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Deportation Doctors: Armatus providing medics for mass deportation flights

Deportation Doctors: Armatus providing medics for mass deportation flights

The UK Border Agency has contracted a controversial security company to provide emergency medical staff on mass deportation flights, Phil Miller reveals in an exclusive investigation published by Corporate Watch today.

Armatus Medical Services, part of Armatus Risks Ltd, won the three to five-year contract in May 2011. Armatus Risks’ directors include an ex-bodyguard to notorious US General Patreaus, and four of the five directors listed on the company’s website boast experience as private military contractors.

Armatus staff in training. Source: Armatus Facebook page

Armatus staff in training. Source: Armatus Facebook page

‘Difficult to understand’

Armatus said its contract with the UKBA would see the company “develop into one of the UK’s largest providers of medical support staff to UK government operations.”

However, a recent report by HM Inspector of Prisons on controversial charter flights to Sri Lanka highlighted how Armatus medical staff signed off on a rough-and-ready practice in which private security guards handcuffed deportees to “prevent self-harm.”

According to media reports, eleventh-hour suicide attempts by refused Tamil asylum seekers were commonplace. The HMIP report cites one case where a detainee “had previously self-harmed, apparently to stop his removal, and had handcuffs on for 5.5 hours from Brook House [detention centre] to the Airport [Stansted].” “It was difficult to understand why the detainee needed to be restrained for so long given that he was under constant staff supervision,” it added.

The man was “examined by medics after the handcuffs had been removed, and the paperwork was completed appropriately.” The report confirms that healthcare staff on the flight were employed by Armatus. “They accompanied each coach and three were on the flight itself – one paramedic and two ambulance technicians.” According to Armatus, all its medics are recruited from the UK ambulance services and from personnel who have completed a training course known as ‘Armatus Risks community responder medical (FPOS-I)’.

The same inspection report criticised the private security guards for having “no accredited training on use of force in the confined space of an aircraft.” It has been two years since HMIP first noted that no such training existed.

The guards are currently supplied by security company Tascor (formerly Reliance), which took over the role of providing deportation escorts from G4S in May 2011, following the death of Jimmy Mubenga on board a BA flight during his forcible deportation to Angola in October 2010. Reliance was bought up by Capita in August 2012 and renamed Tascor.

Conflict of interest?

In July 2011, the UKBA announced that a company called Taylormade Secure Solutions was now the approved supplier of paramedics for escorted deportation operations. Taylormade was at the time a subsidiary of Armatus Risks Ltd, which was formerly known as Longmoor Risks Ltd. The latter took its name from a Royal Military Police base at Longmoor in Hampshire, where most of the company’s directors had taught before selling their military expertise to the highest bidder (see here and here, for example).

At the time, ex-Tory Northern Ireland Security Minister Sir John Wheeler was the non-executive chaiman of Longmoor, which had been bought by Westminster Group Plc. In its 2009 annual report, the group praised Wheeler for his “significant experience and extensive contacts within the security field, which have already been most valuable to us.”

Moreover, Wheeler was a director of Reliance between 1997 and 2000. Wheeler’s ‘extensive contacts within the security field’ may not have only contributed to Armatus getting this contract, they also mean medical care to already vulnerable people is now provided by security companies, where a different set of values and institutional culture dominate.

The managing director of Armatus Medical Services, Charlie Taylor, served in the British Army’s drone regiment and was “deployed to Iraq in early 2003 in an intelligence-gathering role,” according to his profile on the company’s website.

Another division of Armatus provides staff for anti-piracy operations and was promoting its work at a security industry summit in Sri Lanka last year. Sri Lanka is fast becoming a hub for private maritime security companies in the Indian Ocean. Most of Britain’s recent arms exports to the island have gone to anti-piracy outfits.

armatus-risks-logoMigrant rights groups have raised serious concerns about Armatus’ little-known contract with the UKBA. A spokesperson from Stop Deportation said: “Placing the healthcare of people being forcibly deported in the hands of mercenary companies like Armatus is not exactly the best way to respond to criticisms of the conduct of private security escorts. But perhaps that’s exactly what the UKBA intended from awarding this contract to this company.”

