A collective of global human right organizations including the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch Friday called on the United Nations Human Right Council (UNHRC) to establish an international accountability mechanism on Sri Lanka after the government formally announced its decision to withdraws from the UN resolutions on promotion of reconciliation and accountability.
The organizations in a joint oral statement urged the Council to hold Sri Lanka accountable to its obligations under international law.
“Given the Sri Lankan government’s announcement that it will not continue to engage with the clear framework agreed through resolution 30/1; the failure of past domestic reconciliation and accountability mechanisms; and the ongoing compromise of the rule of law as pointed out by the High Commissioner yesterday, we call on the Council to establish an international accountability mechanism on Sri Lanka,” the collective said.
At the 43rd session of the UNHRC in Geneva on Tuesday, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena formally informed the Council of his government’s decision to withdraw from the Resolution 40/1 on ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’ which also incorporates and builds on preceding Resolutions 30/1 of October 2015 and 34/1 of March 2017.
In the Joint Oral Statement, the INGOs expressed deep concern over the indicators of a significant backsliding on human rights in Sri Lanka
“Sri Lankan authorities’ indication to revoke the 19th amendment to the Constitution would remove check and balances on the executive and seriously jeopardize the independence of the judiciary and relevant commissions.
The collective of organizations expressed concern over the reports that the Government is considering reviewing the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) Act and noted that the President’s recent “callous” comments about the fate of thousands of missing persons without any conclusion of investigations in line with international law have added to the distress of families of the disappeared.
They noted that a Gazette on 22nd January granted powers to a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to scrutinize investigations into emblematic cases. The COI has attempted to halt criminal proceedings against navy officers accused of the disappearance and killing of eleven youth.
“We echo the High Commissioner’s concern1 on the promotion of several military officers who are named in the OISL report for violations of international law,” the INGOs said.
The statement noted that since November 2019, the Ministry of Defense has been assigned as the oversight body for NGOs, significantly increasing the risk of their surveillance. More than a dozen human rights and media organizations have received intimidating visits from law enforcement and intelligence agencies, while death threats against journalists have resumed.
“The climate of fear has returned to Sri Lanka, in particular among those who continue to call for truth, justice and accountability,” the INGOs’ statement said adding that relentless campaigns against minorities also require immediate attention.a