Sri Lanka: Celebrating “Independence” In A Mess

Published by IDN-InDepthNews – 02 February 2017

By Kalinga Seneviratne

On February 4 each year Sri Lanka celebrates the gaining of independence from British colonial rule. 69 years since then, it is appropriate to ask: “what independence?” The country is currently in a real mess brought about by a successful regime change campaign orchestrated by “civil society” groups, which toppled the government of “war-winning” President Mahinda Rajapakse in January 2015.

Today, the country’s foreign minister acts like a colonial era British Viceroy and not as the country’s top diplomat safeguarding the nation’s interests and dignity. The Prime Minister while trying to drum up foreign “investments” acts as if he is willing to sell any part of the country to the highest bidder and the President roams around the island like a colonial-era “gate mudaliyar” attending functions and trying to assure the natives that they are in good hands. Continue reading “Sri Lanka: Celebrating “Independence” In A Mess”

SRI LANKA REMAINS COMMITTED TO RECONCILIATION

By Kalinga Seneviratne | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis and also published by the Asian Journalism Association magazine (South Korea) on 9 June 2014

COLOMBO (IDN) – Rejecting the resolution passed at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on March 27 to mount an ‘independent’ international investigation into alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka, President Mahinda Rajapkase said that Sri Lanka would continue with its own reconciliation process that was started after the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was defeated in May 2009.

The resolution, which was adopted by 24 votes to 12 with 12 abstentions, has been described by the government as a lop-sided vote where most of those voting for it were Europeans. “The EU votes as a block and the US had more than a dozen votes already in the bag while we started with none,” Rajapakse pointed out in a meeting with foreign media representatives in Colombo.

Two days after the vote, posters appeared all over Colombo claiming a moral victory and questioning the UNHRC mandate. It thanked the 24 nations that did not vote for the resolution including giant neighbour India. Government spokespeople have noted that these 24 nations were a better reflection of the views of the international community.

Continue reading “SRI LANKA REMAINS COMMITTED TO RECONCILIATION”

Civil Society: Peoples’ Movements or “DOLLAR CHASING DEMOCRACY VENDORS”?

First published by Gateway (Malaysia) in December 2012 and Re-published by Daily News (Sri Lanka) on 19 April 2013

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By Kalinga Seneviratne

The year 2011 was marked by the birth of the ‘Arab Spring’ where the long­repressed Arab masses, and youth in particular, rose up against aging dictators. At last it seems that freedom and democracy will dawn in the Arab world, but, when these uprisings moved to Libya and now to Syria, big question marks have come up whether these are really peoples’ movements or are they manipulated from outside with sinister motives?

The Anglo­American media – such as the BBC, CNN and a host of others including Al Jazeera (the English channel mainly staffed by Anglo­American journalists anyway) – have manipulated news feeds to cheer lead some “uprisings” such as in Libya and Syria, while quickly forgetting others such as in Bahrain and ramblings in Saudi Arabia. Thus, one wonders whether we are seeing a new era of colonialism through manipulated global news feeds instead of gunboats, where local civil society groups A Syrian man walks amid destruction in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. AFP are becoming “democracy vendors” chasing the “donor” funds.

When youth uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt got rid of long­serving pro­Western dictators it seemed as if the youth of the Arab world were finally rising against dictators who had served Western capitalism well but not their own people. But, when the revolution spread to Libya and the haste at which the controversial ‘Responsibility To Protect ‘ (R2P) formula – for long espoused by the International Crisis Group led by former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans – was adopted by the EU and the U.S. to create a no­fly zone in Libya under the pretext of protecting civilians in Benghazi from a possible assault by pro­Gaddafi Forces, the Western powers’ manipulation of the Arab Spring uprisings soon became blatantly clear.

Once China and Russia were pressured into abstaining from vetoing the ‘no­fly zone’ resolution at the UN Security Council the path was paved for regime change. The NATO bombing campaign in Libya against civilian population centres under Gaddafi rule, made a mockery of the R2P formula. As many critics inside and outside the West have pointed out these NATO bombing campaigns and the way Gaddafi and his son were killed amounted to war crimes.

