Peace and Conflict

Too tired to say ‘human rights’

I got a glimpse of Louise Arbour last Thursday, late in the afternoon. She had just completed her meeting with Mano Ganeshan and some family members of the disappeared. Arbour peered out of the small entrance door to the UN compound. Photographers and video men crammed the entrance. Behind the media scrum were about a 100 or so members of families of the disappeared – all holding up large scale prints of their loved ones for the Human Rights Chief to see.

I doubt Louise Arbour really got to see past the hungry media – but either way, it was a nice gesture by her. She gave some more hope to those who are fighting for the human rights of their loved ones.

Arbour’s visit was essentially, about rubber-stamping the report on Sri Lanka’s human rights situation.

Local and international non-government organisations, want a field-based presence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to presumably, monitor and record human rights violation. And Arbour recommended the establishment of such a mission.But the Government of Sri Lanka said no.

Now, let’s cut to Burma.

Remember Burma, when the Buddhist monks ventured out to the streets a month ago.

We all saw the pictures, right?

The United Nations made statements. So did the international community, human rights organisations and hundreds and thousands of ordinary people via protests throughout the world. The regime that rules over Burma was condemned over and over again.

An US envoy urged ‘transition’ and according to the BBC, France, UK and the US have released a “watered down” circular where the latest draft ‘replaced the word “condemn” with “strongly deplore”, and dropped a paragraph demanding a full account of those jailed, missing or killed.’

The Burmese regime said they’ve implemented a seven-step road map in accordance with the people’s desires”.
I wonder how useful these statements by ‘Western’ governments and human rights organisations really are?

The past informs us what happens when the Burmese people protest. The regime waits till the spotlight goes away and then murders those it suspects were part of the opposition. And that’s exactly what it is doing now.

It’s important, or rather, absolutely essential, to ask how useful the international community, or the United Nations, in the context of Burma. I won’t be presenting any thorough analysis here, but my instincts combined with ‘watching’ the Burma situation via the media suggests that the international community has little influence over the regime in Burma. They – the regime that rules over Burma – will continue to kill and they will continue their ways.
So what does all that mean for Sri Lanka?

I have a hunch. The international community, nor the UN is really that concerned about Sri Lanka, or the human rights situation here. The Government of Sri Lanka knows this.

After all, it doesn’t take an idiot to figure out that if the international community hasn’t done anything decisive after what happened in Burma (etc.), then there is little chance it will do anything effective about Sri Lanka – where diplomats, foreign aid workers and well-paid local NGO staff can still enjoy a pleasant round of golf and a relaxing weekend in an exotic resort, without the fear of being tear-gassed, tortured or slaughtered.

And let’s not forget the War on Terror. If the United States and its alliance members can kill over 100,000 Iraqi civilians while it pursues ‘terrorists’, then surely, a few thousand, or even tens of thousands of dead Sri Lankans can’t be all that bad.

So, what was the visit by Louise Arbour all about? The two recent posts – Post Arbour and Louise Arbour and Mahinda Rajapakse that have appeared on Groundviews provide little new detail. They recap and reinterate what is already known.

What is needed, in my humble opinion (;-) is a new angle to the old problem we are so familiar with. But, I suspect that this ‘new angle’ won’t be appreciated by the human rights and conflict experts from the international community, or their local executioners…