News from SAHR Desk

SAHR Publication: “In Custody: Law, Impunity and Prisoner Abuse in South Asia” is available for purchase!

“In Custody: Law, Impunity and Prisoner Abuse in South Asia”  published by South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) and SAGE Publications, India  can now be purchased online at http://www.sagepub.in/books/Book240610?siteId=sage-india&prodTypes=any&q=in+custody&fs=1

“In Custody examines the professed and actual commitment to custodial justice on the part of six South Asian countries. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan have all been affected by the geopolitics of colonialism. Nineteenth century Europe is often simplistically seen as the ideological source of the rights discourse in South Asia. But, like any ideological theme, the discourse on rights is also a negotiated space. Resistance created a need to justify imperialism by importing a purpose to it. Regulation of policing was the coloniser’s superior norm, and also, his tool of control.

The erstwhile colonies inherited the practice of affirming norms while systems enabled their breach. Which is not to say that the purpose of norms is merely hypocritical; political struggles and intellectual discourse have, over the years, ensured the recognition of human rights in international instruments, national charters and even in the very pretexts for their breach. Though human rights are inalienable, the modern state has been uniformly guarded in its response to their imperatives. This book traces the historical and contemporary nature of the conflict between the norm and its practice. Constitutions, statutes and mechanisms of justice are reviewed with case studies and interviews that illustrate the many layers of impunity.”

If you require assistance in purchasing a copy please contact the SAHR secretariat.

Remembering Sithie Tiruchelvam

by Ambika Satkunanathan

Writing a tribute to Sithie Tiruchelvam is not an easy task. Sithie was an intensely private person who was averse to public, over-the-top displays of emotion and sentimentality. I am aware that a piece that says little about her private persona could sound impersonal, even clinical. I have therefore attempted to pay fitting tribute, not only to her public achievements but also elements of her personality that are remembered and missed, in a manner that respects the privacy she cherished.

The ‘wife of Neelan Tiruchelvam’ is a phrase that has been frequently used to describe Sithie since she passed away on 22 March 2014. However, to those who knew Sithie she was never merely ‘the wife’. Sithie was a spirited, strong woman who did not mince words and was not afraid to speak her mind. Sithie showed great affection and generosity towards those she cared about and has supported and encouraged young people in numerous ways, most importantly by introducing them to those who would be able to inspire and mentor them. Making connections between people with varying interests and from different generations and disciplines, sometimes thinking of common areas of possible collaboration one would never have imagined, was something that came naturally to her. Sithie was one of the first people most of us thought of and turned to when we required legal advice, and we gravitated towards her during times of crisis as her common sense and unflappable nature gave comfort and instilled confidence. The intractable nature of a problem never deterred Sithie from providing assistance or advice when called upon, which was demonstrated by the unwavering and vital support she provided during very trying times to the institutions Neelan founded. Read more »

Joint Civil Society Memorandum to Commonwealth Heads of States

7th November 2013 – Colombo, New Town Hall

We the undersigned civil society organizations who made joint submissions to the Universal Periodic Review on Sri Lanka in the UN Human Rights Council in November 2012, will not be participating in the November 2013 Peoples’ Forum at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to be held in Sri Lanka. We are firmly of the opinion that the November 2013 CHOGM should not be held in Sri Lanka and that the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) should not hold the chair of the Commonwealth for the next two years, as per precedent.

Our position is based on a number of factors which together demonstrate that the GOSL is in violation of a host of international covenants and instruments on human rights to which it is a signatory including the Commonwealth Charter and the preceding declarations of the Commonwealth on which the Charter is based.

We firmly believe that allowing the GOSL to host the November summit and hold the chair of the organization for the next two years is an egregious affront to Commonwealth values and principles and to the numbers of our fellow citizens who are victims of the culture of impunity in our country in respect of serious human rights violations, the near collapse of the Rule of Law, institutionalised militarization, growing religious intolerance, the shrinking of the space for civil society and widespread corruption.
Read more »

NPC Citizens Peace Award 2012 to J.C. Weliamuna

The Citizens Peace Award was established in 2010 by the National Peace Council (NPC) to honour those Sri Lankan individuals in civil society who are resident in Sri Lanka and have stood up for the protection of and enforcement of human rights and fundamental rights when such rights are under threat and such action requires unusual courage and self-sacrifice to do so.

Another criterion considers outstanding efforts to promote understanding between and among communities through initiatives taken for the peaceful settlement of disputes among and between them. An important consideration in the choice of the person for the Award is the requirement for such work to be carried out in hostile conditions requiring self-sacrifice.