On November 1, 2011 Luis Moreno­Ocampo, the International Criminal Court ‘s chief prosecutor, told the United Nations that NATO troops would be investigated alongside rebel soldiers and regime forces for alleged breaches of the laws of war during the battle to overthrow Col Muammar Gaddafi. But, compared to the hounding of the Sri Lanka government after it crushed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to end the 30­year old civil war there, the Western media and the human rights organisations, which consistently accuse developing country governments of war crimes, have been silent on this one. Now a new battleground seems to be Syria, where the Western media, and BBC in particular, has been exposed for spreading propaganda against the Assad regime in Syria as news.

Rape and torture – weapons of democracy peddlers

Eric Draitser, a geopolitical analyst at Stopimperialism.com observed that rape and torture have become standard issue in the propaganda arsenal of Western media. “Reports from organizations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that claim to document the systematic use of rape and torture by the ‘enemies’ of the West have become usual fair in the soft war against whomever the imperialists have chosen to attack”, he noted. “We have seen these claims used to legitimize aggression against Libya, Iraq, and now Syria”.

As a typical example he points out an article in UK’s The Telegraph under the heading ‘Syria using rape as weapon against opposition women and men’ published on May 29 this year. It quotes New York based HRW Deputy Director for the Middle East, Nadim Khoury at the beginning of the article as saying: “In detention facilities rape is clearly used as a form of torture to humiliate and degrade people, and to bring back the wall of fear.” There is no reference to Syria in this quote, but the rest of the article is a series of quotes by “refugees”, who have fled across the border from Syria and “activists”. They are all anonymous, because only a common first name is used. Draiter points out that there is no mention of actual Syrian Forces engaging in these actions. Instead, it is all chalked up to ‘militias loyal to the Assad regime’, without explanation who they are.

 

In the run­up to the attacks against Libya last year, the lie that Gaddafi Forces were using rape as a weapon was planted in the public mind, providing NATO the human rights cover they so desperately needed for their “intervention”. Of course, as is so often the case, the fact that these claims were later proven untrue went conveniently missing from the standard narrative. “But, by the time the myth was debunked, the PR damage was done: Gaddafi was a monster, the Benghazi ‘rebels’ and NTC (National Transition Council) were heroic freedom fighters, and Libya was in dire need of the benevolent bombs of NATO” argues Draiter.

Who makes these claims are also important in the propaganda war. The UNHRC, HRW, Amnesty International and countless other organizations which are dependent on funding from sources mainly within the US, lent credence to such charges. The fact that they are often quoted by the Western media and in turn relayed without criticism or questioning by the mainstream media around the world, gives legitimacy to Western interventions and ‘regime change’ campaigns such as in Libya.

Manipulation of imagery

In May, the Russian TV channel RT exposed a BBC news scam where they have posted on their website a picture of a small child jumping over dozens of white body bags under the heading “Syria massacre in Houla condemned as outrage grows”. The caption stated that the photograph was provided by an activist and cannot be independently verified, but said it is “believed to show the bodies of children in Houla awaiting burial”. The actual photograph was taken in March 2003 in Iraq by photographer Marco di Lauro, who works for the picture agency Getty Images. When he came forward and claimed its copyright the BBC quickly took it off their website.

A very useful tool the Western media has used, especially the BBC, CNN and Channel Four in Britain is the video clip provided by activists taken on mobile phones. Often they broadcast these without authentication and international human rights agencies including some UN agencies lap onto these to attack governments for human rights violations. Syria, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Libya, Iran, Russia and a host of other countries whose leaders are not subservient to Western interests have faced the wrath of this news manipulation in recent years.

The new face of colonialism

How Gaddafi was overthrown and a new government was set up is a very important lesson for countries of the South who are either rich in resources or is strategically important for Western powers. While demonizing Gaddafi with trivial stories, the Western media ignored facts, which would have shown that Gaddafi did look after his people well, even though they were not allowed to criticize him like the dictators in most pro­Western Arab regimes do.

For example, in Gaddafi’s Libya education was free to everyone from elementary school right up to university and post­graduate study, at home or abroad, Libyans enjoyed free health care, with a ratio of one doctor per 673 citizens. Libyans were given interest free housing loans, free land for farmers. In 2010, Libya had no external debt and its reserves amount to US$150 billion. Abdurrahim Abdulhafiz El­ Keib, who served as Libya’s Interim Prime Minister from November 24, 2011 to November 11, 2012 has spent decades in the United States teaching at Alabama University. He is also a former employee of the Petroleum Institute, based in Abu Dhabi, and sponsored by British Petroleum (BP), Shell and France’s Total. Current Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was a Geneva­based human rights lawyer, who is believed to have played a crucial role in persuading the French President Nicolas Sarkozy to support the anti­Gaddafi Forces.

