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Statement by Delegation of Sri Lanka following update by High Commissioner of Human Rights at the HRC on 18th September, 2006

Mr. President,

I would like to thank High Commissioner Arbour for her update on the current global human rights situation.  We had hoped however that OHCHR would have engaged our Mission earlier to convey your concerns on Sri Lanka.  We have always been available for fostering a dialogue of cooperation and mutual respect.

You would, I think all appreciate the special challenges posed in Sri Lanka as a country affected both by conflict and by unprecedented natural disasters such as the tsunami of December, 2004.   In coping with these challenges, our experience has brought out the vulnerability of women and children as being particularly affected in such situations.  We can be counted on therefore to support any initiative to bring the issues of violence against women and the rights of children into sharper  focus in the Council.  Here in Geneva, we must also remain abreast of the initiatives in New York to bring to the forefront the issue of children and armed conflict.  This is a cause in which Sri Lanka has been associated since many years as an affected country where the LTTE has been engaged in forcible conscription of children.   Continued complaints of this abhorrent practice are being documented by international organisations such as UNICEF.  Many incidents underline the risks  to which children are exposed when used in direct combat, in training or in support roles. 

With regard to the current upsurge of violence by the LTTE in Sri Lanka, the Government has been keeping the diplomatic community briefed that the entirety of its military response was specifically defensive and necessitated by  the clear and present danger posed by the LTTE to strategic critical infrastructure such as  Palaly airport,  Trincomalee harbour and related facilities.

Another point that I would like to emphasise is that the Government of Sri Lanka has always been committed to the protection of human rights while combating terrorism and would like to place itself beyond reproach regarding such concerns. In this regard President Mahinda Rajapaksa has announced the establishment of an international independent group of eminent persons to act as observers of investigations into such allegations including the killing of Action Contre la Faim (ACF) workers which the High Commissioner referred to and which the Government has strongly condemned.  The Government believes that this group will provide the necessary transparency and expertise in the conduct of these inquiries.  The Terms of Reference and the composition of this group are being worked out, with Amnesty International in London and OHCHR during this week.  President Rajapaksa has also appointed a retired High Court Judge to receive representations  and inquire into abductions, disappearances and killings throughout the country.

I would add that the Government remains fully committed to the ceasefire and is appreciative of the efforts by the international community to resume peace talks.  We note however that the LTTE has always used peace talks as a period to enhance its military capabilities.  The Government would urge the international community to put in place a practical mechanism to prevent the illegal procurement of arms; this is essential to ensure a successful progression towards a political settlement.  The Government remains fully committed to participate at peace talks.

In conclusion let me reiterate that my delegation has always extended friendly open cooperation to civil society, engaging in discussions on a regular basis to learn of their concerns.  This is in keeping with our belief that in effecting the transition from the Commission to the new Council we must all endeavour to replace previous practices of ‘naming and shaming’ in favour of constructive dialogue in a search for solutions. 

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