Fifty-sixth session
Agenda item 9
Gross Violations

March 30, 2000

Oral presentation by Karen Parker



International Educational Development informs the Commission that our delegate and friend Kumar (G.G. Jr) Ponnambalam was assassinated January 5 2000 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Barrister Ponnambalam, a tireless defender of human rights for the Tamil people and leader of the oldest Tamil political party in Sri Lanka, represented us at the Commission on Human Rights and at the Sub-Commission for a number of years. We note that the Sri Lankan president's condolence letter to his widow bears the date May 6, 1999 -- in fact just shortly after Kumar attended the 55th session of the Commission and when he was alive and well and visiting the United States. To date, the President of Sri Lanka has not explained this. We must also bring to the attention of the Commission two salient facts regarding the Tamil-Sri Lankan War. First: the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have made substantial military victories over the Sri Lankan forces in the past few months and stand poised for further military victories as we speak. We have always said that this war could not be won militarily by the Sri Lankan forces and that alternatives to armed conflict to resolve the Tamil issue in Sri Lanka must be undertaken. Second: the government of Norway has courageously undertaken an initiative to mediate between the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE. This humanitarian gesture is the world's best hope of resolving this long-standing war and to allowing the people on Ceylon -- Sinhala and Tamil alike -- to develop a framework in which they can live peacefully. The Commission should endorse in the most supportive way possible this very real and very promising offer.


IED/HLP has followed the war in Sierra Leone for many years and includes it in our annual report Armed Conflict in the World Today: A Country by Country Review. (Our year 2000 review is forthcoming). We are pleased that the Commission and the High Commissioner is finally giving this tragic war the attention it merits. We would like to add several events that have taken place since the High Commissioner's report (E/CN.4/2000/31) was issued. First, since the Peace plan of July 1999 (Lome) RUF Commander Sam Bokarie refused to cooperate and continued to terrorize civilians in areas under his control, in defiance of Mr. Sankoh. Mr. Bokarie then stated that he opposed the UN forces (UNAMSIL: the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone -- which replaced UNOMSIL: the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone in October 1999). In December 1999, the troops still commanded by Mr. Bokarie abducted two members of Medicines Sans Frontieres. Renewed fighting resulted in at least 5000 more internal and external refugees. In February 2000, the UN Security Council increased UNAMSIL by an additional 5000 persons. Finally, in March 2000 there has been an announcement by the renegade RUF to cooperate with UN but we have yet to see what this means on the ground. As of late February only 7000 of 45000 combatants had reported to "disarmament camps" and most without weapons. We continue to be concerned about the situation in Bo and other areas as essential food and medicine does not always get to the people. We emphasize that 30% of the population of Sierra Leone is displaced and that 400,000 people are still in Guinea.


IED/HLP welcomed the involvement of the UN in resolving the situation in East Timor and most especially the Commission's 4th special session (September 1999), which in its resolution 1999/S-4/1 established a commission of inquiry to compile information regarding violations of human rights and humanitarian law since January 1999. The Commission's report (A/54/726;S/2000/59) confirms a wide pattern of violations and recommends that a special tribunal beset up. We also strongly support this. However, the same government -- Indonesia -- has carried out similar activities in Acheh and the Moluccas, and in the interest of uniformity non-discrimination we recommend a similar commission of inquiry into these other areas as well as a combined human rights tribunal. The Chair's Statement at the 1999 Sub-Commission reflects concern over the human rights crisis in Acheh and the Moluccas. At present we are extremely concerned about the situation in the Moluccas where in January 2000 one of the worst weeks of violence in the history of Indonesia took place and has scarcely improved to date.


IED/HLP looked to the visits of High Commissioner Robinson, Special Rapporteur Jahangir and Sub-Commission Member Erica Irene Daes with great anticipation in the process of improvement of human rights in Mexico. Promises were made by the government of Mexico to the UN investigators that the pattern of abuses confirmed by the UN investigators would cease. In spite of the promises and expectations, the situation has in fact appeared to worsen, especially in Chiapas. For example, on January 13, 2000, Martin Sanchez Hernandez from Chabajeval (El Bosque) was assassinated. Then on February 1, 2000, Lorenzo Perez Hernandez, Rodolfo Gomez Ruiz and Martin Gomez Jimenez were assassinated and Mateo Jimenez Nunez wounded in the same area -- also the site of the massacre of 8 indigenous men in 1998. The four gunmen alleged to be responsible for the murders this year, remain at large. IED urges the Commission to keep review of human rights in Mexico as an issue of high priority.