Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on UN member states to impose targeted sanctions on Sri Lankans allegedly responsible for grave violations and pursue justice for international crimes in national courts under the principle of universal jurisdiction.
The United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on Sri Lanka is a victory for victims of abuses to help them obtain information, accountability, and justice, Human Rights Watch said today.
HRW said that UN and member countries should emphasize to Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa that any reprisals against activists who campaigned for the resolution would have serious consequences.
Resolution 46/1, adopted on March 23, 2021, establishes a powerful new accountability process to collect, analyze, and preserve evidence of international crimes committed in Sri Lanka for use in future prosecutions. The Sri Lankan Government vigorously opposed the resolution, and there have been numerous reports of threats and harassment against rights activists in recent months.
“The Human Rights Council’s landmark resolution on Sri Lanka shows that if justice is denied, the UN will act to provide accountability for atrocities,” John Fisher, Geneva Director at Human Rights Watch said. “When governments fail to respect their international law obligations, as Sri Lanka has, it’s crucial for the Human Rights Council to respond with substantive measures like these.”
Families of abuse victims have struggled for years to learn what happened to their loved ones and to see those responsible held to account, Human Rights Watch said.
The resolution was adopted in response to a devastating report in January by the UN high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, on the failure of successive Sri Lankan governments to provide justice and accountability.
It establishes a dedicated new capacity within the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights “to collect, consolidate, analyse and preserve information and evidence” of gross violations of human rights or serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in Sri Lanka, and “to advocate for victims and survivors, and to support relevant judicial and other proceedings, including in Member States, with competent jurisdiction.”
After many years in which there was barely any progress on accountability, this measure brings justice closer for international crimes committed in Sri Lanka, Human Rights Watch said. The high commissioner is mandated to deliver a report to the Human Rights Council after 18 months, including “options for advancing accountability.”
In her January report, the high commissioner also warned of “clear early warning signs of a deteriorating human rights situation and a significantly heightened risk of future violations.”
The Core Group of states that brought the resolution on Sri Lanka – the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Malawi, Montenegro, and North Macedonia – have stood in support of human rights and accountability in Sri Lanka, and upheld the credibility of the Human Rights Council by advancing justice for serious violations of international law, Human Rights Watch said. Altogether 22 Human Rights Council members voted for the resolution, while 11 voted against, and 14 abstained. More than 40 countries co-sponsored the resolution, which remains open for co-sponsorship. (Colombo Gazette)