Ms. Navanethem Pillay
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Palais Wilson, 52 rue des Pâquis
CH-1201 Geneva, Switzerland
Fax: +41 (0)22 917 9008
CC: Mr. Hanny Megally, Chief of the APMENA Branch, OHCHR
Mr. Rory Mungoven, Head of the Asia-Pacific Division, OHCHR
The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) is a regional human rights group with 47 member organisations from 16 countries across Asia, and we write to you in the light of your impending visit to Sri Lanka on 25-31 August 2013, in preparation for your update to the 24th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council (Council) to be held on 9-27 September 2013.
Since the adoption of the Council’s resolution on Reconciliation and Accountability in Sri Lanka (A/HRC/RES/22/1) at its 22nd regular session in March this year, civil society groups have noted that meaningful and concrete steps or measures have yet to be taken by the government of Sri Lanka to implement either this resolution or the recommendations from its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. Your report to the Council’s 22nd regular session (A/HRC/22/38) noted a culture of inadequate consultation with civil society and the lack of an inclusive approach in decision-making in the country. We are dismayed to find that this is still prevalent. Engagement with the UN and its human rights mechanisms has also put in danger many human rights defenders in the country as highlighted by the UN Secretary-General in his report on Cooperation with the UN, Its Representatives and Mechanisms in the Field of Human Rights (A/HRC/21/18). Furthermore, your report and the Council’s resolution 22/1 expressed concerns at allegations of enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings, torture, threats to the rule of law, religious discrimination and intimidation of civil society activists and journalists.
It is within this context, where a climate of fear and intimidation prevails in the country, that we urge you to make all efforts during your upcoming visit to reach out for meaningful dialogue and consultation with all the diverse civil society groups that work in all parts of the country and consider their valuable inputs in your update to the Council. We stress that meetings with civil society groups in the country be inclusive of geographical and sectoral representation as well as all minority groups and marginalised communities. We believe it will be important during your visit to publicly show solidarity with human rights defenders under threat including victims, dissidents and their families. In this regard, we call upon you to conduct visits to all parts of the country including the North and the East of Sri Lanka and directly interact with a variety of local and community leaders, civil society representatives, journalists and victims.
Furthermore, we urge your office to solicit the necessary assurances from the government of Sri Lanka for a substantive visit, which include:
- · Permission for all interpreters to be appointed by the UN;
- · Safeguards for your schedule to be flexible enough to allow ample opportunities to interact with individuals and groups confidentially;
- · Security arrangements for your mission that are designed to prevent, where necessary, government, military and police officials from accessing the content of discussions during your visit and intercepting those who meet you without credible reason;
- · Guarantees to prevent reprisals against human rights defenders, victims and others who engage with you and your office during and after the visit;
- · Clear commitment by the government of Sri Lanka to not denigrate the legitimate work of human rights defenders during and after your visit;
- · Full access for you and your office to crucial places including detention facilities, villages/land allegedly occupied by military and for which there are pending court cases; and
- · Full access, publicly or confidentially, to you and your office to documents including court records, prison records, commission of inquiry reports and internal government communication records.
Following the visit we request that your office keeps a database of those who have interacted with you and monitor their safety. Should there be any attempts of reprisals we urge you and your office to press upon the government to remedy the situation through open, credible and speedy investigations. We further request you to include any such monitoring information in your updates and reports to the Council.
Madam High Commissioner, we wish the best of success in your mission to Sri Lanka and look forward to its contribution towards accountability for allegations of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. We stand ready to assist and support your good office in this endeavour.
Acting Executive Director