Statements made on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on September 30 after a report on Sri Lanka was submitted to the Council.
US Commends Government’s Openness
The United States commended the Sri Lankan government’s expression of openness to working collaboratively with Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) as it establishes for all Sri Lankans a future based on justice, reconciliation, rule of law, and respect for fundamental freedoms
The US Ambassador in Geneva Keith Harper said the findings of the OHCHR’s report on its investigation on Sri Lanka with respect to acts by both sides are chilling.
He said that unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, sexual and gender-based violence, torture, and abductions are just some of the alleged violations and abuses catalogued by the OHCHR investigation.
And while initial progress has been made by the new government on strengthening democratic institutions, land restitution and finding solutions for internally displaced people, the Ambassador noted that much more work remains to be done, including on ensuring justice and accountability.
He said a credible reconciliation process, in turn, will serve as the foundation for an enduring peace and security in Sri Lanka.
Harper said January 2015 marked a new beginning for Sri Lanka. The government’s invitations to High Commissioner Zeid, Special Rapporteur de Greiff, and the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances are powerful signs of an important shift that has occurred in Sri Lanka.
“We welcome these signs. The passage of the nineteenth amendment, actions taken to advance respect for human rights, and the establishment of the Office of National Unity and Reconciliation are also concrete steps in the right direction and critical steps on this new path. We commend furthermore the Sri Lankan government’s expression of openness to working collaboratively with OHCHR as it establishes for all Sri Lankans a future based on justice, reconciliation, rule of law, and respect for fundamental freedoms. The path on which Sri Lanka has embarked to achieve justice, reconciliation and lasting peace is a challenging one, but we are confident that the government, the Sri Lankan people and the international community can work together to meet those challenges,” he added.
Canada recognizes the important steps
Canada says it recognizes the important steps taken to date in Sri Lanka following the 8 January, 2015, Presidential election. Significant progress must be made in areas such as human rights, accountability, democracy and rule of law. Canada will continue with strong unequivocal support of Sri Lankans as they pursue reconciliation.
Canada encourages the Government of Sri Lanka to continue on a path that will bring about a sustainable peace as a foundation for economic development, benefiting all individuals and communities across the country.
Canada further encourages Sri Lanka to follow up on the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.
“We urge Sri Lanka to follow through on its commitment to undertake an independent investigation, including active engagement with all stakeholders when designing and implementing transitional justice processes. It is important to follow through on commitments to establish a credible mechanism to investigate allegations and ensure accountability for serious international crimes perpetrated by all parties during the conflict. We underline the importance of meaningful international involvement in such a mechanism to enhance its credibility, particularly for victims,” Canada said.
The Canadian Government also welcomed Sri Lanka’s renewed engagement with Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and encourage further collaboration. Following through on these commitments will send a reassuring signal to Sri Lankans and to international partners, including the Commonwealth, regarding the importance that Sri Lanka places on human rights, reconciliation and accountability.
Norway offers assistance
Norway says it stands ready to assist the Government of Sri Lanka in promoting a peaceful, inclusive and democratic nation.
Norway welcomes the report from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, submitted to Human Rights Council following its deferral at the last session. The report contains constructive recommendations for follow-up.
“We also thank the core group for providing a draft resolution on the report. We appreciate the commitments and initial steps taken by the new Sri Lankan government to set up independent, credible and empowered mechanisms for truth-seeking, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence. We applaud the commitment and concrete measures demonstrated in the speech of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Mangala Samaraweera in the general debate here on 14 September, and understand that Sri Lanka’s government is earnest in these efforts. We sincerely hope it will be possible to reach consensus in the council for a resolution on reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka. We find the present draft resolution a good basis for consensus. We would like to note that the involvement of international assistance in other countries’ processes for seeking truth and justice has proved important to those processes, and therefore support provisions along these lines in the draft resolution,” Norway said.
Deliver meaningful and expeditious justice: HRW
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the UN human rights High Commissioner’s investigative report on Sri Lanka marks a significant step towards justice and accountability for the victims of international crimes and the family members of Sri Lanka’s dead and “disappeared.” The international investigative team extensively documented alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, including torture, extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.
HRW says now the government of Sri Lanka and the international community need to engage credibly, promptly and transparently to see these recommendations implemented. The Sri Lankan government, having asked for trust, needs to seize on this opportunity to deliver meaningful and expeditious justice and other reforms.
“The Sri Lankan government has accepted many recommendations to improve the human rights situation, including a repeal of the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act and reforms to the Witness and Victim Protection Law, both long called for by victims’ rights groups. The government has also agreed to accelerate the return of lands confiscated by the security forces; to end the divisive military involvement in civilian activities in the country’s north and east; to investigate allegations of attacks on civil society, media, and religious minorities; and to work toward devolution of authority from the center in line with the 13th amendment to the constitution. Among the report’s concrete recommendations is the establishment of a special court “integrating international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators” with an independent Sri Lankan investigative and prosecuting body. The endorsement in the resolution under consideration of a judicial mechanism with international participation is an important recognition of the need for an international role to ensure justice for victims. This participation must be meaningful, not tokenism or a façade,” HRW said.
