Human Rights

Humanity will Eat itself through Violence, War, Hatred and Neglect

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Mutilation & Burning at the Stake: United States 1899 in the US State of Georgia:

“Sam Hose was brought to a patch of land known as the old Troutman field. Newspapers reported that members of the mob used knives to sever Hose’s ears, fingers and genitals while others plunged knives repeatedly into his body, to cheers from the mob. Men and boys gathered kindling from the nearby woods to create a pyre. The skin from Hose’s face was removed, and he was doused with kerosene. He was then chained to a pine tree. Several matches were thrown onto the pyre by members of the mob, lighting it on fire and burning Hose alive. The heat from the fire caused Hose’s veins to rupture while his eyes nearly burst from their sockets.[ One journalist present noted the crowd watched “with unfeigned satisfaction” at contortions of Hose’s body. As the flames consumed his body, Hose screamed out, “Oh my God! Oh Jesus!”. From the time of Hose’s first injuries to his death, almost 30 minutes passed. One woman thanked God for the actions of the mob. Some members of the mob cut off pieces of his dead body as souvenirs. Pieces of Hose’s bones were sold for 25 cents, while his heart and liver were cut out to be sold.” ~ Wikipedia

Scaphism in ancient Persia:

In order for the method to work, it had to take place in a swamp or somewhere where the boats could lie exposed to the sun. The victim would be tied inside the space between the boats in a way that left their head, hands, and feet outside. Then, the person in charge of the process would feed the victim a mixture of milk and honey, forcing them to swallow against their will, so the mixture dripped everywhere, covering their eyes, face, and neck. This same mixture was then spread all over the exposed body parts, and the idea was that it would attract every insect, vermin, and wild animal in the area. Very soon afterwards, flies and rats, for instance, would show up and start attacking the victim, eating the mixture of milk and honey, but also eating the person alive along the process.Now, as if the bugs eating them alive weren’t enough, there was also the severe diarrhea that left them feeling weak and dehydrated. This horrifying symptom was the intended consequence of their enforced milk-and-honey diet. The more they were fed this mixture, the more they would defecate inside the boats, but also, the longer they stayed alive. This point, precisely, was the cruelest yet most effective aspect of scaphism: the victims couldn’t die from the diarrhea-induced dehydration because they were fed milk and honey every day. As a result, the victims could survive for days and even weeks in a small hell of bugs, feces, milk, and honey.” ~ culturacolectiva.com

United States in the 21st Century:

Afghan national Alif Khan told Amnesty International that he was held in US custody in Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan for five days in May 2002. He said that he was held in handcuffs, waist chains, and leg shackles for the whole time, subjected to sleep deprivation, denied water for prayer or washing, and was kept in a cage-like structure with eight people.” ~Amnesty International

Myers Enterprises located in the US State of Denver, Colorado, produces the “stun cuff” that shocks unruly prisoners back to order. It takes international orders.  Axon Enterprise made $863 million in revenue in 2021 with one of its core product being the Taser, according to its Investor Slide Deck. There are 960 thousand Tasers floating around the United States and in Europe. Axon sells a number of other products particularly integrated computing observation and reporting systems. While there are complaints about deaths involving Taser’s, or what are known as Conducting Electricity Devices (CED’s), in June 2022 the Office of Justice Programs found that. “law enforcement need not refrain from deploying CEDs, provided the devices are used inaccordance with accepted national guidelines.” Meanwhile,  Amnesty International in a December 2020 report seeks strict controls on CED’s (good luck with that). Since a Taser is a form of gun, it falls, arguably, under the protection of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution (the right to keep and bear arms).

General Mike Minihan, the US Air Mobility Commander opined recently that, “Lethality matters most. When you can kill your enemy, every part of your life is better. Your food tastes better. Your marriage is stronger. This is who we are. We are lethal. Do not apologize for it, after listing distinguished Air Force commanders like Gen. Curtis LeMay and Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, who had no scruples against killing the enemy. The pile of our nations enemy dead, the pile that is the biggest, is in front of the United States Air Force,” he said.

Task & Purpose, September 2022

Imagine a world where roughly 5 billion of the Earth’s 7 billion people has access to a World Wide Web of knowledge that would allow them to search studies on anatomy, chemical engineering, genetics, geography, anthropology, quantum mechanics, artificial intelligence and military science, Shannon’s theory of information, crops and farming, and more. Much more, it turns out. There are free online courses which allow you to learn Algebra or just about any technical or non-technical subject matter on the planet. Want to refute of confirm what “a leader” just told you, look it up online. And collaboration, the Web was designed just for that.

Instead, the Web has become more polluted, if that is possible, with cognitive/attention span killing programs like Tik Tok, Twitter, Facebook, and thousands of reality-bending nuanced disinformation sites that plague the Web. What was supposed to have been a liberating force for humanity’s knowledge is now a crass advertising and propaganda monster. But, perhaps the saddest thought is that it doesn’t take much to tunnel through all the bull&^%$ and find the data buried behind the cognitive/attention span-killing cotton candy. Information sources such as the National Institutes of Health, New England Medical Journal, Defense Technology Information Center and a plethora of other sites on the Web like them are credible, reliable sources. Prominent universities in the USA typically publish their rigorous research findings (MIT, Harvard, CALTECH, Stanford). Do you want to find one place that gives the Russian military campaign in Ukraine its props on manoeuvre warfare? Look no further than the US Marine Corps Gazette, August 2022, paper 22, authored by Marinus.

The Web has become a partisan wasteland with users looking to bounce their left, right and centre world views right back into their brains after some sort of affirmation by the left, right and centre triad. Rarely, if ever, do they cross over into the realm of the other.

I suppose that the Web imitates life in meatspace and there it is arguably worse: global economic woes, USA challenging China and Russia directly, elections of significance in Brazil and the United States, an increase in violence in America’s cities, a pandemic that is not over, climate change, shifting international alliances, America’s global sanctions regime, Russia vs Ukraine conflict, exploding healthcare costs, food shortages, finance capital, ad nauseam.

Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vucic, summed it all up in a recent speech to the United Nations in August 2022, “The seriousness of the present moment obliges me to share difficult but true words with you. Everything that we are doing today seems impotent and vague. Our words make a hollow and empty echo compared to the reality that we are facing. The reality is that no one listens to anyone, no one strives for real agreements and problem solving, and almost everyone cares only about their own interests.

Solutions?

Why prolong the inevitable end?

Linking Climate Devastation and Fossil Fuel Profits

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What do Pakistan, Puerto Rico, and Jackson, Mississippi, have in common? They’ve all recently experienced climate-related catastrophic rains and flooding, resulting in the loss of homes, electricity, and running water. But, even more importantly, they are all low-income regions inhabited by people of color—the prime victims of climate injustice. They face inaction from negligent governments and struggle to survive as fossil fuel companies reap massive profits—a status quo that United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has called a “moral and economic madness.”

Pakistan, which relies on yearly monsoons to enrich its agricultural industry, has had unprecedented floods since June, impacting 30 million people and killing more than 1,500—a third of them children.

Zulfiqar Kunbhar, a Karachi-based journalist with expertise in climate coverage, explains that “things are very critical” in the rain-affected areas of his nation. Kunbhar has been visiting impacted regions and has seen firsthand the massive “agricultural loss and livelihood loss” among Pakistan’s farming communities.

Sindh, a low-lying province of Pakistan, is not only one of the most populous in the nation (Sindh is home to about 47 million people), but it also produces about a third of the agricultural produce, according to Kunbhar. Twenty years ago, Sindh was stricken with extreme drought. In the summer of 2022, it was drowning in chest-deep water.