It is worth mentioning that Armatus is based in London (303 Princess House, 50 Eastcastle Street, W1W 8EA) and has recently opened a new regional office near Heathrow airport in order to “support UKBA operations.”

Beyond Qatada: New research debunks mythical ‘crisis’ of foreign prisoners

  Beyond Abu Qatada: New research debunks mythical ‘crisis’ of foreign prisoners

UKBA-NOMS-sign

In the latest hysteria over foreign prisoners in the UK, the Tory-led government was yesterday threatening to ‘temporarily withdraw’ from the European Convention on Human Rights so as to overcome legal barriers to the deportation of radical Islamic preacher Abu Qatada.[1] At the same time, the latest prison statistics by Ministry of Justice, published today, show that the number of foreigners held in British jails has actually been declining.[2]

An investigation by Stop Deportation and Corporate Watch reveals that even these figures are inflated by over 10% because the MoJ statisticians misleadingly include migrants held in prisons solely under immigration powers and on remand as foreign national prisoners. Even more shocking is the inclusion in the FNP count of detainees held in three immigration detention centres run by the Prison Service. The new research, published today, exposes the myth that British prisons are overcrowded with foreign criminals who the government is powerless to deport. The key findings include:

  • In-depth analysis of official data shows that, of the 10,861 so-called foreign national prisoners held in England and Wales on 30th June 2012, 1,140 were in fact immigration detainees held solely under administrative immigration powers and not serving a criminal sentence. These include people held in three immigration detention centres run by the Prison Service (Dover, Haslar, Lindholme), which are counted as prisons. Their inclusion had the effect of inflating the FNP figure by 10.5%.
  • The much-cited rise in the proportion of foreign nationals held in British jails since 2001 was in part due to a sharp increase in the number of migrants detained under Immigration Act 1971 powers.
  • Foreign prisoners are now twice as likely to be held on remand than British prisoners, which further distorts the proportion of foreign nationals in the prisoners count.
  • A detailed examination of the types of offences and sentences shows that foreign prisoners are less likely to be convicted for violence or stealing offences than British inmates, are no more likely to commit sexual offences but are more likely to be convicted for drug offences.
  • The UK Border Agency has often claimed that charter flights are “vital to ensure we remove foreign criminals and individuals who refuse to leave the UK voluntarily.” Yet previously unpublished data reveals that there is almost no correlation between the nationalities of foreign prisoners and the destinations of deportation charter flights. Over 80% of removals by charter flight in 2012 did not involve foreign national offenders. Indeed, the charter flight programme was originally intended to deport rejected asylum seekers and had nothing to do with foreign national prisoners.
  • Despite secretive meetings of a ‘FNP Board’, formed of senior civil servants from the UKBA and the MoJ, which is mandated to review the progress of the charter flight programme, Freedom of Information requests reveal that no formal evaluation documents have ever been produced.

The briefing’s authors, Phil Miller from Stop Deportation and Shiar Youssef from Corporate Watch, said: “The foreign prisoners ‘crisis’ was a myth motivated by a xenophobic agenda. The legal changes that allowed the double punishment of foreign nationals by deporting them after they have served their sentences were largely based on a lie. The British public have for years been deceived by inaccurate statistics that conflate foreign national prisoners with foreign national offenders, and mysteriously count some immigration detainees as prisoners and some immigration detention centres as prisons. Now this unfounded ‘crisis’ is being used as a convenient political tool to justify the controversial mass deportation flights by associating the programme with the ‘urgent need’ to deport ‘large volumes’ of foreign national prisoners. They are an invisible enemy, personified by the hated figure of Abu Qatada.”

References

[1] See, for example, www.guardian.co.uk/law/2013/apr/24/european-rights-convention-abu-qatada, www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/abu-qatada-deportation-uk-has-new-treaty-with-jordan-to-expel-radical-muslim-cleric-says-home-secretary-theresa-may–but-it-could-take-months-8586035.html, and www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article4901240.ece.

