Monday, April 7, 2014

For Airyn

I, John Stewart Sloan, take you, Airyn Rano Lentija, to be my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

And you have been there for me,
when I was sick.
Even before we were married,
You were there for me.

You have been there for me
when I was weak
when I was foolish,
and when I was selfish

You forgave me and you were there for me.

And you have been there for me
in good times and,
more importantly, in the bad times
when I have failed.

You have been there for me……..
And I will be there for you.
I will never desert you……
never abandon you……

Never.

Monday, March 10, 2014

SRI LANKA: The life of a human rights defender is under threat

An Urgent Appeal I prepared for the Asian Human Rights Commission was picked up by the Colombo telegraph.


https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/urgent-appeal-human-rights-defender-wanatamulle-sunil-samaradeeras-life-under-threat/

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION-URGENT APPEAL PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-XXX-2014

10 March 2014
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SRI LANKA: The life of a human rights defender is under threat

ISSUES: Illegal arrest; arbitrary detention; disappearance; abduction; impunity; rule of law
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Dear friends,
Sunil Samaradeera of No: 34/2, Baseline Mawatha, Borella, a human rights activist based in Wanathamulla, in Colombo District was abducted in broad daylight by persons believed to be connected to the Secretary of Defense. On 13 of February Sunil had met with the Secretary, Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, regarding issues concerning a housing scheme which threatens to put several households out of their land and according to reports there had been a heated exchange of words. Sunil’s abduction happened shortly after that. Sunil’s neighbours and colleagues staged a protest by blocking a road and as a result two days later he was released. However, he is concerned for his personal security and the authorities have made no effort to investigate the abduction and bring the perpetrators to justice.
This case is yet another illustration of the fact that influential or well connected people can use the Sri Lankan police to their benefit despite the fact that the victims are innocent persons.


CASE NARRATIVE:

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information regarding the abduction of Sunil Samaradeera alias Wanathe Sunil of No: 34/2, Baseline Mawatha, Borella, a human rights activist based in Wanathamulla, in Colombo District. There is grave concern for his safety. Sunil was abducted on 15 of February 2014 close to the temple at Dematagoda by unknown men in a Pajero. His hands were tied; head covered, he was put into the vehicle by force and then his body was covered by a polythene sheet. After a journey of about one and half hours the vehicle stopped at a house. He was taken inside, put on a mat and chained.
After the news of his abduction spread his wife went to the Dematagoda Police Station and made a complaint. Then the residents of his housing scheme came to know of the incident and after some time, they came to the adjoining main road, Baseline Road, where they started a protest by blocking the road and appealed for his release. They urged the authorities to act immediately to find him and provide him with protection.
Sunil has been the organiser of the ‘Organisation to Protect Houses at Wanathamulla’, 34 Watte, and worked hard against the proposed demolishing and taking over of their housing scheme by the Urban Development Authority which is overseen by the Secretary of Defence. He earns his living by selling the eatables like hoppers & string hoppers in a small boutique and further he is having a family with five children to maintain. On 13 of February he had met with the Secretary, Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapakse in this particular housing scheme and according to reports there had been a heated exchange of words.
Due to the vehement protest by Sunil’s neighbours he was released two days later. When he was released the adductors threatened him not to tell anyone about what had happened to him. They placed him in a vehicle and released on the road with his wrists still bound. He shouted to attract the attention of a passing motor cyclist who stopped and untied him. The motor cyclist took him some distance towards his place of residence but was reluctant to take him all the way to Wanathamulla. He somehow managed to reach the scene of the protest and made his appearance known and it was only then that the protest ended. His colleagues fear that he will be abducted again and complain that his life is now in danger.
At the time of writing there has not been an inquiry by the police. Instead the Police Spokesman stated that it is a drama organized by some parties interested to create trouble in the area.
Sunil along with several other persons went to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRC) on 5 March to complain that no suspect has been arrested by police regarding the abduction on 15 February. Sunil was able to return to his people only due to the protests carried out by the people at Wanathamulla. However, it is believed that his life is under threat as was stated in the complaint made to the Human Rights Commission.
Sunil appeals for protection for himself and his family members and justice for the abuse of his fundamental rights.


SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please send a letter to the authorities listed below expressing your concern about this case and requesting an immediate investigation into the allegations of abduction of a person by the police perpetrators, and the prosecution of those proven to be responsible under the criminal law of the country for misusing the powers of the state. The officers involved must also be subjected to internal investigations for the breach of the department orders as issued by the police department. Further, please also request the NPC and the IGP to have a special investigation into the malpractices of the police officers for abusing their powers.

