Sri Lanka Human Rights Project

About the Sri Lanka Human Rights Project

Primary Goal
This is a volunteer run project out of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney.

This project advocates human rights norms as Sri Lanka's post-conflict situation. In doing so, the project seeks to raise awareness about the country's censored emergency and help work towards a peaceful and just solution for the multi-ethnic people of Sri Lanka.

This project is part of the international campaign calling for an independent investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigerss in 2009.


Objectives

  • Establish relevant links with grassroots organisations, concerned NGOs, academics and parliamentarians in Australia. The resulting networks will serve as a conduit for the dissemination of public information and as a voice for Sri Lanka’s marginalised population.
  • Raise public awareness of Sri Lanka’s post-conflict situation with an emphasis on its human rights emergency and
  • In fostering awareness amongst the constituents of the Australian public, the project seeks to create a medium for dialogue and understanding between Sri Lanka’s ethnic groups


Project description
In light of the injustice that permeates post-conflict Sri Lanka, the project aims to raise awareness and invoke action towards the country’s human rights disaster, and for an unreconciled minority population who continue to fall victim to the impunity of the Sri Lankan state. The Sri Lanka Human Rights Project calls for an international independent investigation into war crimes, such that perpetrators can be brought to justice and an environment for reconciliation promoted amongst the multi-ethnic people of Sri Lanka.


Convenors
Associate Professor Jake Lynch, Director, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies


Brami Jegan, Visiting Scholar, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies


Patron
Bruce Haigh, former Australian diplomat to South Africa, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka


Conflict in Sri Lanka
In May 2009, after 26 years of failed cease-fires and ongoing civil conflict, the Sinhalese dominated Sri Lankan Government declared it had defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) after army forces captured the last patch of rebel held territory in the north east of the country. Nearly 215,000 people have been killed in the country’s civil war, with former Australian UN official in Sri Lanka, Gordon Weiss, stating that up to 40,000 civilians died in the last few months of the war.

In October 2009 the US State Department submitted a report on incidents that occurred during the final months of the Sri Lankan civil war. The report detailed allegations that "may constitute violations of international humanitarian law and/or crimes against humanity, and...human rights abuses."
A September 2011 report by a UN panel of experts appointed by Ban Ki Moon suggested that up to 40,000 civilians were massacred by the Sri Lankan army, evidence that Sri Lankan forces committed war crimes in 2009.
It is imperative that the international community acts accordingly and brings perpetrators to justice.
In a move to encourage action against Sri Lanka, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has urged the boycotting of the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, set to be hosted by Sri Lanka, if the country does not improve its human rights record.
Locally, the Greens Party has called on the Australian government to use its position as host of the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth to suspend the government of Sri Lanka from the Councils of the Commonwealth if it fails to:

  • Agree to an international independent investigation into war crimes
  • Restore human rights and the rule of law
  • Implement all of the recommendations of the UN Expert Panel Report on War Crimes in Sri Lanka

Despite the cessation of direct violence, a culture of persecution permeates Sri Lanka. For sustainable peace to be achieved, it is vital that the perpetrators of war crimes be brought to justice, such that an environment for dialogue and reconciliation can be established.

Letter to Dr Celermajer

The University of Sydney’s approach to the “Enhancing Human Rights and Security in the Asia Pacific conference” due to be held in Bangkok on 15 & 16 of September 2014 is extremely concerning.

Dr Celermajer’s letter to conference participants was covered by both Fairfax and The Guardian.

The UK based Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice have written an open letter to all participants. You can view this here

CPACS’ Sri Lanka Human Rights Project has written a letter to Dr Celermajer. You can view this here

The CPACS Council fully supports the letter from the Convenors of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Project, Associate-Professor Jake Lynch and Brami Jegan, to Professor Danielle Celermajer, raising serious issues about her handling of the Bangkok Conference on Enhancing Human Rights and Security in the Asia Pacific currently being held.