[2] Available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/offender-management-statistics-quarterly–2.

[3] The full briefing is available at www.corporatewatch.org/download.php?id=184

UKBA: Soft on Immigration? 4 deaths in 5 months…oh, and Mi6 killed Patrice Lumumba

UKBA: Soft on Immigration?

4 deaths in 5 months…oh, and Mi6 killed Patrice Lumumba

Verbal diarrhea about Britain’s supposedly lax immigration policy ignores the rising death toll of people killed by the UK Border Agency. Britain’s real role in the world is that of a hitman, not a humanitarian hero.

Last month the public were bombarded by statements from all the Party leaders and the right-wing media about how this country is too soft on immigration. Anybody can come and go as they please, and the welfare system is their oyster. The convenient spectacle of Abu Qatada avoiding deportation yet again was produced on cue to ‘prove’ their point.

Nothing of course, could be further from the truth. Khalid Shahzad, Jackie Nanyonjo, Alois Dvorzac and Prince Kwabena Fosu have all died in the last 5 months as a result of their treatment by the UK Border Agency. This isn’t being soft on immigration – this is the state sponsored murder of immigrants. And yet their deaths are notably absent from the ‘debate’ about Britain’s borders.

Much of this ‘debate’ is completely bogus. Take Theresa May’s latest announcement that the UKBA will be split up … how is that any different from her creation last year of a separate UK Border Force, under the command of a former Admiral? Civil servants have been told they will be doing the same job – this is clearly just a rebranding exercise.

What is significant, however, is the revelation this week by a Labour Peer that Mi6 killed Patrice Lumumba, the first democratically elected President of Congo, in 1961. (The CiA and Belgium were previously associated with his murder). Lord Lea, writing in the London Review of Books, said that a former Mi6 officer and Tory peer Daphne Park made a death bed confession about Lumumba’s death. Park is alleged to have told Lea “We did. I organised it.”

Jawid Laiq, writing in the Hindu, reminds us that “Thirty years later, on October 8, 1991, Omasese Lumumba, nephew of the Congolese leader, was “unlawfully killed” in a British prison. The jury’s verdict at a coroner’s inquest ruled that Omasese died as a result of “excessive force” inflicted on him by the staff of Pentonville Prison, London. Earlier, Omasese, had fled from Congo as he had been ill-treated and imprisoned there for being a relative of Patrice.”

Far from being a ‘soft touch’ on immigration, Britain is a hitman who routinely gets away with the murder of migrants and people of colour. The death of Lumumba made way for Mobutu, a western proxy whose 32-year rein of terror in the Congo caused massive destruction and displacement, creating an untold number of refugees.

Jackie Nanyonjo, Jimmy Mubenga and Joy Gardner: all killed by Britain’s racist deportation regime

Jackie Nanyonjo, Jimmy Mubenga and Joy Gardner: all killed by Britain’s racist deportation regime

Very sad news tonight that a member of Movement for Justice, Jackie Nanyonjo, has died in Uganda last friday due to injuries she sustained during deportation from Yarl’s Wood 2 months ago.

Her supporters have called for a demonstration outside the Home Office this Thursday, more details from MFJ below.

Jackie Nanyojo - Killed by UKBA

UK Border Agency – GUILTY of the Murder of Jackie Nanyonjo
Put the UKBA on Trial…
Jail the UKBA’s killer thugs!
Theresa May Must Go!

DEMONSTRATION & SPEAK OUT
@ THE HOME OFFICE HQ – 12.30pm
Thursday 14th March
Home Office HQ, Marsham st, Westminster SW1P
on corner of Horseferry rd. Westminster or Victoria tube.  Buses: 88, 507, 148 &
walk down Great Smith St to Marsham st
(To meet and walk there together meet at 12noon sharp by Big Ben)

Jackie Nanyonjo died in Uganda last Friday as a result of the injuries inflicted by the Home Office’s licenced thugs who deported her from Britain on 10th January. Jackie was a fighter for herself and for others: a lesbian who escaped from anti-gay persecution and a brutal forced marriage, and a member of the Movement for Justice. In Britain she had been able for the first time to live and love openly as a lesbian; she was much-loved by a wide circle of friends who kept in touch with her after she was deported and who miss her deeply. All of us who knew her, or who didn’t know her personally but are determined to end the regime of racism and anti-immigrant bigotry that is responsible for her death, will fight to win justice for Jackie.