The UN is warning that the water could take months to recede and that this poses serious health risks, as deadly diseases like cerebral malaria are emerging. Kunbhar summarizes that provinces like Sindh are facing both “the curse of nature” and government “mismanagement.”

Climate change plus government inaction on mitigation and resilience equals deadly consequences for the poor. This same equation plagues Puerto Rico, long relegated to the status of a United States territory. In September 2022, on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico in 2017 and killed nearly 3,000 people, another storm named Fiona knocked out powerfor the entire region.

Julio López Varona, chief of campaigns at Center for Popular Democracy Action, spoke to me from Puerto Rico, saying, “the storm was extremely slow, going at like 8 or 9 miles an hour,” and as a result, “it pounded the island for more than three days” with relentless rain. “Communities were completely flooded; people have been displaced,” he says. Eventually, the electrical grid completely failed.

Days after the storm passed, millions of people remained without power—some even lost running water—leading the White House to declare a major disaster in Puerto Rico.

Even on the U.S. mainland, it is poor communities of color who have been hit the hardest by the impacts of climate change. Mississippi’s capital of Jackson, with an 82 percent Black population and growing numbers of Latin American immigrants, struggles with adequate resources and has had problems with its water infrastructure for years.

Lorena Quiroz, founder of the Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity, a Jackson-based group doing multiracial grassroots organizing, told me how the city’s residents have been struggling without clean running water since major rains and resulting floods overwhelmed a water treatment plant this summer.

“It’s a matter of decades of disinvestment in this mostly Black, and now Brown, community,” says Quiroz. In a state run by white conservatives, Jackson is overseen by a Black progressive mayor, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, who is now suing the state government over inaction on the city’s water infrastructure.

Quiroz says it’s “painful to see how government is not doing what they should, how the state government is neglecting its most vulnerable populations.”

Over and over, the same pattern has emerged on a planet experiencing catastrophic climate change. Setting aside the fact that we are still spewing greenhouse gasesinto the atmosphere as the world burns and floods, the impacts of a warming climate are disproportionately borne by poor communities of color as evidenced in Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Jackson, and elsewhere.

The UN head, Guterres is doing what he can in using his position to lay blame precisely on the culprits, saying in his opening remarks to the UN General Assembly in New York recently, “It is high time to put fossil fuel producers, investors, and enablers on notice. Polluters must pay.” Guterres specifically touted the importance of taxing fossil fuel companies to cover the damage they are causing in places like Pakistan. According to the Associated Press, “Oil companies in July reported unprecedented profits of billions of dollars per month. ExxonMobil posted three months profits of $17.85 billion, Chevron of $11.62 billion, and Shell of $11.5 billion.”

Contrast this windfall with the countless numbers of people who lost their homes in Pakistan and are now living in shanties on roads where they have found some higher ground from the floods. “If you lose a crop, that’s seasonal damage, but if you lose a house, you have to pay for years to come,” says Kunbhar.

Kunbhar’s view of what is happening in Pakistan applies equally to Puerto Rico and Jackson: Society is “divided between the haves and have-nots,” he says. “The poorest of the poor who are already facing an economic crisis from generation to generation, they are the most vulnerable and the [worst] victims of this crisis.”

In Puerto Rico, Varona sees displaced communities losing their lands to wealthier communities. He says that the local government in Puerto Rico is “allowing millionaires and billionaires to come and pay no taxes and to actually take over many of the places that are safer for communities to be on.” This is an “almost intentional displacement of communities… that have historically lived here,” he says.

And in Jackson, Quiroz says she is aghast at the “mean-spiritedness” of Mississippi’s wealthier enclaves and state government. “It is so difficult to comprehend the way that our people are being treated.”

Although disparate and seemingly disconnected from one another, with many complicating factors, there are stark lines connecting climate victims to fossil fuel profits.

Pakistan’s poor communities are paying the price for ExxonMobil’s billions.

Puerto Rico remains in the dark so that Chevron may enjoy massive profits.

Jackson, Mississippi, has no clean drinking water so that Shell can enrich its shareholders.

When put in such terms, Guterres’s idea for taxing the perpetrators of climate devastation is a no-brainer. It’s “high time,” he said, “to put fossil fuel producers, investors and enablers on notice,” so that we can end our “suicidal war against nature.”

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

U.S. Ambassador to UN Agencies to visit Sri Lanka

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United States Permanent Representative to the UN Food and Agriculture Agencies in Rome Ambassador Cindy McCain will visit Sri Lanka from September 25-28 to highlight U.S. food assistance programs in Sri Lanka and reinforce the U.S. commitment and lasting partnership with the island nation.

In addition to meeting with senior government officials and aid organizations in Colombo, Ambassador McCain will join U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung to travel to Central Province to visit schools, agricultural research facilities, and community organizations and meet with recipients and implementers of relief provided through U.S. government-funded humanitarian assistance programs.

The United States is the single largest country donor to the three United Nations food and agriculture agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the World Food Program (WFP).  U.S.-funded UN projects showcase how the U.S. government, the UN Food and Agriculture Agencies, and the government of Sri Lanka collaborate to reduce food insecurity and advance humanitarian relief, livelihood protection, and agriculture-led economic growth, especially at this critical time of increased global hunger. 

The United States has provided partnership and assistance to the people and government of Sri Lanka for more than 70 years.  Since June, Ambassador Chung has overseen the announcement of nearly $240 million in new U.S. government assistance to Sri Lanka, including U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power’s September 2022 announcements of an additional $40 million to provide Sri Lankan farmers with fertilizer and $20 million to meet immediate humanitarian needs in the country. 

Statement issued by US Embassy in Colombo

Sri Lanka Rated ‘Obstructed’ by a Global Alliance of Civil Societies

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Sri Lanka remains on a watchlist of countries that have seen a rapid decline in civic freedoms. Despite the removal of the Rajapaksa regime, brought about by mass protests – amid the country’s worst economic crisis in decades – the new President Ranil Wickremesinghe has continued the governments’ crackdown on protesters and activists, CIVICUS which is a global alliance of over 10,000 civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world has stated in a statement.

Following Wickremesinghe’s election, according to the statement, sweeping emergency powers were once again imposed to restrict protests and clamp down on protesters. Security forces used excessive force to remove parts of a rolling peaceful protest site in front of the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo. Protesters have also been harassed, arrested and detained.

The new watchlist is released by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks the latest developments to civic freedoms, including freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, across 197 countries and territories. Other countries included on the list are Guatemala, Guinea, Serbia and Zimbabwe.

On 17 July 2022, emergency regulations were imposed giving sweeping powers to the police and the armed forces to search and make arrests of ‘suspects’ without due process safeguards. UN human rights experts have condemned the “extensive, prolonged and repeated use of state of emergency measures” since April 2022 by the authorities to crack down on peaceful protesters.

In the early hours of 22 July 2022, a coordinated joint operation by the Sri Lankan military, police and special forces forcibly removed parts of the three-month-long ‘Gotagogama’ rolling peaceful protest site in front of the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo. Security forces severely beat protesters and lawyers and removed many tents from the pavement. At least 50 people were injured andt nine protesters were arrested and granted bail on the same day. At least 14 protesters were hospitalised. Materials and electronic devices belonging to protesters were destroyed.

