19 March 2014
Thank you Mr. President,
Please permit me to share with you the good news of the release of the two Sri Lankan human rights defenders Ruki Fernando and Fr Praveen by the authorities. We wish to express our appreciation to all those member States, civil society activists and NGOs all over the world who joined us in our call to release them. We are humbled by your solidarity and assure to uphold the confidence and trust placed on us.
The arrest and detention of the Sri Lankan human rights defenders illustrate the difficult conditions under which we work to promote the rights of minorities. The two human rights defenders come from two different ethnic backgrounds, Sinhala and Tamil. The community they work on, whose rights are violated belongs to another religious minority. Our work as human rights defenders therefore also challenges us to recognise and affirm the cultural, religious and ethnic plurality.
Unfortunately not only in Sri Lanka, but also all over the world we see the upsurge of attack on minorities. As an international movement relating to the Romas, the dalits, the Muslims, we welcome the recommendations made in the Report presented to the Council by the Forum on Minority Issues. In particular we wish to endorse the following general recommendation proposed by the Forum.
a) The translation of the provisions of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities by States into domestic legislation.
b) The compliance and implementation of article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Declaration by all members States.
c) Strengthening institutional capacity as appropriate and measures to improve the mainstreaming of minority issues in national-level bodies, including government ministries or departments working on central concerns for minorities, national human rights institutions, consultative bodies and mechanisms, and other relevant national entities.
We wish to draw the attention of the Council to the attacks against the Hindu community in Bangladesh in the recent past, the continuing discrimination against the Christians in Pakistan, the increased militarisation in the North of India and North of Sri Lanka where minority population live.
We are alarmed at the increasing violence and hate speech against the Muslim and Christian groups.
The State has failed to properly investigate and take action against the perpetrators. On the other hand, the Defence Secretary has several occasions seen gracing events of the Bodu Bala Sena the religious extremist group who lead these attacks against minority religious groups.
We endorse the recommendations of the Forum and hope an effective action plan will be put in place by all stake holders to give meaning to these deliberations.
Thank you Mr. President.
Item 4: General Debate
18 March 2014
IMADR welcomes the report of the High Commissioner on Sri Lanka, and endorse its recommendations. It is particularly worrying that the armed forces, Terrorist Investigation and Surveillance Units of Sri Lanka are used to intimidate and harass human rights defenders, especially family members of the disappeared. We call on the Human Rights Council to assure the safety of the three human rights defenders who have been recently detained under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act: Ruki Fernando; Father Praveen; Balendran Jeyalakshmi; and her 13 years old daughter. Since there is no justifiable reason for their arrest and detention, we demand their immediate release.
Between 15th June 2012 to 13th June 2013, violence, intimidation and the cultivated environment of fear hindered the cooperation between the United Nations (UN) human rights mechanisms and the victims, their family members and human rights defenders in Sri Lanka. High-level government officials in Sri Lanka, including the President, continue to make negative statements about the UN human rights mechanisms and portray those cooperating with the UN as “traitors,” “terrorists” and “being against the country”. A state-controlled radio station aired a programme where a number of listeners openly called for the elimination of human rights defenders, including myself.
The Human Rights Council has our lives and rights in its hands. We, as human rights defenders, gather here with full confidence to use this forum to address the experiences of peoples, whose civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights have been deprived. We discuss these matters under thematic areas. States are obliged to respect and promote every human right under the UDHR, and further comply with the various Conventions they have ratified. Who have the responsibility to ensure that the rights enshrined in the international statues are enjoyed by peoples all over the world? The member States should lead this struggle to make this world humane, where we can fully enjoy human rights. We regret that negotiations for human rights have been politicised and negated the ideal of democracy.
IMADR remains committed to support all endeavours of the OHCHR for the promotion and protection of human rights.
Thank you Mr. President,