Jackie had been through the mental torture of the immigration and asylum system, with its arbitrary, subjective decisions and impossible demands to ‘prove that you are a lesbian’. UK Border Agency and an Asylum Tribunal had dismissed out-of-hand the ample evidence of friends and her partner that Jackie was a lesbian and rejected her claim for asylum. She was sent to the further mental torture of Yarl’s Wood women’s detention centre in November 2012 – a few weeks after detainees had shaken the power of the UKBA in an uprising of mass protest against brutality and injustice led by the Yarl’s Wood Movement for Justice group and Jackie had been part of a solidarity demonstration at the UKBA headquarters in Croydon. Jackie continued her fight in Yarl’s Wood. When the UKBA tried to deport her in December Jackie resisted bravely despite the brutality she suffered at the hands of the ‘escorts’ provided by the contractor, Reliance. She forced them to abandon the attempt and when she got back to Yarl’s Wood she lodged a complaint to the UKBA – a complaint the UKBA rejected.

With all the limited avenues of Britain’s racist immigration laws closed to her and facing deportation to a country where it is a crime to be gay and where the political and religious leaders have whipped up a murderous anti-gay witch-hunt, Jackie’s only option was physical resistance. On 10th January, on Qatar Airways Flight QR76, Jackie fought bravely for her freedom with all the strength she could gather against four Reliance guards. She continued fighting when the guards drew curtains round their end of the plane to hide their crimes. She struggled for as long as she could until, beaten up, half strangled and bent double, she was overcome by the pain in her chest and neck and was unable to breathe.

When Jackie arrived at Entebbe Airport the ‘escort’ party handed her over to the Ugandan authorities, who held her for many more hours without any medical attention. When family members finally met her, long after the flight had landed, Jackie was in terrible pain and vomiting blood; they rushed her to a clinic, but in a country with widespread poverty and limited medical facilities they were unable to get the medical attention Jackie needed. Since Jackie was in hiding as a known lesbian, protected by relatives, every trip to a doctor or hospital involved a risk to her life and to the safety of her family. They were condemned to watch the agonising decline of Jackie’s health and strength over the next two months.

The Home Office and the UKBA are guilty of Jackie’s murder. They have licenced the brutality that Jackie suffered, even if they pretend ‘to look the other way’; they protect the thugs and the security companies if an asylum seekers’ death or injury becomes public knowledge. Their policies and decisions are responsible for Jackie’s death. The guards who brutalised Jackie should be in jail and Reliance should be condemned as an accessory to murder, along with Qatar Airways and the repressive Qatari Government that is so willing to do Britain’s dirty work – but the real guilt lies with the politicians and bureaucrats who run the Home Office and the UKBA, and ultimately with the Coalition Government. Jackie Nanyonjo was a victim of the immigrant bashing policies of Theresa May, the racist Home Secretary.

The Movement for Justice is putting the UKBA on trial for Jackie’s murder. Jackie is by not the first person to die at the hands or through the actions of the UKBA but we want to make sure that she is the last. Justice for Jackie means above all exposing the UKBA before the Court of Public Opinion, challenging its power so that what happened to Jackie never happens to anyone else, and shutting down Yarl’s Wood detention centre. It means building the movement that Jackie joined, in Yarl’s Wood and other detention centres and outside, in our communities and on our campuses, and end the injustice of detention and deportation. Join us this Thursday at the demonstration and speak-out at the Home Office on Marsham Street, London SW1.

