UN rapporteur on minority issues accuses BBS in report

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The United Nations Special Rapporteur on minority issues Rita Izsak criticised the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) in a report released ahead of the seventh session of the Forum on Minority Issues,  currently underway in Geneva.

The UN special rapporteur on minority issues, Ms Rita Izsák, in a report to the 7th session of the Forum on Minorities Issues in Geneva on 25 November 2014 said that on 2 July 2014, the Special Rapporteur on minority issues, along with other United Nations experts, called on Sri Lanka to adopt urgent measures to stop the racial and faith-based hatred and violence directed at Muslim and Christian communities by Buddhist groups with extremist views,and to bring perpetrators to justice.

A group known as Bodu Bala Sena (Buddhist Power Force), along with other groups, is promoting extremist views, proclaiming the racial superiority of Sinhala Buddhists and spreading fear among the population by, for example, alleging that statues of Buddha are being bulldozed by religious minorities or that evangelical Christians are forcibly converting vulnerable people. These statements have fuelled tensions and contributed to more than 350 violent attacks against Muslims and over 150 attacks against Christians in the past two years.

In the report, the Special Rapporteur stated that she considers “violence against minorities must constitute a high priority for States, regional bodies and the international community, as well as civil society”.

The report further said that In Sri Lanka, the United Nations development and humanitarian branches were unable to fully address the United Nations political and human rights priorities. Failures identified included a United Nations system that lacked an adequate and shared sense of responsibility for human rights violations; an incoherent internal United Nations crisis-management structure which failed to conceive and executer a coherent strategy in response to early warnings and subsequent human rights and humanitarian law violations against civilians; the ineffective dispersal of United Nations Headquarters structures to coordinate United Nations action and to address international human rights and humanitarian law violations across several different United Nations Headquarters entities in Geneva and New York; a model for United Nations action in the field that was designed for a development rather than a conflict response; and inadequate politicalsupport from Member States as a whole.

The Sri Lanka experience contributed to the development of the Secretary-General’s “Rights up front” initiative which seeks to ensure better organizational preparedness to meet the challenges of safeguarding human rights and protecting civilians in complex crises.

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