Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A Politicised Human Rights Commission ?

Today's Daily News (11 October 2006) has an article on a report by the Human Rights Commission on the Sencholai attack by the SLAF. (the full text of the article follows this post).

According to the article the report has found that 'Sencholai' was actually a military training base and that all inmates of the centre were LTTE child brigade members being trained. The last sentence of the Daily News article is also interesting - reporting that SLMM has indicated that its findings may not be the same as the HRC's findings. It is not my intention to argue that Sencholai was not a military training base. I am also strongly opposed to the recruitment of child soldiers by the LTTE. What I am concerned of is whether the present Human Rights Commission is an apolitical body that can do justice to its purpose of existence. If the report contains nothing else but only the 'finding' that Sencholai was a military base and if it does not even condemn the killings for the fact that those killed were children, then one is forced to question the objectivity of HRC. (this judgment of mine is anyway based on what the Daily News has chosen to report on). Given that the issue is highly politicised I do not know whether it is the HRC which should be mandated to investigate the matter in terms of identification of the place of attack - ‘Sencholai’.

By way of comparision to the earlier Human Rights Commission headed by Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy i would claim that under Dr. Coomaraswamy HRC was largely apolitical and was able to keep political influence out of the workings of the commission.

The President appointed the Human Rights Commission surpassing the Constitutional Council. All those who claimed and supported the argument that the appointments by the President were done in good spirit so that important public bodies do not become defunct and that was in exercise based on a positivist understanding of law, should now answer the question as to whether this was the actual motive behind these extra constitutional appointments. (There are many other arguments as to why this was not that actual objective that MR entertained when he made these appointments)

The main objective of establishing the Constitutional Council was to depoliticise some of the important public institutions and also through that to increase the confidence of the minorities in their functioning.

For all those who are in favour of a constitutional reforms based political solution to the ethnic conflict this comes as a terrible blow. You might have constitutional safeguards but they nevertheless may be violated and our judiciary will stand to witness it silently. The predicament of the country is such!!

The Daily News Article as found at
LTTE exploiting education system to recruit children - HRC
Manjula Fernando
COLOMBO: Following an in-depth inquiry, the Human Rights Commission (HRC) in their report has ruled that the Sencholai Camp was in fact an LTTE recruitment station and the 500 children and young adults had been receiving motivation training on the day of aerial attacks.
Based on their findings the HRC calls for a zero tolerance approach to child recruitment while setting demobilisation of child combatants as a pre-condition in the peace process.
The HRC report pointed out that their evidence proves the State supported education system is exploited by the LTTE for child recruitment and combatant training as it provides a ready made 'pool' of vulnerable children.
Children and young adults in their teens had been forced to attend the camp by the LTTE, threatening deprivation of certain 'training cards' which permit them to move freely to attend tuition classes.
The report maintained that the participants had also received basic weapons training.
Based on evidence of education authorities, First Aid Training organisations present in the area and the statements of the three injured girls from the camp, the HRC's regional office has come to this conclusion.
In response to the HRC's inquiries the St.John Ambulance Association has related that they were unaware of any first aid training on the particular dates at the site, contrary to the LTTE claims.
The regional education authorities and the Examinations Commissioner has confirmed that such a large gathering would not have been permitted by them for Advanced Level students who are required to fulfil 80 per cent attendance to sit for exam.
Meanwhile, SLMM spokesman Thorffinur Omarsson said their report on the Sencholai camp, which is to be released 'very soon', will not be on the same line as the HRC findings.