, and just now from the Philippines, regarding some aspects of Special Rapporteur Stavenhagen’s Report. They noted the importance of dialogue, and consultation with concerned countries, and this should be kept in mind by our Special Rapporteur’s, instead of delivering what may seem ex cathedra pronouncements.

With regard to Mr Scheinin’s Report, we welcome the principles he has enunciated. Some of the countries who responded to his comments on their situation had observations with which we are familiar, being a country that has perhaps suffered more than any other recently, in terms of proportionality, as to destruction of its people and their property. Nevertheless we concur with Mr Scheinin’s comments on the importance of preserving human rights and fundamental freedoms whilst fighting terrorism. We hope those countries will study his recommendations, and minimize inconvenience to people, and in particular whole groups of people, whilst defending themselves.

We concur too with his comments regarding the importance of ensuring economic, social and cultural rights whilst combating terrorism. In this context we appreciate the recent report of the Sri Lanka Office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees which makes clear the efforts of the Sri Lankan government to provide not only food and shelter but even education to almost all those in Welfare Centres.

In this context however I would suggest that there should be better coordination between various branches of the UN in working out the interpretation of such rights. Contrary to Para 56 on Mr Scheinin’s Report, the UNICEF office in Sri Lanka used as a matter of dogma it seemed to return former child soldiers to areas under terrorist control where they were subject to re-recruitment. Greater coherence is required to ensure that terrorism does not benefit, and victims suffer even more, because of blind adherence to inappropriate concepts.

We must also draw your attention, Mr President, to the unfortunate impression created by Para 45 of Mr Scheinin’s Report in which he seems to regret attempts to control funding of the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization which he claims ‘ha helped victims in areas where the population is mainly Tamil’. His source for this is a paper prepared in 2005, whereas a Special Rapporteur should be in possession of more recent facts.

As many colleagues here know, it is fairly well established that the TRO has been involved in the active funding of terrorism, including the acquisition of weapons. We are grateful to countries such as France, the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States and Denmark too for initiating prosecutions to stop such funding. We are sorry that other countries in the European Union have not followed suit. Recently, when the matter was discussed with Commissioner Fratini of the European Union, he acknowledged that there was inconsistency about this, and hoped the matter would soon be set right. We would urge colleagues here to pursue this as a matter of principle.

To conclude, Mr President, we also regret Mr Scheinin’s possibly critical comment on the legislation introduced by Sri Lanka in 2006 to control such funding. We are fully in support of aid to suffering people but we cannot permit this to be a disguise for terrorist activity, which we are determined to suppress, and for which we need the support of all our colleagues.