Bachelet wants alternate strategies

The Human Rights Council held separate interactive dialogues on the situation of human rights in Sri Lanka on 4th March 2022.

Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, introducing the report on Sri Lanka, said the Government should take further steps to address the fundamental problems with the Prevention of Terrorism Act and undertake deeper legal, institutional and security sector reforms that were critically needed to put an end to impunity and prevent any reoccurrence of past violations. Victims and their families continued to be denied truth and justice. There was deep concern about the concentration of civilian positions in the hands of military officials, some of them implicated in serious allegations of human rights violations. The Council should pursue alternative strategies to advance accountability at the international level.

Sri Lanka, speaking as the country concerned, said the resolution was directly contrary to the Council’s founding principles of impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity. There were serious anomalies and problems with the report. It had an intolerably intrusive character and there was a clear element of discrimination within it. This in itself struck at the root of the foundations of the United Nations system. It was deeply regretted that numerous unsubstantiated allegations had found their way into the report. The international community should join Sri Lanka on a footing of mutual respect to face the challenges ahead.

In the ensuing debate, speakers said Sri Lanka should ensure a safe democratic space, and strong independent judicial institutions. The erosion of democratic institutions and the lack of accountability for past human rights violations undermined progress. The Government had taken the first steps to undertake reforms but there was a long road ahead. More comprehensive reforms were needed to allow civil society to operate freely and safely and to bring terrorism legislation in line with international norms and standards. Ensuring accountability and justice for survivors was essential for maintaining peace and ensuring reconciliation. Some speakers said that reports should be based on reliable, objective and neutral observation. The development of reports should be done with constructive cooperation with the concerned country. When dealing with human rights situations, the Council should retain a non-biased, non-selective and non-hypocritical point of view.

Speaking on Sri Lanka were the European Union, Netherlands on behalf of the Benelux countries, Norway on behalf of the Nordic-Baltic countries, United Kingdom on behalf of the Sri Lanka Core Group, Saudi Arabia on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Germany, Egypt, Montenegro, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Canada, Philippines, Nepal, Kenya, India and France.

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