OHCHR sees Sri Lanka falling short on its commitments by 2019

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) today expressed “much regret” over the slow progress in establishing transitional justice mechanisms in Sri Lanka.

Kate Gilmore, the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights told the UN Human Rights Council today that OHCHR welcomes the Government’s constructive engagement with OHCHR and the human rights mechanisms, including its cooperation with visits of this Council’s Special Rapporteurs on human rights and terrorism; on truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence; and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

“We also welcome Sri Lanka’s accession to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and the adoption of the National Human Rights Action Plan,” she said.

However she said it is with much regret that OHCHR must report slow progress in establishing transitional justice mechanisms in Sri Lanka.

She was speaking at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva today when making a written update on progress in promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka between March 2017 and January 2018.

Gilmore said that in the absence of concrete results or publicly available drafts of legislation, it seems doubtful that the transitional justice agenda committed to by the Government under this Council’s resolution 30/1 could be fully implemented before the next report of OHCHR in March 2019.

“We also regret that the commissioners of the Office of Missing Persons were only recently appointed, 20 months after the adoption of the legislation. Further there has been insufficient progress in returning land occupied by the military. Trust will not be rebuilt if land grabbing continues, nor without independent mechanisms established to determine fair compensations for land reserved for security reasons,” she said.

Furthermore, Gilmore said the authorities have yet to demonstrate with the willingness or the capacity to address impunity for gross violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law.

“This strengthens the argument for the establishment of a specialized court to deal with serious crimes, supported by international practitioners. In the absence of such a mechanism, we call on Member States to exercise universal jurisdiction. We are also seriously concerned about multiple incidents of inter-communal violence, attacks and hate speech against minorities observed last year – a worry further exacerbated by recent developments that have occurred since the drafting of the report, including violence against Muslims in Kandy district that led to the proclamation of state of emergency for 12 days. Allegations of continuing use of torture and continued reports of harassment or surveillance of human rights defenders are more than worrying,” she added.

In light of the gravity of the matters mentioned and given the import role that the Council has played to date, Gilmore said the High Commissioner strongly advises that the Council continue to focus its attention on the human rights of the people of Sri Lanka and in particular on the processes in place for accountability and reconciliation. (Colombo Gazette)