Top US Congressman calls for war crimes probe

Top US Congressman Eliot Engel has written to US Secretary Of State John Kerry expressing serious concerns regarding the deterioration of democracy and the lack of progress on reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka.Citing indications that the Government of Sri Lanka appears unwilling to implement the recommendations of Sri Lanka’s own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, Engel told Kerry that now is the time for the State Department to support calls for an Independent International Investigation into allegations of war crimes in Sri Lanka. The full letter follows:  In the spring of 2009, when the Sri Lankan government defeated the LTTE, many believed the victory would pave the way not only for reconciliation between Sri Lanka’s ethnic groups, but also for a strengthened democracy and greater economic development. But the government has not built upon the peace dividend. Instead, it has used the space to consolidate its power, and to remove some of the checks and balances that are the hallmarks of true democracy. Four years later, rule of law is endangered, media freedom and freedom of speech are under attack, and reconciliation seems even more distant than it did during the long years of conflict. While certainly the government should be applauded for some of its efforts at rehabilitation and reconstruction in the northern parts of the country, it has made little real progress in addressing the conflict’s underlying issues, or in answering questions of accountability that must be addressed in order to achieve lasting reconciliation and peace in the country. In fact, the Government’s post-war actions in this direction have all been significantly influenced by the international community. One such example: in May 2010, the government established a Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), partly in response to international pressure over the deaths of an estimated 40,000 civilians at the war’s conclusion. The Sri Lankan Government presented the LLRC as evidence of its commitment to accountability, and argued that the LLRC review precluded the need for other processes on an international level. However, the LLRC had a limited mandate: it examined only the period 2002-2009 and had unclear investigative powers. Critics said it was neither transparent nor impartial.  Nonetheless, even the flawed process of the LLRC review acknowledged important events and grievances that have contributed to decades of political violence and civil war in Sri Lanka. The final LLRC report makes constructive recommendations on a wide range of issues, including the need to credibly investigate widespread allegations of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances; demilitarization of the north and the country as a whole; the importance of a political settlement for minorities, with meaningful devolution of power; the protection of the right to freedom of expression for all, including the enactment of a right to information law; and the enactment of rule of law reforms. The report also acknowledged the disproportionate impact of the conflict and its aftermath on women and children.  I commend the leading role the State Department played last March with the passage of the UN Human Rights Council Resolution calling for the Government of Sri Lanka to implement the LLRC’s recommendations. Unfortunately, almost a year has gone by since that resolution passed and the Government has failed to take it up. Its National Action Plan addresses less than a third of the LLRC recommendations, a fact conveniently left out of government responses to international criticism. The lack of accountability in this instance sets a dangerous pattern, in fact, for the country as a whole. The deterioration of democracy in Sri Lanka includes a 2010 amendment to Sri Lanka’s constitution, hurriedly passed by its Parliament, that removed the two-term limit for the President, provided him legal immunity, and gave him the final say in appointments to the civil service, the judiciary, and the police. Urban Development now comes under the Defence Ministry. And earlier this year, Parliament impeached Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake, even though the Supreme Court had deemed that move unconstitutional. As Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert O. Blake has said, “International mechanisms can become appropriate in cases where states are either unable or unwilling to meet their obligations.” The State Department’s April 2012 report to Congress on Sri Lanka acknowledged that no one has been held to account since the publication of the LLRC. In February, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a strong report questioning the government’s commitment to follow through on the recommendations of the LLRC and urged Sri Lankan authorities to permit international experts to probe allegations of serious human rights violations. I agree with the Commissioner. It is time the U.S. join the call for an independent international investigation. Engel, a member of the US Foreign Affairs Committee, says in the letter that while the government should be applauded for some of its efforts at rehabilitation and reconstruction in the northern parts of the country, it has made little real progress in addressing the conflict’s underlying issues. Secretary Kerry, in a report issued by your staff during your tenure as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the authors wrote that the war in Sri Lanka was over, but that the underlying conflict still simmered. Unfortunately, this remains true. I look forward to working with you and the Department to support efforts to address these underlying conflicts. Sincerely, Eliot L. Engel(Colombo Gazette) Dear Secretary Kerry:I am writing to express my concern about the continued erosion of democracy in Sri Lanka and to urge you to call for an independent international investigation into allegations of war crimes by both the Government of Sri Lanka and the terrorist group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), during their final battles. read more