“The Sri Lanka authorities must investigate all human rights violations committed by security forces during the state of emergency including unlawful arrests, excessive use of force on protesters and the brutal crackdown at the protest site at Galle Face in July. Any pending charges against those arrested for peacefully exercising their rights must be immediately dropped. These repressive actions clearly do not meet Sri Lanka’s obligations under international human rights law”, said Josef Benedict, Asia researcher for CIVICUS

The security forces have sought to harass, arrest or detain activists and protesters seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis. Journalists have also been targeted for their reporting on the crisis and protests

On 25 July 2022, the Colombo Magistrates’ Court issued a travel ban on Father Jeewantha Peiris, a Catholic priest who had been prominent in the protests, and several others. Leading protester Dhaniz Ali was arrested by the police while trying to leave for Dubai on a flight on 26 July 2022. On 27 July 2022, unidentified men in civilian clothes abducted Veranga Pushpika, a former student activist and journalist who had also been active in the protests, from a bus in Colombo. Police did not disclose his whereabouts for several hours before acknowledging his arrest.

On 3 August 2022, human rights defender and General Secretary of Ceylon Teachers Union Joseph Stalin was arrested. The human rights defender was taken to the Fort police station and remanded despite suffering from poor health. He was granted bail by a Colombo Fort Magistrate on 8th August 2022.

On 18 August 2022, police intervened to disrupt a protest by members of the Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF) in central Colombo by firing a water cannon and tear gas at them. The crackdown was followed by the arrest of members of the IUSF. According to reports, 20 people were arrested and 16 of the suspects were released on personal bail after being charged with unlawful assembly and obstructing the duties of police officers by blocking the road. One of those detained was human rights defender Chinthaka Rajapakse, the moderator of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR), a human rights organisation focused on land rights, protection of natural resources and the environment.

Three of those detained around the student protests including Wasantha Mudalige, the convener of the IUSF, Hashantha Jeewantha Gunathilake, member of the Kelaniya University Students’ Union and Galvewa Siridhamma Thero, the convener of Inter University Bhikku Federation, have been detained under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). The government has used the PTA to target and harass minorities, activists, journalists and critical voices.

On 9 September 2022, the National Organiser of Youth for Change (YFC), Lahiru Weerasekara was arrested by Maradana police as he was returning on his bike from a peaceful protest at Galle Face.

“The arbitrary arrests or harassment of activists and protesters must end and those detained for exercising their right to the freedom of peaceful assembly must be unconditionally and immediately released. President Ranil Wickremesinghe should also immediately end the use of the draconian counterterrorism law to lock up activists for long periods ” added Benedict.

The violations against protesters are part of a broader trend of attacks on civic space under the Rajapaksa administration that civil society has documented in recent years including the targeting of activists and critics, use of the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), surveillance, intimidation and harassment of Tamil war victims and families of the disappeared, journalists and civil society organisations, particularly in the North and East, and failure to hold officials accountable for conflict-era crimes under international law.

Sri Lanka is currently rated ‘obstructed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor. There are a total of 42 countries in the world with this rating. This rating is typically given to countries where civic space is heavily contested by power holders, who impose a combination of legal and practical constraints on the full enjoyment of fundamental rights.

The Roar of a U.S. Warplane Over a Civilian Airport

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“This is not a regular airport,” Margaretta D’Arcy said to me as we heard a C-130T Hercules prepare to take off from Shannon Airport in Ireland after 3 p.m. on September 11, 2022. That enormous U.S. Navy aircraft (registration number 16-4762) had flown in from Sigonella, a U.S. Naval Air Station in Italy. A few minutes earlier, a U.S. Navy C-40A (registration number 16-6696) left Shannon for the U.S. military base at Stuttgart, Germany, after flying in from Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia. Shannon is not a regular airport, D’Arcy said, because while it is merely a civilian airport, it allows frequent U.S. military planes to fly in and out of it, with Gate 42 of the airport functioning as its “forward operating base.”

At the age of 88, D’Arcy, who is a legendary Irish actress and documentary filmmaker, is a regular member of Shannonwatch, comprising a group of activists who have—since 2008—held monthly vigils at a roundabout near the airport. Shannonwatch’s objectives are to “end U.S. military use of Shannon Airport, to stop rendition flights through the airport, and to obtain accountability for both from the relevant Irish authorities and political leaders.” Edward Horgan, a veteran of the Irish military who had been on peacekeeping missions to Cyprus and Palestine, told me that this vigil is vital. “It’s important that we come here every month,” he said, “because without this there is no visible opposition” to the footprint of the U.S. military in Ireland.

According to a report from Shannonwatch titled “Shannon Airport and 21st Century War,” the use of the airport as a U.S. forward operating base began in 2002-2003, and this transformation “was, and still is, deeply offensive to the majority of Irish people.”

Article 29 of the Irish Constitution of 1937 sets in place the framework for the country’s neutrality. Allowing a foreign military to use Irish soil violates Article 2 of the Hague Convention of 1907, to which Ireland is a signatory. Nonetheless, said John Lannon of Shannonwatch, the Irish government has allowed almost 3 million U.S. troops to pass through Shannon Airport since 2002 and has even assigned a permanent staff officer to the airport. “Irish airspace and Shannon Airport became the virtual property of the U.S. war machine,” said Niall Farrell of Galway Alliance Against War. “Irish neutrality was truly dead.”

Pitstop of Death

Margaretta D’Arcy’s eyes gleam as she recounts her time at the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, located in Berkshire, England, and involving activists from Wales, who set up to prevent the storage and passage of U.S. cruise missiles at this British military base. That camp began in 1981 and lasted until 2000. D’Arcy went to jail three times during this struggle (out of a total of at least 20 times she was in prison for her antiwar activism). “It was good,” she told me, “because we got rid of the weapons and the land was restored to the people. It took 19 years. Women consistently fought until we got what we wanted.” When D’Arcy was arrested, the prison authorities stripped her to search her. She refused to put her clothes back on and went on both a hunger strike and a naked protest. In doing so, she forced the prison authorities to stop the practice of performing strip searches. “If you act with dignity, then you force them to treat you with dignity,” she said.

Part of this act of dignity includes refusing to allow her country’s airport to be used as part of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Since 2002, several brave people have entered the airport and have attempted to deface U.S. aircraft. On September 5, 2002, Eoin Dubsky painted “No way” on a U.S. warplane (for which he was fined); and then on January 29, 2003, Mary Kelly took an axe onto the runway and hit a military plane, causing $1.5 million in damage; she was also fined. A few weeks later, on February 3, 2003, the Pitstop Ploughshares (a group of five activists who belonged to the Catholic Worker Movement) attacked a U.S. Navy C-40 aircraft—the same one that Mary Kelly had previously damaged—with hammers and a pickaxe (a story recounted vividly by Harry Browne in Hammered by the Irish, 2008). They also spray-painted “Pitstop of Death” on a hangar.

In 2012, Margaretta D’Arcy and Niall Farrell marched onto the runway to protest the airport being used by U.S. planes. Arrested and convicted, they nonetheless returned to the runway the next year in orange jumpsuits. During the court proceedings in June 2014, D’Arcy grilled the airport authorities about why they had not arrested the pilot of an armed U.S. Hercules plane that had arrived at Shannon Airport four days after their arrest on the runway. She asked, “Are there two sets of rules—one for people like us trying to stop the bombing and one for the bombers?” Shannon Airport’s inspector Pat O’Neill replied, “I don’t understand the question.”

“This is a civilian airport,” D’Arcy told me as she gestured toward the runway. “How does a government allow the military to use a civilian airport?”

Extraordinary Renditions

The U.S. government began illegally transporting prisoners from Afghanistan and other places to its prison in the Guantánamo Bay detention camp and to other “black sites” in Europe, North Africa, and West Asia. This act of transporting the prisoners came to be known as “extraordinary rendition.” In 2005, when Dermot Ahern, Ireland’s minister for foreign affairs, was asked about the “extraordinary rendition” flights into Shannon Airport, he said, “If anyone has any evidence of any of these flights, please give me a call and I will have it immediately investigated.” Amnesty International replied that it had direct evidence that up to six CIA chartered planes had used Shannon Airport approximately 50 times. Four years later, Amnesty International produced a thorough report that showed that their earlier number was deflated and that likely hundreds of such U.S. military flights had flown in and out of the airport.

