The African organizations of human rights defenders are writing to you to solicit your support for the resolution on Sri Lanka which will be presented by the United States of America in the course of the March 2012 session of the Human Rights Council (HRC).
As a matter of fact, almost three years has past after the end of the military conflict between the government of Sri-Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), that the government has not fulfilled its commitments towards the population of Sri Lanka. The Secretary General and the Human Rights Council should take credible steps towards establishing justice and accountability for the serious and widespread violations of human rights that took place during the war.
The violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, were not addressed by the government of Sri Lanka, not even after the publication of a long delayed report by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). Although this report contained useful recommendations, it ignored the worst abuses committed by government forces and failed to recommend measures to hold the government and military authorities accountable for these violations.
Several UN officials, including the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, and the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Philip Alston, called for an international and independent investigation into the allegations of violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law during the conflict. Many national and international non-governmental organizations have long called for such international investigation.
Furthermore, numerous Sri Lankans were forced into exile which led them into life threatening situations, as it was the case for a group of more than 200 undocumented Sri Lankans who found themselves stuck on the Togolese border for several months since they were not in possession of valid visas. These persons were boarded for Canada, but Canada refused to receive them. Based on the lack of refugee status, they were repatriated to Sri Lanka following the joint effort of the International Organization of Migration, the Togolese authorities and the Canadian government.
We are particularly concerned about the distressful situation experienced by the people of Sri Lanka. Moreover, despite the affirmation of different actors involved in the repatriation of the Sri Lankans from Togo, we do not know whether the security of these repatriated persons will be guaranteed and whether they will not be facing an even more disastrous situation than when they tried to flee.
To prevent future tragedies like this, we therefore urge all African States that are members of the Human Rights Council to support the resolution on Sri Lanka that will be presented by the United States of America during the 19th session of the Human Rights Council held in March 2012. We belief this will afford the people of Sri Lanka the opportunity to find solution in their situation through truth and prosecution of perpetrators. Being the principal intergovernmental organ dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights, it is crucial for the Human Rights Council to provide the necessary support to ensure investigations of perpetrators for murder and injuries of thousands of civilians during the last months of the conflict in Sri Lanka.
The Human Rights Council has demonstrated its capacity to respond positively to the needs of victims and victims’ are confident to receive aid in other similar contexts.
We encourage the Human Rights Council to maintain the momentum it established during the resolution on the Crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, the Arab Spring and resolution on the crisis in Syria.
The non-governmental organizations signatory to this letter would like to draw the attention of the Member States of the Human Rights Council to the universality of human rights and the duty to protect them.
Furthermore, we encourage you to support the Sri Lankan victims by voting in favour of the resolution. Restorative Justice is an essential component of reconciliation, and the people of Sri Lanka need your support to move forward.
We thank you for giving attention to this urgent matter. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you need further information or discussion on this matter.
Please accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of our highest consideration
West Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (Togo)
East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (Uganda)
Isha Human Rights Organization (Somalia)
Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (South Sudan)
South Sudan Human Right Defenders Forum (South Sudan)
African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies
Associação Justiça, Paz e Democracia
Coalition of African Lesbians
Human Rights Institute of South Africa
South Africa Forum for International Solidarity (SAFIS)
Global Call to Action Against Poverty-SA
Every Human Has Rights