By Steve Crawshaw, Director of Amnesty International’s Office of the Secretary General, who is currently in Colombo
Everybody in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, knows all about “CHOGM” – pronounced “choggum”. They speak with enthusiasm, resignation or indignation about the fact that the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting is taking place here. The streets are garlanded with banners welcoming CHOGM delegates, and the face of the President, Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Inside the tranquil tropical gardens of the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall, journalists and delegates scurry back and forth from venue to venue. A clutch of events have been taking place all week ahead of the main summit that opens today (15 November), with Prince Charles representing the Queen as Head of the Commonwealth.
For Rajapaksa and his government, it is obviously a privilege to be hosting CHOGM – a surprising choice, by any measure, given the country’s dismal human rights track record, including alleged war crimes and disappearances, and what a UN report described as “a grave assault on the entire regime of international law”.