Human Rights Watch calls for shifting CHOGM from Sri Lanka

New York, April 25 (IANS) The Human Rights Watch said Thursday that a senior Commonwealth advisory group should recommend the organisation shift the venue of its November 2013 Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) from Sri Lanka.

It should be done unless the Sri Lankan government makes prompt, measurable, and meaningful progress on human rights, the Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), a grouping of Commonwealth leaders that addresses “serious or persistent violations” of the Commonwealth’s fundamental political values, including human rights, will meet in London Friday.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa-led government has taken no meaningful steps to address serious abuses by government forces in the final months of the armed conflict with the LTTE in 2009, a release from Human Rights Watch said.

During this period, according to UN, an estimated 40,000 civilians died. Since 2009, the government has been responsible for a worsening human rights situation.

“The Commonwealth will rightly face international ridicule if it goes ahead with its summit in Sri Lanka,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

In February, dismissing the UN allegations of mass killings of civilians in 2009, a Sri Lankan Court of Inquiry concluded that the military followed an official “Zero Civilian Casualties” policy.

On April 2, Indian Shipping Minister G.K. Vasan, citing concerns about the rights of Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority population, urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to demand the CHOGM be relocated from Sri Lanka to an alternate location.

In February, the Human Rights Watch had expressed its long standing concerns about Sri Lanka’s human rights record and the country’s suitability to host the 2013 CHOGM.

In addition to hosting the 2013 Commonwealth summit, Sri Lanka will hold the chairmanship of the Commonwealth from 2013 to 2015, undermining the credibility of the Commonwealth on human rights matters, Human Rights Watch said.

“The Commonwealth needs to have the courage of its convictions and its values and inform the Sri Lankan government that its rights record makes it ineligible to host the 2013 CHOGM,” Adams said.

“To allow Sri Lanka to host the summit without rapid improvements would be to reward an abusive government with an undeserved badge of international acceptance,” he added.

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