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Wednesday, 26 March 2014
Page: 3197

Ms PARKE (Fremantle) (13:30): Today, the UN Human Rights Council will vote on a resolution on Sri Lanka that calls for an independent international inquiry into allegations of wartime violations of human rights and humanitarian law by both sides. This has been necessary because of the failure by the Sri Lankan government to independently or credibly investigate the allegations of war crimes or to implement many of the recommendations of its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.

Australia co-sponsored the previous two resolutions on Sri Lanka in the Human Rights Council but, according to human rights organisations, has been 'conspicuously silent' in the present debate, despite other like-minded countries, including the US, UK, EU and Canada, supporting the resolution. There is a stark contrast between the manner in which UK Prime Minister David Cameron has approached engagement with Sri Lanka on human rights issues, including using the occasion of CHOGM to call for accountability and visiting the war ravaged north of Sri Lanka, and our Prime Minister, who went jogging with one of President Rajapaksa's sons, gifted two patrol boats to the Sri Lankan navy and appeared to dismiss allegations of war crimes and torture by saying:

… in difficult circumstances difficult things happen.

The rule of law is also not being observed in Sri Lanka, as shown by the unconstitutional impeachment of the chief justice in January last year, as well as the continuing intimidation of human rights activists and journalists. I call upon the government to ensure that Australia participates in the debate in the Human Rights Council and co-sponsors the resolution. As an influential voice in the region, we have a responsibility to uphold human rights.