#UKBAonTrial        #UKBAonTrial        #UKBAonTrial

“Every single injustice you carry out against me is being reported” Said Kasim Mohamed on hunger strike, Colnbrook

“Every single injustice you carry out against me is being reported”

Said still on hunger strike – releases statement letter condemning UKBA

Said Kasim Mohamed is still on hunger strike in Colnbrook IRC, in protest at his cruel treatment at the hands of the UKBA.

Said has released a statement about his protest. His letter is a powerful indictment of the British asylum system.

Campaign group Hands Off Somalia have posted Said’s statement on their blog (a top resource for understanding British foreign policy towards Somalia and how it influences UK immigration controls).

Some ways to support Said:

  • Call Colnbrook IRC to complain. Tel: 020 8607 5200 PRESS OPTION 1 THEN PRESS 303
  • Ring the Home Office to report his protest and demand his freedom. Telephone:  020 7035 4848 or Fax: 020 7035 4745 or Email: public.enquiries@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk
  • Contact local MP John Mcdonnell to inform him about Said’s hunger strike and ask why someone like Said would have to take to such measures to get justice. Email: mcdonnellj@parliament.uk or Twitter https://twitter.com/johnmcdonnellMP
  • Send us a message on Facebook of any action you want to take

 

UK Border Agency defies MPs over deportation ‘reserves’ – Observer

UK Border Agency defies MPs over deportation ‘reserves’ – Observer

Extra detainees still being held at airports before charter flights, a year after MPs and prison inspector demanded end to practice

To read article in full, click here

The UK Border Agency is under attack for ignoring demands from a cross-party Commons committee and the chief inspector of prisons to stop its “inhumane” treatment of some deportees.

The agency was told last year to stop taking additional detainees to airports, in case other deportees were taken off flights after sudden court orders.

But over half of the 40 deportation flights that have since left the UK involved the use of reserves.

Research group Corporate Watch, which obtained the figures through a freedom of information request, also discovered that UKBA has now institutionalised the practice by issuing detainees with letters telling them they may or may not be deported.

Corporate Watch and Stop Deportation, a UK-based campaign group focusing on charter flight deportations, are currently working on a joint report examining the various legal aspects of charter flight deportations.

***
Thanks to the Observer for publishing this.
Look forward to seeing UKBA’s reply to Keith Vaz.
Wonder if they will justify reserves again on grounds of “cost effectiveness”…

Cost of charter flight deportations increased eight-fold over last decade

Cost of charter flight deportations increased eight-fold over last decade – Corporate Watch

The cost of deporting rejected asylum seekers and other migrants on specially chartered flights has quadrupled over the last decade, while the number of those deported by this means has dropped by almost a half, an investigation by Corporate Watch and Stop Deportation reveals.

To continue reading the article on Corporate Watch’s website, click here

CW_charters-costs_graph

Corporate Watch and Stop Deportation, a UK-based campaign group focusing on charter flight deportations, are currently working on a joint report examining the various legal aspects of charter flight deportations.

Hands off Immigrants *EVENT*

Get set for an interesting event next Saturday…

Britain’s detention and deportation system is criminalising immigrants as part and parcel of its continuing attack on the people of Somalia and the Horn of Africa.

Saturday December 1st @ 1.30pm, Horn Of Africa Community Centre, Shepherds Bush, Lime Grove, W12 8EE

From UKBA stop and searches to dawn raids, the threat of lengthy detention and deportation is very real for many Somali people in Britain – who are contantly criminalised whether they have a British passport or not. Recent attempts to deport Somali man Said Kasim Mohammed to Tanzania and Raul Ally (who has been in Britain since he was 12 years old) have reminded us that the British state is attacking Somali people who reside in Britain and who have fled the life-threatening conditions created by imperialist war and intervention in their own country. British imperialism has butchered its way around the world, attacking and robbing the people of Asia, Africa, and South America. In 2009 British businesses and institutions made a staggering £8,679.7bn from the rest of the world. This is 6.2 times Britain’s gross domestic product. Britain is dependent on the wealth that is produced abroad, but when migrants arrive here, the state treats them with suspicion and contempt.

