Global leaders condemn Sri Lanka's 'disdain' for human rights

A group of eminent global leaders that includes Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter has hit out at the Sri Lankan government over its poor human rights record.

The Elders criticised the Sri Lankan government for its "clampdown on domestic critics and disdain for human rights" since the end of the civil war between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009.

They also voiced concern over the "deafening global silence" in response to Sri Lanka’s questionable human rights record and lack of accountability, warning that it may encourage other states to act in a similar way.

"The ongoing persecution and disappearances of human rights activists, journalists and government opponents is truly terrifying," said Archbishop Tutu, chairman of the group, which was founded by Nelson Mandela and brings together independent peace activists and human rights advocates.

"Unfortunately, previous internal commissions have done little to reveal the truth behind human rights abuses."

The Nobel laureate urged the Sri Lankan government to show "greater commitment to achieving meaningful reconciliation".

The Elders expressed concern over the lack of action by the government to address the political marginalisation of ethnic minorities that was at the root of Sri Lanka’s thirty year war.

They called on the Rajapaksa government to withdraw wartime emergency legislation and make a public commitment to uphold the human rights of all citizens of Sri Lanka, including minorities.

In addition, they demanded that the government co-operate with the UN Secretary-General’s panel of experts on accountability and also permit domestic and international NGOs and media to carry out their work without harassment, intimidation or undue restrictions.

The 30-year civil war came to an end last May with the defeat of Tamil Tigers who were fighting for a separate homeland in the North. The United Nations estimates that 7,000 civilians were killed and about 250,000 people were displaced from their homes by the conflict.

The Elders said an estimated 8,000 people had been detained by the government over suspicions that they are Tamil rebels. The Elders said many of them had been detained without charge or access to legal representation, their families or independent monitors.