Sri Lanka: Appeal for urgent agreement on human rights

 A leading international human rights expert has urged all parties to the conflict in Sri Lanka to make a "universal and unshakeable commitment" to protect "the fundamental rights of everyone living in Sri Lanka." Ian Martin visited Sri Lanka from 26 March to 3 April 2002 on behalf of the International Working Group on Sri Lanka, of which CAFOD is a member. He called on the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers or LTTE) to make explicit human rights commitments "as a matter of urgency." Mr Martin's report, which was sent to the government, political leaders and international agencies on 24 April, follows a nine-day mission during which he met Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe, LTTE leaders and a wide range of senior political figures, diplomats and civil society organizations. Welcoming the inclusion of limited human rights guarantees in the current ceasefire agreement, Mr Martin stated: "It is highly desirable that further human rights commitments be made explicit as soon as possible." He added that the LTTE has made clear that it required the government to lift its proscription before talks begin, "the moment when the government ceases to regard the LTTE as a terrorist organisation would be an appropriate moment for the LTTE to make further commitments regarding its respect for human rights, and for the government to renew its own human rights commitments and pledge itself to measures such as the review of those detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act." The report also points out that the human rights of all those living in the North and East of the country will need to be guaranteed under any LTTE-controlled interim administration that is widely expected to result from forthcoming negotiations. "The expectation that the LTTE will make further commitments to human rights guarantees and accept appropriate monitoring arrangements should not be seen as antagonistic to the LTTE, any more than the equivalent expectation of the government is antagonistic to it," the report stated. Mr Martin urged the deployment of an increased number of international human rights monitors to complement current efforts of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission set up under the cease-fire agreement. Most of those he met during his visit said they found the suggestion "highly desirable".

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