2009-10-20 15:44:37

Failure to improve human rights may hit EU-Sri Lanka ties

(Oct.20,2009): Sri Lanka has been condemned over its delay in freeing hundreds of thousands displaced Tamils living in military camps. The European Union – EU, has warned that Sri Lanka could lose special trading rights with the bloc because of a failure to improve its human rights record. A year-long inquiry by the EU has revealed "significant shortcomings" in Sri Lanka's human rights efforts. The European Commission now says it will ask the 27 EU member states, if it should suspend trade privileges. Deals with the EU worth more than
$ 100 million are linked to Sri Lanka's human rights record.
The EU's 12-month inquiry was launched during Sri Lanka's final offensive against Tamil Tiger rebels in the north of the country. Officials said it found evidence of torture, police violence and breaches of child labour laws. The report outlines how it expects Sri Lanka to take rapid and verifiable action to tackle discrepancies over its human rights abuses. The EU is Sri Lanka's largest export market, with textiles alone earning the country $3.5bn during 2008 alone. Under current agreements, Sri Lanka is allowed to pay less for exporting clothes and fish products to the EU - two of its main staple industries. A decision on suspending Sri Lanka's trade incentives could be taken by the end of November and take effect from early next summer, reports suggest.

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