Please note that the AHRC is also written a separate letter to the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in this regard.


SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ________,

SRI LANKA: The life of a human rights defender is under threat

Name of the victim: Sunil Samaradeera alias Wanathe Sunil of No: 34/2, Baseline Mawatha, Borella
Alleged perpetrator: Police officers attach to the Borella Police Station
Date of incident: 15 February 2014
Place of incident: Borella Police Division

I am writing to express my serious concern over the case of Mr. Sunil Samaradeera alias Wanathe Sunil of No: 34/2, Baseline Mawatha, Borella. Sunil is a human rights activist based in Wanathamulla, in Colombo District. Sunil was abducted on 15 of February 2014 close to the temple at Dematagoda by unknown men in a Pajero. His hands were tied; head covered, he was put into the vehicle by force and then his body was covered by a polythene sheet. After a journey of about one and half hours the vehicle stopped at a house. He was taken inside, put on a mat and chained.

After the news of his abduction spread his wife went to the Dematagoda Police Station and made a complaint. Then the residents of his housing scheme came to know of the incident and after some time, they came to the adjoining main road, Baseline Road, where they started a protest by blocking the road and appealed for his release. They urged the authorities to act immediately to find him and provide him with protection.
Sunil has been the organiser of the ‘Organisation to Protect Houses at Wanathamulla’, 34 Watte, and worked hard against the proposed demolishing and taking over of their housing scheme by the Urban Development Authority which is overseen by the Secretary of Defence. He earns his living by selling the eatables like hoppers & string hoppers in a small boutique and further he is having a family with five children to maintain. On 13 of February he had met with the Secretary, Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapakse in this particular housing scheme and according to reports there had been a heated exchange of words.
Due to the vehement protest by Sunil’s neighbours he was released two days later. When he was released the adductors threatened him not to tell anyone about what had happened to him. They placed him in a vehicle and released on the road with his wrists still bound. He shouted to attract the attention of a passing motor cyclist who stopped and untied him. The motor cyclist took him some distance towards his place of residence but was reluctant to take him all the way to Wanathamulla. He somehow managed to reach the scene of the protest and made his appearance known and it was only then that the protest ended. His colleagues fear that he will be abducted again and complain that his life is now in danger.
At the time of writing there has not been an inquiry by the police. Instead the Police Spokesman stated that it is a drama organized by some parties interested to create trouble in the area.
Sunil along with several other persons went to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRC) on 5 March to complain that no suspect has been arrested by police regarding the abduction on 15 February. Sunil was able to return to his people only due to the protests carried out by the people at Wanathamulla. However, it is believed that his life is under threat as was stated in the complaint made to the Human Rights Commission.
I therefore request your urgent intervention to ensure that the authorities listed below instigate an immediate investigation into the allegations of abduction and the lack of any investigation into this case. I urge you to ensure the prosecution of those proven to be responsible under the criminal law of the country for illegal abduction, misusing powers of state officers and for wrongful detention. The officers involved must also be subjected to internal investigations for the breach of the department orders as issued by the department.

I also urge that protection be provided to the victim and his family forthwith.

Yours sincerely,

---------------------
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. N K Illangakoon
Inspector General of Police
New Secretariat
Colombo 1
SRI LANKA
Fax: +94 11 2 440440 / 327877
E-mail: igp@police.lk

2. Mr. Sarath Palith Fernando
Attorney General
Attorney General's Department
Colombo 12
SRI LANKA
Fax: +94 11 2 436421
E-mail: ag@attorneygeneral.gov.lk

3. Secretary
National Police Commission
3rd Floor, Rotunda Towers
109 Galle Road
Colombo 03
SRI LANKA
Tel: +94 11 2 395310
Fax: +94 11 2 395867
E-mail: npcgen@sltnet.lk or polcom@sltnet.lk

4. Secretary
Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission
No: 165 Kynsey Road,
Borella, Colombo 8.
SRI LANKA
Fax: +94 11 2694924
Email: sechrc@sltnet.lk

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)






Monday, February 17, 2014

PALESTINE: The United Nations and the need for America to wake up

My last article for the Middle East Monitor. I say the 'last' article because I have recently been asked to sign a petition that, if followed, would allow the Palestinians to mistreat the Israelis in the same manner in which they have been treated the Palestinians. I am not defending the Zionists but two wrongs don't make a right.

