10/16/2007, 00.00
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UN finds human rights situation in Sri Lanka ‘alarming’

by Melani Manel Perera
In her recent visit the UN Commissioner for Human Rights called for observers to monitor abuses on the island. Minister Samarasinghe rejects the demand and claims government commission doing an adequate job. However, four of its members quit yesterday complaining about its uselessness.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – The United Nations and the government of Sri Lanka do not see eye to eye on human rights. The gap became a gulf over the week-end during a visit by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour to the island nation, formerly known as Ceylon.

The UN renewed its demand for a UN monitoring office in Sri Lanka where the civil war flared up again more than a year ago between Tamil rebels and the Sri Lankan army.

In response Sri Lankan Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said his government will not accept any foreign official on its territory, adding that the government own Human Rights Commission can do the job.

Many activists have however questioned the Commission’s work and transparency. Four of its members resigned yesterday accusing the government of not doing enough to stop violence and abductions.

One said that the agency set up by Minister Samarasinghe in response to international pressure has never been a priority for the government which is instead more interested in pursuing its war against Tamil separatists.

Ms Arbour, who has to report to the UN Human Rights Council on her visit, said the level of impunity was alarming. Charges against the security forces for their violence need accurate investigations.

She said that if she had been given a chance to visit Killinochchi, she would have conveyed her deep concern to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for their violations of human rights.

In the past Colombo has repeatedly rejected demands to have UN observers deployed in the country on the grounds that it would constitute a violation of its sovereignty. 

According to Human Rights Watch, between January 2006 and June 2007 some 11,000 people have been abducted or disappeared. None of these cases have been solved.

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