The University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) Sri Lanka (UTHR), founded by two award winning human rights defenders, Rajan Hoole and Kopalasingham Sritharan, in its latest report impresses on the need for an international human rights monitoring mission.
On a broader political front, UTHR believes that the conditions described in this report are evidence that, in their current state, Government institutions are not capable of dealing with the continuing social and economic strains without cracking. `The need for international (UN) monitoring is inescapable,` the report says.
The UTHR report also refers to the aggressive attitude of the Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, towards the Daily Mirror saying `the President`s brother Gotabhaya Rajapakse, according to well-placed journalistic sources, used filthy language threatening the editor with some misfortune from the Karuna group and Uditha Jayasinghe with a scarier prospect.`
The report examines conditions in Vavuniya, and, particularly, the pattern of recent Claymore mine attacks in the area. It concludes that local mechanisms are incapable of making any impact on investigating and checking this sort of violence, and that a UN monitoring mechanism may be the most promising means of arresting the slide into anarchy and war, hold all sides to account, and ensure that civilian existence remains possible in the North-East.`International pressure that includes a UN Human Rights Field Operation that includes monitoring and technical support for local institutions and parallel efforts to get the Government to put into effect a workable federal arrangement may be the only means to get Sri Lanka to work,` says the report.
However, it also notes that before such intervention, there is a need for some rigorous heart searching, as the international community and the UN were also a part of what went wrong under the CFA, with their `naïve illusions` about working with the LTTE, which resulted in a heavy price being exacted from the Tamils.
UTHR also says the ruling SLFP`s package for a political settlement runs in gross defiance of the minimum considered adequate by Tamils and world opinion. It leaves the Government with little room to manoeuvre, virtually dooming it to a course of total war.
`Equally, the LTTE`s record of crimes and its very ugly methods of conscription enjoy, by default, a semblance of legitimacy. It is simply the way war is fought in Sri Lanka.`
UTHR is also particularly concerned about evidence of interference with magistrates, through executive control of the Judicial Services Commission, to suppress effective investigation of human rights violations.
The report deals with, in detail, two instances of removal of magistrates and interference with the judicial process, in cases where gross violations of human rights have been alleged: the case of the killing of 17 Action Contre La Faim aid workers in Mutur, and the `disappearance` of Fr. Jim Brown in Allaipiddy -- both of which occurred in August 2006.
UTHR says an effective system of governance, capable of checking human rights abuses and preventing humanitarian debacles, requires that the judiciary and parliament function independently of the executive branch and also requires independent law enforcement agencies.