Friday, 30 September 2011

Somalia- where do we go from here?

The aid agency official looked at me across the table, lowered his voice and spelt out the situation: “hundreds of thousands of people are going to die…and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

It is not that donations towards famine relief in Somalia have been overtly inadequate across the board, although certain states such as Italy (putting up just $9.5 million) and South Africa (a pathetic $1.2 million) have utterly failed in their moral responsibility to halt the ever-growing humanitarian catastrophe.  In the UK public donations have surpassed $78 million and even in Kenya, itself affected by the drought, normal people have dug deep to the tune of some $7million for their Somali neighbours.  Governments and regional groupings have also been rising to the challenge; the US is leading with $593 million, followed by the EU with a collective $267 million.

Al-Shabab Somalia famineMore funds are desperately needed – but by far the most critical issue is that aid cannot reach eighty percent of  the areas where it is needed.  This is largely due to Al-Shabab, the vile Islamist militia that is blocking aid deliveries, preventing refugees from escaping and attacking areas controlled by the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).  However it is not alone in hampering the humanitarian relief effort: a recent report from Human Rights Watch highlights how the TFG itself, along with allied militia such as Ras Kamboni and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a (backed by Ethiopia) and others backed by Kenya, have all prevented civilians in their areas from receiving assistance, either actively through their oppressive control mechanisms or inadvertently through their military activities and damage to infrastructure.

So far, attempts to halt the various overlapping conflicts between these groups and protect those caught in the crossfire have been woefully inadequate.  The beleaguered UN-mandated African Union (AU) peacekeeping force has been constantly beset by inadequate resources and ill discipline.  Even with the promised 3000 extra troops from Sierra Leone and Djibouti, the force will stand at just 12 000, far short of the 20 000 estimated to be required, and authorised by the UN.  The recent murder of journalists covering the famine by Burundian peacekeepers, has shone further light on the lack of control within the ranks; indeed the AU force received strong criticism in the Human Rights Watch Report.

This leaves the international community with a horrendous dilemma when it comesSomalia Famine Relief to creating an environment in which aid can be effectively and safely delivered to the three quarters of a million Somali people at risk of imminent starvation.  Supporting the TFG, the dominant focus so far, is likely to achieve little and could even be counter-productive if if its abusive authorities continue to hamper relief efforts and abuse human rights.  Similarly, channelling funds into the AU force may well boost its numbers but, given its incompetence so far and the control exercised by pseudo-psychotic dictators such as Yoweri Museveni, may prove equally fruitless.

The Dutch government has taken something of a fresh approach, continuing support to the TFG and the AU whilst taking a tough line on their performance and concurrently strengthening local authorities and the governments of autonomous regions, which may hold more legitimacy and ultimately more chance of stabilising the areas under their control. 

The USA has also continued unilateral drone attacks against Al-Shabab targets.  Though these present numerous objections and are currently focussed on killing high-profile militants rather than enabling relief, they should not be wholly written off as the left is often so keen to do.  Air attacks against militant groups that are actively disrupting aid efforts, or against their weapons dumps, should at least be discussed. 

Whatever the solution, a change of tact is needed – and fast.  Standing by and letting almost a million die of starvation is simply not an option, but aid by itself is not enough.  The authorities, the militias and even the peacekeepers must all be addressed if the food, water and medicine is to reach those who need it….before they are beyond help.

Somalia Famine Child     

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Troy Davis…and the road from Georgia

There is very little to say about the execution of Troy Davis that has not already been said.  In the end the State of Georgia authorities went ahead- and they did it with the whole world watching.

Troy Davis murderedIn a final cruel twist, Troy was given a temporary reprieve at the moment he was scheduled to be executed.  Few who watched the footage of celebrations outside the prison and of Amnesty Director Larry Cox breaking away mid-interview in euphoric disbelief, will ever forget the excitement and relief of that moment.  Nor will we forget the crushing horror when just hours later news broke that Troy was being strapped to a table and killed.

Seconds before he was injected with drugs to destroy his organs, he calmly proclaimed his innocence once more.  The most shocking aspect of this whole saga is that he may well have been telling the truth. 

