Hold perpetrators to account for their actions in Sri Lanka says British PM

cameronBritish Prime Minister David Cameron reiterated his call for Sri Lanka’s Government to address matters of international concern and hold perpetrators of abuses of international law to account for their actions.

Speaking at the the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils annual dinner on 29 January 2015, the British prime minister said that he has “long believed that establishing the truth is a crucial step to help families understand what happened to their loved ones, and help heal the scars of war.”

He said he was “incredibly proud of the role Britain]played in delivering the March 2014 UN Human Rights Council resolution that mandated” an international investigation into mass atrocities, Mr Cameron added that there was still more to be done in Sri Lanka.

“The OISL investigation in itself is not reconciliation or accountability,” said Mr Cameron. “It is important that the report is considered by the new Sri Lankan Government as they seek to reconcile and hold perpetrators to account for their actions.”

Welcoming Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s commitment to end Sri Lanka’s international isolation, Mr Cameron further added that he hopes “the new government will now work alongside the international community, including at the UN Human Rights Council, to address matters of international concern.”

The British prime minister also noted Mr Sirisena’s commitment to devolve power to Tamil regions of the island under the 13th Amendement, stating the government was taking “promising early steps”.

“I will continue to watch progress closely,” he added.

See the full text of his statement below.

The election of Maithripala Sirisena as the 7th President of Sri Lanka presents a renewed opportunity for Sri Lanka to realise its potential as a stable, prosperous and inclusive country, where all Sri Lankans can play a role.

The successful conduct of the elections earlier this month, the high voter turnout and the peaceful transfer of power is a great credit to the people of Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka’s democratic traditions. What now follows is a new chapter in Sri Lanka’s history.

I welcome President Sirisena’s early commitment to lead a more democratic and accountable government, including by restoring the independence of the police and judiciary, ensuring electoral reforms, protecting the rights of religious minorities, and guaranteeing media freedoms. The new government’s commitments to Parliament are also promising for Tamil communities in the North, including a commitment to devolve powers under the 13th Amendment of Sri Lanka’s constitution. I have also noted the replacement of the military governor in the North with a civilian, and welcome the appointment of a Tamil minister for Resettlement and Reconstruction, together with the new government’s early engagement with Tamil political parties. These are promising early steps and I will continue to watch progress closely.

In my statement following President Sirisena’s election, I called on the new Sri Lankan Government to support the ongoing UN Office of the High Commission for Human Rights’ investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) into alleged violations and abuses of international law by both sides of the conflict. I committed to seek an international investigation during my visit in November 2013, and I am incredibly proud of the instrumental role we played in delivering the March 2014 UN Human Rights Council resolution that mandated this. I have long believed that establishing the truth is a crucial step to help families understand what happened to their loved ones, and help heal the scars of war. However, the OISL investigation in itself is not reconciliation or accountability. It is important that the report is considered by the new Sri Lankan Government as they seek to reconcile and hold perpetrators to account for their actions.

I welcome the new President’s commitment to end Sri Lanka’s international isolation and therefore hope the new government will now work alongside the international community, including at the UN Human Rights Council, to address matters of international concern in order to build Sri Lanka into a peaceful and prosperous nation for all its people. To this end, I am pleased that Hugo Swire, Foreign and Commonwealth Minister of State, will visit Sri Lanka this week to discuss these important issues and offer the UK’s support for reform.

Please accept my best wishes for the Annual Dinner of the All Party Parliamentary Group. I pay tribute to your work and engagement in these important issues, and I hope you have an enjoyable evening.

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