US, UK tell UNHRC much remains to be done in Sri Lanka

The United States and the UK told the UN Human Rights Council today much remains to be done in Sri Lanka despite the progress seen so far.

William J. Mozdzierz, speaking on behalf of the US Government, told the UNHRC today that the United States appreciates the Government of Sri Lanka’s cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and relevant special procedure mandate holders.

“Since September 2015, Sri Lanka has taken important steps toward implementing its key human rights, justice, and reconciliation commitments. In particular, we commend the Government’s public consultations with civil society and victims across Sri Lanka. We also recognize the joint efforts of President Sirisena, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, and Opposition Leader Sampanthan in drafting a new, more inclusive and democratic constitution, passing legislation to establish an Office of Missing Persons, and ratifying the Convention on Enforced Disappearances,” the US official said.

He said reconciliation processes are complex, but the US had hoped to see greater and more sustained progress over the past 18 months.

“While over 4,500 acres of land have been returned to private owners, many thousands of acres seized during the conflict period remain under military control. While arbitrary and illegal actions by security officials appear vastly reduced from the number reported during the previous government, we are concerned by reports of continued arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, sexual violence, and harassment by security officials,” he said.

He also noted that Government statements against international participation in any future Sri Lankan judicial mechanism raise understandable concerns among victims and families about the integrity of any judicial process.

“Yet lasting peace requires that the government remain committed in word and deed to implementing its international commitments fully. Therefore, we encourage the Government of Sri Lanka to make public a strategy and timetable for implementation of the reforms and commitments outlined in this Council’s Resolution 30/1. Priorities should be reforming the constitution, operationalizing the Office of Missing Persons, passing new counter terrorism legislation, establishing a truth commission, continuing releases of military-occupied land, and implementing fully all outstanding international commitments. The United States looks forward to continued close engagement with the Government of Sri Lanka on these processes to achieve lasting peace,” he said.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom commanded the Government of Sri Lanka for the steps taken since January 2015 to improve the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.

However the UK noted that much remains to be done and it urged the Government of Sri Lanka to provide the determined leadership required to deliver fully on the commitments it made when co-sponsoring resolution 30/01 and to develop a comprehensive and time bound implementation strategy.

“In particular, we encourage the Government to deliver meaningful devolution through constitutional reform, establish credible transitional justice mechanisms, return all remaining military-held private land and replace the Prevention of Terrorism Act with human rights compliant legislation. We also commend the work of the Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms and encourage the Sri Lankan government to give due consideration to its recommendations,” the UK delegation at the session said.

The UK said it will continue to support and encourage the Sri Lankan Government. (Colombo Gazette)


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