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Initiative on South Asia Peace Charter



"Recognising the need for a plurality of initiatives to bring about lasting peace in the region, it was agreed to evolve the present South Asian Peace Initiative"
April 24-26, 1997,Wadduwa, Sri Lanka: The South Asia Forum for Human Rights (SAFHR) based in Kathmandu Nepal, in collaboration with National Peace Council of Sri Lanka, Colombo, conducted a three day consultation on South Asia Peace Charter. The Initiative on South Asia Peace Charter was conceived in Strasbourg, France in December 1995 by a group of South Asian human rights activists who attended a conference on conflict resolution mechanisms in Europe. The Wadduwa meeting was first regional consultation of the Initiative.

There were over fifty participants from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, among them Mr. I. A. Rehman, Director of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Dr. Sayeed Haroon Ahmed, Chairman of Pakistan Psychiatry Association, Mr. Tahir Mohammad Khan, former Federal Minister of Pakistan, Mr. K. G. Kannabiran, President, Peoples' Union of Civil rights of India, Dr. Ranabir Samaddar a well-known Indian academic, Ms. Maja Daruwala, Executive Director, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Ms. Rita Manchanda, Indian TV Journalist, Mr. Rishikesh Shah, Former Foreign Minister of Nepal, Mr. Sushil Pyakurel, Chairman of INSEC-Nepal, Ms. Sapna Pradhan Malla, Advocate, Supreme Court of Nepal, Mr. Vasudeva Nanyakkara, M.P. Sri Lankia, Mr. Charles Abeysekera, Chairman of the Official Language Commission of Sri Lanka, Ms. Nimalka Fernando, President IMADR, Mr. Basil Fernando, Executive Director of Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong, Dr. Jehan Perera, Media Director, National Peace Council of Sri Lanka and Mr. Tapan K. Bose, Secretary General of South Asia Forum for Human Rights, Kathmandu, Nepal.

The Consultation concluded with the formation of a South Asian Peace Initiative on Sri Lanka. As a first step towards conflict resolution, the Initiative will study and report on the situation of the internally displaced persons in Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan refugees in India. It will also advocate for solutions creating conditions for peace and democratic functioning to ensure the full realisation of human rights.

The full text of the mandate follows.

MANDATE

The Participants of the three day Regional Consultation of the Initiative on South Peace Charter held in Wadduwa, Sri Lanka, April 24-26, 1997 recognised that the present effort to create a South Asian Peace Initiative is traceable to the Strasbourg Conference of 1995 which reviewed various conflict resolution mechanisms developed in Europe and discussed their applicability to South Asian situations.

The need for more South Asian peace initiatives such as the Pakistan-India Peoples' Forum for Peace and Democracy was emphasised by the participants. Recognising the need for a plurality of initiatives to bring about lasting peace in the region, it was agreed to evolve the present South Asian Peace Initiative.

Acknowledging their varied background and experiences and affirming their deep commitment to the values of human rights and democracy, the participants expressed their serious concern at the persisting human rights violations and consequent widespread suffering within Sri Lanka due to the continuing conflict.

The human rights situation in Sri Lanka calls for an immediate response from all concerned human rights and civil society groups and the participants recognised that any initiative by South Asian human rights groups must address all contending parties such as the government of Sri Lanka, the LTTE, political parties and other groups.

The perspective of the South Asian Peace initiative is informed by a commitment to ensure adherence to and realisation of existing international normative standards and obligations and national constitutional guarantees which promote and protect the right to life and human dignity of all citizens and persons whenever affected.

The problems faced by internally displaced persons within Sri Lanka refugees from Sri Lanka in India have been identified by the participants as meriting immediate attention. This is because of their extreme vulnerability and the egregious violation of rights to which they are subjected to as a result of the continuing conflict. Neither India nor Sri Lanka has signed pertinent international conventions, e.g. the 1951 UN convention on refugees and the 1967 Protocol, to assure maximum protection to these peoples. The participants call upon the two governments to sign and ratify these instruments without any further delay. International agencies, however, have been found to be very restrictive in their approach and ability to address the situation of refugees and Internally displaced persons.

In view of the above the South Asian Peace Initiative proposes as a first step towards conflict resolution to undertake a study in consultation with like minded individuals and groups, on the situation of internally displaced persons within Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan refugees in India. The Initiative will advocate solutions which will create conditions for peace and democratic functioning to ensure the full realisation of human rights.

The content of the study and the recommendations will be widely disseminated to affected communities, concerned governments and international agencies with a view to ensuring that the issues are effectively and expeditiously resolved.

Press statement issued by: Mr. Tapan K. Bose
Convenor
Coordinator Committee
Initiative on South Asia Peace Charter

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