People can be held in immigration detention in Britain virtually indefinitely.  Many are imprisoned for purely administrative reasons; often with no access to legal help or advice. In 2010, 183 detainees were hospitalised as a result of self harm in immigration detention and 1,467 people were deemed ‘at risk’.  On 30 October Prince Ofusu became the latest person to die in detention; his death Harmondsworth immigration removal centre remains as yet unexplained.

During his time in detention, Raul Ally said:

“We feel like criminals despite just wanting to come here because it is not safe in our country… I’m glad I’m out but the two months I had inside were the worst experience I’ve had in Britain, I want to say the worst in my life”.

It is not only the Somali community who are under attack, but all immigrants in Britain, who are being made scapegoats for a financial crisis that they had no part in creating. The detention and deportation of immigrants is a facet of British imperialism that can not be ignored. While the mainstream media either doesn’t report on it at all, or supports the government’s policies, the truth about detention and deportation remains hidden. This is the same racist media which celebrated the extradition to the USA of Talha Ahsan, Babar Ahmad and others, whilst congratulating the Con-Dem government on not extraditing Gary McKinnon. All three are British citizens and the racist British state’s differential treatment according to skin colour, religion and ethnic background was clear for all to see. We need to acknowledge the necessity to educate ourselves and build a movement which is prepared to defend the rights of immigrants and asylum seekers, and all those under attack.

More Fox hunting needed

The UKBA seem to have outflanked mainstream NGO’s and media outlets by organising another deportation charter flight to Sri Lanka tomorrow, 23rd October, barely a month after the last flight went in September. This is an acceleration of their charter flight program to the island and follows their new Sri Lanka Country Policy Bulletin which slandered the work of Freedom From Torture, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Tamils Against Genocide.

The point which mainstream media refuses to make is that British foreign policy drives these deportations to Sri Lanka and this overrides the human rights of Tamil asylum-seekers who will be tortured after their deportation, and that this torture serves the interests of certain British politicians and businesses. See my previous article on this blog about Liam Fox’s business interests in Sri Lanka.

This is ironic because even an establishment body, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, has reported this month how the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is not being “as energetic as it might in impressing upon the UK Border Agency the degree of risk” faced by Tamil deportees. They further noted that “the Government should also clarify the division between the roles of the FCO and of the UK Border Agency’s Country of Origin Information Service [COIS] in gathering the intelligence needed to make accurate assessments of risk”.  This is clear evidence that the FCO exerts influence over the UKBA. And perhaps it refers to the shocking reference in the July 2011 UKBA COIS report on Sri Lanka where the British High Commission (BHC, an FCO employee) claim they:

“asked the Senior Government Intelligence officials if there was any truth in allegations that the Sri Lankan authorities were torturing suspects. They denied this was the case and added that many Sri Lankans who had claimed asylum abroad had inflicted wounds on themselves in order to create scars to support their stories”.

This scandalous claim was covered by Barrister Shivani Jegarajah on the freemovement blog at the time. But the full content of the letter (not included in the COIS report, but available to download here) reveals that the subject of correspondence between BHC and UKBA COIS is “Sri Lanka: Media Reports Following the Presidents UK Visit in November/December 2010”. This visit is when Mahinda Rajapaksa met Liam Fox and Adam Werritty in the Dorchester Hotel, as featured in the poster above, after the despot’s speech at the Oxford Union was cancelled. The FCO’s response to the UKBA’s request for ‘intelligence’ was morally disgraceful, but strategically consistent with the British Government’s long-term support for the Sri Lankan regime at the expense of Tamil peoples’ rights.

The FCO’s most senior civil servant, Matthew Gould, had numerous meetings with Fox and Werritty, although the government refuse to admit this. Fox’s resignation statement hosted on the Ministry of Defence website accidently (?) refers his dealing with Matthew Gould as Martin Gould, putting the public off the scent of Fox’s and the FCO’s collusion during the times of the most serious massacres of Tamil civilians in 2009, when Matthew Gould toured Sri Lanka in his role as Principal Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary, just after Fox and Werrity had visited Mahinda Rajapaksa in Colombo to set up the Sri Lankan Development Trust.

