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UN Human Rights Chief urges UNHRC to play a critical role to encourage reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has urged the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to continue to play a critical role in encouraging progress in accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

In his report on “Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka” to the 37th session of the Human Rights Council, which will be held from 26 February to 23 March 2018 in Geneva, the High Commissioner also called on Member States to explore other avenues, including the application of universal jurisdiction, that could foster accountability in Sri Lanka.

Pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 34/1, the report is an update on progress made in the implementation of resolution 30/1 on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka during the period from March 2017 to January 2018, in particular with regard to the Government’s commitment to put in place transitional justice measures.

In the present update, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights also looks at the general human rights situation in the country, including with respect to accountability.

In his report, the High Commissioner while reiterating his appreciation for the constructive engagement of the Government of Sri Lanka with OHCHR and United Nations human rights mechanisms since January 2015 noted that this constructive collaboration must be accompanied by the implementation of key commitments.

He said 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,” Zeid noted in the report.

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, the report said.

“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,” the report emphasized.

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, the High Commissioner’s report pointed out.

Courtesy: Colombo Page