High prevalence of child marriages in some communities in Sri Lanka

The prevalence of child marriage is decreasing globally with several countries seeing significant reductions in recent years, says UNICEF. Overall, the proportion of women who were married as children decreased by 15 per cent in the last decade, from 1 in 4 to approximately 1 in 5.South Asia has witnessed the largest decline in child marriage worldwide in the last 10 years, as a girl’s risk of marrying before her 18th birthday has dropped by more than a third, from nearly 50 per cent to 30 per cent, in large part due to progress in India. Increasing rates of girls’ education, proactive government investments in adolescent girls, and strong public messaging around the illegality of child marriage and the harm it causes are among the reasons for the shift. “When a girl is forced to marry as a child, she faces immediate and lifelong consequences. Her odds of finishing school decrease while her odds of being abused by her husband and suffering complications during pregnancy increase. There are also huge societal consequences, and higher risk of intergenerational cycles of poverty,” said Anju Malhotra, UNICEF’s Principal Gender Advisor. “Given the life-altering impact child marriage has on a young girl’s life, any reduction is welcome news, but we’ve got a long way to go.”According to new data from UNICEF, the total number of girls married in childhood is now estimated at 12 million a year. The new figures point to an accumulated global reduction of 25 million fewer marriages than would have been anticipated under global levels 10 years ago. However, to end the practice by 2030 – the target set out in the Sustainable Development Goals – progress must be significantly accelerated. Without further acceleration, more than 150 million additional girls will marry before their 18th birthday by 2030. UNICEF urged the Government of Sri Lanka to take all necessary steps to eliminate the practice of marriage under the age of 18 years in the country, as clearly recommended by the Committee on the UNCRC. Further, UNICEF will continue to encourage the prioritization of girls’ education, especially in communities with high rates of child marriage, as a means of tackling the cultural and traditional norms surrounding this issue. In Sri Lanka, the prevalence of child marriage remains low when compared to other South Asian nations. However the recommendations issued by the Committee on the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in February 2018 highlight a high prevalence of child marriages in some communities within the country. Whilst there remains a gap in data regarding the absolute number of child marriages, it was estimated that in 2014 between 16,000 and 24,000 boys and girls under 18 were either formally married or co-habiting. Worldwide, an estimated 650 million women alive today were married as children. While South Asia has led the way on reducing child marriage over the last decade, the global burden of child marriage is shifting to sub-Saharan Africa, where rates of progress need to be scaled up dramatically to offset population growth. Of the most recently married child brides, close to 1 in 3 are now in sub-Saharan Africa, compared to 1 in 5 a decade ago.New data also point to the possibility of progress on the African continent. In Ethiopia – once among the top five countries for child marriage in sub-Saharan Africa – the prevalence has dropped by a third in the last 10 years.“Each and every child marriage prevented gives another girl the chance to fulfill her potential,” said Malhotra. “But given the world has pledged to end child marriage by 2030, we’re going to have to collectively redouble efforts to prevent millions of girls from having their childhoods stolen through this devastating practice.” read more

Baby cut out of mothers womb dies at US hospital

Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)RelatedBerbice woman, baby die in childbirth tragedyJune 3, 2019Similar postMother, unborn child dies at Suddie Hospital; doctor blamedDecember 31, 2014In “Crime”‘We need justice’ …family calls for independent probe into death of baby burnt at GPHCFebruary 21, 2019In “latest news” (CBS image)A baby cut out of his murdered teenage mother’s womb died Friday at a Chicago hospital of severe brain injury nearly two months after the attack, a family spokesman said, according to an AFP report.Marlen Ochoa-Lopez was killed on April 23 by a Chicago woman and her daughter, who lured the expectant mother to their home with the promise of free baby supplies.According to AFP, Police say Clarisa Figueroa, 46, and her daughter Desiree, 24, strangled the teen, who was nine months pregnant, and cut the baby out of her. The two have been charged with murder.The elder Figueroa then allegedly claimed the baby as her own after calling for medical help because the child was not breathing.The baby had been hospitalised on life support and was considered brain dead, according to the family.“It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of baby Yovanny Jadiel Lopez,” family spokeswoman Julie Contreras said in a Facebook post, the AFP reported.Police said they discovered Ochoa-Lopez’s body hidden in a garbage can at Figueroa’s home about three weeks after she went missing.Her family said undocumented members of the Latino community in Chicago did not provide crucial information about the missing person’s case because they feared speaking to police, AFP reported. read more