Tamils protest for the release of political prisoners. Colombo, October 2015. When Maithripala Sirisena was elected as president of Sri Lanka in January last year, he promised to end human rights violations by the security forces. Under Sirisena's predecessor, Mahinda Rajapaksa, it was common practice for the army and police to abduct people and torture them. Some were later released, while others were murdered.
"What do we want? A fair deal. When do we want it? Now!" more than 1000 firefighters chanted as they marched through the streets of Melbourne on December 8. The Victorian Labor government, like its Liberal predecessor, has refused to reach an agreement with the United Firefighters Union (UFU) that would guarantee firefighters' working conditions. December 8 was the 977th day without a workplace agreement.
The entire northern province of Sri Lanka, an area mainly inhabited by Tamils, was "brought to a standstill" on November 13, according to the Tamilnet website, in support of Tamil prisoners on hunger strike for their freedom. All private and public activities, except for medical services, came to a standstill. Students did not attend schools. Roads remained deserted except for the army and police.
Forty people attended a public meeting in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick on the campaign against conscription during World War I. Michael Hamel-Green, a draft resister during the Vietnam War who is now an emeritus professor at Victoria University, gave a talk on the history of the anti-conscription campaign, with a particular emphasis on the role of local residents. Prime Minister Billy Hughes called two referenda on conscription for military service outside Australia, in 1916 and 1917. Both were defeated, the second by a greater margin than the first.
The Refugee Action Collective Victoria has filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court over the Australian government’s treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. The complaint requests the ICC to investigate and prosecute ministers and former ministers of the Australian government, specifically former prime minister Tony Abbott, former immigration minister Scott Morrison, current immigration minister Peter Dutton, and attorney-general George Brandis.
The Refugee Action Collective Victoria has filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court over the Australian government's treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. The complaint requests the ICC to investigate and prosecute ministers and former ministers of the Australian government, specifically former prime minister Tony Abbott, former immigration minister Scott Morrison, current immigration minister Peter Dutton, and attorney-general George Brandis.
About 300 Tamil political prisoners in 11 prisons began a hunger strike on October 12. Many of the prisoners have been detained without trial under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Some have been in jail for up to 20 years. They are accused of being members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which fought for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka, but was defeated in 2009.
The United Nations Human Rights Council has unanimously adopted a resolution called “Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka”. This resolution, of which the United States was the main sponsor, welcomed a proposal by the Sri Lankan government to establish a “judicial mechanism” to investigate “abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law”.
The United Nations' Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report of its investigation into human rights violations in Sri Lanka found “reasonable grounds to believe that gross violations of international human rights law … were committed.” The investigation deals with the period between February 2002 and November 2011. It thus includes the final years of the war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The LTTE fought for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka and was defeated in May 2009.
Tamils protest in Geneva to demand a UN investigation into Sri Lankan war crimes. Photo via Tamilnet.