The heads of all the Commonwealth countries meet every two years at a conference known as CHOGM. This year they were due to meet in Hambantota, the tiny Sri Lankan fishing village (pop 10,000) that is receiving phenomenal levels of investment, an international cricket stadium, and possibly the 2018 Commonwealth Games, thanks to its local MPs Namal Rajapaksa (the President’s oldest son), Chamal Rajapaksa (the President’s brother), and Nirupama Rajapaksa (the President’s cousin).

Given Sri Lanka’s woeful human rights record the decision was taken to defer Sri Lanka’s hosting of CHOGM till 2013. But it is still going ahead, despite the fact that Sri Lanka’s human rights record is not improving.

Now a powerful coalition of Sri Lankan and international civil society and human rights organisations – including us – have come together to protest against this. As we say in our letter:

“The fact that the host country of the CHOGM goes on to hold the chairmanship of the Commonwealth (from 2013 to 2015) is also a serious concern. Handing over leadership of the Commonwealth to a country with a questionable record in terms of human rights and democracy should not be the outcome of an event that will celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Harare Declaration.”

The letter can be read here and is signed by

Yap Swee Seng, Executive Director
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

Wong Kai Shing, Executive Director
Asian Legal Resource Centre

Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Executive Director
Centre for Policy Alternatives

Maja Daruwala, Director
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative

Brad Adams, Asia Director
Human Rights Watch

Sunila Abeysekera,
INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre, Sri Lanka

Souhayr Belhassen, President
International Federation for Human Rights

Ruki Fernando
Law and Society Trust

Chris Chapman
Minority Rights Group International

Edward Mortimer CMG, Chair
Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace & Justice

Joint Civil Society Letter to Commonwealth Foreign Ministers (pdf)