Sri Lanka is at a crucial moment in its history

UN (OHCHR)Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Monica Pinto during an oral update at the 32nd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on 15 June stressed the need to address the independence of prosecutors and investigators in the accountability process.

Speaking on her visit to Sri Lanka, Ms Pinto called on Sri Lanka to “seriously consider” the recommendations made at the end of the visit

Joint visit to Sri Lanka

Distinguished Delegates,

I would like now to say a few words about my recent visit to Sri Lanka, which I carried out jointly with my colleague Juan E. Méndez, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

First, I wish to express my deep appreciation to the authorities for the invitation and the full cooperation extended during the visit. I am looking forward to continue our discussions, in particular during the drafting of my report which I will present to this Council next year. My preliminary observations and recommendations were shared with the Government at the end of the visit and were published on the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

As noted in that statement, Sri Lanka is at a crucial moment in its history. The elections of January and August 2015 brought an opening in the democratic space and led to some promising reforms, such as the re-instatement of the Constitutional Council or the new and fresh members of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka. Yet, more reforms are expected and necessary before the country can be considered to be on a path to sustainable democratization governed by the rule of law. The momentum for fundamental reforms should not be lost.

As you all know, Sri Lanka has embarked on a difficult but necessary journey to set up transitional justice mechanisms to deal with its near past. In this context, considerations around the independence, impartiality and competence of judges, but also prosecutors and investigators, involved in these transition mechanisms must be adequately and swiftly addressed. Strengthening the independence of the justice system as a whole is also essential not only to contribute to guarantees of non-recurrence, but also to improve the population’s everyday experience with the justice system.

I encourage the Government of Sri Lanka to seriously consider the recommendations contained in my and Mr. Mendez’s end-of-visit statements and to continue engaging with the international community and the Human Rights Council on these issues. (OHCHR)

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