It is interesting how the new form of colonialism works. First you get the so­called civil society groups who are funded and trained by the Western powers to provide a pro­democracy movement from within (or among exile groups in the West). When these attract violent reprisals from Security Forces (who are often provoked) it creates the excuse for “humanitarian intervention” the so­called ‘R2P’ gospel. Three hundred years ago it were the Christian missionaries who followed the gunboats, today international human rights groups like HRW and International Crisis Group have taken over that role to civilize the natives.

They would help to provide the cover of a new dawn of democracy with a sham election ­ which will be praised by the Western media as a reflection of new found freedom for the long repressed people ­ and this will pave the way for their choice, usually a technocrat who has been based in the West and a “native” just by name to take over the helms.

NGO funding under scrutiny

No wonder that recently, governments around the world have begun to look at such democracy movements with a high degree of suspicion. With the rapid escalation of “democracy movements” across the world, governments, local researchers and media, along with a number of independent websites modeled on ‘wikileaks’ have been uncovering mounting evidence of Western funded local NGOs acting as “content providers” to Western media outlets to discredit their own governments. Lately these pro­ democracy movements have even taken a new face as corruption campaigners and environmental activists.

Two of the biggest funders of such “pro­democracy” campaigners are the US­based National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the Open Society Foundation run by financial speculator George Soros.

The list of projects funded by the NED across the world in 2011 is available on their website and it makes interesting reading.

In Myanmar 56 projects have been funded to the tune of USD 3.4 million, in China 23 projects have received a sum of USD 5.16 million, while in Egypt 40 projects were funded for a sum of USD 2.5 million, Iraq had 51 projects at USD 3.4 million, while four projects in Syria were funded for a sum of USD 649,000 and Libya received USD 473,000 for five projects. No projects were funded in Bahrain (where the US’s 7th Fleet is based and pro­democracy uprisings by pro­Iranian Shia groups have been crushed) while only one project each in Saudi Arabia and Gulf states were funded, though these countries lack democracy, but are subservient to the West.

Most of the projects generally cover areas such as human rights, pro­democracy and alternative media, labour rights and good governance.

The Saudi project was for women’s voices in community affairs, in China most of the money were allocated for human rights groups, while in Myanmar most of the funding was for projects to strengthen civil society and promote human rights.

There are hardly any projects that address issues such as international trade justice, human rights of migrant workers, promotion of public funding for social welfare or promotion of the millennium development goals as a human rights issue. There are however, many projects that promote development of private enterprise. The fact that most of the projects are geared towards confronting governments on human rights issues such as freedom of expression and right to demonstrate should raise the question whether those NGOs are peddling democracy for dollars.

In the past year or so, a number of governments such as India, Russia, Sri Lanka, Venezuela, Bolivia, Egypt and Malaysia have taken action by legislating to monitor foreign funding to NGOs and make them accountable.

In February last year, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh blamed US­funded activists for the protests against a Russian­built nuclear plant in Kundankulam in Tamil Nadu state, and de­registered three local NGOs involved in the protest. India has also moved to tighten regulations on foreign funding of NGOs.

Egypt also began a crack­down on foreign­funded NGOs with 43 NGO workers including 19 Americans, charged in an Egyptian criminal court over illegally using foreign funds to encourage unrest in the country last year.

Egypt’s ruling military council vowed to investigate how pro­democracy and human rights organisations are funded, and has repeatedly said it will not tolerate foreign interference in the country’s affairs.

Last July, Russia passed new laws that require NGOs receiving foreign funds to register as “foreign agents”. President Putin accused Hillary Clinton of “sending signals” to the opposition to rise up in revolt and called Russians working for foreign­ funded NGOs “jackals”. The new law would force many NGOs to register as “foreign agents” and submit to stringent monitoring, facing crippling fines for failure to do so.

Recently, The Malaysian government has been worried about foreign funds flowing into the coffers of NGOs that are campaigning against corruption, but, are actually aligned with the election campaign of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, a well­known pro­Western politician in the country.

