Amnesty International is outraged that the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth has utterly failed to hold Sri Lanka to account over allegations of war crimes and other grave human rights abuses arising from the 2009 conflict.
“It is an absolute disgrace that Commonwealth leaders have agreed to hold their next meeting in Sri Lanka in spite of its appalling human rights record,” said Amnesty International's National Director Claire Mallinson.
“They are allowing war crimes to go uninvestigated, unpunished and unaccounted for. The Australian Government as host and other members of the Commonwealth have missed a crucial opportunity to show leadership on human rights,” said Ms Mallinson.
Amnesty International is continuing to call for a full independent international investigation into the final months of the Sri Lankan civil war, when it's believed that tens of thousands of civilians were killed as they were trapped between the army and the Tamil Tigers. A UN report released earlier this year found that government forces were responsible for most of those deaths, and that they had deliberately shelled hospitals and Red Cross aid ships.
Amnesty International is aware of thousands of Tamils still being held without charge in government ‘rehabilitation’ camps.
With reports of human rights abuses - including rape and torture - continuing to emerge, Amnesty International is urging Australia and other nations to show greater political will to bring alleged war criminals to justice. The human rights organisation is reminding Commonwealth leaders that they have a mandate to act on serious violations of their values.
“Considering the atrocities, the Prime Minister Julia Gillard simply raising the issue of human rights with the Sri Lankan President is woefully inadequate. Commonwealth leaders have failed a critical moral challenge – standing up for the tens of thousands of victims of this brutal conflict,” said Ms Mallinson.
The organisation is also disappointed that both the recommendation to decriminalise homosexuality and the proposal for a Commissioner for Democracy, the Rule of Law and Human Rights failed.
Given the lack of consideration for grave human rights abuses committed in Sri Lanka, Amnesty International is also sceptical that the announced strengthening of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group will be effective in addressing serious human rights concerns.
“By turning a blind eye to war crimes, the Commonwealth is losing its legitimacy on human rights.”