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Human rights violations in Sri Lanka, North Korea addressed by United Nations

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 23rd, 2014
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The United Nations Human Rights Council has begun to confront Asia's worst human rights violators such as North Korea and Sri Lanka. According to Human Rights Watch, or HRW, in its first annual report this week, conditions have worsened in countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia. Religious persecution is also continuing in the region, often without punishment.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to HRW's Executive Director Kenneth Roth, the U.N.'s top rights body has "come into its own," helping to strengthen networks to fight abuses while producing tangible progress, particularly in Asia. "The positive results were most visible in Sri Lanka," Roth said.

Pressure has been placed upon President Mahinda Rajapaksa to investigate atrocities, such as the deaths of an estimated 40,000 civilians during the final blows struck against the rebel Tamil Tigers in 2009.

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"We have faith in the U.N. with regards to accountability issues in Sri Lanka," Anantha Sasitharan, a Tamil rights activists and member of the Northern Provincial Council says. "Victims [of rights abuses] have complained to several presidential commissions, but nothing has happened. I don't have hope in local investigations."

A commission of inquiry into nettlesome North Korea into alleged violations was also launched. Under scrutiny were purported gulag-style prison camps during Kim Jong-un's execution of his own uncle Jang Song Thaek on treason charges.

"The fiction that Kim Jong-un might be somehow more moderate because of his education in Switzerland has been thoroughly refuted by the continued brutality of the government he now leads," HRW's Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson says.

Cambodia received a scathing review as well. Prime Minister Hun Sen led a bloody crackdown on the opposition after a rigged July election. Also, in Vietnam, the ruling Communist Party ratified a new constitution in last year targeting bloggers and activists.

According to latest HRW figures, Vietnam now claims the ominous title of holding the most political prisoners in Southeast Asia following mass amnesties in Myanmar.

"Instead of putting its critics in prison, the Vietnamese government should engage with their ideas, and accept that one-party states should be consigned to the dustbins of history," HRW's Asia Director Brad Adams says.

In Bangladesh, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government is accused of killing and gagging its opponents, including the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) which boycotted polls this month.

"Like in the past, HRW once again takes the side of terrorists in the name of human rights," National Human Rights Commission Chairman Mizanur Rahman says.

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