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    Sri Lanka Urged to Probe the Murder of Tamil MPs

    The Inter-Parliamentary Union is calling on the government of Sri Lanka to mount a thorough investigation of the murders of three Members of Parliament, two of them Tamils.   The IPU's Human Rights Committee, which has wrapped up its latest session, has examined cases of abuse of some 300 MPs in 29 countries.  

    The Inter-Parliamentary Union says the Sri Lankan government no  longer has any reason for not investigating the murders of the Parliamentarians now that its long-running civil war with the Tamil Tiger rebels is over.

    Chair of the IPU's Human Rights Committee, Canadian Senator, Sharon Carstairs, says the government has always maintained it was unable to investigate the murders because they occurred in rebel-held territory.  She says that excuse no longer exists.

    She tells VOA, Tamil Parliamentarians are subject to arbitrary arrest, harassment and intimidation.  She says her Committee is concerned about the situation of 12 Tamil Parliamentarians.  She says they essentially have been stripped of their rights of freedom of movement and of their ability to perform their legislative duties.

    She says the Tamil Parliamentarians are reluctant to leave the capital, Colombo, because their security is not guaranteed.

    "So, there is great fear among the Tamil Parliamentarians," Carstairs said.  "So, what we hope from Sri Lanka at this point is to get a new signal from them that Tamil Parliamentarians will have freedom of movement, they will have adequate security, they will be full participants of the government of Sri Lanka because they are duly elected Parliamentarians."   

    The IPU Committee is also very concerned about the cases of two Parliamentarians in Iraq.  Hareth Al-Obaidi, who was the Vice-Chair of Iraq's Human Rights Committee, was murdered on June 12.  His colleague, Mohammed Al-Dainy, who also was a member of the Committee, disappeared on February 5th.  

    Carstairs says Al-Dainy eventually surfaced in another country.  But, she says 19 of his family members and staff were arrested and some were tortured.

    "Now both these men, and this is what I think is important, had both called for the creation of a Commission of Inquiry in cases of torture, rape and death in Iraqi prisons," Carstairs said.  "And, so, they essentially were working on the same file together… The concerns were that these were not American-run prisons that these two men were concerned about.  They were Iraqi-run prisons."   

    The IPU Committee is calling for the reinstatement of a female MP in Afghanistan.  She was suspended from her duties two years ago for publicly criticizing some warlords on television.  Carstairs says the male-dominated Parliament described her remarks as un-Islamic.  

    "If you are a Parliamentarian and a you are a woman in Afghanistan, it is better to be seen and not heard," Carstairs said.  

    In a rare bit of good news, the IPU welcomes Israel's decision to release three Palestinian Parliamentarians who were duly elected in Gaza in 2006.  It calls on the Israeli government to also release 40 other Palestinian Members of Parliament who the IPU charges were kidnapped and imprisoned in Israel after the election.

     

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