With no physical evidence linking him to the 1989 murder of which he was accused, seven out of nine witness testimonies retracted, clear signs of police corruption and credible suggestions that another man (one of the two remaining witnesses) was is fact the real killer- all combine to make Troy’s innocence distinctly credible.  At the very least they cast too much doubt on his supposed guilt to justify keeping him in detention without a retrial, let alone taking his life.

The judges, prosecutors and parole board have put to death a man who may well have done nothing wrong.  They will have to live with that.  As will Barak Obama- the flailing president who has gone from disappointment to disappointment but has scraped new lows by remaining silent as one of his citizens was killed in what resembled nothing more than a twenty-first century lynching. 

He will also have to face up to the legacy that his government and the Georgian State authorities have left for future American presidents and politicians who try to speak out against executions in China, Iran or Somalia.  The CCP, Ayatollah’s and Al-Shabab can simply answer any criticism of brutality or rigged justice with two words: Troy Davis.

In this context, it is worth recalling the particularly dark moments on the final day of Troy’s life when Georgia’s parole board first blocked all e-mails sent via the Amnesty International Website, then blocked incoming correspondence altogether.  Such was the perverse lust for blood, that they were willing to side-line the people’s democratic right to speak out against the decision.

Yet while the road to that death chamber in Georgia was paved with corruption, savagery, incompetence and a callous disregard for human rights, the road onwards will be built by the very people who tried so hard to get their message across – right up until the moment when Troy took his last breath. 

As those hell-bent on killing Troy regardless of his potential innocence rubbed their hands at his impending execution, thousands upon thousands more throughout the world took a stand.  Protests were held at US embassies, #troydavis #toomuchdoubt and #theworldiswatching took over twitter and the Amnesty International website crashed under the weight of supporters flooding on.

People who had never before been involved in human rights activism have come out in defiance against this most shameful moment in US history.  People who have been involved for years have been reinvigorated by the passion and support shown from London to Sydney and from Paris to New York. 

On the morning of his execution Troy Davis stated The struggle for justice doesn’t end with me. This struggle is for all the Troy Davis’s who came before me and all the ones who will come after me.” That means Reggie Clemons and the other death-row inmates in the USA who’s ‘guilt’ is just a tenuous as Troy’s was.  That means the Iranian men and women sent to the gallows for being gay.  That means the Tibetans put before firing squad for protesting against the occupation of their land.  

The road from Georgia will be a long and hard one, but at the end of the road is the prize worth fighting for: the end of the death penalty…everywhere and forever.

Troy Davis

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Burma- perestroika or ploy?

Amongst a strange combination of developments there is one question on the minds of all Burma watchers and activists right now: what is the regime up to?

Aung San Suu Kyi Thein SeinOn the one hand is a seemingly historic shift: Aung San Suu Kyi, released last year, has held an unprecedented face-to-face meeting with President Thein Sein; she has stated that she is happy with the outcome and a senior official has reportedly surmised that “we see her as a potential partner, not an adversary."  Meanwhile, bans have been lifted on websites such as BBC Burmese, Radio Free Asia and Democratic Voice of Burma; exiles have been promised leniency and invited to return home; and the military-controlled parliament has passed a motion calling for a mass release of political prisoners.

Yet at the same time journalists are being locked up and media outlets shut down, political prisoners are being denied adequate medical treatment; and brutal attacks against ethnic minority villages, most likely amounting to Crimes Against Humanity, are continuing unabated.

We could of course, be witnessing something a slow transformation from a low base.  Indeed, democracy campaigners would be unwise to write off the apparent progress in some areas because of a failure to move on on in others.  There are certainly changes to be welcomed and it should always be borne in mind that any transition will never occur overnight.  The regime, following revolution in 2007 and huge international pressure in the wake of Cyclone Nargis in 2008, recognising that Aung San Suu Kyi remains enormously popular and watching dictators across the Arab World topple, may have genuinely decided that the time has come for gradual liberalisation.

Equally, it would be naive to view developments without scepticism and appreciation that we could instead be witnessing a cynical government ploy rather than a Burmese perestroika.  There is just too much that does not add up: why would a liberalising government launch fresh attacks on ethnic minority groups?  Why would a government seeking to engage Aung San Suu Kyi, ruthlessly evict patients from an HIV/AIDS hospital in response to her visit there? Why would a political elite with their eyes on transition go to such pains to rig an election?  And why, if they were easing up on political prisoners, would they carry out a sham amnesty, branded a ‘sick joke’ by human rights organisations? 

