This morning we jointly issued a statement to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), calling on them to take firm action against past and ongoing human rights abuses in Sri Lanka.

The statement came jointly from us, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, CIVICUS (the world alliance for civilian participation), and Forum Asia (a pan-Asian forum for human rights activists).

You can read the statement here.

CMAG is a body, established in 1995, to deal with serious or persistent violations of the Harare Declaration on the Commonwealth’s fundamental political values. It has consistently failed to fulfil its mandate of recommending measures for collective Commonwealth action to restore human rights in Sri Lanka.

This must change.

The UN Human Rights Commissioner recently made a statement on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. It throws renewed weight behind the grave allegations of violations of international law, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, impunity and the crackdowns on freedoms of expression.

Our statement therefore:

  1. Urges CMAG to place Sri Lanka on its formal agenda.
  2. Urges CMAG to consider the dire implications of Sri Lanka becoming the Chairperson-in-Office of the Commonwealth of Nations.
  3. Calls on CMAG to demonstrate that it recognises the gravity of the UN Commissioner of Human Rights’ recent findings by inviting Ms. Navi Pillay to meet to discuss them whilst they are both in New York.
  4. Calls on the Commonwealth to monitor Sri Lanka’s performance with respect to a set of benchmarks we have presented to the Commonwealth on many previous occasions.
Failure to undertake these steps will not merely ensure a worsening of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka – it will also guarantee that the Commonwealth is stripped of all credibility. The Commonwealth is struggling for relevance in the 21st century, however as a brand it still retains considerable diplomatic power. But if it allows Sri Lanka’s behaviour to tarnish that brand then it will cease to have any relevance to the modern world.