Tomorrow, the 1st of November, between 2:30 and 6pm, Geneva time (so at 9:30 in New York, 13:30 in London, 19:00 in Colombo & Delhi) Sri Lanka will undergo its second Universal Periodic Review.
This four yearly process allows the Human Rights Council to investigate structural failings with respect to human rights in every country in the world in turn. It is now Sri Lanka’s turn. It is an entirely separate process from the Human Rights Council’s censure and potential investigation into Sri Lanka for the failures of its accountability processes.
The Government of Sri Lanka will present their case, then member states will have their chance to question them. The system is ill thought out almost to the point of farce in that, as 99 countries have asked to speak, each will only be able to do so for 72 seconds. Some countries, have taken the opportunity to ask questions in advance and these, and all other documentation, are available on the UPR website.
There is no opportunity to human rights organisations to speak at all, but 45 have made written submissions, all of which are available here. They contain some really interesting information.
After the debate a report will be written up and presented via a one hour debate on the 5th of November. At this point accredited human rights organisations do get to talk – but only for a combined total of 20 minutes.
So its an important process, but one from which we are almost completely excluded. For this reason we, and a number of other organisations will be using twitter and facebook to make sure the world knows what is happening.
Before, during, and after the session we, along with other organisations will be tweeting to the official #UPR14 hashtag, and to a newly created hashtag #UPRLKA
The following individuals and organisations will be taking part:
Action Contre la Faim – France: @ACF_France, @ChetcutiPauline, @adegroux , facebook
Amnesty India: @AIIndia, facebook
Centre for Policy Alternatives: @CPASL, facebook
Groundviews: @groundviews, facebook
Committee to Protect Journalists: @cpjasia, @pressfreedom, @goodwitch917, facebook
Frances Harrison: @francesharris0n
Freedom from Torture: @FreefromTorture, facebook
Human Rights Watch: @jayshreebajoria, @mg2411, @ks7s, facebook, facebook South Asia and others
International Crisis Group: @akeenan23, facebook
Minority Rights Group: @MinorityRights, @Maggranna, facebook
Pen International: @pen_int, @Dejiridoo, facebook
American PEN: @PENamerican, facebook
English PEN: @englishpen, facebook
Reporters Without Borders: @RSF_RWB, facebook
US:·The Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice: @SLcampaign, facebook
Benjamin Dix, author of “the Vanni”: @TheVanni2012, facebook
So if you are on twitter please do join in, by tweeting your own observations on proceedings or simply by retweeting what we say. Remember the two hashtags #UPR14 and #UPRLKA.
And why not tweet to prominent twitter accounts asking them to join in? Or challenge the Government of Sri Lanka directly:
@EmbassyofSL is the twitter account of the Sri Lankan embassy in Washington DC
@bundeljayse is the twitter account of Bandula Jayasekara, the Sri Lankan Government spokesperson
@KaruOnline is the twitter account of Karu Jayasuriya MP, an MP with the opposition UNP (themselves no stranger to human rights violations)
Other useful accounts to follow:
@Dinoukc – Dinouk Colombage, journalist, Sunday Leader
@melguna – Mel Gunasekara, journalist, formerly with AFP
@cfhaviland – Charles Haviland, journalist, BBC
@dinidu – Dinidu de Alwis, journalist
@Nirmanusan – Nirmanusan, Researcher
@RKKrishnan – R.K.Radhakrishnan, Foreign Correspondent for The Hindu.
If you’d like to read more
Here are a few of our highlights from the various submissions, but they are all worth a read:
Amnesty International wrote a comprehensive dossier on the human rights situation in the country
Frontline Defenders wrote about the Governments attacks on Human Rights Defenders
Thirty one Sri Lankan organisations and twenty six Sri Lankan individuals have written a powerful joint submission on the true state of Sri Lanka
The Women’s Action Network and Centre Human Rights and Development have written movingly on the plight of women in the north
Action Contre la Faim In coalition with SPEAK Human Rights & Environmental Initiative have written about the failure of the Government of Sri Lanka to do anything about the worst atrocity ever committed against humanitarian aid workers.