PALESTINE: The United Nations and the need for America to wake up
Stewart Sloan

The article may be seen at: https://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.middleeastmonitor.com%2Fblogs%2Fpolitics%2F9813-palestine-the-united-nations-and-the-need-for-america-to-wake-up&h=lAQEAUq2u

At any given time the five so-called ‘permanent members’ of the United Nations Security Council have the right to veto any substantive draft resolution, regardless of the level of international support there is for the draft. At one time or another, each of the five permanent members has exercised that right. Those countries are: China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States of America and in agenda items entitled, ‘Middle East situation, including the Palestinian question’ and ‘The question of the exercise by the Palestinian people of its inalienable rights’ the USA has vetoed draft resolutions on no less than 15 occasions.

The drafts repeatedly reaffirms that, “….the Israeli settlements established in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem are illegal and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace” and, “…..demands that Israel, the occupying Power, immediately and completely ceases all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and, that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard…..”

The question that begs to be asked is: when the majority of the member states demand that Israel complies with its moral and legal obligations, what right does the United States of America, or any other country for that matter, have to say otherwise?

In the last three years America’s relationships with Israel have become somewhat strained, which would seem to indicate their continuing support of Israel in the United Nations all the more hypocritical.

In 2010, Hilary Clinton announced to the nation and the world Israel’s intention to build 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem as “deeply negative” for US-Israeli relations. Obama, in a rare mood announced that he would refuse to meet with Netanyahu when he arrived in Washington and then promptly met him in the White House. So much for tough talk! Obama then demanded that Israel impose a freeze on Jewish construction in East Jerusalem and in his own defense Netanyahu replied that he had no knowledge of the decision to build any houses; a very strange comment coming from the Prime Minister of the country.

The meeting ended without any progress on and Israel continued to build the 1,600 houses prompting Vice President Joe Biden to describe the situation as "one of the most serious rows between the two allies in recent decades".

The following year, 2011, Obama made a foreign policy speech in which he called for a return to the pre-1967 Israeli borders, suggesting that the two countries settle on a mutually agreed border, a suggestion that Netanyahu objected to out of hand. While the United States of America might be playing lip service to the idea of finding a lasting solution, Israel is not even pretending to consider the idea. It is in view of this constant snubbing by the state of Israel that makes the actions of the USA even more unacceptable.

The USA has repeatedly turned a blind eye to the atrocities carried out by the state of Israel against a sovereign country. The wanton destruction of entire communities including places of worship, schools and homes happens on a daily basis. Houses are bulldozed and the inhabitants given only a moment’s notice to get out and save as many of their belongings are they can. What right does Israel have to do this?
There are factions within the country that believe God gave them this land and they do have to right to take it. However, Jewish scholars deny this and have repeatedly said openly that the Torah, the Jewish Bible states that the State of Israel will never exist until such time as the people of the world unite as one and worship God. It goes so far as to say that any establishment of the country until that time would be contrary to God’s word.

That the United Nations was set up with the highest of ideals cannot be denied. It was created on 24 October 1945 in the hopes of promoting international co-operation for lasting peace. The Security Council, one of its six departments is responsible for, “deciding certain resolutions for peace and security”. However, as the League of Nations outgrew its usefulness when it proved incapable of preventing aggression by the Axis powers in the 30s, can it be argued that the United Nations might go the same way as it has been corrupted from within by nationalist sentiments that place the benefits of one nation over that of others?

That one country can prevent assistance to another country in order to safeguard the blatantly illegal and immoral demands of a third country is clearly wrong!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Israel’s abuse of Palestinian children

I am so happy that the Middle East Monitor picked up my article.

You can see the full article at their site at: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/lifestyle/9616-israels-abuse-of-palestinian-children


