Oct 16, New York: The Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday urged the Commonwealth foreign ministers not to give Sri Lanka the chairmanship of the Commonwealth for the next two years after the country hosts the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) on 15-17 November 2013.
The right watchdog made the appeal today in a statement to the Committee of the Whole, made up of Commonwealth foreign ministers that will meet on October 17-18 in London to finalize the agenda for the meetings in Colombo.
The New York-based organization said rewarding Sri Lanka with the chairmanship casts serious doubts on the Commonwealth's commitment to supporting human rights and democratic reform enshrined in the Commonwealth Harare Declaration of 1991.
"It's bad enough that the Commonwealth has allowed a government accused of massive rights abuses and war crimes to host its summit. But to effectively put the Commonwealth in the hands of an unrepentant government that doesn't meet the Commonwealth's official values on democracy or human rights would be the height of hypocrisy," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch .
Pointing out that the Commonwealth is empowered to suspend a member country of the Commonwealth for serious infringements, the right group accused the Secretary - General of the Commonwealth Kamalesh Sharma of repeatedly ignoring Sri Lanka's actions and apparently shielding the country from criticism.
According to Brad Adams, the Commonwealth can be an agent for improved human rights protections and justice in Sri Lanka or it can risk becoming a propaganda vehicle for an abusive government.
"The meeting of the Committee of the Whole is a chance for the Commonwealth to show that its stated principles actually mean something," he said.