The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has been urged to push Sri Lanka for a timetable for implementing the recommendations in resolution 30/1 when a new resolution is submitted at the 34th session which begins in Geneva next week.
In a letter to the Permanent Missions in Geneva, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has sought support in ensuring that the upcoming consideration of Sri Lanka’s progress toward implementing its commitments under United Nations Human Rights Council resolution 30/1 accurately and substantively reflects the situation within the country.
“This includes both progress to date and the significant challenges remaining. At the end of this letter, we outline what we would consider to be the minimum key elements for a credible follow-up resolution,” the letter states.
HRW noted that the resolution, adopted by the Council in October 2015 through consensus, contains 25 key undertakings by the Sri Lankan Government across a range of human rights issues.
“We acknowledge at the outset the positive steps taken by the Government to date. Four UN Special Procedures, plus the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, have visited Sri Lanka since the resolution was adopted. By all accounts, their visits received Government cooperation, and they were unhindered in their movements and meetings. Two nationwide consultations have been carried out, one on constitutional reform and the other on transitional justice. The Government has released some reports from previous government commissions of inquiry into wartime abuses, and established coordination offices to deal with transitional justice and reconciliation issues. Importantly, the Government in May 2016 ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance,” the letter said.
However, HRW said it was concerned about the Government’s actual willingness to fully implement all aspects of resolution 30/1.
A key element of the resolution consists of transitional justice promises: a special court including international judges and prosecutors to try cases of war crimes by all parties to the conflict, an office on missing and disappeared persons, a truth-seeking and reconciliation mechanism, and a reparations mechanism.
HRW says the Government has made only halting progress towards fulfilling these commitments. A hastily drafted and passed law to establish an Office of Missing Persons was done without thorough consultation of key stakeholders, and the office has yet to be set up. The three other promised mechanisms have not made significant progress. Reliable reports indicate that the Government team working on these three mechanisms has prepared draft legislation but as yet they have not been shared with stakeholders.
“A report issued by the Government-appointed Consultation Task Force (CTF), which conducted extensive nationwide consultations on the transitional justice mechanisms, should be given the attention it deserves. The CTF report contains specific detailed recommendations, drawn from all affected communities including the security services, and provides an important blueprint for the way forward. The government may be commended for mandating these wide-ranging consultations, and should be encouraged through the anticipated Council resolution to engage with the CTF report’s findings and give due consideration to implementing its recommendations. To do otherwise would be tantamount to a dismissal of victims’ voices. It was the victims’ rights groups that sustained a diligent campaign over many years that helped to make resolution 30/1 possible. The CTF report and its recommendations should be at the forefront in the design of Sri Lanka’s promised four transitional justice mechanisms,” HRW added.
HRW says an additional note of concern on Sri Lanka’s progress on transitional justice is its ongoing resistance to any foreign involvement in the four mechanisms.
Government officials, including the president and cabinet members, have been increasingly unwilling to consider significant international involvement in the justice mechanism. This directly contravenes the call by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for a “hybrid” justice mechanism given the shortcomings of domestic institutions to ensure impartial investigations and witness protection, and the Sri Lankan government’s failure to take meaningful accountability measures since Sri Lanka’s civil war ended in May 2009.
HRW says it is imperative that the Council remain fully engaged with the process until the commitments Sri Lanka made to the Council and UN member states and its own people through its co-sponsorship of resolution 30/1 are fully met. (Colombo Gazette)