The Global Tamil Forum (GTF) welcomes the oral update provided by High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Al Ra’ad Al Hussein to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on 29 June in Geneva. We commend the High Commissioner and his office for their forthright assessment and concur with their observation that the promise of governance reform and transitional justice are yet to be fully delivered, and risks stalling or dissipating.
While acknowledging the Sri Lankan Government’s progressive initiatives on constitutional reforms and the ‘symbolic steps’ it has taken to promote reconciliation, and its vastly improved cooperation with United Nations, High Commissioner Zeid was categorical that the Government has not moved fast enough with other tangible measures, viz. – returning army occupied lands to rightful owners; charging or releasing the remaining detainees; reducing the military presence in the North and East; repealing the Prevention of Terrorism Act; formulating effective victims and witness protection arrangements; embarking upon meaningful consultations with victims and their families; and implementing security sector reform – that would help build confidence among victims and minority communities.
On the key question of justice seeking process, the report was emphatic: “The High Commissioner remains convinced that international participation in the accountability mechanisms would be a necessary guarantee for the independence and impartiality of the process in the eyes of victims, as Sri Lanka’s judicial institutions currently lack the credibility needed to gain their trust.” The High Commissioner’s report also stressed the crucial importance of the close engagement by the Council “in underpinning this process and giving assurance and confidence to all stakeholders, particularly the victim community.”
The observations made by several country representatives following Zeid’s oral update – including by US, UK, EU, Canada, Australia, Japan and Ghana – clearly reflect the prevalent view within the International community. The recurring theme in notable responses was, while welcoming some of the positive developments in Sri Lanka, much more needed to be done to build the confidence of communities and normalise life in the North and East, and to take tangible steps to establish independent and credible justice, accountability and reconciliation mechanisms, with meaningful international participation.
GTF appreciates the commitment shown by the High Commissioner’s Office and the member countries of the Council, as reflected in the content and tone set during the session, both in the oral update and in the ensuing statements. Undoubtedly, this gives us hope that the International Community will continue to engage and contribute to make Sri Lanka’s transition a long term reality of peace, justice, political power-sharing and prosperity for all its peoples. (GTF)