French Foreign Minister (and ex-IIGEP member) Kouchner, British Foreign Minister David Miliband, Matthew Gould, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollogama and President Mahinda Rajapaksa meeting in Colombo, April 2009. Fox and Werrity had visited the regime in Colombo in March 2009.

Boycott CHGOM 2013! No International Legitimacy for Rajapaksa Regime! Stop Deportations from UK to the Commonwealth!

Boycott CHGOM 2013!
No International Legitimacy for Rajapaksa Regime!
Stop Deportations from UK to the Commonwealth!

Amitav Banerji, Director of Political Affairs at the Commonwealth Secretariat is speaking today at the “WeSriLanka2012” event at Clore Management Centre, Birkbeck, University of London.

Mr Banerji is Chief Political Advisor to Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma.

The biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is set to be held in Sri Lanka in November 2013. The event will be opened by the Queen. This is a major PR victory for the Sri Lankan Government, whose President Mahinda Rajapaksa is evading credible allegations of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The event will bestow international legitimacy on the Rajapaksa regime rather than hold it to account for gross violations of human rights.

We call on Mr Banerji to exert his influence over the Commonwealth Secretariat to stop CHOGM 2013 from being held in Sri Lanka, unless the regime’s human rights record is to be seriously addressed.

Mr Banerji, centre and inset, arrived at WeSriLanka2012 event as protestors called on him to move CHOGM 2013 from Sri Lanka or hold the Rajapaksa regime to account

The Commonwealth Secretariat faces mounting concern about its credibility after a Wikileaked cable published last year showed Commonwealth officials avoided human rights issues in Sri Lanka, Uganda and Gambia at the CHOGM 2009.

Accountability for the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians amidst other serious charges of war crimes by Sri Lanka remain unaddressed. The Lessons Learnt and Reconcilliation Commission (LLRC) Report is being promoted by the Commonwealth Secretariat while human rights organisations clearly condemn the LLRC process as flawed. The LLRC process disregards accountability that can be the only base for peace [3]

The Commonwealth Secretariat has signed a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with the International Criminal Court (ICC – a UN mechanism) in July 2011 pledging that Commonwealth member states would come under the court’s jurisdiction. However, Sri Lanka has not signed up to the Rome Statute of the ICC.

CHOGM 2011 was to be held in Sri Lanka but objections led by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown over unaddressed violations of human rights by CHOGM host led to it being postponed to 2013.

CHOGM has become a major venue for business deals between the private sector and governments, facilitated by the Commonwealth Business Council (cbcglobal.org). At the CHOGM 2009 held in Trinidad and Tobago, CBC Director General Dr Mohan Kaul estimated that 1 Billion US Dollars worth of trade deals were signed between local and international businesses. Dr Kaul cited specific investment deals in the extraction of natural gas. Sri Lanka’s has untapped oil & gas reserves along the coastline in Tamil areas, where the Government is seeking foreign investors for the exploration blocks. Commonwealth businesses are leading the charge, with the Indian subsidiary of British Firm Cairn Energy prospecting for oil as soon as the war finished in 2009. The Sri Lankan Government itself acknowledged that CBC is the key player in the sidelines of CHOGM 2013 and ensuring the event being held in Sri Lanka.

Britain is routinely deporting Tamil refugees back to Sri Lanka. Dozens of deportees have been tortured on return. The Commonwealth is not speaking out against these abuses, instead it is helping to cover them up. Just before a mass deportation charter flight went from London to Colombo last month, a group of British MPs visited Sri Lanka as part of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) conference to prepare for CHOGM 2013. Professor G.L. Peiris, external Affairs minister for the Sri Lankan government, claimed their visit demonstrated the regime’s transparency and used the occasion to encourage more investment in parts of the island that are under military occupation: “British companies should not miss out on this great opportunity to be part of the new renaissance”.

We act today in solidarity with oppressed people in Sri Lanka who have called on international civil society to boycott the CHOGM 2013 and create alternative spaces for discussing human rights throughout the Commonwealth.