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Written Statement by Society for Threatened Peoples - International on the occasion of the Seventh session of the UN Human Rights Council

Violence against women: The case of Guatemala / People's Republic of China / Myanmar / Somalia / Sri Lanka / Sudan

Bolzano/Bozen, Göttingen, 29. Februar 2008

UNO in Geneve. Violence against women: The case of Guatemala

Item 3: Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development [ top ]

Despite the peace treaty of 1996 which was meant to put an end to the horror of the war and to pacify the country, violence in general and in particular against women have been growing alarmingly fast in Guatemala. On 8 March 2005, a Special Commission for the Investigation on Feminicide in Guatemala was established, chaired by the Minister of Women's Affairs, Mrs Gabriela Núnez Pérez. This special focus on the tragic fate of more and more women in Guatemala who become victims of sexual abuse and homicide is highly appropriate.

Among the victims is a considerable number of women of Maya descent. No one knows exactly how many are to be bemoaned as there is no data material that indicates indigenous status. Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) acts on the assumption that the number of victims of feminicide of indigenous origin can hardly be overestimated. In fact Maya women are at the losing end of the social scale in many respects: as women in a male-dominated country, as members of a discriminated indigenous people that is being suppressed despite the fact that it forms the majority of the population, and as female victims of harassment, sexual abuse and homicide. They are an eminently vulnerable group, easy prey for violence. Therefore, in order to recognize the dimension of the tragic fate of indigenous women in Guatemala, it would be preferable not only to prosecute cases of violence a lot more extensively than it is being done but to analyze the data also according to ethnic criteria.

During counterinsurgency campaigns led by the Guatemalan army during the early 1980s the vast majority of women who became victims of human rights violations were members of Mayan indigenous groups living in rural areas. Today most of the reported murder victims in Guatemala are ladino women living in urban areas of the country. But many cases remain unreported because relatives are too scared to approach the authorities. Women - mostly between the age 13 and 30 - are raped, tortured, mutilated, murdered, and often left behind in very public places. These brutal murders and the failure of the state to address them properly have left women terrified. Cases of violence against women are rarely prosecuted. Therefore it is impossible to provide exact data on the number of victims. All sources agree, though, that since 2000 homicides against women in Guatemala are increasing considerably each year. Thus according to one source, 665 cases were registered in 2005; 527 in 2004; 383 in 2003 and 163 in 2002. Altogether up to 3,200 women were murdered from 2000 until the end of 2007. Their murderers have been encouraged by the failure of the prosecution to bring them to court and the high probability to remain unpunished.

STP acknowledges that Guatemala has ratified the majority of international and regional instruments providing protection for women's rights, among others the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (1982), its Optional Protocol (2002) as well as the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (1995). Moreover Guatemala's Constitution affirms the principle of equality between the sexes. However, the authorities failed to install an effective justice system offering the women efficient protection. Characteristically, the penal code does not define violence against women in the family, including marital rape, and sexual harassment as a criminal offence. But domestic violence is responsible for many of the crimes committed against women.

Society for Threatened Peoples calls on the Human Rights Council to:
- address feminicide in Guatemala,
- urge the Government of Guatemala to end impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence and to provide a more efficient protection for women,
- ask the Government of Guatemala to launch special programmes to assist and support indigenous women who are especially threatened to become victims of sexual violence.

People's Republic of China

Item 3: Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development [ top ]

China announced its plan to invest 100 billion Yuan 180 development projects in the rural areas of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) until 2010. Infrastructure and capital have been invested in the Tibetan region, but they are channelled into the development of industrialized areas in eastern China. New roads and highways either branch off to railway routes, airports or to the sites of the mining industries. The new airports and railways facilitate the easy access for tourists and migrants to Tibet. Many dams were constructed and diverted the flow of rivers and their hydro-energetic potential to eastern China. The hydropower projects are designed largely to provide power and other benefits to the Chinese population in the region. Oil and gas are piped away from Tibet to fuel Beijing, Shanghai and other coastal cities. Regrettably benefits invested from Tibet are rarely reinvested in human and social development, for instance in local health and education. Thus, Tibet still remains one of the poorest regions in China economically as well as educationally.

Forced Resettlement and Poverty
Since 2000 the Chinese government has been implementing resettlement, land confiscation, and fencing policies in pastoral areas inhabited primarily by Tibetans, drastically curtailing their livelihood. The policies have been particularly radical since 2003 in the Golok and Yushu prefectures of Qinghai province, but have also been implemented in Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces and TAR.