While the Irish government over the years has said that it opposes this practice, the Irish police (the Garda Síochána) have not boarded these flights to inspect them. As a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights (signed in 1953) and the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (adopted in 1984 and ratified in 1987), Ireland is duty-bound to prevent collaboration with “extraordinary rendition,” a position taken by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties. In 2014, Irish parliamentarians Mick Wallace and Clare Daly were arrested at Shannon Airport for trying to search two U.S. aircraft that they believed were carrying “troops and armaments.” They were frustrated by the Irish government’s false assurances. “How do they know? Did they search the planes? Of course not,” Wallace and Daly said.

Meanwhile, according to the Shannonwatch report, “Rather than take measures to identify past involvement in rendition or to prevent further complicity, successive Irish [g]overnments have simply denied any possibility that Irish airports or airspace were used by U.S. rendition planes.”

In 2006, Conor Cregan rode his bicycle near Shannon Airport. Airport police inspector Lillian O’Shea, who recognized him from protests, confronted him, but Cregan rode off. He was eventually arrested. At Cregan’s trial, O’Shea admitted that the police had been told to stop and harass the activists at the airport. Zoe Lawlor of Shannonwatch told me this story and then said, “harassment such as this reinforces the importance of our protest.”

In 2003 and 2015, Sinn Féin—the largest opposition party in the Northern Ireland Assembly—put forward a Neutrality Bill to enshrine the concept of neutrality into the Irish Constitution. The government, said Seán Crowe of Sinn Féin, has “sold Irish neutrality piece by piece against the wishes of the people.” If the idea of neutrality is adopted by the Irish people, it will be because of the sacrifices of people such as Margaretta D’Arcy, Niall Farrell, and Mary Kelly.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Systematic Violence in Canada

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Violence against Indigenous women is “escalating like never before,” the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) has warned. A series of tragedies have rocked the city of Vancouver (unceded Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh lands) in recent months, including the discovery of the body of a 14-year-old Indigenous child, Noelle O’Soup, in May.

“Apathy and injustice prevail among the authorities while the intersecting crises of MMIWG2S+ [missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit, and others], the colonial child welfare system, homelessness, and the opioid crisis are literally killing our people,” said Kukpi7 (Chief) Judy Wilson, UBCIC secretary-treasurer, according to a press release by the organization.

Noelle O’Soup was found in an apartment approximately a year after she went missing from a group home in Port Coquitlam, while under the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD), British Columbia. Reports on the circumstances of her disappearance and the investigation into her death have revealed negligence by both the police and the government. “The major investigative oversight occurred despite multiple visits to, and apparent inspections of, the single room occupancy unit where Noelle O’Soup’s remains would finally be discovered,” stated Global News. Her case, unfortunately, is more the rule rather than the exception in Canada.

An Ongoing Genocide

In 2019, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (NIMMIWG) released its final report, declaring that the violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA (Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual) people amounted to “genocide.”

The NIMMIWG emphasized that this genocide had been “empowered by colonial structures evidenced notably by the Indian Act, the Sixties Scoop, residential schools, and breaches of human and Indigenous rights, leading directly to the current increased rates of violence, death, and suicide in Indigenous populations.”

The inquiry found that “Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to be murdered or [go] missing than any other women in Canada,” with the figure soaring to 16 times when compared to white women in the country.

A report by Statistics Canada released in April 2022 stated that 56 percent of Indigenous women have experienced physical assault, while 46 percent have experienced sexual assault in their lifetime. Constituting approximately 5 percent of Canada’s population of women, Indigenous women accounted for 24 percent of all women homicide victims between 2015 and 2020, according to the Statistics Canada report.

The likelihood of experiencing violence seems to be higher in cases where Indigenous women live in rural and remote areas, if they have a disability, have experienced homelessness, or have been in government care—81 percent of Indigenous women who have been in the child welfare system have been physically or sexually assaulted in their lifetime, according to Statistics Canada.

“Across multiple generations, Indigenous peoples were and continue to be subjected to the detrimental harms of colonialism,” acknowledged the report. Not only are Indigenous children disproportionately represented in Canada’s child welfare system (52.2 percent), but advocates have also found that more children have been forcibly separated from their families now than during the brutal Indian residential schools period.

Along with its final report, the NIMMIWG also made a key intervention in prevailing definitions of genocide, stating that “In actuality, genocide encompasses a variety of both lethal and non-lethal acts, including acts of ‘slow death,’ and all of these acts have very specific impacts on women and girls.”

“This reality must be acknowledged as a precursor to understanding genocide as a root cause of the violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada,” the NIMMIWG added, “[n]ot only because of the genocidal acts that were and still are perpetrated against them, but also because of all the societal vulnerabilities it fosters, which leads to deaths and disappearances.”

‘The Police Don’t Protect Us’

The remains of Noelle O’Soup were found in Downtown Eastside (DTES), a neighborhood referred to as “ground zero” for violence against Indigenous women. Residents face disproportionate levels of “manufactured and enforced violence, poverty, homelessness, child apprehension, criminalization, and fatal overdoses.”

Approximately 8,000 women live and work in DTES, where the rates of violence have been more than double compared to the rest of Vancouver, according to data provided by the police.

Indigenous women have an acute vulnerability to violence, and yet the institutional response has been to stigmatize the women in DTES for having “high-risk lifestyles.”

“Harmful stereotypes that are perpetuated against Indigenous women are used as an ongoing tool of colonization to enforce their vulnerability to violence,” stated Christine Wilson, director of Indigenous Advocacy at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Center (DEWC), in an interview with Peoples Dispatch.

In 2019, the DEWC published “Red Women Rising,” a historic report produced in direct collaboration with 113 Indigenous survivors of violence and 15 non-Indigenous women in the DTES who knew Indigenous women who have experienced violence, have gone missing, or have overdosed. “Red Women Rising” was published in response to the final report of the NIMMIWG.

Echoing the argument put forth in “Red Women Rising,” Wilson reiterated that “the criminal justice system constructs Indigenous women as ‘risks’ that need to be contained, which leaves them unsafe and exacerbates inequalities.” Widespread bias within the policing system has not only influenced whether police take Indigenous women’s complaints seriously, Wilson explained, but also whether Indigenous women approach the police at all.

“The police don’t protect us; they harass us,” stated DJ Joe, a resident of DTES, in the report by DEWC. “Native women face so much violence but no one believes a Native woman when she reports violence.”

In cases involving missing or murdered women, there is a lack of proper investigation and adequate resources, Wilson stated, adding that family members of victims were subjected to insensitive and offensive treatment, alongside general jurisdictional confusion and lack of coordination among the police.

Police have also been actively hostile and abusive toward Indigenous women in Canada. They continue to be targets of sexual violence by police forces, particularly the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), which has been deployed on contract policing services in 600 Indigenous communities.

Lack of police and judicial protection also overlaps with criminalization, thereby exacerbating violence against Indigenous women and girls. Wilson added, “Indigenous women are more likely to be violently attacked by their abusers and then more likely to be counter-charged by the police, compared to non-Indigenous women.”

Colonial Patriarchy Poses the Highest Risk

As “Red Women Rising” outlined, “Settler-colonialism intentionally targets Indigenous women in order to destroy families, sever the connection to land-based practices and economies, and devastate relational governance of Indigenous nations.”

The report identified “[m]ultiplying socioeconomic oppressions within colonialism,” including loss of land, family violence, child apprehension, and inadequate services, which worked to displace Indigenous women and children from their home communities.