The regime certainly stands to gain from appearing to give ground: it has its sights set on the Chair of ASEAN in 2014 and holds out hope of weakening the international sanctions regime that it currently faces.  There is also the ominous possibility that the apparent relaxation is designed to ‘lure out’ opponents: Reporters Without Borders noted surveillance in internet cafes was upped just before opposition sites were unblocked, whilst the call for exiles to return would leave them vulnerable to re-arrest or worse.  It would not be the first time that a dictatorship has apparently relaxed its stance, only to crack down hard on those taking advantage of political breathing space. 

The third possibility is that this is neither Naypyidawan opening up nor a calculated scheme but simply the latest in the regime’s long line of bizarre and irrational moves.  General Then Shwe, who held power since 1992 and still pulls the strings behind the nominally civilian government, constructed a new capital city in the jungle surrounded by stone statues of worrier gods, apparently at the advice of fortune tellers or out of a paranoid fear that the USA would invade.  His government transferred Suu Kyi from house arrest to Insein Jail-one of the most notorious in the world, just eighteen months before going on to release her from detention altogether.  And they recklessly jeopardised relations with China, their patron and one of their only allies, by launching a sudden attack on the Kokang region and driving ten thousand refugees across the Chinese border.

These are not the acts of rational men, but rather of eccentric and somewhat unstable tyrants.  It is perfectly conceivable therefore, that this latest round of apparent liberalisation may not fit into any kind of structured plan at all but simply be a continuation of the kind of political idiocy Burma has suffered under for decades.

Nevertheless, whatever the rationale (or lack of) behind these moves, Aung San Suu Kyi and the democracy movement will soon face a tough choice:

They could continue with dialogue and risk legitimising or easing the lot of a regime that may go on persecuting the Burmese people.

Or they could demand the release of all political prisoners and an end to attacks on ethnic minorities as a pre-requisite to talks continuing; but in doing so risk jeopardising, perhaps permanently, any chance of further conversation.

All the while, the duty of activists around the world should be to follow democracy campaigner Ben Roger’s advice of ‘work and see’ not ‘wait and see’.  With so little certainty and so much at stake we must do what we can for the Burmese people right now: by financially and practically supporting the democracy movement, protecting refugees and encouraging international pressure against the regime. 

This could be a historic time – it is up to campaigners inside and outside Burma to make it historic for all the right reasons. 

Suu Kyi

Monday, 19 September 2011

Book Review: Why China Will Never Rule the World

Why China Will Never Rule the World.jpgWhy China Will Never Rule the World is the exciting new book from Troy Parfitt, a Canadian ex-pat who, after a decade of living in Taiwan, sets off on a three month journey through China to challenge the widely-held perception of it’s impending dominance.

And challenge it he does: through a thoroughly detailed account of his journey, Parfitt paints a picture of a state that is significantly impoverished, endemically corrupt, stiflingly authoritarian and suffocating under chronic mismanagement as well as deep-seated and widespread social problems.  On this basis he concludes that there is little chance of China 'ruling the world' in social or economic terms, despite what many in politics, business and the media may seem to believe.

Of course there is nothing revolutionary about challenging the view of China’s unstoppable rise per se.  Authors such as James Kygne (China Shakes the World), and Will Hutton (The Writing on the Wall), have already made convincing cases that China's many problems, from the lack of basic freedoms to the CCPs constant interference in economic matters, may well slow or even derail its ascent.  Where Parfitt's work does offer a unique slant however, is in its focus 'on the ground' - addressing ordinary twenty-first century Chinese people in their day-to-day lives.

Whilst it lacks some of the academic clout of Kynge or Hutton therefore, it offers a highly valuable complement to their outlook by providing the reader with a picture of the 'real China' and the lives of its billion people; something that no China-watcher, or indeed anyone with an interest in international affairs, can afford to ignore.

This approach also makes the book incredibly readable and enjoyable, with Parfitt's political analysis and fascinating whistle-stop history lessons broken up by amusing anecdotes of his encounters with locals and fellow travellers.

It is worth noting that human rights activists may find Why China Will Never Rule the Wold slightly lacking. Parfitt highlights the general authoritarian nature of the CCP (comparisons to Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four are frequent) and touches upon  issues such as the death penalty, persecution of Falun Gong and press restrictions.  However he does not dig deep into the abuses, only briefly covers Tibet and never makes it to East Turkestan.  Nevertheless, those activists seeking to expand their general knowledge of contemporary China will find it an informative insight - and a genuinely good read.

