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Human Rights Council Special Session on Sri Lanka
May 27, 2009

Human Rights Council in Session in Geneva

Remarks by U.S. Chargé d’Affaires,
a.i., Mark C. Storella

Geneva, May 27, 2009
Thank you, Mr. President.

And I would like to thank the Sri Lankan Human Rights Minister and Attorney General, whose presence here demonstrates the seriousness that the Government of Sri Lanka attaches to these proceedings.

The U.S. welcomes the end of fighting in the north of Sri Lanka. This is an important moment in the life of the Sri Lankan nation, and we should all recognize that the Sri Lankan people are emerging from a terrible conflict against the LTTE, an implacable foe. We hope that, at this critical time, the Council will be able to provide the Government of Sri Lanka with some useful ideas as it works with the Sri Lankan people to build lasting peace based on national reconciliation and full respect of human rights.

While we have heard many differing views over the past two days, we believe that the basis exists in this chamber for consensus on a group of human rights and humanitarian priorities, many of which the Sri Lankan government has already embraced, priorities which can be carried forward with the assistance of the international community.

The United States strongly urges the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure immediate, full, safe and unhindered access for humanitarian assistance to all persons in need throughout the country, to work to demobilize, disarm and rehabilitate child soldiers and to adhere to its commitment to return the bulk of internally displaced persons to their homes by the end of the year. We call on the Government to work hand in hand with the UN, ICRC, and non-governmental organizations to ensure the rights of all IDPs are respected and they receive assistance, care and fair treatment in accordance with international humanitarian law and other international standards.

The United States was encouraged by the Joint Statement issued by the Government of Sri Lanka and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon following the Secretary General’s recent visit to Sri Lanka. We appreciated the strong commitment made by Sri Lanka to the promotion and protection of human rights in keeping with international human rights standards and Sri Lanka’s international obligations, as well as Sri Lanka’s expressed intention to take measures to address violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. In this regard, the Government of Sri Lanka’s commitment to provide access to humanitarian agencies is an essential component of Sri Lanka’s efforts.

To secure the peace, we encourage the Government of Sri Lanka to make all possible efforts to combat discrimination against persons belonging to ethnic minorities and to ensure equal access for all to education, health, housing, water, and food. In addition, it is imperative that all of Sri Lanka’s diverse people are able to speak freely, have access to information, receive equal treatment and justice before the law and are able to participate fully in the political process.

The United States is committed to assisting the people of Sri Lanka. We hope that all countries will come together to support the efforts of the Sri Lankan people to reconcile so that all Sri Lankans can work to bind up the wounds of conflict and realize their hopes and dreams in a peaceful and democratic Sri Lanka.

I would like to reiterate that the U.S. believes there is a basis for consensus in this Council , an outcome which would provide strong and positive support for human rights for the people of Sri Lanka.

Thank you.