Forty-two percent of women living on reserves lived in houses requiring major repairs, according to the report, and nearly one-third of all on-reserve homes in Canada were food insecure, with the figure soaring to 90 percent in some areas. Meanwhile, 64 percent of Indigenous women lived off-reserve, in areas such as DTES.

Displacement is closely linked to housing insecurity, with all members of DEWC having experienced homelessness at some point in their lives.

The violence that Indigenous women face is tied to poverty, which in turn “magnifies vulnerability to abusive relationships, sexual assault, child apprehension, exploitative work conditions, [and] unsafe housing,” stated the “Red Women Rising” report.

Not only are Indigenous women disproportionately criminalized for “poverty-related crimes,” but Indigenous families are also investigated for “poverty-related ‘neglect’” eight times more as compared to non-Indigenous families. “[H]igher stressors associated with living in systemic poverty such as drug dependence and participation in street economies are used against Indigenous women in order to apprehend Indigenous children, thus perpetuating the colonial cycle of trauma and impoverishment,” the report pointed out.

As a result, activists argue that what is needed is an “assertion of Indigenous laws and jurisdiction, and restoration of collective Indigenous women’s rights and governance,” and “individual support for survivors such as healing programs.”

“Red Women Rising” had made 200 recommendations to address violence against Indigenous women. Meanwhile, the NIMMIWG had issued 231 “Calls for Justice,” stressing that they were legal imperatives, not recommendations. However, in the three years since the release of both these reports, the Canadian government has made “little progress.”

“While there have been crucial acknowledgments on the subject of violence against Indigenous women,” Wilson told Peoples Dispatch, “now we need actions. We need funds for reparations, we need housing, and we need clean water on the reserves.”

This article was produced in partnership by Peoples Dispatch and Globetrotter.

Sri Lanka’s Blunder in Geneva Carnival

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Referring to the 51st sessions (Sept. 12 to Oct 07, 2022) of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC, last week bluntly declared that Sri Lanka wouldn’t accept any “external mechanism, external evidence gathering mechanism, charging citizens outside the country, getting hybrid judges to come and hear the cases, all these are against the Constitution. So we can’t agree to that.”

The SLPP National List lawmaker stressed “Sri Lankan citizens will not be allowed to be charged outside the country” and “foreign judges will not be permitted to sit in judgment over cases in Sri Lanka.”

Former People’s Alliance lawmaker M.M. Zuhair, PC, (1994-2000 during the CBK presidency) quite rightly challenged Sabry’s stand on an external evidence gathering mechanism against the backdrop of Sri Lanka allowing the US and Australian investigators probe the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide attacks no sooner they were carried out. Emphasizing such investigations, that had been undertaken by outsiders, weren’t subjected to approval by the relevant judicial authority here, the former Ambassador to Teheran (2006-2012 during MR presidency) questioned the rationale in Sri Lanka’s rejection. Zuhair asked for urgent review of Sri Lanka’s stand.

Minister Sabry addressed the media, with Foreign Secretary Aruni Wijewardane seated next to him, at the Foreign Ministry. Wijewardane was called back from retirement in May this year to succeed Admiral Jayanath Colombage whereas President Ranil Wickremesinghe brought in Sabry as the Foreign Minister in place of Prof. G.L. Peiris, the famed legal academic who joined the rebel SLPP group that made an abortive bid to elect MP Dullas Alahapperuma as the new President, while the party backed eventual successor Ranil Wickremesinghe to complete the remainder of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s five-year term.

Sabry had been the wartime Defence Secretary and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Counsel in several high profile cases, including the Ukrainian MiG-27 deal and a leading campaigner in the run-up to the 2019 presidential election, which GR won handsomely. When the writer sought a clarification from Sabry regarding the US snubbing President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s request for a visa against the backdrop of Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage being denied visas based on unsubstantiated war crimes accusations, the President’s Counsel pointed out that Western powers had blacklisted not only individuals but entire fighting Divisions deployed on the Vanni front (2007-2009).

The US in Feb 2020 announced that Gen Shavendra Silva and his immediate family would not be permitted to enter the US though they never applied for visas.

This is unlike substantiated crimes committed by the US, the UK and Australian forces as was revealed by their own probes from Guantanamo Bay to Iraq, and Afghanistan, but were swept under the carpet.

With the Geneva sessions underway, it would be pertinent to discuss issues at hand pertaining to accountability issues as the government struggled to cope up with the developing political-economic-social crisis that had overwhelmed the country.

A statement issued by the Foreign Ministry recently disclosed the pathetic situation and its further deterioration. On a request made by Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Myanmar and Attorney-at-Law, J.M. Janaka Priyantha Bandara, the cash-strapped government recently received 1,000 metric tonnes of white rice worth SLR Rs 170 mn (USD 463,215) from that poor country also struggling with many woes. The Foreign Ministry stated: “The donation was granted in response to a request made by Ambassador Janaka Bandara when he presented credentials to the State Prime Minister of Myanmar Senior General Min Aung Hlaing during the credential ceremony on 7 June 2022 and also in commemoration of the 73rd anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The former SLFP National List MP received the diplomatic posting amidst the worst-ever economic turmoil and took over the mission there seven days before Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa quit following SLPP goons going on the rampage at Galle Face on May 09, which was used as a pretext to unleash pre-planned and well-coordinated attacks on mainly SLPP ministers and MPs, which left scores of homes and other properties of such politicians being attacked, looted and torched across the country and also several killings, including that of Polonnaruwa District SLPP Parliamentarian Amarakeerthi Athukorala and his police bodyguard at Nittambuwa, lynched by a mob.

Zuhair pointed out to Sabry the need to change the strategy. Let me reproduce that verbatim. “At a time when the country is increasingly dependent on the assistance of foreign countries to tackle the deepening economic crisis and the steeply rising cost of living, the government must objectively address the human rights concerns alleged against Sri Lanka in the UN Human Rights Council (UN HRC) commencing sittings in Geneva.”

Lanka’s assurance on foreign judges

At the time Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon in May 2009, Rohitha Bogollagama served as the Foreign Minister (2007-2010). President Mahinda Rajapaksa brought in Bogollagama in early 2007 after sacking Mangala Samaraweera. Prof. G.L Peiris served as the Foreign Minister (2010-2015) and was replaced by Mangala Samaraweera in 2015 with the coming to power of the yahapalana (good governance) regime, which proved to be anything but that when its leading lights robbed the Central Bank twice.

The yahapalana administration thereupon moved Samaraweera to the Finance Ministry and brought in the then Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake as the Foreign Minister in the wake of shocking revelations at the Presidential Commission of Inquiry that probed the Treasury bond scams. In the same reshuffle one-time Attorney General Tilak Marapana received the Foreign Affairs portfolio (August 2017-Nov 2019). Dinesh Gunawardena received the Foreign Affairs portfolio after 2019 presidential election but was replaced by Prof. Peiris in August 2021.

Following a split in the SLPP in the wake of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation and UNP leader Wickremesinghe being elected the President in July by Parliament, Sabry was brought in as the Foreign Minister.

In spite of the much publicized Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from the Geneva Resolution 30/1, announced by Dinesh Gunawardena, at the 43rd session of UNHRC in March 2020, Sri Lanka firmly remained committed to the process. That is the undeniable truth. Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative in Geneva Ravinatha Aryasinha accepted the 30/1 on specific instructions issued by Mangala Samaraweera on the advice of then Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe. President Maithripala Sirisena, though he made public statements contrary to the position taken by his government, however did absolutely nothing to alter the status quo.