‘Why China Will Never Rule the World’ is out now.  It is available in paperback or e-book.

If you would like to send a review copy of your book to feature on The Activist please contact

Sunday, 11 September 2011

North Korea- a monumental task…and a duty to act

Mass concentration camps where thousands are tortured, executed or worked to death are almost invariably associated with the Nazis and a bygone period of gross inhumanity unsurpassed ever since.  Yet away from the eyes, and all to often the attention, of the international community, such camps exist at this very moment – in North Korea.

The similarities between the regimes of Kim Jong-Il and Adolf Hitler are in fact farAmnesty International North Korea Concentration Camp Satellite Image closer than many world leaders would be comfortable to admit: even gas chambers and human experimentation have been documented by defectors.  And the scale of the atrocities is almost incomprehensible: satellite photographs obtained by Amnesty International earlier this year reveal a network of camps estimated to hold as many as two hundred thousand detainees.

These people are often held for crimes that were committed by family members, sometimes before they themselves were even born.  In North Korea, guilt by association is built into the oppressive legal system and falling foul of the regime is enough to condemn a family for three generations; as a consequence many of those detained are just children- forced to undertake gruelling manual labour and held in inhumane conditions.  One report describes a child thrown into a tiny cell, too small to stand up or lie down in, for a period of eight months.  Like the adult detainees they regularly risk starvation or freezing to death without clothes or shelter in the gruelling winters.

But despite the extent of this barbarity, governments and even major human rights organisations have been reluctant to tackle it head on.  Their reasons are clear: the issue of nuclear weapons, which overshadows all dealings with North Korea; Kim Jong-Il’s proximity to China, and the diplomatic protection that brings; the difficulty of obtaining information about such a secretive state from which escape is so rare; and the overwhelming pessimism of ever achieving real progress.

Yet all of this is about to change.

Over the past week more than thirty human rights organisations have come together to form The International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea.  The magnitude of this is dramatic: North Korean defectors and refugees, joining with veterans of freedom struggles around the world and experienced organisations to take on the regime in an unprecedented manner.

Stop the North Korean HolocaustTheir first goal- to achieve a U.N. Commission of Inquiry on crimes against humanity in North Korea, is certainly an achievable one.  With some twenty-two thousand North Korean refugees in South Korea alone there is a huge pool of potential evidence, even if Kim Jon-Il’s regime expectedly refuse to allow access to a UN Rapporteur.  The organisations involved also have the resources to support an investigation – which owing the scale and nature of the atrocities in question would be hard for UN member states to block, even with China seeking to protect its client.

Of course many will ask what such an inquiry will actually achieve?  Certainly it will not bring instant respite for the those trapped in North Korea’s modern day Birkenaus; but it will reflect an historic step forward in the struggle for human rights there.  Ha Tae Keung, President of Open North Korea points out that the new coalition will ”help move human rights to centre stage in all of the international community’s interactions with North Korea” –something that will inevitably be bolstered if the Commission of Inquiry is secured.  States will no longer be able to side-line the concentration camps, torture and execution as they discuss nuclear and security issues, shifting the plight of those suffering to the highest diplomatic levels.

It will also present a further obstacle to China’s appalling deportations of those who manage to cross the border.  For over a decade the international community has protested against Chinese authorities returning refugees to face death or a life of torture, so far with little success.  A formal Commission of Inquiry, will at least be harder to flagrantly violate, perhaps protecting some escapees from the horrors that would await their return.  Even that would make it worthwhile.

Perhaps most importantly of all though; this is the start of a concerted fight-back against atrocities that the world has ignored for too long.  With a leadership handover looming, and the recent illustrations that even the most entrenched regimes can come crashing down, this could be the opportune moment.  Those involved in the International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea have a monumental task ahead of them.  They need, and deserve, all of our support.

North Korea Concentration Camp

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Troy Davis and the death of innocence

Troy DavisHis name has been at the forefront of the worldwide anti death penalty movement for over a decade, but Troy Davis may now be in the final weeks of his life. Today his execution was set for 21st September at 7:00pm local time in Georgia, USA.

