Sri Lanka is the only country added on the annual human rights report by Britain this year as a country of concern by the Foreign Affairs Committee, according to British Foreign Office. The Annual report on Human Rights 2009 presented 17 March to British Parliament says, ‘Since the last report, we have added one country of concern. We agreed with the Foreign Affairs Committee’s recommendation to include Sri Lanka. This reflects our concern about allegations of serious conflict violations, as well as the deteriorating status of the rule of law and freedom of expression.’
The following are some excerpts of the HR report:
‘Human Rights Council Special Session on Sri Lanka
The EU led efforts in May to call a special session of the HRC in response to the situation in Sri Lanka. We found support for the session from select members of other regional groups who shared our concerns. Together we worked hard on a draft resolution that could be presented to the wider HRC membership, even those with misgivings about the focus on Sri Lanka, as a constructive expression of HRC concern.
In doing so we hoped for a consensus outcome. Sri Lanka, unfortunately, tabled a text with a different purpose, which was passed by majority vote. The UK could not agree with their assessment of the situation and voted against the resolution because it:
• omitted to reaffirm that it is the primary responsibility of the state to ensure protection of the human rights of all persons under its jurisdiction;
• failed to call on the government of Sri Lanka to start an inclusive political process, which would address the legitimate concerns of all of Sri Lanka’s communities; and
• did not address the need to ensure the protection of human rights defenders, journalists and minorities or the right to freedom of expression.
The session, nonetheless, presented an opportunity for many States, UN Special Procedures, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights to put on record the plight of civilians caught up in it. We continue to believe that the situation merited the attention of the UN’s primary human rights body and that it was right to call the session.’
‘Since the end of the conflict we have been calling, along with the EU, for an independent and credible process to address possible violations of IHL. The Sri Lankan government has made little progress.
In October, President Rajapakse announced the formation of a committee to look into a US State Department report on possible violations. In late December, the President extended the deadline for the committee to report until the end of April 2010.’
‘Freedom of Expression
Sri Lanka ranks 162 out of 175 countries in the Reporters without Borders Press Freedom Index 2009. The environment for free expression deteriorated in the early part of 2009 as the conflict intensified.’
‘A Tamil journalist, J S Tissainayagam, was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment on 31 August for charges related to his writing. In addition, Tamil language newspapers (such as Sudar Oli, Uthayan and Valampuri) continue to operate in extremely difficult conditions, with their staff regularly receiving anonymous threats.’
‘Disappearances and Abductions
Reports of abductions and disappearances of civilians continued throughout 2009. In the vast majority of cases the reported victims are Tamil civilians.’