Rights group urges Sri Lanka to reassess policies after losing bid for UN Human Rights Council
Thu May 22, 2008 02:26 EDT .
BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) An international rights group Thursday urged Sri Lanka - 's government to reassess its human rights policies after the war-torn island nation lost its re-election bid for a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council. Sri Lanka - , which has been strongly criticized for its human rights record, lost its bid for a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council on Wednesday, but four other countries with poor rights records won seats Pakistan, Bahrain, Gabon and Zambia.
The election for 15 seats on the 47-member council, whose performance has also come under attack, was the subject of intense lobbying.
Candidates for the Geneva-based council are chosen by regional groups, with the entire 192-member General Assembly voting by secret ballot.
Voting is by region and in Wednesday's election Africa and Latin America had uncontested slates while other regions including Asia had contested slates.
In the contest for four council seats from the Asian region, Japan, Bahrain, South Korea and Pakistan defeated Sri Lanka - and East Timor.
In its statement Human Rights Watch urged the Sri Lankan government to reassess its human rights policies and practices, including its rejection of an international human rights monitoring mission.
``President Mahinda Rajapaksa hopefully will get the General Assembly's message and start taking real action to end human rights abuses in Sri Lanka - ,'' Brad Adams, the group's Asia director said in the statement.
Sri Lanka - has rejected growing pressure from international rights groups to establish a U.N. mission to monitor abuses in the country, saying it would infringe on its sovereignty.
Instead, president Rajapaksa established several advisory panels in an attempt to allay international concerns over killings, abductions and forcible disappearances plaguing the country.
One international advisory panel resigned last month, saying Sri Lanka - 's government lacked the will to properly investigate alleged human rights abuses committed during a surge in fighting between the military and Tamil rebels in the island's north.
The International Independent Group of Eminent Persons, or IIGEP, was created by Rajapaksa two years ago with experts from India, Japan, the United States and other countries to oversee a government commission investigating 16 human rights cases.
They included the 2006 execution-style slaying of 17 aid workers and the 2005 assassination of former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, allegedly by the rebels.
When they resigned the panel said their ``critiques and suggestions'' had been ``largely disregarded.''
Violence has spiked since the government withdrew from a long-ignored cease-fire with Tamil rebels in January.
The Tamil Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for an independent homeland for minority ethnic Tamils, who have been marginalized for decades by governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the fighting.
Published: Thu May 22 07:06:52 EDT 2008