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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights presented her oral update on promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka

Date : 2013.10.07

On 24th September, oral update of Ms. Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, on the implementation of the UN Human Rights Council resolution A/HRC/22/1, titled promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka, was presented by the Deputy High Commissioner on behalf of Ms. Pillay. During the 25th session of the Human Rights Council following High Commissioner’s recent visit to Sri Lanka in August.

While welcoming and recognising some positive developments in the country such as infrastructural re-construction, the Northern Provincial Council election and the Government’s acceptance of additional 53 recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) into the National Action Plan, the High Commissioner expressed concerns over a number of issues that are not addressed sufficiently or whole, such as:

Situation of thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who were displaced before 2008-9 and are still waiting to return, and the difficulty of those who returned or resettled; ongoing militarisation of the North including violence against women and land grabbing by the military; lack of the progress in the investigation into the killing of 5 students in Trincomalee in 2005 as well as the murder of 17 NGO staff; hate speech and violence against religious minorities; administration of NGOs by the Ministry of Defence; reprisal and intimidation against human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists; collapse of rule of law and democracy; insufficient measures to implement the LLRC recommendations; limited mandate of the Commission of Inquiry into disappearances; arbitrary detention, especially those carried out under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

Against this backdrop, the High Commissioner recommended the Government of Sri Lanka to:

Reduce the military presence in the North; apply zero tolerance policy for sexual abuse; remove restrictions on NGOs and create civil society space; effectively implement the LLRC recommendations and include NGOs in its process; broaden the Commission of Inquiry’s mandate and to investigate “white van” disappearances in Colombo and other parts of the country; lift the PTA; carry out credible and independent investigation into alleged violation of international humanitarian and human rights law; establish a truth-seeking mechanism for transitional justice; investigate unsolved killings and other human rights violations and publish results in public; adopt a witness and victim protection legislation as well as a law on hate speech; invitation to the Independent Expert on Minorities as well as the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances for a county visit; and ratification of the International Convention on Disappearances.

Furthermore, the High Commissioner recommends the Government to cooperate with the Northern Provincial Council for more comprehensive development projects effectively participated by minority and civil society representatives. She hopes that the devolution of power will be taken forward by the result of the recent election. Also, she welcomes that the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons has been invited for a visit in December this year. It was also reiterated by the High Commissioner that the Government of Sri Lanka should take concrete measures with tangible results before March 2014, when she submits her complete report to the 25th Session of HRC.

President of IMADR, Ms. Nimalka Fernando, delivered an oral statement on 26th September at the Human Rights Council.

Following the oral update of the High Commissioner, an oral statement of IMADR was delivered by its President, Ms. Nimalka Fernando. In the statement, she urged the Government of Sri Lanka to widen the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry into disappearances to investigate every disappearance case happened until now, while noting that no progress was made regarding the establishment of the Commission. She also pointed out that the 18th Amendment to the Constitution enacted in 2010 has undermined the framework for a credible election and culture of impunity, collapse of rule of law, oppression on civil society and free media and restriction of freedom of assembly are continuing, including reprisal and intimidation against those cooperating with the UN. Finally, given the failure of the Government and lack of credible domestic mechanism, she stressed on the need for an independent international investigation into all violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

Oral update of the High Commissioner is available here

Oral statement of IMADR is available here

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