France seeks end to Sri Lanka's emergency laws
A top human rights envoy from France Saturday asked Sri Lanka to end a state of emergency that was originally declared earlier this year to deal with defeated Tamil separatists.Colombo - A top human rights envoy from France Saturday asked Sri Lanka to end a state of emergency that was originally declared earlier this year to deal with defeated Tamil separatists.
Ambassador for Human Rights Francois Zimeray said he expected Colombo to signal the end of its war with Tamil rebels by withdrawing the emergency, which allows the detention of suspects for long periods without trial.
"Ending the emergency should have been the first consequence of ending the war (in May)," Zimeray said at the end of a three-day visit for talks with key Sri Lankan leaders on the island's human rights.
"The fact that the conflict is over should be an opportunity to put an end to emergency laws," he said, referring to a law under which an editor was jailed for 20 years for allegedly favouring Tamil rebels.
Zimeray nevertheless praised Sri Lankan authorities for crushing the "terrorism" of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), whose leadership was wiped out in the final stages of the fighting in May.
"Defeating terrorism is an achievement in terms of human rights... but it does not allow any regime to behave in violation of human rights," he said, referring to international calls for the island to improve its rights record.
Zimeray, who arrived here as a special envoy of French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, said he expected to improve a dialogue with Sri Lanka in its road to recovery after nearly 37 years of ethnic fighting.
He said France hoped Sri Lanka would allow greater press freedoms and allow dissent, and help to ease an atmosphere of fear in the country, where high-profile assassinations have often remained unsolved.
He also urged the government to ensure the freedom of settlement for tens of thousands of Tamil civilians displaced by the fighting in the north of the island and who have since been held in military-guarded camps.
The Sri Lankan government had "inherited" the problem of war-displaced people because the separatist Tamil Tigers had used them as a human shield until the very end of their war, Zimeray said.