Secretary of State should keep human rights on the agenda during visit

Human rights & democracyThe new government in Sri Lanka under President Sirisena has taken impressive steps to restore freedom of the press and strengthen the rule of law.

While these moves are promising, there is still a long road to travel before Sri Lanka becomes a ‘beacon’ for human rights.

In 2014, 341 torture survivors from Sri Lanka were referred to Freedom from Torture for clinical services, making it the top referral country for the organisation for a third consecutive year. This should serve as a stark reminder that although the civil war ended in 2009, the country is still a far-cry from a rights-respecting democracy.

We have yet to see a credible program to dismantle the torture apparatus that is so deeply embedded in the Sri Lankan state.

Despite the ‘green shoots’ of reform, it is too early to conclude that Sri Lanka has turned a corner on human rights. Our Tamil clients are very clear in telling us that continued pressure from the United Nations, and states like the US and UK, is key to ensuring that justice and accountability are delivered for all in Sri Lanka.

We hope that Secretary of State John Kerry will use his visit to maintain US pressure on Sri Lanka to ensure perpetrators of human rights abuses are held to account because without addressing the injustices of the past, it is very difficult to achieve sustainable reconciliation.(Freedom from Torture)

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