At the core of the discussions on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva is the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission which clearly calls for the upholding of democratic rights, including freedom of expression. The National Peace Council, in a statement today, said that the campaign to vilify and incite hatred towards NGOs and human rights activists in the context of the sessions of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva is of particular concern as it involves the use of the state controlled media. The National Peace Council said it regrets that even while the government is trying to convince the international community that it is committed in both spirit and substance to the recommendations of the LLRC and to upholding universal human rights, certain sections persist in intimidation of the NGOs and human rights activists using the state media.“We are deeply concerned that the background is being created for targeted attacks and that the state-controlled media is being utilized for this purpose in an orchestrated campaign. Incitement of the people is a reckless exercise which may spill over to mindless violence against minorities and those perceived to be enemies which the government may find difficult to restrain once unleashed as in 1983,” the National Peace Council said. Concerns have been raised over a hate campaign launched by the state media against some journalists in the private media as well as human rights workers and NGOs in the country.State owned ITN has, for the past few days, been profiling some journalists and human rights activists saying they are working against the country.
A report from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Economic and Social Council’s (ECOSOC) Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) says after the fall of the Taliban government “women came to the fore of the political life in the country and contributed to the new constitution, which clearly affirms equality between men and women.”On the other hand, progress has been uneven from region to region and the volatile security situation limits women’s participation in public life and their access to education, health care and the working world, he says.The ability of the Government to cope with these issues is still developing “and the focus on gender mainstreaming in all line ministries will require a more comprehensive strategy by the Government,” as well as continuous funding and coordinated support from the international community, he says.Mr. Annan cautions, however, that “the history of Afghanistan has repeatedly shown that efforts to strengthen women’s status inherently carry the danger of a backlash.” Staying the course would require serious engagement and political will on the part of national and international actors and on the ability of Afghan women themselves to hold the Government and the international community accountable for their commitments.The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) should urgently fulfil its pledge to expand the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) outside the capital Kabul and draw up special measures to protect women leaders and their families in particular and women in general.Among the Government’s tasks were to “prohibit the confinement of women in the custody of private individuals; release women prisoners held in State detention centres for actions that do not constitute crimes under Afghan law; and provide them with adequate support for reintegration into their communities.”