Sri Lanka: no Commonwealth seal of approval for human rights abuses
As Sri Lanka gears up to host a meeting of Commonwealth leaders in November, it’s time for their government to come clean about torture, unlawful detention and countless other abuses that continue to plague the island – and stop them. Take action now
No justice for past crimes
An estimated 40,000 civilians were killed in the final weeks of Sri Lanka’s armed conflict, which ended in May 2009. Corralled into government ‘No Fire Zones’ on northern beaches, civilians were shelled and hospitals deliberately bombed. The opposition Tamil Tigers (LTTE) conscripted child soldiers, used civilians as human shields against the approaching army and shot those who tried to escape. People trapped by the fighting were deprived of food, water and medical care.
There has still been no independent, international investigation into these alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity – and therefore no justice for the victims.
Since the war ended, the Sri Lankan government has cracked down on dissent in a bid to increase its hold on power. The torture and disappearances that became entrenched during the years of conflict continue with impunity. The authorities threaten and harass media activists, students and even artists – often relying on counter-terrorism laws to detain critics for extended periods of time.
Fifteen journalists have been murdered since 2006, and disappearances involving white vans are so common they have become known as ‘white van abductions’.
Commonwealth seal of approval
The Commonwealth charter upholds the principles of protection and promotion of human rights, freedom of expression and the rule of law. It’s therefore shameful that the Commonwealth has been silent about Sri Lanka’s human rights crisis for so long.
Please email Secretary of State, William Hague – our representative at the Commonwealth heads of government meeting on 15-17 November – calling for the UK Government to send a clear message that Sri Lanka’s human rights abuses will not be given a Commonwealth seal of approval.