In the last few years the Tibetan herders based in the pastoral regions have been facing eviction from their traditional places into the new towns and urban areas. In the new settlements the movement of the herders and their livestock is restricted to the fenced-in grassland provided to them. The government strictly limited the number of cattle the herders are allowed to keep when shifted to the new towns. Normally the size of the herds is reduced to only a half or third. At the same time the area provided is too small even for these smaller herds to graze there throughout the year. Hence numerous cattle have to be slaughtered to abide by the orders.

The resettlement programme has subjected herders to compulsory or forced relocation, compulsory livestock reduction, bans on grazing, compulsory change of land use, and evictions to make way for public works schemes. Claims of non-payment are endemic and there are also allegations of corruption and discrimination in the compensation process. The number of Tibetans affected by forced resettlement is unknown but it easily runs into the tens if not hundreds of thousands.

The Chinese Constitution and the PRC´s laws guarantee the right to consultation and compensation to those who are moved off their land or whose property is confiscated. In the case of Tibetan nomads, the Chinese authorities failed to adequately consult with the affected herders. They also did not provide them with adequate compensation or procedures for complaints, thereby failing to fulfil their obligations under the Chinese Constitution.

The Chinese government cited environmental protection and development as the key reasons behind the resettlement of the nomadic population. However, the emphasis has been heavily placed on the latter. So far the government has mainly encouraged the expansion of heavy industries on nomadic lands. Similarly, the mining activities have greatly increased since the launch of the Western Development Programme, while nomads have been evicted on the pretext of environmental protection.

The development of Tibetan nomads and their livelihoods by involving them in the market economy is another highly questionable endeavour, because most of them are illiterate and command no special skills. Prior to forcing them into new towns and urban settlements or introducing them to the market economy, the nomads were not given any vocational training or workshop to enable them to find alternative livelihoods. Likewise their inability to speak Chinese is posing a serious problem when seeking long-term employment.

Hence, the resettlement programme is impoverishes the Tibetan nomads who were otherwise living at subsistence level. According to official Chinese figures, by the end 2007 around 60,000 Tibetans were moved to new towns in Qinghai, with the number likely to rise to 100,000 by 2010. Despite the fact that similar resettlement projects in Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang resulted in considerable impoverishment in the 1990s, the project is vigorously implemented in the Tibetan regions.

Education and Assimilation
The illiteracy rate in Tibet continues to be very high (54.86 percent) and was the highest among all the 31 provinces of China. The education policy implemented in Tibet is strongly influenced by China's integration policy. For instance, bilingual education is available only until primary school. In the middle and higher schools the language is exclusively Mandarin. Such a policy is clearly heading towards linguistic assimilation. Instead of building or upgrading schools and universities in Tibet the best Tibetan students are sent to Chinese cities for educational purposes at a tender age. This places the children at secondary school age in a completely Chinese and Mandarin-speaking environment, away from their families and traditional surroundings.

The Qinghai-Tibet Railway: Threat to Survival of the Tibetan Culture
The Qinghai-Tibet railway is officially designated a key "Great Western Development" project, which has transported 1.5 million passengers into Tibet during its first year of operation. The unprecedented movement of Chinese migrants to Lhasa, has put pressure on the local Tibetans and their day-to-day livelihoods. Inadequate information provided by the Chinese government about passengers travelling on the Qinghai-Tibet railway hampers the objective assessment of the railway's alleged role in accelerating the influx of non-Tibetan residents into the region.

In the middle of September 2006, the railway's third month of operation, Jin Shixun, the director of the TAR Committee of Development and Reform, provided information about the occupational categories of passengers-60 percent were business persons, students, transient workers, traders, and individuals visiting relatives; 40 percent were tourists. Jin's remark was based on 270,000 passengers over a period of approximately 75 days, or about 3,600 passengers per day. If a similar proportion prevailed throughout the remainder of the first year of operation, then approximately 900,000 of the 1.5 million passengers could have been non-tourists, and hundreds of thousands of them could have been non-Tibetan business persons, workers, and traders who intended to remain for a period in the TAR.