HRW says Sri Lanka’s government, through its cosponsorship of the resolution, is making important promises to all the victims of Sri Lanka’s long civil war. However, effective foreign participation and international engagement will be needed to build trust and confidence in the process, which is necessary for a successful outcome.
“We urge the government of Sri Lanka to implement the important investigative report recommendation to support the establishment of a dedicated OHCHR office in the country, and we would encourage the High Commissioner to keep the Council regularly updated on developments, through formal and informal briefings. The victims of the conflict have waited years and in some cases decades for justice. Now responsibility rests with the government of Sri Lanka, working together with stakeholders including civil society, the OHCHR, and the Human Rights Council, to finally make that possible. We will all be watching closely,” HRW added.
ICJ welcomes recommendations
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) delivered an oral statement to the UN Human Rights Council, commenting on the landmark UN investigation and report on violations of human rights and humanitarian law in Sri Lanka, and welcoming recommendations for integration of international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators into any accountability mechanism.
“The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) welcomes the OHCHR Report on Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka (UN Doc A/HRC/30/61), which sets out the principal findings of the Report of the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL Report, UN Doc A/HRC/30/CRP.2) documenting alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes during the armed conflict in Sri Lanka. The ICJ commends the investigation team for its historic contribution towards reconciliation and the realization of victims’ rights in Sri Lanka. The ICJ works with judiciaries, governments, civil society and victims around the world to address impunity and victims’ right to remedy for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including in situations of transition. For over thirty years, the ICJ has documented and reported on a gradual erosion of judicial independence, impartiality and integrity under successive governments in Sri Lanka, and the resulting culture of impunity, including in the judiciary,” ICJ said.
The ICJ considers the International Criminal Court (ICC) to be the preferred mechanism for individual accountability where national authorities and courts lack the capacity or the willingness to genuinely investigate and prosecute all war crimes and crimes against humanity. In the absence of an ICC process, the ICJ’s extensive experience demonstrates that any credible and effective accountability process in Sri Lanka must involve, at a minimum, a majority of international judges, prosecutors and investigators.
The ICJ therefore welcomes the High Commissioner’s recommendation for a hybrid court and prosecutor’s office that fully integrates international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators.
“Also essential are the OHCHR recommendations on: mandate and resources of these mechanisms; legislating retroactive recognition of international crimes under national law; justice and security sector reform; repealing the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA); strengthening the Witness and Victim Protection Act; accession to the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances (CED), the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Convention, and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court; and continued monitoring of implementation through an OHCHR country office and the Council,” ICJ said.
The ICJ welcomes that the tabled draft resolution explicitly recognises the need for international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators. We call on the Council to adopt the resolution with, and call on the Government of Sri Lanka to urgently implement, these and other key elements of the recommendations of the High Commissioner’s Report in full.
UNICEF says Children bore the brunt of the war in Sri Lanka
The United Nations agency on children, UNICEF, said that children bore the brunt of the war in Sri Lanka and of the atrocities committed by both sides.
It said that children, and people who were children at the time of atrocities and violations, should be given ample voice in all processes proposed by the report on Sri Lanka by the UN and be supported in those processes as witnesses or claimants as if they were still children.
It also said that the families of children who were recruited, killed, maimed or otherwise had their rights violated should be supported in all these processes as special interest groups.
“Children, and people who were children at the time, should be considered in all processes of restitution, truth telling and reconciliation, and those processes should actively reach out to hear from children and people who were children at the time (taking into consideration their particular vulnerabilities) and ensure that they too are considered for compensation and restitution. The majority of the children, or people who were children at the time, who remain on active family tracing lists, were older teens who had been conscripted into the LTTE in the later part of the war. Families need to know what happened to their children and where they or their bodies are. Processes regarding incidents which might have led to any of those children being detained, separated from their communities or killed should address children’s cases as a matter of priority,” UNICEF added.
UNICEF noted that reconciliation processes recommended by the UN report must recognize the damage the conflict did to childhood in Sri Lanka, and all efforts need to be made to bring children into wider national discussions about the causes, injustices and impacts of the conflict, as a means to break the inter- and intra-generational transmission of suspicion and mistrust that still prevails in many cases. Children and adolescents should be engaged as agents of peace building, reconciliation and social cohesion, and every effort should be made to ensure their active participation in processes and dialogues which aim to create long term and lasting peace on the beautiful island of Sri Lanka.
UNICEF is encouraged by the commitment of the new government in Sri Lanka and stands ready to support it in efforts to realize the rights of children, and people who were children at the time, in the coming years in the processes of truth telling, reconciliation, non-reoccurrence and peace education and building.
PMK calls for international inquiry
PMK MP Anbumani Ramadoss on Wednesday made a strong case for international inquiry into the war crimes and human rights violations in the last leg of the civil war in Sri Lanka, saying that the Sri Lankan government facing accusations had no locus standi to take any decision on the issue.
Participating in a debate on the inquiry report on human rights violation by the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner at Geneva, Dr. Anbumani pointed out that the new government in Sri Lanka had refused to allow the inquiry commission headed by the UNHRC commissioner.
“Tamils continue to live in fear as refugees in their own land. The Army has occupied their land and properties,” Dr. Anbumani said, urging India to move a resolution in the UNHRC in support of an international inquiry.