UN wants release of land in North

A UN Special Rapporteur has called on the Government to continue and step up the release of the remaining 6,124 acres of the land currently held by the military in the North as well as other lands and coastal areas occupied by the military.

Rita Izsák Ndiaye, the Special Rapporteur on minority issues who undertook a mission to Sri Lanka from 10 to 20 October 2016 in her report to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) also said that a proper mapping exercise of all the lands currently occupied by the military must take place, and lands currently not in use or whose use cannot be adequately justified for military purposes must be returned without delay to their rightful owners in a condition that is usable.

“Where private lands have been acquired without due process or compensation, these lands must be returned and/or compensated for,” the UN official said.

She also said that the “demilitarisation of the North and East is not only urgent for its practical implications such as the livelihood of the local population, but required for symbolic purposes.”

“With police powers, having been transferred back from the army to civilian control, it will be important for the police to reflect the ethnic and linguistic composition of the local population to overcome practical barriers and rebuild trust,” the UN official said.

The Special Rapporteur also recommended a review of all personal laws of minority communities (such as Kandyan, Tesawalamai or Muslim law) in line with international human rights standards, especially the 1951 Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act.

“Such reviews should be conducted in full consultation with the community concerned, including women’s groups. The supremacy of the Constitution must be guaranteed so that all fundamental rights provided for in the Constitution can be guaranteed for all without discrimination,” she said.

Ndiaye’s report will be taken up for consideration by the UNHRC on 15 March.

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