Israel’s abuse of Palestinian children
Stewart Sloan

I wonder if the United Nations has always been a toothless dog. The organisation is very good at coming up with conventions and getting countries to sign and ratify them but not quite so good at getting them to comply with them. The situation reminds me of the late 70s and early 80s when no smoking signs started appearing on buses and other forms of public transport. The transportation companies felt that it was their job to put the signs up but, when it came to enforcing the regulation they actually believed that it was someone else’s job. I think the UN might be operating along the same lines.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was adopted on 20 November 1989 and entered into force on 2 September 1990. The state of Israel ratified the CRC in 1991 but continues to wage war on Palestinian children, some as young as the age of five. There is ample video-graphic evidence of Israeli Defense Force personnel targeting children, roughing them up unnecessarily and arresting them at gun point. Why it is necessary to point an M16 at a child below the age of 12, or any age for that matter, defies logic. Often, for want of a better excuse they are charged with “throwing rocks”. Israeli military order 378 allows for up to 20 years of imprisonment for stone throwing and while international standards put the age of adulthood at 18, despite having ratified the CRC Israel has allowed that children of the age of 16 may be tried as adults. Following arrest they are interrogated and denied access to their parents and legal counsel. Victims have reported that they are traumatized, beaten, denied food and water and deprived of sleep for periods of up to several days. It is therefore not surprising that confessions are extracted by force and the statements which the victims are then forced to sign are prepared in Hebrew, a language which the vast majority of them do not understand.

According to reports over 9,000 children have been arrested since the year 2000 (almost 700 per year). They are all subjected to inhuman treatment. It would take too much room to quote the entirety of the CRC in this article but certain extracts are necessary.

“No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

“The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.”

“Every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge the legality of the deprivation of his or her liberty before a court or other competent, independent and impartial authority, and to a prompt decision on any such action.”

As mentioned above Israel ratified the CRC in 1991 but arbitrarily ignores its Articles and in turn, the UN ignores the resulting human rights abuses that Israel commits in the name of national security. We are not talking about ignorant travelers arrogantly ignoring no smoking signs here. We are talking about a country that continues to torture children as young as the age of five while the United Nations under Ban Ki Moon does nothing but make “tut-tutting” noises, cowed by their master and overseer, the United States of America.

Perhaps the UN might like to follow the example of the Israeli NGO, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI). The PCATI is an Israeli human rights organisation that works to combat torture. It was founded in 1990 in reaction to the policy of the Israeli government to allow the systematic use of torture and ill-treatment in investigations. According to one of the organisation’s reports arrested children were subjected to verbal and physical threats including those of sexual violence. It is mind boggling to imagine how any country that considers itself to be civilised to allow such horrendous abuse.

It is evident, and very sad that well-intentioned Israeli NGOs are more active in defending Palestinian children than the United Nations.

The internet is full of video-graphic evidence of Israeli abuse and these are just two examples:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfQtHdymqQM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaO6gsjxK4I

And although unrelated to the issue of the abuse of children, this one is especially for Ban Ki Moon:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=encHlimCC7U

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Palestine: The silence of the UN is deafening


Stewart Sloan

The United Nations under Ban Ki Moon has announced that 2014 is the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Despite the fact that Palestine is a ‘non-member observer state’ and the year being dedicated to solidarity with the country and six resolutions being passed against Israel, nothing much in the way of progress has been seen. Israeli atrocities continue to happen and in one recent incident alone, Israeli soldiers ordered the members of a house due to be demolished to come out into the street. There, one of the soldiers opened fire, slowly and deliberately, on the family, injuring the grandmother, killing two young girls and critically wounding another, all sisters. The BBC report may be seen at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krlnS6hcxTI The BBC has passed a copy of their video to the Israelis along with the map references and copies of the statements relating to the incident and they have promised to investigate. No one is holding their breath.

As regards the UN resolutions, on the one hand there is praise for raising the awareness of the international community to the situation in Palestine but on the other, there are feelings that the resolutions will work towards pushing the two parties further apart and be counter-productive to the already fragile peace process. However, the question must be asked: what peace process?

Israel has consistently denied, and continues to deny the Palestinians the right to live in peace in their own country. There is no justification, legal, moral or religious for Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land. And the naysayers are not just from the international community but from Israel itself and the Jewish clergy themselves. It is widely accepted, by non-Zionists that God told the Jews that they could live in the land of Palestine if they followed certain rules. However, it is also stated that even if the land was unoccupied they are forbidden by God to occupy it as they must live in exile until such time as mankind unites and embraces God. They are taught that they must live in exile and be loyal citizens of whatever country gives them shelter. They believe that it would be rebelling against God if they came out of exile by their power of their own hands, i.e. by violence against others. Zionism on the other hand is not a religion. It is a nationalist ideal that was set up 100 years ago and their teachings allowed them to make up the law as they go along. And they do so with the financial and moral assistance of the USA and some Arab countries who, for political reasons do not want to make an enemy of Israel. Other Jewish religious leaders believe that the Zionists have stolen the title, ‘Judaism’.

