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Major parties reject suspension of Sri Lanka from Councils of Commonweal​th

Media Release
Lee Rhiannon 22 Sep 2011

The major parties, in rejecting a Greens Senate motion today calling for Sri Lanka to be suspended from the Councils of the Commonwealth, have failed to take action on the war crimes committed in Sri Lanka during the final stages of the civil war, Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon said.

The motion below, supported only by the nine Greens Senators, follows a round table on Sri Lanka held at Federal Parliament on Tuesday.

"With the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth next month, now is the opportunity for the Australian government to put pressure on Sri Lanka to establish an independent war crimes commission," Senator Rhiannon said.

"Prominent lawyers, academics and human rights activists back the call to use Sri Lanka's involvement in CHOGM as a way of securing justice for those impacted by the brutal civil war.

"Idly standing by while Sri Lankan heads of state attend CHOGM in October and then CHOGM in Colombo in 2013 is highly problematic.

"Suspending Sri Lanka from the Councils of the Commonwealth will send a strong message that war crimes should be properly examined and addressed.

 "Until Sri Lanka faces its past the nation cannot be a proud member of the Commonwealth, and reinstate the rule of law and human rights.

 "The Australian Greens will continue to work both in and outside Parliament to campaign for justice for those subject to the horrendous atrocities experienced during the Sri Lankan civil war," Senator Rhiannon said.

The Hon John Dowd said, "The government and opposition have failed for purely political reasons to take the events in Sri Lanka as seriously as justice requires.

"Although the vote against was on party lines there are very large numbers of members in the government and opposition parties which share the concern of the Greens.

"If the Commonwealth is to continue to be taken seriously as it goes into the October CHOGM meeting dealing with the subject of human rights, Australia cannot continue to put its head in the sand.

"The tens of thousands killed during the slaughter of 2009 and their surviving families have been completely abandoned by the majority of Senators.

Motion

That the Senate-
(a) notes:

(i) a roundtable meeting held in Federal Parliament supported a call for Sri Lanka to be suspended from the Councils of the Commonwealth because it has:

(A) refused to hold an independent investigation into alleged war crimes committed in Sri Lanka during the final stages of the civil war in 2009, and

(B) breached its commitment to uphold the 'rule of law' in the Commonwealth's values and principles, as set out in the Millbrook Commonwealth Action Program,

(ii) a precedent was set for temporarily suspending a country from the Councils of the Commonwealth when Pakistan was suspended in 1999 and Fiji was suspended in 2000 and 2006, and

(iii) the Sri Lankan President is planning to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth in October 2011; and

(b) calls on the Australian Government to support calls for Sri Lanka to be suspended from the Councils of the Commonwealth until the Government of Sri Lanka:

(i) agrees to an international independent investigation into war crimes,

(ii) restores human rights and the rule of law, and

(iii) implements all of the recommendations of the United Nations Expert Panel Report on War Crimes in Sri Lanka.

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