A report by Mónica Pinto, the former Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers on her visit from 29 April to 7 May 2016, to Sri Lanka, had been submitted to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on 15 March 2017. The visit was conducted jointly with the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez. Mónica Pinto in the report, says, the administration of justice deserves to be more transparent, decentralised and democratic and that Sri Lanka needs to conduct a strict exercise of introspection, so as to improve the independence, quality and credibility of its judiciary, the Attorney General’s department and police forces.
A significant change in the attitude and sensitivity of many members of the legal professions, in particular the judiciary, towards reforms and human rights will be necessary it said.
While the democratic gains of the last two years must be welcomed, it is important to recognise that much more could and should have been done to manifest a commitment to genuine reform, in particular in the justice sector, and concertising the creation of meaningful and participatory transitional justice mechanisms.
More tangible reforms are expected and necessary before the country can be considered to be on a stable and sustainable path towards democracy governed by the rule of law.
The Prevention of Terrorism Act should be immediately repealed; any replacing legislation, if at all necessary, should fully respect international human rights law and standards.
The authorities should take concrete measures to implement Human Rights Council resolution 30/1 as well as the recommendations of the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (A/HRC/30/CRP.2), in particular those related to fighting impunity, including the ratification of the Rome Statute.
Urgent measures should be adopted by the authorities to give effect to all the rights protected in international human rights treaties, which have been ratified and are therefore in force and also enforce the decisions adopted by the United Nations Treaty Bodies whose jurisdiction it has voluntarily accepted.
The independence, impartiality, competence and credibility of the special judicial mechanism envisaged as part of the different transitional justice measures, including the prosecution and investigation sides of the mechanism, should be ensured.
Pinto notes that building a justice system that all sectors of society will trust and be able to rely on to defend and enforce their rights will take time, but it will also take bold steps as a sign of the authorities’ commitment to address the atrocities of the past and above all the structures that allowed these to happen. (OHCHR)