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Australia raises human rights with Sri Lanka

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Speaking in the Senate, Foreign Minister Bob Carr today said the lead-up to CHOGM offers an opportunity for the Commonwealth to highlight areas that require progress in Sri Lanka, and offer practical assistance where appropriate.

Senator Carr said engagement, not isolation, is the most effective way to promote human rights, the rule of law and democratic governance in Sri Lanka. For this reason, the Australian Government has reaffirmed it will attend CHOGM in Sri Lanka.

"I will continue to urge progress on human rights in Sri Lanka," Senator Carr said.

"This includes accountability for events at the end of the civil conflict.

"Australia co-sponsored a resolution on reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka in the UN Human Rights Council in March."

Senator Carr said he raised the importance of accountability for events at the end of the civil conflict with senior members of the Sri Lankan Government during his visit to Colombo last December.

"We continue to urge Sri Lanka to show progress on implementation of the recommendations of its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Report.

"Australia will remain at the forefront of nations looking for progress.

"Media and civil society continue to operate in a difficult environment. I have also raised concerns about the impeachment of the Chief Justice.

"Improvements in these areas and others are necessary to achieve genuine reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

"Sri Lanka is emerging from the trauma of three decades of civil conflict. Now is the time for reconciliation.

"We support Commonwealth Secretary-General Sharma's use of his Good Offices, to encourage practical useful steps to enhance cooperation between Sri Lanka and the Commonwealth."

Australia has invested more than $226 million in humanitarian and development assistance since the end of the conflict in May 2009.

Australian assistance has included:

  • support for de-mining and reconstruction of housing and schools;

  • training and loans to 4,000 female-headed households to re-establish livelihoods;

  • improved sanitation facilities for over 6000 tea estate workers.

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