UN rights chief calls for time-bound action plan in Sri Lanka

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, today called on Sri Lanka to implement a detailed and comprehensive strategy for the transitional post war justice process with a fixed timeline.

She said that legislation on the establishment of an independent Truth and Reconciliation Commission could be an important next step.

Bachelet expressed these views after formally submitting a report on Sri Lanka to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva today.

“I welcome this opportunity to discuss the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, and to present my report pursuant to Human Rights Council resolutions 30/1 and 34/1. The Office has sent an advanced version of the report to the Government of Sri Lanka and has given due consideration to the comments received, further to our routine procedures,” she said.

The High Commissioner said that her report acknowledges the Government’s open dialogue and sustained cooperation with her Office.

“Working closely with the UN Resident Coordinator and her Senior Human Rights Advisor, we have continued to provide technical support, including through the UN Peacebuilding Fund, for Sri Lanka to implement this Council’s resolutions 30/1 and 34/1. I welcome the operationalization of the Office of Missing Persons (OMP), following initial delays. The OMP plans to undertake the complex task of tracing the whereabouts of victims in a sensitive, thorough and objective manner, addressing the difficult situation of the victims’ families. I commend the establishment of the Office for Reparations, and look forward to the swift appointment of its Commissioners. My Office encourages the Government to enable these two institutions to function effectively and independently, and to link them to a broader approach aimed at justice, real accountability and truth-seeking,” she said.

Regarding the land occupied by the military in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, Bachelet said that some progress has been noted, and further steps should be taken to complete this crucial process.

“The steps I have just indicated are elements of Sri Lanka’s commitment to broad institutional and reform measures made four years ago, in the context of implementing Human Rights Council resolution 30/1. However, implementation of resolution 30/1 needs to be more consistent, comprehensive and accelerated. A contributing factor to delays appears to be a lack of common vision among the country’s highest leadership. Deadlock on these important issues is an additional – and avoidable – problem, with damaging impact currently on victims from all ethnic and religious groups and on society as a whole,” Bachelet said.

Bachelet also noted that the recent appointment to a senior position in the Sri Lankan Army of Major General Shavendra Silva, implicated in alleged serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, is a worrying development.

In closing, Bachelet emphasised that in co-sponsoring resolutions 30/1 and 34/1, the Government recognized the need to address the past in order to build a future securely grounded in accountability, respect for human rights and the rule of law. For victims and for society, this need continues.

She said that there is an opportunity, now, to leave behind a past of violence and human rights violations, through bold determination and leadership at all levels of Government. (Colombo Gazette)

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