A Tibetan resident of Lhasa told a radio call-in show in July 2007 that "Tibetans in Lhasa have been overwhelmed by the frightful explosion of the Chinese population in the city." The caller said that "wherever you go, you get the impression of overcrowding." Tibetans "[witness] Chinese tourists becoming permanent residents," she said, and reported that "Chinese migrants were moving fast into formerly Tibetan neighbourhoods and businesses." Another Tibetan caller from Lhasa said "there is deep scepticism about the aim and whose purpose [the railway] is serving," and asserted that "the Tibetans are certainly not the direct beneficiaries."

Existing examples of the establishment of rail links to remote regions in China indicate that significant changes to the proportions of ethnic groups occur over time. Rail links were built into what is now the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (IMAR) before the PRC was established; a railway reached Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), in 1962; the railway arrived in Kashgar, in the western XUAR, in 1999. Based on official 2000 census data, the ratio of Han to Mongol in the IMAR is 4.6 Han to 1 Mongol. In the XUAR the ratio of Han to Uighur is 0.9 Han to 1 Uighur. The ratio of Han to Tibetans in the TAR stood at 0.07 Han to 1 Tibetan in 2000, according to census data. Tibetans are concerned that the Qinghai-Tibet railway will facilitate changes in Tibetan areas of China similar to those in the IMAR and XUAR. Directly or indirectly, the new railway is swiftly escalating the pace of internal colonization and threatening the survival of Tibetan culture and identity.

Society for Threatened Peoples calls on the Human Rights Council to urge the PRC to:
- invest more on human development especially on improving education and health of the Tibetan and Uighur people,
- impose a moratorium on all resettlement projects,
- uphold the rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association,
- consult affected people before implementing any projects,
- abide by international legal instruments including ICESC.


Item 4: Human rights situations that require the Council's attention [ top ]

The brutal crackdown of the peaceful protests of several thousand people, led by monks, shocked the world in September 2007. According to reports at least 700 people were imprisoned. The regime claims that there were 15 casualties, Mr. Pinheiro, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar said that at least 31 died in the demonstrations. However, the true death toll is guessed to be higher. The "Saffron Revolution" revealed the catastrophic situation in the country and the cruelty of the inhuman regime one more time to the rest of the world.

As a result, the international community put pressure on the regime. This achieved sporadic releases of prisoners, and the junta was poised to meet UN envoys. The military government even agreed for the UN to talk to Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi who is kept under house arrest. But all of Gambari's, the UN Special Representative, attempts to moderate the generals remained unsuccessful. Imprisonments of dissidents and monks continued, the repression of civilians is still part of everyday life. There were no talks between the government and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The public's obtainment of information through the internet has been further constrained.

Persisting human rights violations against ethnic nationalities
For the enrichment of the generals parts of the population are coerced to do forced labour. Despite an agreement on the eradication of forced labour in Myanmar between the government and the ILO on 26 February 2007, there has been no progress concerning the issue in the country. Time and again there have been reports on how people - especially in rural areas - were forced to build streets or plantations; others were used as carriers or diggers in stem digging. Not only men and women but also more and more children are affected by this. Myanmar's regime recruits preferably children for its army. Some reports estimate the number of child soldiers to be as high as 70,000. Forced child labour is also used in the digging for gemstones. Gemstones and noble metals like jade, rubies and gold are mined in the north, especially in the Kachin and northern Shan state. The minorities living in the area suffer greatly from the harsh actions of the military.

Sanctions by the European Union and the United Nations on the trade with gemstones have sent a clear signal but their effect remains questionable. Raw gemstones can still get into Myanmar's neighbouring countries, be finished there and finally sold on the international market. Especially in Asian countries a great demand for gemstones has persisted so that the government receives large amounts of money through the big auctions which take place at least twice a year. In 2007, it was reported that five of these gemstone auctions took place.

Expulsions due to dam constructions
Due to the construction of dams along the Salween River the existence and livelihood of minorities are threatened. The ecological effects of the dam project are devastating, too. According to reports, two out of five dam construction projects have already been launched. At the Ta Sang Dam in the southern Shan state has already caused the forced relocation of about 300,000 people - most of whom are Shan. Their villages were destroyed and they cannot maintain their livelihood through the river any longer. For the Hut Gyi Dam in the Karen State so far about 15,000 people were expelled by the military.

Many of the displaced persons attempt, among other things, to cross the border to Thailand. In 2007, the Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC) identified about 76,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs). Due to severe human rights violations they had to leave their homes. At least 167 villages were destroyed by the military. Many fled in fear of violent assaults, rape or forced labour. The innumerable rapes, often resulting in death, committed by SPDC (State Peace and Development Council) soldiers affected especially members of the minority groups and went along with expulsion, destruction and forced labour. The military regime extended its military presence in the northern Karen and southern Karenni state to about 10 divisions. In the north-western Chin state the social and economic situation has deteriorated so drastically that presently about 80,000 Chin live as unrecognized refugees in the Indian state of Mizoram.

