The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has called on the UN Human Rights Council to explore other avenues that could foster accountability in Sri Lanka.
In his report on Sri Lanka to the 37th session of the Human Rights Council, which meets in Geneva from 26 February to 23 March 2018, the High Commissioner reiterates his appreciation for the constructive engagement of the Government of Sri Lanka with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and United Nations human rights mechanisms since January 2015.
However, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said that as he noted in March 2017, this constructive collaboration must be accompanied by the implementation of key commitments.
He says 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.
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.
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 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 on Sri Lanka said.
The High Commissioner urges the Human Rights Council to continue to play a critical role in encouraging progress in accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.
He also called on Member States to explore other avenues, including the application of universal jurisdiction, that could foster accountability.