Oct 29, 2009

Time to stand up for human rights in Sri Lanka — at last

It's Sri Lanka Week, but rather than thinking about investments, perhaps we should focus on the 300,000 Tamils being imprisoned in an internment camp in the country, in direct violation of their human rights rights, writes Jake Lynch.

Sri Lanka Week has shrunk to a long weekend. The trade and investment shindig in Melbourne’s Docklands was scheduled to take place in June, but was called off amid outrage over the Sri Lankan army’s pounding of Tamil areas and UN estimates of 20,000 deaths. It’s back on, from Friday to Sunday, promising visitors “the opportunity to feel and experience the taste of paradise”.

Instead, we should remember 300,000 inmates who are being held against their will in a living hell — the giant internment camp at Menik Farm — in violation of their rights under international and Sri Lankan law. Alarming eyewitness testimony trickles out, of food and clean drinking water in desperately short supply, filthy conditions and — for any who might be tempted to protest to the occasional foreign visitor — the ever-present threat of disappearance.

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One thought on “Time to stand up for human rights in Sri Lanka — at last

  1. shepherdmarilyn

    Our contribution seems to be to do anything we possibly can to prevent any refugee ever escaping the hell and asking anyone for help rather than embarrass the government.

    Spies all over Sri Lanka, in Malaysia and Indonesia are tracking the movement of refugees while governments get away with murder.

    Most of the people now on Christmas Island are Tamils who sailed direct and yet we still whine about all these non-existent people smugglers.

    We have not ever locked up a single person for people smuggling but we have jailed a lot of Indonesian fishermen for not people smuggling.

    .Wandera, there are smuggling rings, but refugees don’t have to be smuggled into Australia because it is their legal right to come.

    If you read these cases you will note:

    “As has been observed in relation to other cases of this kind, the prisoners were not involved in a ‘people-smuggling’ exercise. There was nothing covert about either operation. They were transporting the non-citizens to Australia for presentation to Australian authorities. There was no attempt to hide from the authorities or to disguise what they had done”.

    “62 The Refugees Convention implicitly requires that, generally, the signatory countries process applications for refugee status of on-shore applicants irrespective of the legality of their arrival, or continued presence, in that country: see Art 31. That right is not only conferred upon them under international law but is also recognised by the Act (see s 36) and the Migration Regulations 1994 (Cth) which do not require lawful arrival or presence as a criterion for a protection visa. If the position were otherwise many of the protection obligations undertaken by signatories to the Refugees Convention, including Australia, would be undermined and ultimately rendered nugatory.” Justice Merkel in Al Masri.

    So put the two together and what do you have – refugees exercising a right endowed by Australian law and using non-smugglers to do it.

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