Palm-oil plantations are a threat
Time and again there were reports that palm-oil is planted in south-eastern Myanmar. Farmers were forced to plant palm-oil plants. Some reports claim that some 60,000 hectares are supposed to have been allocated by the government for a Malaysian palm-oil producer. In March 2007 about 40,000 hectares had been allocated already in the Irrawaddy River Valley. For this production the Burmese military also uses forced labour.

Society for Threatened Peoples calls on the Human Rights Council to:
- urge the government of Myanmar to free all political prisoners and to start a credible dialogue with the political opposition on democratic reforms,
- appeal to the government of Myanmar to abolish forced labour according to the agreement between Myanmar and the ILO,
- pressure Myanmar to end human rights violations against ethnic minorities, especially to stop controversial dam projects along the Salween river,
- appeal to the government of Myanmar to search for a peaceful solution to all armed conflicts with ethnic nationalities,
- urge an improvement of the situation of refugees in states adjacent to Myanmar.


Item 4: Human rights situations that require the Council's attention [ top ]

In January 2007 Ethiopian-backed government forces ousted the Islamist rulers from Mogadishu. Ethiopia's original plan, backed by the US had foreseen a two-month military operation. But the daily battles of Ethiopian and Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces against Islamist anti-Government movements reportedly supported militarily and financially by Ethiopia´s arch-enemy Eritrea, have led to a sharp deterioration of the security and human rights situation. The UN recently called Somalia the most pressing humanitarian emergency in the world today. The vast majority of Somalis view the Ethiopian troops as an unacceptable occupying force. Anti government militias extended their activities in Middle and Lower Juba. The African Union (AU) force is too weak a peacekeeping force to replace the Ethiopian forces. Burundi has started deploying 800 peacekeeping troops to support the 1,600 Ugandan troops already stationed in Mogadishu. (The new government arrived in Mogadishu on 20 January.)

Obtaining reliable statistics regarding the death and wounded toll in Somalia is almost impossible. It is likely that many cases go unreported. According to the Elman Peace and Human Rights Organisation that obtains its figures from medical institutions 6,501 civilians were killed and 8,516 more were wounded in Mogadishu in 2007. In January 2008, 292 people have been killed and another 325 wounded. Residents are often caught in the fighting parties' crossfire. Since January 2007 the Ethiopian forces face an intensifying insurgency. Assaults on Ethiopian and TFG forces were followed by a massive bombardment of residential areas in Mogadishu during March and April 2007 in which many civilians were killed. Ethiopian and TFG forces arbitrarily arrested civilians. The clashes in Mogadishu escalated again in November 2007.

The insurgents summarily executed and then mutilated the bodies of captured TFG. They use remotely detonated roadside devices, small arms and heavy weaponry. They repeatedly launched mortar attacks from urban neighbourhoods. The Ethiopian and government forces shell urban neighbourhoods with heavy weaponry such as "Katyusha" rockets without warning the population in advance. They mass-arrested and detained civilians who were then held in secret detention centers without charges for long periods. In June 2007 some detainees were released after an amnesty offered by the TFG, but supposedly hundreds of people still remain detained. Several times Ethiopian forces stole medical equipment from hospitals.

Meanwhile, the anti-Government forces have expanded their insurgent activities to the Middle and Lower Juba regions. The military wing of the Union of Islamic Courts, al-Shabaab is reported to be training new recruits and planning attacks. Clan militias which oppose the TFG rule in the port town Kismayo. Since October 2007 two groups that belong to the TFG have fought against each other in Merka, a town 100 kilometers south of Mogadishu. Both warring parties recruit child soldiers. Fewer than 1 in 10 Mogadishu children is able to attend school.

Since March 2007 more than 700,000 inhabitants of Mogadishu have been displaced by the fighting. Entire districts of the town are vacated. Along the corridor between Mogadishu and Afgoye nearly 200,000 people live in impromptu refugee camps and receive food rations by the World Food Program (WFP) and its partners. It is the largest concentration of displaced people worldwide. In Mogadishu the WFP provides 50,000 meals a day to the remaining inhabitants.

