Human Rights defenders in Sri Lanka are facing risks, Margaret Sekaggya, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders told the Human Rights Council today.Speaking during the 19th session of the council in Geneva today (Monday) Sekaggya said that it had been brought to her notice that should human rights defenders in Sri Lanka seek the protection of her mandate they, their families and colleagues may be subject to reprisals. In it’s response the Sri Lankan delegation urged the Council not to fall prey to those who masquerade behind the “readymade cloak of a human rights defender creating political havoc wherever they are at the behest of their political masters in their execution of collateral agendas”. “This ongoing situation combined with smear campaigns against defenders in the national media is of great concern to me,” she said.
“While some claim there is a military logic to using schools, Governments and military commanders must also be cognizant of the grave repercussions such commandeering has on children’s right to education,” Ms. Zerrougui declared in a statement delivered on her behalf at a Human Rights Council side-event in Geneva yesterday.“At best, the military’s presence arguably dilutes, and can even dispel the feeling for children that their school is their sanctuary where they can exercise their right to education – especially in locations where conflict and confusion are sadly more the norm than the exception,” she added. The Special Representative’s appeal comes as she campaigns for Member States to sign the recently completed Safe Schools Declaration and Guidelines which aim to protect schools and universities from military use during times of armed conflict. The Declaration has already received 46 endorsements. In addition, the Security Council recently reaffirmed its commitment to the issue of safe schools stating in its Resolution 2225 on the protection of children in armed conflict that it encourages Member States to take concrete measures to deter the use of schools by armed forces and groups. “I can assure the participants attending this present event that I and my office will strongly advocate on behalf of children in conflict situations to persuade as many other Member States as we can to throw their support behind the initiative, and to commit to the Guidelines so that we may in turn assure children everywhere that the school they attend is a safe one,” Ms. Zerrougui’s statement concluded.