Everyday there are fresh reports of atrocities conducted by the Israelis against Palestinians. The incident given about of the lady and the young girls being shot while Israeli Defense Force soldiers looked on, eating chocolate is just one. I will keep repeating the same questions over and over again: what justification did the Israelis have for shooting these children? What is Ban Ki Moon doing about it and why is America continuing to support a nation of murderers. Perhaps the answer to that last question lies in the fact that the Americans themselves committed genocide against the own native Americans in order to steal their lands. Perhaps they are inured to the pain of the Palestinians because of the pain they caused the American Indians.

Of course it is well known, understood even that the UN is hamstrung because America has let it be known that they will veto any resolution made against Israel and, in fact, have done so in the past. However, it is time for Ban Ki Moon and the representatives of the member states of the UN to stand firm and demand that the United States of America allows resolutions against the state of Israel in order to stop the genocide they are committing against the people of Palestine who want nothing more than to live in peace, in their own land. Not to do so would make the United Nations a party to this crime.


Stewart Sloan is a published author and works as an editor in a regional human rights NGO based in Hong Kong. He became interested in the situation of Palestine several months ago through contact with his friends. This is his second article on this issue and he would welcome the opportunity of becoming more deeply involved. Stewart may be contacted at sloanbooks@gmail.com.

PALESTINE: Children starve while the world and the UN look on


Stewart Sloan

Due to the ethnic conflict between Israel and Palestine a blockade has been imposed on most of the country of Palestine. The supply of electricity and running water has been cut off and Palestinian commerce virtually brought to a halt due to the stringent travel restrictions imposed by the Israelis. This has brought the economy to a standstill but it is not so much a case of not having enough money to buy food but rather the fact that there is no food to buy.

Added to this the wanton destruction of Palestinian homes and farms by Israeli settlers is ongoing and no alternative accommodation is provided, meaning that entire families, parents, grandparents, children and infants are left to face the elements and fend for themselves. Olive trees that were planted 50 years ago are being uprooted and destroyed to discourage farmers from returning to the property they have owned and farmed for generations.

The United Nations has declared 2014 to be the Year of Palestinian Solidarity which can only be a good thing. However, in the past, UN interventions in countries around the world have been disappointing at best and the question that begs to be asked is why has the UN not taken action to relieve the suffering of the Palestinian people up to now? In comments made elsewhere the author has made no effort to conceal his disgust at the lack of action by the UN and the seeming indifference of Ban Ki Moon to the suffering of the Palestinians.

Hundreds if not thousands of children, elderly people and the vulnerable face death due to malnourishment within days, not weeks or months. Again, it must be asked, why has this situation been allowed to reach this stage?

International bodies have attempted on several occasions to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza by sending ships laden with food and supplies. Despite the fact that these ships were not carrying weapons or arms but only food and medical supplies the Israelis prevented them from entering port and on one occasion even opened fire on a ship, killing several crew members. In 2012 Israel even demanded that the UN intervene to stop the Estelle, a ship sailing under the Swedish flag from entering Gaza, referring to them as "...less moral than Viking raiders".

There is a humanitarian crisis occurring in Palestine now! It is not hidden. It is happening in full view of the international community,including the United States of American who continues to support Israel and threatens to boycott any action that might be taken against them in the United Nations. Indeed, a newly elected American mayor announced in public that part of his work was to support Israel. At a private gala event hosted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) at the Hilton hotel in midtown Manhattan New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said that "part of his job description is to defend Israel". He went on to say, “……it is "elemental to being an American, because there is no greater ally on earth, and that's something we can say proudly." I wonder just how many Americans he is speaking for because I know a great many that want nothing to do with any support for the Zionist regime.

In a recent report it was announced that there is an internal revolt at OXFAM, an organization that provides food for thousands of needy persons around the world because OXFAM America refuses to support any cause that might be detrimental to Israel’s interests. OXFAM, who has been doing a great deal of good for decades is in danger of losing its credibility in the international arena because of the support of its Global Ambassadors, Scarlett Johansson. In one article published recently it was admitted that, “Although Oxfam has done a lot of lobbying both publicly and privately on the issue of Israeli settlements, it has faced intense resistance from Oxfam America”.

Perhaps America and the UN might answer this simple question: What possible advantage can be had by condemning innocent children, the elderly and anyone else for that matter to a slow death by starvation?


Stewart Sloan is a published author and works as an editor in a regional human rights NGO based in Hong Kong. He became interested in the situation of Palestine several months ago through contact with his friends. This is his first article on this issue and he would welcome the opportunity of becoming more deeply involved. Stewart may be contacted at sloanbooks@gmail.com.