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International human rights monitors now ever more crucial for Sri Lanka

4 January 2008

Minority Rights Group International on Friday expressed deep concern over the Sri Lankan government’s announcement on Wednesday that it was formally withdrawing from a cease-fire agreement signed with Tamil Tiger rebels in 2002, which is likely to result in a decline of international scrutiny of human rights abuses.

The London-based international human rights organization said in a statement that the government’s unilateral decision to pull out of the cease-fire would result in an escalation of violence and lead to more human rights abuses against minority Tamils and Muslims.

Following the government’s decision the Scandinavian Monitoring Mission appointed to overlook the cease-fire announced it will be terminating its monitoring activities from 16 January 2008.

“There is now going to be a greater void in monitoring and reporting of human rights abuses in the conflict zone. The need for international human rights monitors is now ever more crucial,” says MRG’s Director, Mark Lattimer.

MRG also condemned Monday’s killing of a Tamil opposition parliamentarian and called on the government to ensure adequate security for minority political leaders. On Monday, T Maheshwaran an ethnic Tamil MP was shot dead outside a Hindu Kovil in Colombo. The opposition has accused the government of scaling down his security.

Other minority MPs including Muslim political leaders have also complained that their security has been reduced. In December the media reported that security for the head of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, Rauf Hakeem, was reduced after his party left the ruling coalition. There have also been media reports that a Tamil MP Mano Ganeshan, who is a prominent minority rights activist, has had to leave Sri Lanka over security concerns.

In December 2007 MRG released a briefing paper which argued that Sri Lanka’s minority Tamils and Muslims were worst affected by increasing human rights abuses following the promulgation of tough anti-terror laws and the escalation of fighting in 2006.

The paper also highlighted the increasing number of killings of minority human rights activists, religious leaders and journalists in Sri Lanka.