The United States brought to the notice of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) last week, what it says is a continuation of violations of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and reprisals against human rights defenders, members of civil society, and journalists in Sri Lanka.
In a statement at the general debate on human rights situations requiring council attention, the US Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Eileen Donahoe said that there have been no credible investigations or prosecutions for attacks on journalists and media outlets.
She also said that the government should set visit dates and provide access to UN special procedure mandate holders. The government has so far refused to agree to a visit by the UN special procedure mandate holders.
Among those who sought to visit Sri Lanka is the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue.
Canada also raised serious concerns over the situation in Sri Lanka during the 23rd session of the UNHRC last week.
The government meanwhile on Friday formally responded to the concerns raised by the US government as well as Canada on Sri Lanka. “In response to the US, we wish to note that every effort is being made by the government to investigate incidents relating to alleged attacks on the media and to prosecute perpetrators of such crimes in instances where they are identified and sufficient evidence is available. Further, our continued and constructive engagement with special procedures is itself evidence of our serious commitment to engagement with the Council and its mechanisms,” the government told the UNHRC at its ongoing 23rd session.
The government also said it was surprised by Canada’s claim of “ongoing violations of human rights and lack of reconciliation in Sri Lanka” when the government’s progress with regard to addressing human rights concerns and reconciliation is being amply demonstrated on the ground, acknowledged by many in the international community, and elaborated comprehensively and in detail at successive Council sessions by our delegation, including during the current Council session.
“The significant progress achieved in the implementation of the recommendations of the LLRC through the time bound National Plan of Action is well documented in the public domain in a transparent and easily accessible manner, including via its latest Progress Report released in April 2013. The many facets of reconciliation including resettlement of IDPs, demining, rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-combatants including child soldiers, resolution of land issues, infrastructure development, housing, implementation of the language policy, as well accountability issues are being addressed in a comprehensive manner taking into consideration the aspirations of the affected communities,” the government said.
“We also reiterate that as a founding member of the Commonwealth, Sri Lanka is firmly committed to its values and principles. Sri Lanka’s longstanding engagement and commitment to the Commonwealth is known and demonstrated by the undertaking to host the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in November this year, for which preparations are underway. The reference to the Commonwealth by Canada in this forum is rather puzzling, considering its membership not being universal,” the government said.