Sri Lanka must not be given Commonwealth chairmanship – HRW

Human Rights Watch

Sri Lanka must not be awarded the two-year chairmanship of the Commonwealth after it hosts the CHOGM summit next month, a human rights group said today.

Commonwealth foreign ministers, will meet on October 17 and 18 in London to finalise the agenda for the summit in Colombo from November 15-17.

Rewarding Sri Lanka with the chairmanship casts serious doubts on the Commonwealth’s commitment to supporting human rights and democratic reform enshrined in the Commonwealth Harare Declaration of 1991, Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

The Commonwealth and its participants risk major embarrassment by holding the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) summit in Colombo, particularly given the September 25 statement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to the UN Human Rights Council, HRW said.

Pillay had highlighted a range of human rights problems in Sri Lanka, including the government’s failure to independently or credibly investigate the allegations of war crimes during the country’s armed conflict.

Her report to the Human Rights Council underscored the need for an independent and international investigation into abuses in the final months of Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war with LTTE rebels which ended in 2009.

Commonwealth countries should actively support an investigation and should press Sri Lanka to cooperate fully, Human Rights Watch said. – PTI