More than two million Somalis are in desperate need of humanitarian food aid over the next six months. A large number of people fled to Bay, Mudug and Hiiraan regions where the host communities already face an acute humanitarian crisis that is severed by the disruption of livestock and agricultural markets in Mogadishu. In the Shabelle regions more than 325,000 agriculturalists and agro-pastoralists suffer from food and livelihood crisis. 29,500 Somali refugees fled to Yemen in 2007. 1,400 died or went missing during the dangerous journey through the Gulf of Aden.

The number of attacks targeting humanitarian and human rights organizations has risen, e.g. the kidnappings of staff, invasion and looting of non-governmental facilities and warehouses. The founder of the NGO KISIMA, Isse Abdel Isse, was shot and killed at close range in Mogadishu on 14 March 2007 by unknown assassins. In October 2007 the aforementioned Elman Human Rights, Somalia´s oldest human rights group was ordered to close its office by the government for "security reasons". After its head Sudan Ali Ahmed refused to shut down the office he was being hunted by government troops and had to hide after he received death threats. On 28 January 2008 a roadside bomb near the southern Somali town of Kismayo killed three humanitarian workers working for the international NGO "Doctors without borders" which in the aftermath withdrew 87 international staff from 14 projects around the country.

The transport and delivery of food is being impeded by illegal roadblocks, taxes and banditry. At the end of 2007 truck convoys were reduced because bribes at illegal roadblocks tripled and reached up to $ 500. In December 2007 a French naval frigate provided support to two ships that carried food deliveries and anchored off the coastal town of Marka.

In 2007 eight Somali journalists were killed in Somalia and four wounded. In most cases assassins hired by the insurgents were alleged to have killed the journalists. More than 50 journalists fled the country while others stopped working as journalists. Journalists were often detained for long periods without charge by government security forces. 53 journalists were arrested, either in southern Somalia, the semi-autonomous Puntland in the north and in the de facto independent state of Somaliland in the North-west. The Somali government exerted a strong pressure on the local press and repeatedly shut down many independent media outlets, e.g. the Shabelle Media Network or Horn Afrik. On 16 September 2007, after a grenade had been thrown at a patrol in the area, government forces fired at the building of Radio Shabelle, breaking all the windows at ground level where the radio studios were set. Then they besieged the building for hours before the staff was authorized to evacuate. 16 staff members were detained for a short period of time. The government closed Shabelle for two weeks until 2 October. It was closed again by TFG troops on 12 November 2007.

On 21 January 2008 Somalia's new Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein pledged to put an end to the crackdown against journalists and promised that the government would make sure violations against the press were over.

Society for Threatened Peoples calls on the Human Rights Council to:
- urge for additional funding of relief operations by international aid agencies,
- appeal to all actors in the conflict to stop the indiscriminate attacks on civilians, journalists and human rights defenders,
- urge the TFG to live up to its promise and ensure freedom of the press and to start a genuine dialogue with its political opponents in order to facilitate the creation of a government of national reconciliation,
- appeal to the international community to work towards a resolution of the Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict that has exacerbated the Somali war.

Sri Lanka

Item 4: Human rights situations that require the Council's attention [ top ]

On January 2, 2008, the government of Sri Lanka announced the abrogation of the 2002 ceasefire agreement with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which had been brokered by Norway. Hours before a bomb attack on an army bus in Colombo killed five and wounded 28. Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) expects an intensification of the fighting that resumed in April 2006. The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission has left the country. Some 70,000 people died since the conflict started in 1983.

Displacement situation
The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) of the Norwegian Refugee Council is currently listing Sri Lanka among the countries with the worst displacement situations around the world. Families are often subject to repeated cycles of displacement. In September 2007 the total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) was as high as 503,000.

From August 2006 to October 2007 more than 152,000 new IDPs returned to their place of origin in the Batticaloa and Trincomalee districts in eastern Sri Lanka. Due to the lack of safety and ongoing fighting there, more than 300,000 IDPs currently live in camps.

The situation of these people is of great concern as many displaced people suffer from food and water shortages. The hygienic situation is disastrous. Since hostilities escalated, the government as well as the LTTE have restricted the access to conflict areas, leaving IDPs and a large number of other affected people without adequate international protection and access to humanitarian assistance.

