This week, the UN Human Rights Committee will review Sri Lanka’s fifth periodic report on how it is implementing the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This post offers a preview of the issues likely to be raised by the committee at its session in Geneva.
“Staff from the Centre for Policy Alternatives have been at the inquiry hearings and say there are serious problems. The organisation claims that military and intelligence officers have been intimidating witnesses by questioning and photographing them as they arrived to give evidence.”
12 September 2014 – Expressing grave concern today about the resumption of arrests, detention and deportation of asylum-seekers and refugees in Sri Lanka, the United Nations refugee agency called on the Government to refrain from such actions and abide by its obligations under international law.
Sri Lanka will deny visas to United Nations’ investigators probing accusations of war crimes as it strengthens a domestic panel looking into allegations related to its 26-year war, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said on Tuesday.
“It is important to understand that this investigation was set up for the benefit of all Sri Lankans, as an avenue to achieve lasting peace and reconciliation,” she said.
“It is in this context that the Human Rights Council-mandated investigation should be viewed, rather than being seen as a confrontation.”
The United States welcomes UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay’s announcement of the distinguished experts who will advise the panel conducting the international investigation into the alleged human rights violations and related crimes in Sri Lanka, as called for in the March 2014 Human Rights Council resolution on Sri Lanka. We strongly urge the Government of Sri Lanka to cooperate fully with the Office of the High Commissioner and its investigation. We continue to urge the Government of Sri Lanka to fulfill its obligations to its own people and to take meaningful, concrete steps to address outstanding concerns related to democratic governance, human rights, reconciliation, justice, and accountability. The United States stands ready to assist Sri Lanka in facilitating progress on these issues.
The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has welcomed the appointment of a team of experts to investigate alleged abuses in Sri Lanka.
Yet as long as the threat of intervention hangs over Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa can tug at his countrymen’s nationalist heart strings, rally ultra-nationalists and galvanise support for a government seemingly under attack from foreign interests. His government can deploy an “us-and-them” framework and brand broader anti-government views as anti-nationalist.
This, coupled with the glacial pace of international justice and an almost pathological ability by mainstream Sri Lanka to overlook violent abuses of power, means Rajapaksa’s political opponents will gain little traction for a campaign based on alleged war crimes.
Rajapaksa, like so many before him, enjoys an impunity no international bellowing is likely to overcome.
What to do with Sri Lanka? The island nation, triumphant after nearly three decades of war against ethnic separatists, has vexed the United Nations.
Five years after the war’s brutal ending, the world body has been unable to address grave human rights violations committed by the warring parties, making Sri Lanka something of an object lesson in the difficulties of pursuing accountability.
CPA’s Executive Director Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu on the draft resolution on Sri Lanka tabled at the UN HRC’s 25th session, and its implications for the country.
“This resolution as attested to by the draft also does point to continuing violations for example with regards to religious freedom, the impeachment of the chief justice, the continuing culture of impunity, land grabs, the lack of witness and victim protection, continuing disappearances, self-censorship in themedia, lack of right to information, legislation and host of other continuing violations. Perhaps the most controversial and the key part of the resolution with regard to the issue as to whether there should be a call for independent international commission of inquiry into allegations of war crimes…”
Listen to the short audio interview here –https://soundcloud.com/cpasrilanka/dr-paikiasothy-saravanamuttu-2
“Britain is to join the US and three other countries in pushing for a full international inquiry into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka after the government there failed to satisfy international calls for a such an inquiry, Downing Street announced on Sunday.”
“The biggest issue Sri Lanka faces is a systemic lack of respect for the rights of its citizens, particularly – but not exclusively – its minority citizens. This is rooted in a culture of impunity that is in turn rooted in a failure to hold to account those, on both sides, who committed some of the worst atrocities this century.”
This Council has accomplished much in a world which cries out for respect for human rights daily. The challenges we face and which we must plan for are at times daunting – discrimination in all its forms, civil strife which can lead to crimes against humanity and war crimes, the development of new technologies – such as drones and lethal autonomous robots – which push us to the outer edge of our thinking on how to ensure our rights are protected, social media and new information technology which raises the question of where the public and private space lies and the importance of on-line and off-line freedoms, and the environmental degradation which affects not only economic and social rights but also impacts on the civil, cultural and political rights.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay’s Opening Remarks to 25th Session of UN HRC in Geneva –https://docs.google.com/document/d/1CiLFSqikACTeNc9F4rSc4oqSaWD2kh17YzDvxsRtAHA/edit?usp=sharing
“We recognize the framework agreed upon in resolutions 21/1 HRC (2012) and 22/1 HRC 2013 supporting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka and efforts made by member states calling on the Sri Lankan government to address grave violations of human rights and humanitarian law committed before, during and after the war which ended in May 2009. We recognize too the efforts of member states calling on the Sri Lankan government to address continuing violation of human rights and democratic norms in Sri Lanka.
Despite the failure of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) to deal adequately with issues of accountability, civil society broadly agreed to cooperate with the Sri Lankan government in the implementation of the main LLRC recommendations. However, the government has not engaged in meaningful dialogue with civil society, opposition political parties and the international community in the implementation of LLRC recommendations. Moreover, the National Action Plan (NAP) conceived by the Sri Lankan government in July 2012 for this purpose, glosses over the most important issues of the LLRC, diluting its recommendations, considerably.
In our opinion, the Sri Lankan government continues to procrastinate over the implementation of key LLRC recommendations and instead, showcases ostensible progress on the NAP. The latter totally ignores the call for the setting up of an effective national mechanism to address accountability issues. Accordingly, we affirm the reports released by prominent Sri Lankan think tanks and civil society organisations such as the Centre for Policy Alternatives, which highlight the failure and shortcoming of the Sri Lankan government in the implementation of the LLRC recommendations.”
Read & download the full statement here –http://www.cpalanka.org/joint-civil-society-memorandum-to-the-human-rights-council-and-the-international-community/
Sri Lankan Campaign for Peace and Justice has today released a report that presents credible allegations pointing to the commission of crimes against humanity by Sri Lankan security forces during the five years since the civil war ended.
It is endorsed by a host of legal experts including UN Panel of Experts author Yasmin Sooka, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez, former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak, and international criminal law and human rights law scholar Professor William Schabas.