The third meeting of the Working Group on Governance, Rule of Law and Human Rights under the European Union-Sri Lanka Joint Commission was held in Brussels on 5 June 2018.
The meeting took place in the context of Sri Lanka being granted better access to the EU for its exports under the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) in May 2017. The decision of the EU to accord such preferences was taken in exchange for Sri Lanka’s commitment to effectively implement the international conventions that it has ratified on human rights, labour conditions, the protection of the environment and good governance. It also demonstrates the EU’s commitment to support the Government of Sri Lanka’s reform and reconciliation agenda.
Progress has been made by the Government of Sri Lanka in protecting and enhancing human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country. A number of important measures have been taken, including the operationalisation of the Office on Missing Persons, the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and the passing of the Right to Information Bill. The EU drew attention to the importance of Sri Lanka making prompt and concrete progress in fulfilling international commitments on human rights and labour rights as well as environmental protection.
There was a detailed exchange of information on many important ongoing reforms, such as the replacement of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and reform of the Code of Criminal Procedure Act to bring them in line with international standards, and the status of the Constitution. The participants agreed on the need to make further progress on reconciliation. To this end, the full implementation of the UN Human Rights Council Resolution of October 2015, including the urgent return of land, remains a priority. The EU reiterated its readiness to continue supporting the Government in advancing national reconciliation.
There were also discussions on the progress made and the challenges ahead in maintaining the freedoms of expression and of the media, strengthening the civil society, advancing the rights of women and children, respecting non-discrimination on any grounds, addressing the rights of minorities, accelerating the return of land, labour rights, and implementing the treaty obligations and the rule of law. The EU encourages Sri Lanka to address issues relating to religious and ethnic hatred and to maintain zero tolerance for hate speech and crimes. The EU stressed the importance of addressing areas of concern, especially torture, violence against women and the need to combat corruption.
The Working Group reaffirmed its commitment to promote and protect human rights domestically and globally and to collaborate on the effective implementation of international human rights instruments.
The conclusions and recommendations of the Working Group will be reported to the EU-Sri Lanka Joint Commission to be held later this year in Brussels. The Joint Commission will then assess the progress achieved since today’s meeting.
The delegation of the European Union was led by Ms Caroline Vinot, Head of Division for Regional Affairs and South Asia of the European External Action Service. AnchorThe delegation of Sri Lanka was led by Ms Shobini Gunasekera, Director-General for European Union, Commonwealth and Multilateral Treaties Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka. (EU)