Due to the A9 road closure the World Food Programme (WFP) has only been able to ship 20 per cent of its total food allocation needed on the Jaffna peninsula in the North. On May 23, 2007, the Red Cross pulled back from the northern district of Vavuniya as a result of two firing incidents within a week. On June 1, 2007, two employees of the Red Cross were abducted and murdered. On May 14, 2007, the military began to resettle some 90,000 internally displaced people in Batticaloa District to their home villages. With their houses and crops looted they have had to face tough food and livelihood challenges. International aid organizations as well as United Nations bodies have voiced concern about the government forcing IDPs to return to areas ravaged by fighting. Pressuring displaced persons to return to their homes conflicts with UN-recognized principles and is contradictory to the Sri Lankan government's repeated promises not to enforce resettlement.

Furthermore, the protection of the displaced persons in Batticaloa cannot be guaranteed. The armed Karuna group, a proxy force of the government that broke away from the LTTE in March 2004, has been seen in and around various camps situated in government controlled areas. It has threatened and sometimes used violence against displaced people and the local population, as well as against NGOs. Numerous abductions of IDPs by the Karuna Group were also reported. The Karuna Group and the LTTE are known to abduct children and to train them to become soldiers in areas where both operate. The primary responsibility for ensuring the protection and security of the displaced people within the country lies with the Sri Lankan government, and the LTTE is responsible for the protection in the areas under its control.

Child recruitment
According to Sri Lankan law, forcible or compulsory recruitment of children is a crime punishable with up to 20 years imprisonment. The Karuna group and the LTTE are both violating Sri Lankan and international humanitarian law by recruiting and using children as soldiers, and by forcibly recruiting adults. The Sri Lankan government is also violating international law by facilitating child recruitment by the Karuna group and fails to take feasible measures to prevent such recruitment and to secure the release of recruited children and forcibly recruited adults.

Throughout the two-decade long civil war the LTTE has consistently recruited and used children in armed combat. From January 2002 to December 31, 2006, UNICEF was reported about 5,956 cases of child recruitment by the LTTE. 1,012 of them (17 per cent) were children under the age of 15. LTTE established 17 years as its minimum age of recruitment on October 15, 2006. On October 15, 2007, LTTE raised its minimum age of recruitment to 18 years. The average age of children recruited by LTTE is 15.78 years. Through the Karuna group, the Sri Lankan government is now involved in some of the same abuse. From November 1, 2006, to August 31, 2007, 207 children were recruited by the Karuna group. 71 children were released in the same period of time. The average age of the children recruited by the Karuna group was approximately 16 years. Reports indicated that families or recruits receive a monthly allowance ranging from SL Rs 6,000 to SL Rs 12,000 (approximately $60 to $120). Some of the children released by LTTE were re-recruited by the Karuna group.

Due to increased insecurity and pressures not to report the incidents, the true total number of children being recruited by the LTTE and the Karuna group may be three times higher. The abductions of the Karuna group have taken place in areas of strict government control, with myriad military and police checkpoints. No armed group could engage in such large-scale abductions and forced recruitment, training abductees in established camps, without government knowledge and at least tacit support. The police do not investigate the cases that parents report. The Sri Lankan government knows about the abductions and has not intervened.

Enforced Disappearances, Detentions and Killings
Over 5,000 people, mostly civilians have been killed since 2006. These civilians were, among others, killed by aerial bombardment, shelling and claymore mine attacks in northern Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government and LTTE have continuously failed to abide by their obligations according to international humanitarian law, thus encouraging abuses against civilians with impunity. Unlawful killings, indiscriminate shelling of civilian residential areas, abductions and enforced disappearance are daily occurrences. LTTE cadres targeting civilian buses with landmines are frequent. Bombing hospitals and refugee camps is just as common as putting up military installations and arms next to residential areas using civilians as human shields.

The official numbers of the conflict's disappearances in the past have been listed officially with over 30,000. In fact, there are claims that the real number is higher. LTTE and the Karuna group as well as government military forces and the police's Special Task Force are involved. The military and the police were also implicated in the killing of Tamil civilians: There was an extrajudicial killing on January 2, 2006, of five Tamil students in Trincomalee town; eight young men "disappeared" from a Hindu temple in Jaffna in May 2006. Seventeen employees of the international aid organization Action Against Hunger were slain in an execution-style in August 2006.

The involvement of governmental forces is a consequence of the Prevention of Terrorist Act (PTA) and the Emergency Regulations (ER). The regulations give the security forces extensive powers for search, arrest, detention, and seizure of property, including the right to make arrests without warrants and to hold individuals in unacknowledged detention for up to eighteen months. Most of those detainees under the emergency regulations are young Tamil men deemed to have LTTE ties. Increasingly, however, the regulations are also used against Muslims and Sinhalese who have challenged or criticized the state.

