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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 109

Sri Lanka’s Rajan Hoole and Sritharan win International Human Rights Award

Daya Gamage – US Bureau Asian Tribune

Washington, D.C. 04 May (Asiantribune.com): Two Sri Lankans, educationist Rajan Hoole and Kopalasingham Sritharan well known for their life-long passion for the defense of human rights, are the international recipients of the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA).

The Amnesty International announced here that the two Sri Lankans will share the award with Pierre Claver Mbonimpa of Burundi.

The Amnesty International (AI) says that both Hoole and Sritharan, ethnic minority Tamils, at great personal risk to their lives have monitored and documented in regular reports the human rights abuses committed by the Sri Lanka Government as well as the separatist Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka who are fighting the government for an independent state in the predominantly Tamil northern and eastern provinces in Sri Lanka.

But AI admits that both of them are under threat from the Tamil Tigers but does not mention that they are under threat from Sri Lanka government authorities. Prof. Hoole left Sri Lanka last year when his life was in danger from the Tamil Tigers for highlighting their human rights abuses.

Despite AI appeals from both the Sri Lanka Government and Tamil Tigers for their safety, both of them are in fact under threat from one party: the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka.

Tamil Tigers have been fighting for a separate independent state for the minority ethnic Tamil in Sri Lanka saying that they are being discriminated against by the Sri Lanka Government which they say is largely controlled by the majority Sinhalese. Tigers have unilaterally declared themselves as the ‘sole representatives of the Tamil people’ which the government dismissed saying that of the 12.5% Tamils in the country approximately 54% are living in Sinhalese-majority areas and that the Tamil Diaspora in Western countries who once supported the Tamil Tiger cause has now moved away from them due to their blatant violations of human rights of their own Tamil people.

Prof. Hoole and Sritharan have been highlighting the human rights abuses of both warring factions in Sri Lanka, the government and the separatist Tamil Tigers who are known by their popular abbreviation LTTE which stands for Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Hoole fled the country due to death threats to him and to his family by the Tigers.

Rajan Hoole and Kopalasingham Sritharan, co-founders of the University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR), in Jaffna Sri Lanka, have monitored and documented in regular reports the human rights abuses committed by the Sri Lanka Government as well as the Tamil Tigers (LTTE).

At great personal risk they have reported on the effects of armed conflict on children, women, minorities and displaced people over the past 18 years. Since the latest upsurge in fighting, the UTHR has conducted groundbreaking investigations into the most serious atrocities, including the Trinco 5 (January 2, 2006), the Mullaitivu bombing that killed some 51 young women and girls (August 5, 2006), and the execution-style slaying of 17 humanitarian aid workers in Muttur (August 14, 2006).

Often alone in exposing abuses by all parties, both men are under death sentences from the LTTE. Since the assassination of their colleague, Rajani Thiranagama, a young northern university lecturer who was once with the Tigers and later turned against them due their atrocities against innocent Tamils, the two men have been forced to work underground for more than a decade, but their reports are well known in Sri Lanka and abroad.

The Chairman of the Jury of the MEA, Hans Thoolen, describes the laureates as "symbols of the human rights movement in their respective countries, where standing up for human rights and democracy is a dangerous activity". He draws attention to the laureates' principled stand to effectively cover abuses committed by both sides in the conflict. The eleven organizations on the Jury of the Martin Ennals Award call on the Governments of Sri Lanka and Burundi to ensure the safety of the Laureates and allow them to work without harassment. The Ceremony of the Martin Ennals Award will take place in Geneva in October.

The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) is a unique collaboration among eleven of the world's leading human rights organizations to give protection to human rights defenders worldwide. The Jury is composed of the following NGOs: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, International Federation for Human Rights, World Organization Against Torture, International Service for Human Rights, Front Line, International Commission of Jurists, Diakonie Germany, International Alert and Huridocs.

- Asian Tribune -

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