For those not familiar with his case, Davis was convicted of murdering a police officer during a late-night confrontation outside a fast food restaurant in 1989.  Always protesting his innocence, he was convicted on eye-witness testimony, due to an absence of any physical link to the crime.  However, the validity of this was thrown into doubt in the years following the trial, as a picture emerged of witnesses being harassed, assaulted and even threatened with execution by police officers. 

It takes just a handful of the many quotes compiled in Amnesty International’s damning 2007 report on the case to highlight the context in which the testimonies were given: 

“I got tired of them harassing me, and they made it clear that the only way they would leave me alone is if I told them what they wanted to hear. I told them that Troy told me he did it, but it wasn’t true.”

“I was real tired because it was the middle of the night and I was pregnant too… I
was scared that if I didn’t do what the police wanted me to do, then they would try to
lock me up again.”

“I remember that they asked a lot of questions and typed up a statement which theyTroy Davis No Murder Weapon told me to sign. I did not read the statement before I signed. In fact, I have not seen it before today.”

“They told me that I was going to the electric chair. They got in my face and yelled at me a lot. The cops then told me that I did the shooting over in Cloverdale. I just kept telling them that I didn’t do anything, but they weren’t hearing that. After four or five hours, they told me to sign some papers. I just wanted to get the hell out of there.”

Such a situation is perhaps understandable: police officers angry at the murder of their colleague, under strenuous public pressure, during a time when regulations and standards of conduct were lower, and terrified at the prospect of no one ever being brought to trial – stooping to the lowest possible grounds in order to secure a conviction. 

Though if understandable it is never acceptable: for building a case on this makes a mockery of justice, particularly when in the absence of physical evidence, witness testimony is the only basis for the case.  Now, seven of the nine original key witnesses have formally retracted their statements (one of the remaining two was another suspect in the case) whilst others who were nearby the crime scene or who knew Davis have highlighted additional evidence, that may have helped the defence, but was ignored by the police and prosecution at the time. 

Of course, this does not vindicate Davis, but it raises serious questions about his guilt; so serious that in 2009 a juror in the case stated that “Troy Davis would not be on death row” if she had known back then what she knew now.

Like in the case of Reggie Clemons in Missouri, a man is set to be locked to a table and pumped full of poisonousness chemicals on the back of a case that is riddled with doubt, malpractice and hugely infirm evidence.  The strongest case against the death penalty in the USA right now is the possibility that innocent people are being executed.  Before even addressing the inhumanity of judicial murder or the undermining of international standards, the fact stands that in the cases of Davis, Clemons and numerous others – based on evidence that appears to be coerced, I am Troy Davisfabricated or simply incorrect. the jury may have got it wrong. 

There is however, still hope.  Davis’ execution has already been scheduled and postponed three times (in 2008 being called off with less than two hours to go); due to a combination of legal challenges and a global campaign that has been supported by thousands including Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI and even a former FBI director, as well as the European Union and Amnesty International. 

If pressure over the coming days can secure another stay, a strong signal will be sent and there may be a genuine chance to  review Davis’ case to the full and thorough extent that he, and all those living under US law, deserve.

Execution Chamber 2

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Not a drop to drink?

We can provide half a billion people with safe drinking water, in the next four years, for just 0.16% of world GDP.

Three things make it enormously difficult to grasp the enormity of that statement-one of the conclusions of the new UN Green Economy Report:

Firstly we have to comprehend half a billion human beings: more than the total population of the USA and about the same as the entirety of the European Union. 

Unsafe drinking waterSecondly we have to truly realise the importance of safe drinking water; a hard task for those of us in the developed world who take it for granted that we can turn on the tap or get a bottle from the fridge, rather than face the choice of dying from thirst or walking miles for a bucket of rancid, disease-ridden water that will leave us bed ridden with parasites, or worse still, cause our child to die of cholera, dysentery or diarrhoea.

Thirdly we need to ask how, with the potential to change so many lives with such a marginal redirection of national funds, we have not already ended water poverty.

One billion people go without clean water - every single day.  Four thousand children die because of this- every single day.  And for less that one quarter of one percent of spending by developed nations, we can halve these statistics by halfway through the decade.