The yahapalana government entered into the Geneva Resolution on Oct 01, 2015 regardless of the strong criticism of the US-led move by Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) that strangely backed General Sarath Fonseka and Maithripala Sirisena as the common candidates at the 2010 and 2015 presidential elections, respectively, declared its position on foreign judges in June 2016. On behalf of the TNA, the then National List lawmaker M.A. Sumanthiran, PC, disclosed a tripartite agreement among the US, Sri Lanka and the TNA. The disclosure was made in the presence of the then Sri Lankan Ambassador to the US Prasad Kariyawasam, who subsequently returned to Colombo to receive appointment as Foreign Secretary at the time of Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana.

The TNA’s partner Global Tamil Forum (GTF) spokesperson Suren Surendiran at that time told the writer that this tripartite agreement had been the basis for the Geneva Resolution co-sponsored by Sri Lanka.

Sumanthiran didn’t mince his words when he insisted that foreign judges weren’t contrary to the country’s Constitution. Those who opposed Geneva interventions conveniently refrained from challenging Sumanthiran in Parliament. Actually, refusal to allow external evidence gathering mechanism is questionable as the country remains committed to the 2015 Resolution. That is the undeniable truth.

In response to The Island queries at the Foreign Ministry briefing, Sabry acknowledged that Western powers had already taken action against the findings made by the Panel of Experts (PoE) in 2011. Over a decade after the eradication of the LTTE, successive governments hadn’t been able to reach a consensus on a common stand on war against separatist terrorism.

Sumanthiran’s disclosure

The TNA made available Sumanthiran’s audacious statement, to The Island, soon after he delivered it at the ‘Congressional Caucus for Ethnic and Religious Freedom in Sri Lanka’ in Washington D.C. on June 14, 2016.

On behalf of the TNA, Sumanthiran claimed to have reached a tripartite consensus in respect of foreign judges, defence attorneys, investigators, etc., in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism to probe war crimes.

Sumanthiran told the gathering that the government of Sri Lanka, the TNA and the US had been involved in the negotiations leading to the agreement.

In his brief remarks, Ambassador Kariyawasam provided an overview of the measures taken by Sri Lanka to promote its two-pronged policy of reconciliation and development since the January 2015 election of the yahapalana government and reiterated in detail, measures taken by that government to vindicate its commitment to these processes and explained the several challenges that militate against government efforts. A statement issued by the Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington didn’t make any reference to Sumanthiran’s shocking disclosure.

In another shameless and impudent act, the same yahapalana administration brought back ex-ambassador Kariyawasam as an advisor to then Speaker Karu Jayasuriya paid for by Washington.

Sumanthiran told the Washington gathering that the resolution was moved in Geneva following an understanding that the participation of foreigners wouldn’t be contrary to the Sri Lanka Constitution.

Declaring that he had been personally involved in the negotiations with the US and also participated in that particular process, Sumanthiran said there were some doubts created, as to whether the Constitution of Sri Lanka would allow for foreign nationals to function as judges and we went into that question, clarified it, and said yes they could.

Sumanthiran told the Congressional Caucus that the resolution accepted at Geneva had been negotiated and they settled for a hybrid model though they originally asked for an international inquiry.

When the writer raised this issue with Marapana immediately after he took over the Foreign Ministry, the former AG declared that the 1978 Constitution wouldn’t permit the inclusion of foreign judges in the proposed domestic Judicial Mechanism under any circumstances.

Marapana quite conveniently forgot that a government appointed body in January endorsed the Geneva Resolution. The Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms (CTFRM) called for full participation of foreign judges, and other personnel, including defence lawyers, prosecutors and investigators, in a transitional justice mechanism to address accountability issues. The CTFRM comprised Manouri Muttetuwegama, Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Gamini Viyangoda, Prof. Sitralega Maunaguru, Dr. Farzana Haniffa, Mirak Raheem, Prof. Gameela Samarasinghe, Visaka Dharmadasa, Shantha Abhimanasingham, PC, K.W. Janaranjana and Prof. Daya Somasundaram.

Perhaps, Sabry should receive a comprehensive briefing regarding Sri Lankan’s faltering process in response to the Geneva challenge. It would be pertinent to ask whether the Foreign Ministry submitted the relevant records pertaining to Geneva Resolution, including the entire set of declassified British diplomatic cables from its High Commission in Colombo to the UK Foreign Office (January-May 2009) and WikiLeaks revelations, as the new Foreign Minister.

On the basis of those dispatches, Lord Naseby has repeatedly stressed that the dispatches from Colombo didn’t collaborate the five main accusations levelled against Sri Lanka. The House of Lords member quoted Lt. Colonel Gash (wartime Colombo-based UK Defence Advisor) having denied accusations that the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa ordered the elimination of Tamil civilians, and there was no basis for claims that specific no-fire zones had been established by the military to kill those who gathered in them, and attempts had been made to starve the Vanni population.

There was absolutely no justification for claims of genocide, and the dispatches had cleared Sri Lankan military of holding civilians in clandestine detention camps such as Menik Farm. Lord Naseby pointed out that the ICRC had been present at the Menik Farm from day one. But, Sri Lanka never presented its case properly before Geneva. Sri Lanka lacked backbone at least to go on record how India caused a bloodbath here.

A dismal performance

Sri Lanka should set the record straight. The responsibility on the part of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice and Defence should be acknowledged. The Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute, National Defence College and Kotelawela Defence University should at least now initiate thorough examinations of accountability issues and make recommendations to the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence. Perhaps the Parliament should seriously consider a Select Committee to examine the entire gamut of issues as part of the overall measures to meet the Geneva challenge.

The following are the issues that need attention: (1) Dismissal of war crimes accusations by war time US Defence Attaché Lt. Col. Lawrence Smith in Colombo. The then US official did so at the May-June 2011 first post-war defence seminar in Colombo, two months after the release of PoE report. The State Department disputed the official’s right to represent the US at the forum though it refrained from challenging the statement. (2) Examine the US defence attaché’s statement along with Lord Naseby’s Oct 2017 disclosure based on the then British Defence advisor Lt. Colonel Anthony Gash’s cables to London during the war. Sri Lanka never did so. (3) Wikileaks revelations that dealt with the Sri Lanka war. A high profile Norwegian study on its role in the Sri Lanka conflict examined some cables. However, the Norwegian process never strengthened Sri Lanka’s defence. Instead it merely sought to disown its own culpability in the events leading to the annihilation of the LTTE. One of the most important Wikileaks revelations that debunked the allegation Sri Lanka deliberately targeting civilians. The cable proved that our ground forces took heavy losses by taking the civilian factor into consideration. (4) Wide discrepancies in loss of civilian lives claimed by UN and various other interested parties. The UN estimated the figure at 40,000 (March 2011) The UN in a confidential report placed the total number of deaths at 7,721 whereas Amnesty International (Sept 2011) placed the number at 10,000 and a member of the UK Parliament (Sept 2011) estimated the death toll at 100,000. (5) Disgraceful attempt made by Geneva to exploit so called Mannar mass graves during the yahapalana administration. The Foreign Ministry remained silent on Mannar graves while Western diplomats played politics by quickly putting the onus on Sri Lanka only to be proved utterly wrong. Acting at the interest of those hell-bent on blaming Sri Lanka, Geneva faulted Sri Lanka before the conclusion of the investigation.

The then Northern Province Governor Wigneswaran rejected scientific findings of Beta Analytic Institute of Florida, USA, in respect of samples of skeletal remains sent from the Mannar mass grave site. The then Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet went to the extent of commenting on Mannar mass grave in her report that dealt with the period from Oct 2015 to January 2019. We come to wonder whether she was actually a victim of Gen. Pinochet or a mere manufactured victim.( UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently announced the appointment of Volker Turk of Austria as the next UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, following approval by the UN General Assembly.)