Prof Tan Sri Khoo Kay Kim the nation’s well­known historian, who also sits on the board of Integrity Institute of Malaysia said foreign funding for NGOs makes the public very uncomfortable and suspicious of the recipients.

“It also makes one to question whether the NGOs are in it for the money or for a cause,” he noted. “They claim to fight for justice and human rights, but foreign funding raises so many questions. It’s not morally right to receive such funding, but if you have to get it, please declare it publicly”.

Why swallow Western propaganda on Zimbabwe?

Published by Daily News (Sri Lanka) on 12 July 2008 and posted in many Zimbabwean websites

By Kalinga SENEVIRATNE

Mugabe

Six years ago, I drove from Kruger National Park in South Africa to Johannesburg a good 6 hours or so by road. For most of the journey we travelled through White-owned farmland which reminded me of driving in the countryside in Australia (where I lived for 20 years).

Most of the farms were mechanised and the only Blacks we saw were a handful of labourers and maids playing with White children and every car we passed were driven by Whites. The farmlands seem prosperous and the Whites very rich. But, when we came to the outskirts of Johannesburg, we came across the teeming Black townships on the hills with its tin sheds, lack of infrastructure and poverty.

I told my wife I wonder for how long these people will be patient with the ANC (African National Congress) government. Very soon they are going to turn around and ask from the ANC where are the dividends of the liberation struggle for us?

These days when I tune to the BBC or read a news report on Zimbabwe, what I saw in South Africa always come to my mind. What we hear in these reports is about a brutal dictator not about how Black aspirations could be satisfied in a Zimbabwe liberated from White colonial rule over 25 years ago.

As a journalist I always wonder, some 50 years after liberating ourselves from White colonial rule are we yet to liberate our minds from White colonialism? Why is the Asian media swallowing Western media propaganda and reproducing it here? Have we not learned the lessons from weapons of mass destruction reporting saga that led to the world endorsing the Bush-Blair misadventure in Iraq?

Now that we have heard a lot of the propaganda in the past few months let us look at the historic facts and recent political developments, which have led to the sad situation in Zimbabwe.

Beginning in 1889, diamond miner Cecil Rhodes and his band of British imperialists systematically grabbed land occupied by the Shona people for over 1000 years.

Each volunteer in these imperialist wars were given 6000 acres of captured land. When the villagers returned to their land they were treated as tenants. Gradually the Whites developed commercial farming in these lands and the Blacks became their workers?” if not slaves.

In 1966 Robert Mugabe along with fellow Black nationalist Joshua Nkomo began a guerrilla war of liberation where the ‘land question’ was the major issue.

The 1979 Lancaster House agreement hammered out in London paved the way for independence in 1980 and Mugabe’s subsequent landslide election win.

Under the Lancaster House constitution the Zimbabwe Government could only buy white land from willing sellers. When this expired after 10 years, the government passed a law empowering it to make compulsory purchases.

Twenty years after the 1980 liberation from White-rule some 4500 White farmers owned 70 percent of the best farmlands in the country. Thus, since March 2000, a group of war veterans of Mugabe ZANU-PF ruling party has occupied many White-owned farms claiming this as their dividends for fighting the war of liberation.

Addressing the FAO Food Summit in Rome last month, President Mugabe said: Over the past decade, Zimbabwe has democratized the land ownership patterns in the country, with over 300,000 previously landless families now proud landowners.

Previously, this land was owned by a mere 4,000 farmers, mainly of British stock, he reiterated. While this land reform programme has been warmly welcomed by the vast majority of our people, it has however, and regrettably so, elicited wrath from our former colonial masters.

In retaliation for the measures we took to empower the black majority, the United Kingdom has mobilized her friends and allies in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand to impose illegal economic sanctions against Zimbabwe.

President Mugabe went on to list the economic sanctions they have imposed, which includes cutting off all development assistance, disable lines of credit, prevent the Bretton Woods institutions from providing FINANCIAL assistance and order private companies in the United States not to do business with Zimbabwe.

All this has been done to cripple Zimbabwe’s economy and thereby effect illegal regime change in our country he claimed, adding, funds are being chanelled through non-governmental organizations (NGO) to opposition political parties, which are a creation of the West.

Further, these Western funded NGOs also use food as a political weapon with which to campaign against Government, especially in the rural areas.