If giving people this lifeline isn’t enough in itself, the knock-on benefits for health, food and economies are tremendous.  Vast burdens will be lifted off rudimentary healthcare systems, more water will be available for growing crops and far more people will be well enough to work.  A recent parliamentary motion led by the campaign group Water Aid notes that investment in clean water provides an eightfold return.

And all this at a drastically low cost for developed states.  In fact, the majority of theMillenium development goals capital needed could be encompassed in the 0.7% overseas aid commitment at the heart of the Millennium Development Goals.  As things currently stand five nations have already met this target, and eleven more are formally dedicated to achieving it by 2015  or earlier.

Still, things aren’t all positive.  Of these eleven several are unlikely to reach the 2015 target in practice, whilst numerous others including the USA, Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have not yet set formal schedules to do so.  There are also signs of states shirking their global responsibilities when it comes to clean water: whilst a recent UN General Assembly vote recognised clean water and sanitation as human rights, forty-one states including the UK and USA voted against it, preventing any obligations on their part under existing human rights commitments.

There is clearly much work to be done.  But in can be done.  Indeed, similar feats have been achieved before: between 1990 and 2008, international development secured access to improved drinking water for 1.8 billion people -raising access rates in Asia from 69% to 86%, and doubling the number of those with access in Sub-Saharan Africa.

We all have a part to play, be it lobbying our governments or by putting our own money up front and donating 0.16% to Water Aid or one of the other NGOs dedicated to bringing this basic necessity to those who are currently dying without it.

Together we can halve the number of people without safe drinking water by 2015….beyond that who knows what is possible?

   Clean drinking water for the world

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Rajapaksa’s relentless persecution

Human rights activists were cautiously celebrating last week, after an Indian court postponed the ill-founded and potentially unjust executions of three Tamil men for allegedly partaking in the murder of Rajiv Ghandi twenty years ago.  Yet just across the water in Sri Lanka, decisions were being made that will condemn far more Tamils and bring even greater suffering to one of Asia’s most maligned ethnic groups. 

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa allowed Sri Lanka’s state of emergency to lapse, under pressure from the international community, ahead of next month’s UN Human Rights Council meeting, which is expected to discuss the War Crimes of his government during their conflict against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).  But relief amongst campaigners was short lived: on the same day Rajapaksa implemented regulations under the Prevention of Terror Act (PTA) that will effectively continue the abuses stemming from the state of emergency, simply under a different name.

Tamil concentration campIn practice this means that an undisclosed number of ‘suspected rebels’, thought to stand at as many as three thousand -many of them civilians whose only crime is being Tamil, will remain in detention without charge or trial.  It represents a shocking back-track on promises that more than one thousand suspected or surrendered rebels would be released and signals a grim continuation of the post-civil war crackdown that began with the construction of concentration camps across Tamil Eelam in summer 2009.

Even more disturbingly, the PTA gives the President and Secretary of Defence extra powers to pass further oppressive regulations without the approval of Sri Lanka’s Parliament.  These will not be subject to renewal in the same manner as the state of emergency, potentially resulting in a permanent and even less justifiable security regime.

More than two years after the LTTE was wiped out (along with tens of thousands of Tamil civilians) it is unacceptable than anyone is still in detention without a fair trial in a civilian court.  The need to address this is all the more urgent considering that the Sri Lankan military has been categorically exposed as racist, brutal and frankly out of control.  The same men who executed detainees, systematically utilised torture and murdered aid workers during the conflict are the same ones now holding Tamil prisoners on the basis of purely arbitrary legislation.  The safety and wellbeing of those in detention must be protected.

It is therefore imperative that the upcoming Human Rights Council Tamil Concentration Camp 2meeting addresses the present and the future, as well as the War Crimes of recent years.  Brilliant investigative journalism such as Channel 4’s Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields, has already shamed the international community, which stood idly by during the final bloody stages of Rajapaksa’s onslaught.  It will never be possible to truly make amends for this failure, but at least some damage can be repaired by concerted pressure for the immediate release of detainees held under the state of emergency and now the PTA; as well as genuine opposition to the continued suppression of the Tamil population through new and authoritarian regulations. 

It is clear that Rajapaksa and his henchmen have no intention of ending their campaign of persecution.  The Tamil people have experienced decades of conflict and abuse by both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE; without a strong and immediate international challenge, their future is unlikely to be any brighter.

Are the Tamils safe in Sri Lankan concentration camps