Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sri Lanka ranks South Asia’s No.1 human rights violator - Asian Center for Human Rights

A new report by the Asian Centre for Human Rights presents a comparative analysis of human rights situation in South Asia. According to the report, Sri Lanka is the number one violator in the region closely followed by Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) released a comparative assessment of the human rights records of South Asian governments earlier this month.

While Sri Lanka is the worst in the region, the report also underlines that all countries in the region have very poor records.

According to the report, Sri Lanka is South Asia’s worst human rights violator. The country had the worst human rights records for violations of the right to life, the rights of the child, attacks on human rights defenders and violations of the rights of the minorities.

On press freedom, it ranked second worst violator only after Bhutan – which has no independent press. These increased violations are a direct consequence of the war. Civilians in Sri Lanka are deliberately targeted by all sides to the conflict.

“Discrimination lies at the heart of the war with the Tamils and the introduction of restrictions on Tamils travelling to Colombo are a powerful symbol of government intent. The political ramifications of the exclusion - not least in terms of prospects for a peaceful settlement of the conflict - of an entire ethnic group from the nation’s capital are of deep concern,” stated ACHR.

In Sri Lanka, attacks on freedom of expression were of particular concern and led the killing of seven journalists in 2007.

There are no precise figures on the number of civilians killed because reporting on war is banned.

“Not only is Sri Lanka’s conflict resulting in systematic violations of human rights of civilians, but by deliberately oppressing journalists and freedom of expression, this measure closes off any means for the government to have access to independent information and understand the extent of the problem and the negative consequences of its own actions,” said Suhas Chakma, Director of the Asian Centre for Human Rights.

The results are there: disappearances began to rise again: 540 persons disappeared across Sri Lanka from January to August 2007 with ethnic Tamils suffering disproportionately –78.89% compared with 1.85% (Sinhalese) and 3.52% (Muslims) with 50% of the cases being reported from Jaffna district alone.

“In no other South Asian country, so many human rights defenders have been killed. By September 2007, at least 43 aid workers were killed and 14 others were missing in Sri Lanka since the escalation of the conflict,” asserted Chakma.

The South Asia Human Rights Index 2008 finds that under the ACHR’s index scoring system Sri Lanka (with 52 points) is the worst human rights violator in South Asia followed by Bangladesh (45), Bhutan (43), Pakistan (41), Maldives (23), Nepal (24) and India (24).

Apart from strengthening the national mechanism to address such violations, Asian Centre for Human Rights recommends that 15th SAARC Summit establish a working Group of Eminent Persons of South Asia to explore the possibility of drafting a South Asia Human Rights Convention with full and active participation of civil society groups and other stakeholders.

ACHR also urges the National Human Rights Institutions in South Asia to emulate the role of their counterparts in South East Asia to establish a South Asia Sub-Regional human rights mechanism.

© One World South Asia

Read the full report:
South Asia Human Rights Index 2008 - ACHR

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