The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

UN watchdog groups denounce 5 nations (including Sri lanka) vying to join rights council

Five countries trying to win seats on the UN Human Rights Council - Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bahrain, Gabon and Zambia - fail to protect human rights and should be disqualified from membership, two watchdog groups said in a report.

But the groups, Freedom House and UN Watch, said Tuesday that Gabon and Zambia are virtually guaranteed seats because candidates are chosen by regional groups and Africa has an uncontested slate in the election, scheduled for May 21.

Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, which is based in Geneva, criticized democratic countries in Africa and elsewhere for failing to compete for seats on the council, where they could become advocates for human rights.

"Instead, they lend international credibility to repressive governments that routinely violate the rights of their own citizens," Neuer said in a statement.

Freedom House, based in New York, promotes human rights worldwide, while UN Watch monitors the international body's performance based on its charter. Both evaluated the 20 candidates for council seats on their records of promoting human rights at home and at the United Nations.

Their report gave "questionable" ratings to three candidates with mixed human rights records - Brazil, East Timor and Burkina Faso.

"Qualified" ratings were given to Ghana, Japan, South Korea, the Czech Republic, Serbia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Argentina, Chile, France, Spain and Britain.

The Human Rights Council was created in March 2006 to replace the widely discredited and highly politicized Human Rights Commission, and one aim was to keep some of the worst human rights offenders out of its membership. But the council has been widely criticized for failing to change many of the commission's practices, including putting much more emphasis on Israel than on any other country.

The United States was virtually alone in voting against the establishment of the council, and Washington has chosen to remain off the council.

The Geneva-based council is composed of regional groups that give dominance to Africa and Asia, each with 13 countries.

The council's current membership includes Cuba, Saudi Arabia, China and Russia, whose human rights records have been widely criticized. Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Gabon and Zambia, whose rights records were called "dismal" on Tuesday, are also members.

Source: IHT

43 killed in Sri Lanka clashes

At least 41 LTTE cadres and two civilians were killed as fierce clashes broke out between the Tiger rebels and security forces in the volatile northern Sri Lanka, official said here on wednesday. At least two LTTE cadres were killed in Sittaru in northern Sri Lanka during clashes with the army on Tuesday, officials said.

The Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) denied reports that LTTE has overrun an army camp at Sittaru in Ellakantale.

Meanwhile, two civilians were killed when a claymore bomb planted by suspected rebel tigers exploded near the Vavuniya Municipal grounds on Tuesday, the MCNS said. As many as five LTTE cadres were killed in Matottam in Mannar during clashes with the security forces on Tuesday, the defence ministry said.

Separately, troops said it had killed six Tiger rebels who were travelling in a tractor in Periyamadu in North-east of Vavuniya on Tuesday.

At least seven rebels were shot dead in clashes with security forces in Palampiddy in Vavuniya on Tuesday, the ministry said. In another confrontation, the security forces gunned down seven LTTE rebels during an offensive in Alankulam in Mannar on Tuesday, the MCNS said, adding in another clash they shot dead one Tamil tiger at Palampiddi in the region Mannar on Tuesday.

Source: Hindu