Had the US lab issued a report to suit their strategy, would they have accepted fresh tests in case the government of Sri Lanka requested? The following is relevant section bearing No 23 from Bachelet’s report: “On May 29, 2018, human skeletal remains were discovered at a construction site in Mannar (Northern Province), Excavations conducted in support of the Office on Missing Persons, revealed a mass grave from which more than 300 skeletons were discovered. It was the second mass grave found in Mannar following the discovery of a site in 2014. Given that other mass graves might be expected to be found in the future, systematic access to grave sites by the Office as an observer is crucial for it to fully discharge its mandate, particularly with regard to the investigation and identification of remains, it is imperative that the proposed reforms on the law relating to inquests, and relevant protocols to operationalize the law be adopted. The capacity of the forensic sector must also be strengthened, including in areas of forensic anthropology, forensic archaeology and genetics, and its coordination with the Office of Missing Persons must be ensured.” (6) Wigneswaran, in his capacity as the then Northern Province Chief Minister in August 2016 accused the Army of killing over 100 LTTE cadres held in rehabilitation facilities. Wigneswaran claimed the detainees had been given poisonous injections resulting in deaths of 104 persons. The unprecedented accusation made by the retired Supreme Court judge had been timed to attract international attention. Wignewaran is on record as having said a US medical team visiting Jaffna at that time would examine the former rehabilitated LTTE cadres, who he alleged had fallen sick because they were injected with poisonous substances at government detention or rehabilitation centres.

Sri Lanka paid a very heavy price for its pathetic failure to counter a web of lies fashioned by interested parties, both local and foreign mainly funded by the West to coerce the country to adopt a new Constitution. Unfortunately, the incumbent government, too, is yet to examine the Geneva issue taking into consideration all available evidence, information and data into consideration.

Views expressed are personal

United Kingdom: Legal Basis for The Constitutional Monarchy

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Do not be fooled by constitutional theories (the ‘paper  description’)  and  formal  institutional  continuities  (‘connected  outward  sameness’)  – concentrate  instead  on  the  real  centres  of  power  and  the  practical  working  of  the  political system (‘living reality’).  Walter Bagehot (1867)

This article commences with profound appreciation of Her Majesty the late Queen Elizabeth II and her service to the Nation and concludes with every good wish for the reign of His Majesty King Charles III.

At this turning point in the history of the United Kingdom the most fundamental truth and point of clarity is that the King reigns (as head of nation) but does not rule.  This legal profundity is founded on the philosophy of John Locke ( 1632-1704) who propounded the concept of the “Moderate Monarchy” – a new political idea – that infused certain limitations of power on the Monarchy based on the principle that laws should be enacted for the common good of the citizenry.  Having introduced this approach,  Locke advocated residual powers for the sovereign, ascribing discretion to the sovereign to change or amend laws – again for the common good -a practice  now known as the Royal Prerogative. 

It is the Parliament that rules and the King is obliged to follow the advice of Parliament. The King has meetings once a month with his Privy Council – his advisory body – and approves Orders in Council that emanate from the consultations with and advice of The Privy Council.  The King also performs, with the advice of the Parliament,  several key functions such as appointing the Prime Minister and senior judges and  receiving  incoming and outgoing ambassadors. The King also signs State papers which he receives daily and conducts weekly meetings with his Prime Minister as well as other meetings regularly  with senior officials.

Additionally, the Monarch can declare war and peace; sign treaties; dissolve Parliament; confer peerages and knighthoods.

In 1689 co-rulers of England King William III and Queen Mary II signed into law the English Bill of Rights.  For the first time in English history the bill adumbrated explicit constitutional and civic rights and it is believed by many that it was the genesis of the constitutional Monarchy (where the monarch’s discretion is limited) and Parliamentary power over the Monarchy. Arguably, The English Bill of Rights greatly influenced the draughtsmen of the U.S. Bill of Rights. The English Bill of Rights came into being after the ouster of King James II who was largely considered autocratic and was subsequently ousted.  Ineluctably therefore the document identified the misdeeds of James II.  The English Bill of Rights clearly ascribed to the king or queen the exalted position of head of State but circumscribed some of his or her powers which were considered as limited by law. Some of the rights contained and embodied in The English  Bill of Rights were: freedom to elect members of Parliament, without the king or queen’s interference; freedom of speech in Parliament; freedom from royal interference with the law; freedom to petition the king; freedom to bear arms for self-defence; freedom from cruel and unusual punishment and excessive bail; freedom from taxation by royal prerogative, without the agreement of Parliament; freedom of fines and forfeitures without a trial; freedom from armies being raised during peacetimes. The English  Bill of Rights also prohibited Catholics from becoming the Monarch and required that Parliament be convened regularly.

The Monarchy was obligated to rule under the consent of Parliament, with the recognition that the people had individual rights. Therefore, it would not be incorrect to say that in the  British constitutional Monarchy, the king (or queen)  plays a largely ceremonial role. However, the monarch stands out as the symbol and inspiration of national unity and earns the respect of the local and international community as an apolitical figure.  The famous former editor of The Economist Walter Bagehot described the monarch as the “dignified part of the Constitution”.

At law, there can be no civil or criminal proceedings against the sovereign. It’s par for the course that this exemption notwithstanding, the King or Queen (as the case may be) is careful to act within the bounds of law and tradition. The genesis of this tradition arguably lies in The Magna Carta Liberatum (Great Charter) signed between King John and a group of barons in 1215 laying out the freedoms of individuals.  The document was composed of 63 Articles, one of which said the king must follow the law and could not simply rule as he wished. The Magna Carta stands as the monument of the constitutional history of England.

One of the legacies, and indeed a blessing of the Moderate Monarchy as espoused by John Locke is that between the Monarchy and parliament, these two institutions effectively preclude the infestation of insidious and invidious autocracies in the community. A corollary to the harmonious blending of the two institutions is The Rule of Law.  One of the most significant features of the majesty of the law as the queen of humanities is the elegance of the Rule of Law as the foundation of humanity.  The Rule of Law is the hallmark of democracy.  Regrettably, at the present time, the aspirations people had of equal rights and representation by the people of the people for the people have gradually  eroded into a quagmire of ambivalent populism that is shrouded in mendacious and self-serving casuistry. A whole new phenomenon called illiberal democracy has been identified by the intelligentsia as a definition of this  phenomenon. The hallmark of illiberal democracy is the ignoring by those democratically elected by the people – in many instances those that have been re-elected or reaffirmed through referenda – of constitutional limits on their power, thereby depriving their citizens of basic rights and freedom.

The Rule of Law, which is entrenched in the unwritten British Constitution reflects the quintessence of Constitutional Monarchy. To this end Lard Bingham has attempted a definition of the Rule of Law thus: “all individuals and organizations within the State, whether public or private, are bound by, and entitled to the benefit of laws prospectively promulgated and publicly administered in the courts”.  This definition can be expanded to several corollaries. Laws should be intelligible.  They should not be couched in a plethora of pages in convoluted language and expanded to hundreds of regulations.  Nor should they be orally delivered  through speeches and pronouncements.  Any written amendment to a law should be brought to the attention of the people.  A society should be governed by law and not by discretion granted to or assumed by public officials.  Additionally, they should be equally applied.  To expand further, laws should not favour a particular category of individual.  Past examples are the depravity of slavery, servanthood  and the arbitrarily perceived  inferiority of women in some jurisdictions.

It can be argued that the sustenance of the modern-day British Monarchy and its dignified relationship with the Parliament would continue to ac as a buffer against populism, illiberalism, and autocracy.

