About 200 people rallied in Melbourne on March 27 to express their opposition to the death sentences imposed on 529 Egyptians at a mass trial of alleged members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the city of Minya. Protestors held placards with slogans including “Say yes to democracy and no to brutal dictatorship”, and “Say yes to justice and no to a corrupt and complicit judiciary”. Mahmoud Hegazy told the rally that the charges included membership of an illegal organisation (the Muslim Brotherhood), incitement to violence, and the murder of one policeman.
The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a US-sponsored resolution on “Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka” on March 27. But the resolution makes no mention of the plight of the Tamil people. The word “Tamil” does not appear once. The resolution expresses “serious concern at the continuing reports of violations of human rights in Sri Lanka, including sexual and gender-based violence, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture and violations of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly”.
Addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on March 14, Ananthi Sasitharan said: “We request this assembly calls for an international investigation on genocide, and as an immediate step, to come out with a mechanism to stop the ongoing genocide of Eelam Tamils.” The Tamil ethnic minority in Sri Lanka is largely based on the island's north and east. With Tamils facing discrimination and violent pogroms, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam waged a decades-long armed struggle for an independent state.
Members of the National Union of Workers (NUW) employed at the Super A-Mart warehouse in Somerton have maintained a presence outside their workplace since being locked out on March 7. The workers held a one-day strike on February 28 in support of their campaign for an enterprise bargaining agreement, which would be the first ever signed at the warehouse. They called another strike on March 7, but were then locked out indefinitely by the company.
Three Australian unionists recently returned from Bangladesh gave a reportback to a forum in Melbourne on March 5 on the conditions experienced by its clothing and textile workers. The meeting was organised by Australia Asia Worker Links (AAWL).
Throughout March, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) will be reviewing the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, among other countries, at it meeting in Geneva. At last year’s session, the UNHRC passed a resolution calling on the Sri Lankan government to “conduct an independent and credible investigation into allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law”.
“Contrary to popular belief, the end of the war has actually deepened the ethnic conflict. This is because the underlying causes for the conflict have not been addressed and in certain ways exacerbated”. These were the words of C. V. Wigneswaran, chief minister of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) in Sri Lanka, addressing an academic conference in capital, Colombo, on February 13.
A wave of protests has broken out in recent months against militias in Libya’s cities. The militias are armed groups originally formed during the 2011 civil war. Most are based in a particular town or region, but they sometimes try to exercise power over a wider area. There is widespread resentment at their arbitrary exercise of power. One protester told the Libya Herald that the militias “terrorise, steal and kidnap people”.
Three hundred firefighters gathered in Treasury Gardens on December 12 and marched to Parliament House to protest against inadequate staffing levels. United Firefighters Union secretary Peter Marshall said the former ALP government had promised to employ 342 extra firefighters and had allocated money for this purpose. However, the Coalition government has failed to implement the planned increase. Marshall said that this puts community safety at risk. He said that the bushfires royal commission showed the need for more firefighters.
More than 1000 students protested against the closure of the Jaffna University on December 2, TamilNet said. The university was reopened that day after several weeks of closure. All universities in Sri Lanka had been closed during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to prevent them being used as organising centres for protests. But in the case of Jaffna University, situated in the predominantly Tamil north of the island, the closure was prolonged to prevent students from marking Heroes Day on November 27.