While the Western media will dismiss these comments as the ranting of a dictator hell bent on clinging to power it is important that we analyse these comments and subsequent developments in the economic and political spheres with an objective mindset.

While researching for this piece I read many commentaries written in African websites by Africans many of whom are sceptical about British and Western concern for democracy in Zimbabwe. Many are questioning opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s refusal to attend a meeting on reconciliation brokered by the South African President Mbeki.

Five times he asked President Mbeki to broker a meeting with President Mugabe, yet fails to pitch up observed talkzimbabwe.com.

It also pointed out British hypocrisy asking: Is it not ironic that when the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change led by Professor Arthur Mutambara was meeting with Presidents Robert Mugabe and Thabo Mbeki, the British Foreign Secretary David Miliband was calling for President Mugabe to go?

Zimbabwe had been a very peaceful country before the coming of Morgan Tsvangirai as a political party leader.

He came through the British to disturb the government of President Robert Mugabe because of his land reform policy observed Cyprian Monju writing in The Post of Cameroon. I think they are doing so because the White minority are of British extraction.

Commenting on the recent decision of the International Cricket Council (ICC) not to expel Zimbabwe from the sports governing body, Dileep Premachandran of Cricketinfo.com observed that the South Asian cricketing nations India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh supported Zimbabwe because there is deep-rooted suspicion about Western double standards.

Robert Mugabe was an honoured guest at the African Union summit in Egypt recently, and his host was Hosni Mubarak, who won the last election in 2005 with 88.6 percent of the vote after the main opposition was banned from taking part, he noted. Britain and the United States continue to TRADE and do business with Mubarak and Egypt.

Human-rights violations worse than those committed by Zanu-PF’s thugs have been reported from Darfur, Tibet and Guantanamo Bay. Yet, Gordon Brown and other guardians of human rights are hardly likely to start a campaign against the US or China added Premachandran.

In his speech in Rome last month, President Mugabe also said that his Government has embarked on a programme to harness improved water supplies through building small and medium sized dams in all districts of the country.

To cushion farmers from the rising cost of agricultural inputs, the Government has also put in place supportive programmes, which include the Crop and Livestock Input Credit Scheme and the Agricultural Sector Productivity Enhancement Facility which extend loans to farmers, for working capital and equipment at concessionary interest rates.

Zimbabwe has embarked on the development of its bio-energy sector in 2004. It is gratifying to note that Zimbabwe’s bio-energy sector draws its feed stock primarily from a non-food crop, the Jatropha plant. The choice of Jairopha is a deliberate government policy to avoid competition between our food needs and fuel security needs, said President Mugabe.

It is interesting to examine whether these policies are being undermined by the economic sanctions, and the campaign against President Mugabe being waged by western-funded NGOs and politicians in the country. If that is so, who is violating human rights in Zimbabwe? We need to make sure that we get a better balanced story rather than succumb to Western media propaganda.

