UN Human Rights Commissioner requests member states to “explore other avenues

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in his report on Sri Lanka to the 37th session of the Human Rights Council, from 26 February to 23 March 2018, reiterates his appreciation for the constructive engagement of the Government of Sri Lanka with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and United Nations human rights mechanisms since January 2015.

However, the High Commissioner said that, this constructive collaboration must be accompanied by the implementation of key commitments. He says the fulfilment of the transitional justice commitments made under  resolution 30/1 has been virtually stalled for more than a year. Progress with some confidence-building measures has often been insufficient and inconclusive, and the structures set up to coordinate implementation have not consolidated enough or did not receive sufficient political support to move things forward.

The High Commissioner urges the Human Rights Council to continue to play a critical role in encouraging progress in accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

He also called on Member States to explore other avenues, including the application of universal jurisdiction, that could foster accountability.

The present document is an update on progress achieved in promoting  reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka. It is submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 34/1, which followed the adoption of resolution 30/1.

Both resolutions were co-sponsored by Sri Lanka, and were adopted by consensus. It provides an update to the comprehensive report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to the Council at its thirty-
fourth session (A/HRC/34/20).

In its resolution 34/1, the Council took note with appreciation of the High Commissioner’ s report and requested the Government of Sri Lanka to implement fully the outstanding measures identified by the Council in its resolution 30/1.It also requested the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and relevant special procedure mandate holders, in consultation with, and with the concurrence of, the Government of Sri Lanka to strengthen their advice and technical assistance on the promotion and protection of human rights and truth, justice, reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka.

In the same resolution the Council also asked OHCHR to continue to assess progress in the implementation of its recommendations and other relevant processes related to reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, and to present a written update to the Council at its thirty-seventh session and a comprehensive report, followed by a discussion on the implementation of Council resolution 30/1, at its fortieth session.

In the present report OHCHR reviews progress made by the Government of Sri Lanka during the period from March 2017 to January 2018 on the implementation of resolutions 30/1 and 34/1, in particular regarding the comprehensive recommendations on the judicial and non-judicial measures necessary to advance accountability and reconciliation, and on strengthening the protection of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The update is based on public information and insights obtained by OHCHR from various governmental and non-governmental stakeholders.

Conclusions and recommendations

48. The High Commissioner reiterates his appreciation for the constructive engagement of the Government of Sri Lanka with OHCHR and United Nations human rights mechanisms since January 2015. However, as he noted in March 2017, this constructive collaboration must be accompanied by the implementation of key commitments. The fulfilment of the transitional justice commitments made under Human Rights Council resolution 30/1 has been virtually stalled for more than a year. Progress with some confidence-building measures has often been insufficient and inconclusive, and the structures set up to coordinate implementation have not consolidated enough or did not receive sufficient political support to move things forward.

49. In statements and reports issued since 2015, the High Commissioner, while expressing concern over the lack of progress on accountability and reforms, was encouraged by the positive improvement of the general human rights situation. However, 2017 was marked by intermittent inter-ethnic tensions and attacks on minorities which are unlikely to dissipate completely.

50. While the Government has managed to steer many of these worrying events in a positive direction, this type of violence in a country that has experienced cycles of extreme violence roughly every 10 years is deeply troubling, particularly when accompanied by hate speech, misinformation and agitation through social media and political manipulation.

51. The continuing allegations of torture and surveillance and the lack of sufficient progress in implementing critical confidence-building measures, such as the release of land, the repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the solution to the pending cases under the Act, have antagonized key constituencies that could be instrumental to the Government’s reform efforts.

52. The High Commissioner urges the Human Rights Council to continue to play a critical role in encouraging progress in accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. It also calls on Member States to explore other avenues, including the application of universal jurisdiction, that could foster accountability.

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