The selection of the winner is by the Board of Directors of the NPC and is ratified by its Governing Council. The prize is made possible by funds received from the Sakai City Government’s Peace Contribution Award and the National Peace Council. Read more »

SAHR Publishes Annual Report for 2012

South Asians for Human Rights is pleased to announce the completion of its Annual Report for the year 2012. Key programme areas affecting the State, Democracy and Citizens have been detailed, together with summaries of SAHR’s annual activities – that include the issuance of press statements to the media, the updating of news alerts concerning human rights from the South Asian region, the publishing of judicial decisions on the abuse of power and breach of fundamental rights, to the SAHR website, as well reports dealing with the status of minorities in South Asia.

The report is available in PDF form here.

SAHR release on the passing of Shri I K Gujral

South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) mourns the death of Shri I. K. Gujral, Former Prime Minister of India and the Founding Chair of SAHR. Shri Gujral made his mark as a global leader and a visionary for peace. An astute politician and a true statesman, he won respect and credibility not only in his own country but globally. He played a significant role in charting a course for better relations between India and Pakistan and his “Gujral Doctrine” has received acclaim and following amongst those sections of the population in both countries that value progress and development. Read more »

Parliament Watch Sri Lanka: October-December 2010 (3rd Quarterly) Report

In the last few months of 2010 the Sri Lankan parliament passed several important legislations that would have an immediate and direct impact on the lives of Sri Lankans. September saw the passing of the 18th amendment in great secrecy while the Local Government Authorities Elections (Amendment) Bill was passed in October with little discussion in both parliament and outside.

This legislative lethargy became more evident in November when several incidents of violence against political and civil society actors who were fighting for the rights of Tamils and the detained LTTE cadres in Jaffna and in December when much publicized illegal financial transactions which tarnished the image of many legislators went virtually unspoken during parliamentary sessions.

For more of the report, click here

Parliament Watch Sri Lanka: July-September 2010 (2nd Quarterly) Report

Sri Lankan parliament passed the 18th amendment to the constitution by 161 votes to 17 when it was debated in the house on 8th September 2010. The amendment which was presented as an ‘urgent bill,’ giving the general public only 72 hours to petition the Supreme Court for the purpose of arguing that the Bill has any infringement with the constitution, was approved by the court. Only the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) voted against the bill.

The report reviews the business of parliament from July to September 2010. These are the months in which the government held discussions with opposition parties to discuss constitutional amendments while conducting back room negotiations with MPs to secure a two thirds majority in parliament.

For more of the report, click here

Parliament Watch Sri Lanka: April-June 2010 (1st Quarterly) Report

The United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) won the General Elections of 8th April 2010, by a landslide victory gaining 144 seats in the 225 member parliament1 This victory was largely due to defeating the LTTE in May 2009, a strong performance by President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the 2010 January 26th presidential elections, the promised development drive and the request by the government for a two thirds majority in parliament for the drafting of a people friendly constitution.

This report reviews the conduct of the parliament during the honeymoon period of the government/ the first 100 days and how this overwhelming majority in parliament affects the transparency, good governance and human rights of the country. It also looks at the first steps taken by the government to counter criticism that Sri Lanka has not yet conducted an effective investigation into ‘laws-of-war violations’ by government forces and the LTTE in the final months of the war, by appointing the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) which the government claimed was based on the South African Truth Commission.

For more of the report, click here

Parliament Watch Nepal: December 2011 Report

The Tenth session of the Legislature-Parliament continued, and as many as 05 meetings were convened, during the month of December. The major highlight of the month is as follows:

The first meeting in December, which was convened on the 6th at 13:15 hours in the parliament, witnessed obstruction by the main opposition over the issue of brutal assault by the prison inmates to the members of its sister organization, including the District President, Tarun Dal, hiva Paudel. One of the influential young leaders of Nepali Congress (NC) Party, Gagan Thapa, condemned the attack as sheer violation of rule of law and proclaimed that no session would be allowed unless the government assures the actual investigation of the case so as to bring the guilty to book. Responding to the concern expressed by the opposition, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Honourable Bijaya Kumar Gachhadar informed the parliament that a team of doctors, including a renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Upendra Devkota, has been sent to Chitwan for attending the injured as they could not be lifted to the centre due to some technical difficulties. The Deputy Prime Minister also notified that an inquiry committee of four members, headed by the Joint Secretary of Home Ministry, Shankar Koirala, has already been formed to look into the matter, and identify the culprits and bring them to justice. The meeting resumed following the commitment expressed by the Deputy Prime Minister.

For more of the report, click here

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