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“Complacency or Silence” The Muted International Response to the


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									                            The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) is an independent, non-partisan,
                                   international non-governmental organisation, mandated to ensure
                                     the practical realisation of human rights in the Commonwealth

                                      “Complacency or Silence?”
          The Muted International Response to the Deteriorating Humanitarian Crisis in Sri Lanka

                          Media Release from the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, 2 March 2009

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) is alarmed at the deteriorating human rights and humanitarian
situation in Sri Lanka. Reports suggest that thousands of displaced civilians are trapped in an intensive military offensive
within an estimated 60 square mile territory. Both warring parties accuse the other of human rights violations. Concerned
by the likelihood of enormous civilian casualty, allegations of war crimes and a generalised situation of impunity, CHRI
calls for an immediate ceasefire to prevent further casualties; allow safe passage of civilians from combat areas; and
permit access to aid workers. In addition, CHRI urges the government to grant access to international observers to
monitor the situation on an ongoing basis and to permit free access to the media to report on the factual situation.

CHRI calls particularly for the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) - a body mandated to check persistent
violations of the fundamental values of the Commonwealth - to give urgent attention to the situation when it meets this
Wednesday, 4 March 2009. Commonwealth engagement, via the Secretary General’s good offices mandate and CMAG’s
voiced concern would be a first step towards preventing further human rights violations and ensuring safe passage and
settlement for all remaining civilians trapped in the combat area. Silence will inevitably lead to greater suffering, impunity
and human rights violations.

Despite the media blackout, reports indicate that the war is being fought in full-scale with regular air, artillery and naval
assaults involving widely condemned weapons, such as cluster bombs. Civilian hospitals and declared safe zones have
also been repeatedly attacked. Civilians caught in the cross-fire face the use of weapons and strikes that are designed to
cause widespread, indiscriminate damage. In addition, currently emerging reports suggest that civilians seeking to cross
into safe territory have been shot at while seeking safe passage and being subject to further violations in holding facilities.
Such circumstances indicate a strong likelihood of war crimes that will require investigation. This developing pattern of
impunity will inevitably lead to the perpetration of further atrocities. Such a situation calls for immediate international

However, the response of the international community has remained decidedly muted. CHRI notes with disappointment
the silence of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and urges the Commonwealth members of the Council
(Cameroon, Canada, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Ghana, India, Malaysia, Mauritius, Pakistan, South Africa, Zambia and the
United Kingdom) to call for a special session to discuss the situation in Sri Lanka. The ongoing silence of the
Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) - is detrimental to its future ability to upholding the ‘fundamental Values
of the Commonwealth’ which include the promotion and protection of human rights.

The Commonwealth and the wider international community must act urgently in a meaningful way, placing human rights
principles at the forefront of their response to the growing humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka.

                          For more information regarding CHRI or this media release, contact Lucy Mathieson at CHRI
              (+91-9871203760 or mailto:lucy@humanrightsinitiative.org) or access the CHRI website at www.humanrightsinitiative.org

    The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) is an independent, non-partisan, international NGO working for the
                      practical realisation of human rights in the countries of the Commonwealth.

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative                                                                                   CHRI 2009 Press Release

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