Sri Lanka rights abuse allegations divide Commonwealth

November 15, 2013 | By | Reply More

Nov 15, – A Commonweath summit has opened in Sri Lanka with the host facing criticism over alleged rights abuses. Three countries have boycotted the summit over Sri Lanka’s refusal to allow an international inquiry into the issue.

hromedia Sri Lanka rights abuse allegations divide Commonwealth intl. news2Sri Lanka opened a summit of the 53-nation Commonwealth on Friday, welcoming leaders from Britain and its former territories, amid criticism over its alleged human rights abuses.

Critics accuse the Commonwealth of denying its democratic values by holding this year’s three-day summit in Sri Lanka’s seaside capital, Colombo. The gathering is being boycotted by leaders of Canada, India and Mauritius.

For years, Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa has rejected international demands for an independent probe into the alleged atrocities committed by both rebels and soldiers during and after a 27-year civil war.

Shelling blamed for deaths

A UN panel found in 2011 that the Buddhist Sinhalese-majority government’s offensive against the Tamil separatist rebels may have killed as many as 40,000 people as the war ended in 2009. The panel found that both sides committed atrocities in the conflict, in which more than 100,000 people died during the conflict, deaths were mostly due to Sri Lankan military shelling.

In an opening speech for the summit, Rajapakse said the Commonwealth must not be a “judgmental body.”

“If the Commonwealth is to remain relevant to its member countries, the association must respond to the needs of its people and not turn into a punitive or judgmental body,” he said in a speech ahead of the formal opening of the summit.

Cameron defends attendance

British Prime Minister David Cameron was scheduled Friday to travel into northern areas that experience the worst of the war.

Shortly before arriving in the country, Cameron defended the meeting as a way to engage Sri Lanka on the issues.

“In a multilateral organization, you don’t achieve anything if you’re not there,” Cameron told Sky News from Kolkata, India.

“If a prime minister were to stay away from a Commonwealth heads of government meeting, what would that say about the Commonwealth?”

However, Cameron urged Rajapaksa to hold “a proper inquiry,” as demanded by the UN.

Britain’s Prince Charles presided over the opening ceremony.

Tamils protest in Jaffna

As the summit opened, hundreds of ethnic Tamils protested in the main northern city of Jaffna before Cameron’s arrival. Protests have been banned in Colombo during the conference.

Ethnic Tamils make up about 12 percent of Sri Lanka’s 20 million population.

Press journalist for HRO media – contributed to this report.

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Category: International

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