UN’S HUMAN RIGHTS JUDGEMENTS TEND TO BE SELECTIVE

By Kalinga Seneviratne | IDN-InDepthNews Analysis 4 October 2015

Making a statement during its latest session in Geneva, UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein lamented that many of their member states do not tolerate criticism and scrutiny and there is an increasing trend of governments moving to restrict and persecute voices of civil society.
“I, together with many of my colleagues at the office, feel exhausted and angry,” Zeid said. “Exhausted, because the system is barely able to cope, given the resources available to it, while human misery accelerates . . . And angry, because it seems that little that we say will change this. Unless we change dramatically in how we think and behave as international actors.”
Perhaps Prince Zeid would have found answers to his misery if he took a close look at how his own organization – UNHRC – functions.
If you go through the list of issues the UNHRC’s just concluded 30th session dealt with, most of the resolutions were directed at weak and small countries like Somalia, Yemen, Cambodia, Sudan and Sri Lanka, while the human rights violations perpetuated by rich countries such as the U.S., UK, France, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in their bombing campaigns in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan were virtually ignored.
There has been no debate at all at the UNHRC nor for that matter at the UN General Assembly about the so-called “regime change” or “R2P” (Right to Protect) ideology of the West that has been destablising countries that are not serving western strategic interests and putting millions of people into desperate situations, and at the mercy of human traffickers to flee to the West.
The UN’s double standards took a gigantic step forward when it was revealed during the latest sessions that the UNHRC has hidden from public knowledge the appointment of a Saudi Arabian official to a top position at the Council.
Faisal bin Hassan Trad, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the United Nations at Geneva, was appointed in June as the head of the five-member Consultative Group, a significant UNHRC panel. His election, however, remained unreported until September 20, when UN Watch, a Geneva-based NGO, reported his re-appointment, citing a UN document dated September 17.
The Consultative Group is tasked with choosing officials for 77 positions to address country-specific and thematic human rights cases across the world. The revelation of the appointment has prompted massive international outcry with some human rights groups calling it as “grotesque”, “outrageous”, and “scandalous”.
Saudi Arabia ranks 164 out of 180 countries in Reporters Sans Frontiers Press Freedom Index. While Saudi Arabia has rejected rising calls for political reforms, Amnesty International pointed out that other human rights concerns include the death penalty, with more than 2,000 people executed between 1985 and 2013; the arrest, imprisonment and harassment of large members of the Shia Muslim community and other minority groups; long-standing exploitation and abuse of migrant workers by private and state employers; and continued discrimination against women in law and practice.
While no demands are made on Saudi Arabia to allow the UN to investigate these human rights violations, a resolution on Syria adopted by 29 votes to 6 demanded that the Syrian authorities cooperate fully with the Human Rights Council and the Commission of Inquiry by granting it immediate, full and unfettered access throughout the country, but the resolution did not address the effects of bombing campaigns on civilians and exploitation of refugees by human traffickers.
A resolution on Sri Lanka was adopted by consensus with 38 countries co-sponsoring it, 34 of them European and Western nations and only 2 Asian countries – Japan and South Korea – and Sri Lanka as well as one African, Sierra Leone. The resolution included clauses to set up a form of hybrid courts in Sri Lanka to persecute alleged war crimes when the Sri Lankan forces defeated the terror group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009.
Sri Lanka’s co-sponsoring of the resolution has been widely criticized back home as a capitulation to a six-year witch-hunt carried out by the UNHRC with the support of the West against Sri Lanka. Many critics have argued that the hybrid courts idea is a drawback to the colonial era where “White” judges sat on the bench of Sri Lankan courts.
“It is quasi-colonial because we have not seen a combination of Sri Lankan and foreign judges or lawyers since the days of British colonialism. That’s how far back this resolution takes us,” warned political scientist Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, a former Sri Lankan Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva and a Vice-President of the UNHRC.
Former President Mahinda Rajapakse, who led the successful war against the LTTE and a target of this proposed court system, in an interview with the Press Trust of India questioned the independence of UNHRC investigations against Sri Lanka. He argued that their independence is questionable because the UNHRC is funded for the most part not through the regular budget of the UN but through “voluntary contributions” from the very Western states that sponsored the resolution against Sri Lanka.
“Important staff positions in this body are held by Westerners who make up half the cadre of the OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) . . . given the composition of the OHCHR, it would not be possible to expect an impartial inquiry from them,” he added, explaining why his government refused to cooperate with the UN body.
After submitting a report to the just concluded 30th session of the UNHRC by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria (UNCIS), Commissioners expressed palpable frustration with the slow pace of negotiations towards reaching a political solution to the crisis.
The report pointed out that for nearly five years, Syria has been mired in conflict, which began in 2011 when the Government launched a violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators seeking more economic and political rights and civil liberties. The conflict has escalated and splintered over the years, with hardline religious and ideological groups jostling for power and position across the country.
It has led to a mass displacement of civilians – of the 23 million residing in Syria before the conflict – 8 million are now internally displaced, while 4 million have fled to neighbouring countries.
Referring to the Islamic terror groups playing havoc in the Middle East and the equally violent response from those who want to crush them, Prince Zeid said in a statement to the UN General Assembly on September 29 that “ISIL and its acolytes will not be defeated by military means alone. Nor will it be enough to cut off ISIL’s financing, or to craft slick so-called ‘narratives’ of success. People need real hope”.
This “real hope” may not come merely through freedom of speech. Perhaps, it is time that UNHRC and the international human rights community reconsidered their strategies of funding “civil society” groups to mount “Arab Springs” that destablise stable countries, create chaos and leave the people worse off.
One may need to ponder if economic and social stability is more important than freedom of expression.