Rights groups urge UNHRC to maintain fullest scrutiny of Sri Lanka

Rights groups urge UNHRC to maintain fullest scrutiny of Sri Lanka

July 4, 2015   10:55 am

Several international human rights groups have urged the international community and the UN Human Rights Council to maintain the fullest scrutiny of Sri Lanka on questions of justice and accountability. 

In a joint open letter to the Ambassadors of UN Human Rights Council Member States, the rights groups state that although it is to be acknowledged that since January Sri Lanka’s government has induced some positive change in easing the “abusive human rights climate” of the previous Presidency, it must also be recognised that many challenges still remain unaddressed. 

“In the hurry to acknowledge changes, member states of the UN Human Rights Council and the UN as a whole should not let go of the many fundamental challenges that remain,” it said.

The open letter is signed by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Conectas Direitos Humanos, Human Rights Law Centre, International Commission of Jurists, International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, International Service for Human Rights and the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice.

The dissolution of Sri Lanka’s Parliament on Saturday and the announcement of fresh Parliamentary elections has renewed international attention on the country, the letter said, while noting that the ongoing 29th UNHRC session marks a midway point in the time given to the Sri Lankan government to demonstrate its willingness to cooperate on human rights issues. 

In his 13 February 2015 letter to the President of the Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights cited the government’s indications of broad cooperation and the possibility of accessing new information as the reasons for deferring his report on Sri Lanka. 

“We note with serious concern that there has been no visible progress in these areas till date,” the rights groups charged. 

In the last few months, the government has expressed its categorical unwillingness to allow international investigations within Sri Lanka, and has thus far not publicly demonstrated real cooperation with the UN High Commissioner by providing access to information relevant for the report.

“Following the Presidential elections in January, there have been some welcome changes on the ground to restore democratic institutions and improve ethnic reconciliation however, the government is yet to publicly demonstrate any concrete measures aimed at establishing a credible justice and accountability process in the country,” the letter said. 

It states that while the government has recently said that it will set up a domestic mechanism to investigate war-time abuses, there is neither any information about the mechanism in the public domain nor any clues as to how such a mechanism will operate. 

“Nor does it appear that the government has conducted any systematic, meaningful or broad-based public consultations with civil society and those affected by abuses to date, as is essential towards ensuring the legitimacy of any such mechanism.”

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