Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative calls for CMAG reformPosted by AlexT - 21/10/09 at 02:10 pm
In an article published on Tuesday 20th October 2009, in Caribbean Net News, Maja Daruwala, Executive Director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative has called for CMAG reform to be top of the agenda at the Trinidad CHOGM. CMAG is the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group – the Commonwealth watchdog on human rights abuses.
Today, CMAG must be able to deal quickly and unequivocally with situations of constant threats to human rights values by Commonwealth states and open challenges encapsulated in statements like the latest one by President Jammeh of the Gambia where he is unequivocal in his opposition to the Commonwealth’s fundamental political values when he declares on the eve of his departure to New York for the UN General Assembly meeting:
“I will kill anyone, who wants to destabilize this country. If you think that you can collaborate with so called human rights defenders, and get away with it, you must be living in a dream world. I will kill you, and nothing will come out of it. We are not going to condone people posing as human rights defenders to the detriment of the country. If you are affiliated with any human rights group, be rest assured that your security and personal safety would not be guaranteed by my Government. We are ready to kill saboteurs.”
While CMAG has its share of successes, lately there have instances where it has not lived up to expectations. For example in the case of Sri Lanka, reports of large scale civilian deaths, impunity and stifling of human rights in Sri Lanka continued to emerge throughout 2008 and 2009 but CMAG has refused to put Sri Lanka in its agenda. The additional irony is that Sri Lanka itself continues to serve as a member of CMAG during this period for a third consecutive (two year) term contrary to the 1999 Durban Communiqué that limits a country to a maximum of two consecutive terms.
CMAG has also been silent on other parts of the Commonwealth, for instance during the post election violence in Kenya in 2007, when freedom of assembly was curtailed in Malaysia in 2007, and for a long while on the Gambia where many basic human rights are heavily curtailed.
It is worrying to note that the CMAG has by and by interpreted its mandate very narrowly to focus only on the un-constitutional overthrow of governments albeit selectively. While my organisation welcomes the recent suspension of Fiji from the Commonwealth as well as the earlier suspension of Pakistan in 2007, CMAG’s non-action on Bangladesh when there was an army backed government in 2006 has left political activists and civil society organisations monitoring CMAG meetings wondering about its yardsticks.