Reports

Past Events

27th October, 2011 – Time for action on Sri Lanka war crimes: Where journalism led, will governments follow?
Hosted by the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, the University of Sydney and the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism
View the event flyer for more information

2nd June, 2011 – Sound of Silence
Hosted by MORI Gallery, Sydney
View the event flyer for more information

29th March, 2010 – Sri Lanka, Sports and Human Rights
Hosted by the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney
View the event flyer for more information

26th March, 2010 – Sri Lanka: 60 years of “Independence” and beyond
Hosted by the Sri Lanka Human Rights Project and the Centre for Just Peace and Democracy
View the event flyer for more information

16th March, 2010 – To Shoot an Elephant
Hosted by the Sri Lanka Human Rights Project and the Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine
View the event flyer for more information

28th February, 2010 – F.I.N.D
Hosted by the Tamil Youth Organisation, held at Sydney Baha’i Centre

The Sri Lanka Human Rights Project was invited by the Tamil Youth Organisation to facilitate a workshop that invoked and questioned the concept of activism amongst Australia’s Tamil youth. Encouraging participants to freely express their opinions, “activism” was analysed in the context of what needs to be provided to youth such that they are more involved in voicing their humanitarian concerns, while addressing issues that restricted them from being active in the past. Joined by special guest, Dr. John Whitehall (paediatrician, Associate Professor in Public Health at James Cook University and a Sri Lanka conflict zone field doctor), the Tamil Youth Organisation and the Sri Lanka Human Rights Project established relevant links with concerned members of the community and consequently strengthened the appeal against Sri Lanka’s humanitarian crisis.
View the event poster.

6th February, 2010 – Sustainability Expo
Hosted by the CarriageWorks, held at Eveleigh, Sydney

Attended by over 700 members of the Australian public, NGO groups and activist organisations, the Sri Lanka Human Rights Project held a stall that hoped to carry the momentum achieved at Now Set Them Free (Glebe Markets), in December 2009. Through general public discussion, the circulation of flyers and the sale of tote bags, the Sri Lanka Human Rights Project, together with a thematic art display by the dance group Women for Justice, succeeded in raising awareness about Sri Lanka’s human rights emergency.
View the event flyer for more information.

10th November, 2009 – Sri Lanka: Human Rights Issues and Media Representation
Hosted by the University of Sydney’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Herb Feith Foundation, Alfred Deakin Research Institute, Amnesty International, Victorian Trades Hall Council and the Human Rights Law Resource Centre
View the event flyer for more information.

8th September, 2009 – Human Rights in Sri Lanka and Australia’s Role
Hosted by the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, the University of Sydney; held at Federal Parliament, Canberra.

Chaired by Associate Professor Jake Lynch, Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, the event included addresses by:
Hon. John Dowd AO QC, President of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) Australia and Vice President of ICJ Geneva; Sharan Burrow, President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions; Dr John Whitehall, paediatrician and Associate Professor in Public Health at James Cook University; and Bruce Haigh, former Australian diplomat and Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka.

Attended by some 40 policy makers, federal MPs and officials, the speakers examined the state of human rights in Sri Lanka and discussed the real situation faced by the country’s marginalised community today. The necessity of upholding human rights norms and protecting the persecuted people of Sri Lanka was emphasised in debates about Australia’s responsibilities in the Asia-Pacific region.
View the event invitation for more information.

31st August, 2009 – Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Emergency: Why is it being hidden and what can we do about it?
Hosted by the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, with the support of Amnesty International, at the University of Sydney.

Chaired by the Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Associate Professor Jake Lynch, the event drew upon former Australian diplomat and Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Bruce Haigh, paediatrician and Associate Professor in Public Health at James Cook University, Dr John Whitehall and Tamil human rights advocate, Dr Sam Pari. The forum heard how the struggle of Sri Lanka’s Tamil population has become framed within the discourse of the ‘war on terror’, consequently diluting the country’s current human rights crisis in the eyes of the international community. In recounting the deprivation of needs and rights of the Tamil people, the discussion echoed the calls of the 300,000 Internally Displaced People (IDPs) who remain in the country’s internment camps.
View video recordings from the conference
View the event poster for more information

27th May, 2009 – Media Complicity: Reporting Gaza and Sri Lanka
Hosted by the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism at the University of Technology, Sydney

Chaired by the Director of the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, Professor Wendy Bacon, the event drew upon three key speakers: Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Associate Professor Jake Lynch; Executive Producer of ABC’s World Today, Peter Cave; and journalist/author of ‘My Israel Question’ and ‘The Blogging Revolution’, Antony Loewenstein. Together, the speakers discussed the consequences of media censorship and how control over expression, opinion and information can lead to propaganda. Alluding to Sri Lanka and Gaza, the forum’s speakers highlighted the importance of the media in conflict situations, further suggesting how the media should be operate in such environments.
View the event flyer for more information

Press Gallery

Participants in the Sri Lanka Human Rights Project have written or appeared in the following articles:

Jake Lynch

Bruce Haigh

Brami Jegan

Gobie Rajalingam

Antony Loewenstein

David Feith