UN ‘encouraged’ by progress made by Sri Lanka on human rights

The UN has congratulated the government of Sri Lanka on its human rights record during the past nine months despite ongoing abuses highlighted by local and international rights watchdogs.

Releasing a special report on Sri Lanka since the country agreed to abide by a UN resolution on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka (Resolution 30/1) last year, the UN rights chief invited the Human Rights Council to be ‘encouraged’ by the progress.

“Overall, the Human Rights Council should be encouraged thus far by the steps that the Government of Sri Lanka has taken to implement some of the key commitments made in Resolution 30/1, and the consultations and preparations now underway to further elaborate and design the transitional justice mechanisms,” High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said announced in his latest update.

The restoration of the Constitutional Council, an independent Human Rights Commission and the ratification of the Disappearances Convention (CED) received special praise from the high commissioner as ‘important achievements that will leave a legacy for the future’.

Victim Consultation

High Commissioner Zeid’s report comes in the wake of an appeal by a collective of Tamil people’s grassroots organisations urging international powers to hold Sri Lanka accountable to its obligations under the Geneva Resolution.

“The unwarranted praise and promotion that the Sri Lankan Government continues to receive from certain powerful sections of the International Community, which also ironically co-sponsored the resolution, will only encourage the Government to further withdraw from its obligations under the Geneva resolution and is unlikely to inspire them into honouring their commitments,” said the statement by Tamil Civil Society Forum (TCSF).

It drew special attention to the lack of victim consultation in transitional justice mechanisms.

The government setting up an Office for Missing Persons (OMP) without proper consultations with the families of the disappeared was an indication of the ‘callous disregard for the need for a genuine consultative process,’ said TCSF.

Nevertheless, the UN human rights chief called for more transparency in what he called ‘current consultation process with victims and civil society’.

He further recommended ‘a comprehensive strategy that enables it to pursue different processes in a coordinated, integrated and appropriately sequenced manner’ as a requirement for the government to   implement its commitments.

International judges

The participation of international judges, prosecutors, investigators and lawyers in a judicial mechanism consistently ruled out by the Sri Lanka government remains a ‘key question’ says the High Commissioner.

“It is also important to keep in mind the magnitude and complexity of the international crimes alleged, which the OHCHR investigation found could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity,” says his report to the UNHCR.

Referring to new evidence emerged on the use of cluster munitions during the last stages of the war, Prince Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein called for an independent and impartial investigation.

The High Commissioner is to present his full report to the council on Wednesday (29).

Lead photo: Tamils protest in Jaffna against ongoing militarisation and occupation by the Sri Lankan military - June 27, 2016, Jaffna, Sri Lanka.