UN Watch Oral Statement to the
UN Human Rights Council Special Session on Human Rights in Sri Lanka
Delivered by Marissa Cramer, Geneva, 27 May 2009


On Protecting Human Rights vs. “Internal Affairs”

Thank you, Mr. President.

UN Watch is alarmed by the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, and calls for immediate action to help all innocent victims.

UN Watch aligns itself with the many countries in this session who condemned the Tamil Tigers for targeting innocent civilians, forcibly recruiting child soldiers, and using civilians as human shields.

In the history of terrorism, the Tigers will be remembered for pioneering the tactic of suicide bombing, one tragically copied by terrorist groups in other regions.

At the same time, we agree with the High Commissioner that the ends cannot justify the means. We remind the government of Sri Lanka that nothing permits the evasion of its obligation to respect international human rights and humanitarian law.

The government must be held accountable for shelling densely populated areas, including in no-fire zones; for ignoring the UN’s urgent appeal for a humanitarian pause; for confining hundreds of thousands of civilians to camps behind barbed wire, causing hunger and disease; and for denying access to such camps to the outside world, including international aid workers. 

Doctors that dared to publicize the government’s actions against civilians have suffered retaliation, while journalists are systematically repressed. In the words of the UN spokesman in Sri Lanka, we have witnessed “the large-scale killing of civilians,” indeed a “bloodbath.”

Mr. President, the situation in Sri Lanka today is a human rights emergency – a human rights catastrophe.

And so the question facing us today is this: Will the Council fulfill its basic obligation to protect human rights victims and improve the situation on the ground? 

Based on what we have heard this session, we fear the answer. Because we have heard a great many justifications for inaction – for the Council to ignore its universal mandate and responsibility to protect victims in any country.

We heard Egypt for the African Group describe the situation in Sri Lanka as a matter of (quote) “internal affairs.”

We heard Pakistan for the Organization of the Islamic Conference invoke a principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states. We heard it call this session a (quote) “waste of time, effort, and money.”

Mr. President,

Is protecting innocent civilians from massive violations of human rights a waste of time, effort and money? 

Mr. President,

At the January session, was it not the distinguished representative of Sri Lanka who told this Council, and I quote, “We, the Human Rights Council here, must show that we are watching; that we are listening; and that we are responsive”?

In that same session, was it not he who asked:  If the Council does not stand up for innocent people, then what does it stand for, and why does it exist?

Thank you, Mr. President.



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