Kerry McBroom

Kerry McBroom (Home for Human Rights – HHR): Kerry has shown her commitment to law and justice throughout her academic career. She designed her own major in International Human Rights at Cornell University and volunteered in the New York State juvenile justice system. She also volunteered for human rights projects in Germany (post-conflict reconciliation), India (child rights), and Denmark (HIV/AIDS awareness). At the time of her fellowship, Kerry was pursuing legal degrees at American University Washington College of Law and in Paris at Université Paris X. Kerry has also worked for clients in Darfur, Cyprus, and Uganda as a research assistant for the Public International Law and Policy Group (PILPG) at AU, and interned at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. After her fellowship, Kerry wrote: “I think I did everything that a human rights activist can possibly do - from writing legal briefs/reports to interviewing victims in the field to working with donors. The fellowship made me more confident and showed me that I have a lot more to learn. I know that everything I learned this summer will inform my approach to academic projects, future professional endeavors, and my day-to-day activities."

The Two Faces of the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean”

30 Jul

Any guidebook on Sri Lanka will justifiably list endless quotes from historical, literary, and religious figures who have exalted the island’s utopian beauty.  Visitors have always played an important role in Sri Lanka—and now, in the post war context, the government is working hard to lure foreigners back to its beaches, rain forests, and ancient cultural monuments.

Personally, I have complicated feelings about traveling the island as a tourist.  This weekend I went to one of the Sri Lanka’s most visited sites, The Temple of the Tooth.  Buddhists and tourists from all over the world journey to Kandy to worship Buddha’s tooth, to take in Sri Lankan cultural dances, and to swoon over baby pachyderms at the near-by elephant orphanage.

Buddhists worship Buddha's tooth in Kandy

But this tourist experience only captures a small part of Sri Lanka’s reality.  Human rights abuses, ubiquitous militarism, and resistance to international human rights mechanisms persist in this paradise.  Right now the government is detaining tens of thousands of “potential LTTE conspirators” in camps throughout the country.  The government has not informed them of the reasons for their arrest, given them an opportunity to challenge their detention, or provided them with access to family or legal counsel.  Even as families of the disappeared fear the worst, the government will not release the names of the people in the camps.

This week the government announced plans to build eight new detention camps.  A leader of one of Sri Lanka’s opposition parties said that these camps “are to imprison those who protest against the political views of the ruling party.”  Messages out of existing camps paint a grim picture of corruption, sexual abuse, and torture.  One detainee wrote that he didn’t know if he would be released…or shot.


Tourists I’ve talked to remember the 2004 tsunami, but the decades-long war seems like an after-thought.  Although they pass  multitudes of AK-47 wielding soldiers on their way to the beach, visitors to Sri Lanka  remain largely oblivious to current and past violence in Sri Lanka.

The foreign visitors who could rally international pressure on Sri Lanka’s government experience a sterilized, one-sided vision of the post-war paradise.  I’m not anti-tourist; I’ve been a tourist for most of my adult life.  Tourism employs a significant number of people, fosters cultural exchange, and boosts the economy.  However, in this environment of continued militarization, extreme resistance to international human rights organizations, and massive secret detentions, Sri Lanka’s tourism industry may paint a dangerously unrealistic picture of the country.

Mount Lavinia Beach

Posted By Kerry McBroom

Posted Jul 30th, 2010

Enter your Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *