Mar 23, 2017

UNHRC chief calls for int’l participation in Sri Lanka Featured

UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has called for international participation in transitional justice mechanisms to address accountability issues in the armed conflict in Sri Lanka.

He made the call in a statement at the interactive dialogue on his report on Sri Lanka at the 34th session of the UNHRC in Geneva yesterday (22).

“It is important for the country's future to send the signal that impunity is no longer tolerated,” he said.

“For this to be credible, [the judicial mechanism] should include a special counsel, foreign judges and defence lawyers, and authorized prosecutors and investigators,” he said, noting that national consultations had also identified international participation as a way to gain the trust of the victims.

He also said that while the design of truth and reparations processes appear to be underway, such efforts needed to be in consultation with victims and the civil society, and that the repeal of the terrorism prevention act and its replacement with legislation that complies with international human rights law is to be concluded.

The UNHRC chief also called for a comprehensive strategy to implement the proposals in consensual UN resolution adopted in 2015.

Responding, deputy minister of foreign affairs Harsha de Silva reiterated the Sri Lankan government’s commitment for the reconciliation process.

He also said that Sri Lanka would be co-sponsoring a resolution with the US for a two-year extension of the timeline for fulfillment of commitments made in the resolution.

Int’l commendation

Representatives of the US, UK, Germany, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan and Norway commended the steps taken by Sri Lankan to safeguard and promote human rights.

The British representative recognized the steps taken, in particular the restoration of important democratic checks and balances, improvements in respect for freedoms of expression and movement, the return of some military-held land, the passing of legislation to establish an Office for Missing Persons, the ratification of the Convention on Enforced Disappearances and the initiation of a process of constitutional reform.

Meanwhile, a proposal by the TGTE, which it claimed was made on behalf of 1.6 million Tamils and other nationals from several countries, to take Sri Lanka to international court was rejected by the UNHRC.