Oral Statement Human Rights Council

Joint Oral Statement on Sri Lanka and Indonesia
Eleventh Session of the Human Rights Council
Published by Franciscans International

Item 4 - General Debate,
Geneva, 08 June 2009

Thank you Mr. President,

This is a joint statement of Franciscans International, Pax Romana and Dominicans for Justice and Peace.

This Council adopted with no clear consensus, a Resolution tabled by Sri Lanka during the Eleventh Special Session (on the Human Rights situation in Sri Lanka). Regrettably, the resolution did not focus on the plight of the civilian population or on the respect to international human rights obligations by all parties.

The Government of Sri Lanka has to effectively address the issue of internally displaced persons. The Government has the primary duty and responsibility to protect all its citizens, and in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement it should ensure the right of IDPs to liberty of movement and freedom to choose their residence; as well as to family members to remain together, which is not the case now.

Mr. President, the consequences of the Special session were felt by those who struggle to defend human rights in Sri Lanka. The fate of the three doctors that were detained a number of weeks ago and were held incommunicado, continues to be unknown. At least three journalists were beaten up severely and intimidated; human rights defenders were alerted at the fact that they were the next ones to become victims of a situation that is not just tied to the end of the conflict, but is a systemic pattern affecting Sri Lanka. A journalist who spoke in this very room only a few days ago has received death threats. According to the Catholic Bishop of Jaffna, five priests who were assisting the civilian population in the conflict zone are still detained in Vavuniya camp.

These courageous men and women uphold the value of human rights and the human dignity of all those who have been affected by the conflict. As a contribution to the reconstruction of the country, it is their duty to report the story of the victims, which often gets silenced at a time of victory and joy. The government of Sri Lanka should ensure their full protection and guarantee their human rights, particularly for those that remain detained.

The human rights violations committed against the civilian population, particularly those who have borne the brunt of the conflict, should be promptly investigated and redressed.

Sri Lanka has now a unique opportunity to move forward in its reconstruction and reconciliation process by involving all sectors of the population.

In West Papua, Indonesia, the number of violent events that ensued from the initial provincial elections on 9 April 2009, witnessed also in different parts of the archipelago, raises concerns over the protection afforded to the population during Indonesia¹s election process.

It is worrying that additional mobile brigade (BRIMOB) police troops were sent to West Papua. As a result of a BRIMOB shooting on the election day, two individuals were killed, and a number of others injured. University buildings were set on fire, with no ensuing investigation so far. In the past, these same mobile troops have been involved in gross violations of human rights in Papua. The government of Indonesia must take steps to ensure such incidents do not happen again.

Additionally, a number of students continue to be detained in relation to protests staged in October 2008. We are concerned that students who take to the streets in West Papua (with prior permission from authorities) are routinely and arbitrarily detained. A number of these students have been unfairly charged with treason, a sentence which may carry life sentence. As the elections came closer in April, security around a number of detained students increased, and their access to families and lawyers was strictly limited.

The government of Indonesia must take steps to ensure that no violations of human rights of indigenous Papuans will take place during the general election, particularly by ensuring that the security services respect their human rights.