Sri Lanka, worst HR violator in South Asia – ACHR

ACHR: Asian Center for Human Rights

SOURCE : LankaDissent

The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), in a comparative assessment of the human rights records of South Asian governments, says Sri Lanka, with 52 points, is the worst human rights violator in the region.

ACHR’s South Asia Human Rights Index 2008 finds Bangladesh is placed second (45), followed by Bhutan (43), Pakistan (41), the Maldives (23), Nepal (24) and India (24).

Afghanistan has not been included for indexing purpose, as its security is ensured by international forces over which the government of Afghanistan has no mechanism to establish accountability – a necessary condition for indexing.

The indexing system is based on comparative assessment of nine thematic issues crucial for the enjoyment of human rights: political freedom, right to life, judiciary and administration of justice, status or effectiveness of national human rights institutions, press freedom, violence against women, violations of the rights of the child, violations of the rights of the minorities and indigenous/tribal peoples and repression on human rights defenders.

While Sri Lanka is the worst in the region, the report also underlines that all countries in the region have very poor records.

The regional analysis also shows a high level of commonality in human rights patterns.

Discrimination is endemic, institutionalised and in many cases legalised.

Human rights violations are integral to counterinsurgency operations conducted by the military and paramilitary forces.

Human rights violations are routinely perpetrated in detention. Security laws tend to be poorly framed, routinely abused and used as blanket cover to silence legitimate dissent rather than tackle security.

These facts are not the assertions of Asian Centre for Human Rights but repeatedly confirmed by national, regional and international NGOs, bar associations, media organisations and the various UN bodies established to monitor human rights.

South Asia requires reforms: (i) reform of archaic and punitive criminal and penal laws and the regime of sovereign immunity for the government and its personnel; and (ii) reform of the official mindset with regard to human rights.

Reform will not happen if human rights violations, committed both by the security forces and armed groups, are not promptly, thoroughly, independently and impartially investigated and those responsible brought to justice, the system which allowed them to commit those crimes remains intact.

South Asia is becoming increasingly a victim to internal conflicts as a result of the failure to reform where impunity to the security forces and the Armed Opposition Groups is the rule.

Sri Lanka: No. 1 Violator

With 52 points, Sri Lanka is South Asia’s worst human rights violator. Sri Lanka had the worst human rights records for violations of the right to life, the rights of the child, attacks on human rights defenders and violations of the rights of the minorities.

On press freedom, it ranked second worst violator only after Bhutan, which has no independent press.

These increased violations are a direct consequence of the war.

Civilians in Sri Lanka are deliberately targeted by all sides to the conflict.

“Discrimination lies at the heart of the war with the Tamils and the introduction of restrictions on Tamils traveling to Colombo are a powerful symbol of government intent. The political ramifications of the exclusion – not least in terms of prospects for a peaceful settlement of the conflict – of an entire ethnic group from the nation’s capital are of deep concern.” – stated ACHR.

In Sri Lanka, attacks on freedom of expression were of particular concern and led the killing of seven journalists in 2007.

There are no precise figures on the number of civilians killed because reporting on war is banned.

“The beginning of any solution is good information. Not only is Sri Lanka’s conflict resulting in systematic violations of human rights of civilians, but by deliberately oppressing journalists and freedom of expression, this measure closes off any means for the government to have access to independent information and understand the extent of the problem and the negative consequences of its own actions.” – said Suhas Chakma, Director of the Asian Centre for Human Rights.

In April 2007, Police Chief Victor Perera stated that the Police have to go beyond the law to combat crime.

“This is an extraordinarily dangerous and irresponsible instruction to a police force with a reputation for high levels of discrimination, human rights violation and disregard for the rule of law”.

The results are there: disappearances began to rise  again: 540 persons disappeared across Sri Lanka from January to August 2007 with ethnic Tamils suffering disproportionately –78.89% compared with 1.85% (Sinhalese) and 3.52% (Muslims) with 50% of the cases being reported from Jaffna district alone.

“Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission became the first one in South Asia to be downgraded to Observer Status by the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions the international body governing National Human Rights Institutions citing government influence on its independence. The Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission is the worst one in South Asia”

“In no other South Asian country, so many human rights defenders have been killed. By September 2007, at least 43 aid workers were killed and 14 others were missing in Sri Lanka since the escalation of the conflict.” – asserted Mr Chakma.

Sri Lanka has the highest number of child soldiers in South Asia with 6,248 recorded cases of recruitment of by the LTTE and 453 cases by the Tamileela Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), the Karuna faction.  “It is government policy to allow the Karuna group and the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) to recruit child soldiers.” – stated ACHR.

Download>> ACHR Report on HR index

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