Since the middle of 2006 the number of killings, abductions and disappearances increased drastically. Because victims' families are too afraid of repercussions, they often do not report incidents. The perpetrators are insufficiently investigated and prosecuted. In September 2006 the Sri Lankan government under international pressure appointed a Commission of Inquiry (COI) which was supposed to investigate 16 major incidents of human rights violations. Since it was limited to investigate a specific list of incidents and only had advisory competences instead of being able to prosecute, it had very little impact. Despite international criticism of these shortcomings the Sri Lankan government extended the COI's mandate for another year.

Society for Threatened Peoples calls on the Human Rights Council to:
- urge all parties in the armed conflict in Sri Lanka to protect the civilian population,
- express its concern about the failure of the ceasefire agreement and to call on all conflict parties to start a genuine and credible dialogue and to give priority to a political solution of the conflict,
- urge a far-reaching constitutional reform in Sri Lanka in order to improve the protection of minority rights.


Item 4: Human rights situations that require the Council's attention [ top ]

No end to impunity for crimes against humanity in Darfur
The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno-Ocampo, urged the international community on September 20, 2007 to ensure that Sudan turns over two Darfur war crimes suspects. "World leaders must understand that if the justice component process is ignored crimes will continue and affect the humanitarian and security operation in Darfur", declared Moreno-Ocampo. On April 27, 2007 the ICC had issued arrest warrants for Ahmed Haroun, the deputy Interior Minister of Sudan in 2003 and 2004, and the Janjaweed-Commander Ali Kushayb for 51 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur. But no concrete action of the Sudanese authorities followed. In September 2007 the Government appointed the then State Minister of Humanitarian Affairs Ahmed Haroun despite the arrest warrants to co-chair a committee which should analyze the human rights situation in western Sudan. Haroun still has not been transferred to The Hague to face criminal investigation by the ICC. In his position as the government's liaison with UNAMID he maintains a prominent position in Sudanese politics. Haroun was quoted as saying that he had been given the authority to either kill or forgive in Darfur for the sake of peace and security. According to the ICC he was responsible for organizing and funding the Janjaweed.

Ali Kushayb who commanded thousands of Janjaweed allegedly stood by and promoted rape and torture as part of the war strategy. He was one of the key militia leaders responsible for attacks on villages in West Darfur in 2003 / 2004. ICC judges are convinced that he bears responsibility for rapes, destruction of property, perpetrating inhumane acts as well as attacking and killing civilians in at least four villages. He was imprisoned in Sudan from November 2006 to October 2007 on unrelated charges, but then released without being transferred to the ICC.

In April 2006 the UN Security Council imposed financial sanctions and a travel ban against Janjaweed-Commander Musa Hilal for obstructing peace in Darfur. After being convicted in 1998 for armed robbery against the Central Bank of Nyala he was released from prison by the Government of Sudan in 2003 to help crush the rebellion in Darfur. In 2005 Hilal admitted in interviews that he recruited Arab tribesmen on behalf of the Government of Sudan to fight against rebels in Darfur. Numerous eyewitnesses named Hilal as responsible for brutal attacks on the civilian population, rape, destruction of villages and ethnic cleansing. Despite his prominent role in the crimes against humanity, Hilal on January 18, 2008 was appointed special advisor for the Ministry of Federal Affairs in Sudan.

The three cases are clear evidence that the Government of Sudan is not committed to end impunity in Darfur. Unfortunately the UN Security Council failed to agree on a presidential statement supporting the arrest of Darfur war crime suspects and their extradition to the ICC on December 9, 2007 due to blocking votes of China and Qatar.

Desperate human rights situation in Darfur
In March 2007 a UN fact-finding mission led by U.S. Nobel laureate Jody Williams concluded that the Government of Sudan had orchestrated militia attacks on civilians in Darfur. The U.N. Human Rights Council rejected the recommendations of Williams' team, voting instead to create an expert group. A week after this group of seven rights experts had accused Sudan of failing to protect civilians in Darfur from rape, torture and other forms of violence, the Human Rights Council dissolved this committee on December 14, 2007 due to demands from African countries to ease the political pressure on Sudan.