Human Rights: China Firmly Supports Sri Lanka

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On 12th September, Ambassador Chen Xu, Permanent Representative of China to the UN Office at Geneva, openly spoke for Sri Lanka and opposed external interference during the Interactive Dialogue on the island nation at the 51st Session of the UN Human Rights Council.

Ambassador Chen stressed that China appreciates Sri Lanka’s continued efforts in enhancing and protecting its human rights, especially in reconciliation, reconstruction and counter-terrorism. As a traditional friendly neighbour of Sri Lanka, China firmly supports Sri Lanka in safeguarding national sovereignty and independence, maintaining social stability and realizing economic recovery. We believe that the Sri Lankan government is able to lead the people to overcome temporary difficulties.

The Chinese envoy emphasized that the UNHRC’s resolution on Sri Lanka is a product of politicization. It does not abide by the principles of impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity. It has not been recognized by Sri Lanka, the country concerned and has not played a constructive role in promoting and protecting human rights in Sri Lanka. China opposes any country taking advantage of current difficult situation in Sri Lanka to seek self-interest and urges relevant parties to respect the human rights development path that Sri Lanka has independently chosen according to its national conditions, and abandon the practice of using human rights to exert political pressure and interfere in other’s internal affairs.

Sri Lanka: UN Resolution Violates Our Sovereignty

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The following article is based on excerpts adapted from the statement by the author as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka at the 51st Regular Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on 12 September 2022 – Edts

We remain cognizant of and acutely sensitive to the events that have taken place in the recent past. The severe economic crisis emanating from factors both internal and external offer many lessons for all of us. We recall in this context the indivisibility of human rights, as enshrined in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. The Government is extremely sensitive to the socio-economic hardships faced by our people, and has initiated immediate multi-pronged measures to address the challenges and to ensure their wellbeing through the provision of supplies essential to the life of the community. A staff level agreement has been reached with the International Monetary Fund, and discussions on debt restructuring are in progress. The Government is in dialogue with UN agencies as well as bilateral partners to protect the most vulnerable from the adverse impacts of the crisis. In spite of multiple challenges, Sri Lanka would endeavour to remain on course in meeting the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The recent changes that have taken place bear testimony to our continued commitment to upholding our longstanding democratic principles and norms. The constitutional rights to peaceful assembly and expression guaranteed the democratic space for our people to exercise their rights. In this regard, transgressions of the law resulting in criminal and unlawful activity were addressed in accord with the law and the Constitution, in circumstances where such freedoms were abused by elements with vested interests to achieve undemocratic political ends.

Notwithstanding the severe constraints and challenges, Sri Lanka remains firmly committed to pursuing tangible progress in the protection of human rights and reconcilation through independent domestic institutions.

Categorical Rejection

Sri Lanka along with several Members of this Council have opposed resolution 46/1, fundamentally disagreeing with its legitimacy and objectives. We have consistently highlighted that the content of the resolution, its operative paragraph 06 in particular, violates the sovereignty of the people of Sri Lanka and the principles of the UN Charter. Once again, we are compelled to categorically reject any follow-up measures to the resolution, as well as the related recommendations and conclusions by the High Commissioner.

It is observed that the High Commissioner’s report makes extensive reference to “economic crimes”. Apart from the ambiguity of the term, it is a matter of concern that such reference exceeds the mandate of the OHCHR. In this context, we recall the paramount importance of adhering to UNGA resolutions 60/251, 48/141 and the IB package.

Notwithstanding, Sri Lanka has continued to brief the Council on the comprehensive legal framework that is being established to further strengthen governance and combat corruption. The proposed 22nd Amendment to the Constitution introduces several salient changes which would strengthen democratic governance and independent oversight of key institutions, as well as public scrutiny, participation in governance, and combating corruption including the constitutional recognition of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). This will include, inter alia, the composition of the Constitutional Council, and the reintroduction of the National Procurement Commission and the Audit Service Commission. The proposed legal framework will also strengthen the asset declaration system, protect the rights of whistle blowers, and increase the independence of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption.  A proposal to establish a system similar to an Inspector General tasked with overseeing government expenses by detecting and preventing fraud, waste and abuse in public institutions, is under consideration.

Our Own Way Against Corruption

Measures aimed at promoting domestic reconciliation and human rights, if they are to be meaningful and sustainable, must be based on cooperation with the country concerned, be compatible with the aspirations of its people, and be consonant with its basic legal framework. The international community is aware that unconstitutional and intrusive external initiatives have repeatedly failed to yield meaningful results on the ground, and are in effect an unproductive drain on member state resources.

The Government would endeavour to establish a credible truth-seeking mechanism within the framework of the Constitution. The contours of such a model that would suit the particular conditions of Sri Lanka are under discussion.

The recommendations of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on “Appraisal of the Findings of Previous Commissions and Committees and the Way Forward” have, inter alia, resulted in the establishment of an Advisory Board under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), progressive amendments to the PTA, and the release of detainees. Further recommendations are awaited.

As we delivered on the onerous task of review and reform of the PTA this year, to further enhance human rights, we will replace the PTA with a more comprehensive national security legislation in accordance with international best practices.

Repealing PTA

The recent delisting of groups and individuals will provide further impetus for constructive dialogue.

The independent statutory bodies established to advance the rights of victims and their families, and to provide reparations, continue to vigourously execute their respective mandates.

The Office on Missing Persons (OMP) has commenced the process of inquiry and verification, set up separate units on Tracing and Victim and Family Support, and acts as an Observer on relevant judicial proceedings.

Despite economic constraints, the Office for Reparations (OR) continues to deliver on its mandate, and the recently adopted National Reparations Policy and Guidelines have expanded the work of the Office beyond monetary compensation, to other forms of support.

The necessary support and resources to strengthen the functioning of the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) and the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL), continue to be provided.

The outreach to overseas Sri Lankans encompassing all communities and generations will be expanded through the establishment of an Office for Overseas Sri Lankans, thus facilitating more vigourous engagement.

As recognized in the Universal Declaration, human rights are interdependent, interrelated and indivisible. In upholding human rights, we have benefitted from the considerable expertise available with other countries as well as the United Nations. We will seek further advice and support on best practices as we proceed, and as deemed necessary.

Real Challenges

We will continue our cooperation with the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms. Sri Lanka is party to the 9 core Human Rights Conventions and has maintained regular and constructive engagement with the UN Treaty Bodies. We have extended a standing invitation to all UN thematic Special Procedures mandate holders to visit Sri Lanka, and facilitated a high number of visits in the recent past. We look forward to constructive engagement with the Council through the Universal Periodic Review process. We have delivered on our commitments at the UPR, and will proactively engage in the upcoming UPR fourth cycle.

 We have facilitated two visits by the Office of the High Commissioner to Sri Lanka in May and August this year, and provided unimpeded access. The visits provided the officials of the OHCHR with the opportunity to engage with a range of stakeholders, and witness progress.

It is 13 years since the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka, and since then a new generation has emerged with their own aspirations. While issues of reconciliation and accountability are being comprehensively addressed through a domestic process, it is time to reflect realistically on the trajectory of this resolution which has continued on the agenda of the Council for over a decade, and undertake a realistic assessment on whether it has benefited the people of Sri Lanka. There is a need to acknowledge actual progress on the ground and support Sri Lanka.

 The current challenges, though formidable, have provided us with a unique opportunity to work towards institutional change for the betterment of our people. Sri Lanka appreciates the solidarity and support extended by our friends and partners during this challenging time. In a message of unity and reconciliation, President Ranil Wickremesinghe in his inaugural address to Parliament said “if we come together, we will be able to invigorate the nation”.