The situation in Darfur has evolved from an armed conflict between liberation movements and the government into a violent scramble for power and resources involving government forces, Janjaweed militias, liberation movements and bandits. But this complex situation should not divert attention from Khartoum's responsibility for crimes against humanity. Sudan's government is responsible for indiscriminate aerial bombing, ground attacks on the civilian population, complicity in Janjaweed attacks on villages and for its failure to protect the civilian population.

Monitors of the African Union, U.N. rights experts, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, U.N. agencies, Sudanese and international human rights organisations and humanitarian organizations have been documenting crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and other gross human rights violations in Darfur in dozens of reports. Thousands of pages with testimonies from victims or their family members have been published. Recent satellite photos documented the widespread destruction of villages and the entire ethnic and social system in western Sudan. According to estimates 2.066 villages in Darfur have been destroyed in Darfur since February 2003, a further 685 villages have been partly destroyed. At least 2.4 million persons became Internal Displaced People. More than 400,000 were seeking refuge in neighbouring Chad. In February 2008 around 50,000 people in Darfur fled their villages due to a military offensive of the Sudanese army. Nearly every month tens of thousands of civilians had to flee to protect their lives from attacks by militias, rebels, bandits or the regular army.

There is no efficient protection for the civilian population in western Sudan. Not even in the larger towns or in IDP camps, civilians are protected and safe. In 2007 once again hundreds of women and girls were raped, especially near IDP camps. Sometimes Sudanese officials have been pressurised IDP's to leave refugee camps. In October 2007, U.N. officials accused Sudanese authorities to chase refugees out of the refugee camp Otash. The camp is situated near South Darfur's capital Nyala and houses 60,000 refugees. U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, declared that these involuntary relocations are violating U.N. agreements with Sudan. Inside the camps, guns are cheap, tensions and violence are mounting. Most of the IDPs are women, children and youth. Since April 2006 there have been 120,000 newly displaced children. Many of the youth feel desperate, because they harbour no hope to return in their destroyed villages.

Escalation of violence in Darfur threatens aid operation
An upsurge of banditry further complicated all humanitarian aid operations in western Sudan. Chaos is looming as violence increases and public order collapses. 4.2 million civilians in Darfur are currently relying on humanitarian aid. Since the end of September 2007 the dangers and obstacles relief agencies in Darfur are facing have continued to increase. Aid agencies were only able to provide minimal assistance to major IDP camps in North and South Darfur due to ongoing insecurity. Between January and November 2007 at least 74 humanitarian transports were attacked and 128 vehicles hijacked. Some 131 humanitarian staff was kidnapped and 12 aid workers were killed. Many trucking companies refuse to send in more vehicles because of the upsurge in violence and kidnappings. In the first two months of the year 2008 this alarming trend worsened sharply, endangering the activities of many aid agencies. Some humanitarian organisations have meanwhile left western Sudan due to the issue of insecurity and the lack of access to those in need.

UNAMID deployment has been obstructed
On July 31, 2007, the UN Security Council authorised a hybrid United Nations / African Union peacekeeping operation (UNAMID) in western Sudan. Six months later, little, if any, additional capacity has been deployed or is on the horizon to ensure an effective protection of the civilian population. The government of Sudan has systematically obstructed the deployment of UNAMID in at least five ways. Khartoum failed for more than two months to formally approve the list of UNAMID troop contributions. Troop proposals from Nepal, the Scandinavian countries and Thailand were rejected, insisting that only African troops were welcome. The land allocation for new bases has taken months. Furthermore, the government refused to grant permissions for new troops to fly at night and imposed curfews near some bases. Several times Khartoum tried to impose restrictions on the communication network of UNAMID.

Society for Threatened Peoples calls on the Human Rights Council to:
- condemn the crimes against humanity committed by the Sudanese army and its allied militia, the abuses of the civilian population as well as the violations of the humanitarian ceasefire agreement,
- urge the Sudanese government to ensure free access and protection for aid agencies,
- insist on an immediate end of the persecutions, slaughter and "ethnic cleansing",
- urge the Sudanese government to refrain from any obstruction of the UNAMID deployment to ensure the protection of the civilian population,
- call on the Sudanese government to end impunity for crimes committed in Darfur and to fully cooperate with the International Criminal Court in The Hague,
- urge the international community to enhance a new negotiation of the Darfur Peace Agreement involving all conflict parties,
- call on the international community to strengthen its political pressure on the Sudanese government in order to stop crimes against humanity in Darfur.

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