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Not convinced of another Commission of Inquiry in SL: HR Chief

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UN Human Rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet today expressed regret over the new Sri Lankan Government’s decision to withdraw from the UN Resolution 30/1 and said she was not convinced of yet another Commission of Inquiry as domestic processes have consistently failed to deliver accountability in the past.

In her oral updates and introduction to country reports of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner at the UN Human Rights Council’s 43rd Session, Ms. Bachelet said she regretted that the new Government has announced a very different approach to the commitments previously made in the resolution.

This move risks setting back efforts to advance reconciliation, accountability and human rights. The State must work for all its people and the needs of all communities, particularly the minorities, must be acknowledged and addressed. I urge the Government to preserve and build upon the gains which have been made over the last few years. In particular, I encourage the Government to ensure the Office on Missing Persons and the Office of Reparations are provided with political and resource support. The families of missing persons from all communities deserve justice and redress,” she said.

She said Sri Lanka’s independent institutions, strengthened under the 19th Constitutional Amendment, are a key pillar in its democratic structure.

“And the space for civil society and independent media should be protected. I am therefore troubled by the recent trend towards moving civilian functions under the Ministry of Defence or retired military officers, and renewed reports of surveillance and harassment of human rights defenders, journalists and victims.

The increasing levels of hate speech, and security and policy measures appear to be discriminately and disproportionately directed against minorities, both Tamil and Muslim,” the HR High Commissioner said.

She said the fundamental problem remains that Sri Lanka has still not addressed impunity for past violations, nor undertaken the security sector reforms needed to address their drivers and enablers.  

“Systemic barriers that continue to exist within the criminal justice system remain an impediment to real justice.  
Domestic processes have consistently failed to deliver accountability in the past and I am not convinced the appointment of yet another Commission of Inquiry will advance this agenda.  

As a result, victims remain denied justice and Sri Lankans from all communities have no guarantee that past patterns of human rights violations will not recur.

I urge the Council to remain alert to this situation in terms of prevention and to explore all possible avenues for advancing accountability,” she said.

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Withdrawal from UN Resolution: AI calls for int’l accountability mechanism

Following Sri Lanka’s decision to withdraw from the UN Resolution, the Amnesty International (AI) today called on the Human Rights Council to establish an international accountability mechanism.

In a statement, the AI said an international accountability mechanism needed to ensure the victims of decades-long conflict get the justice that is owed to them.

Thyagi Ruwanpathirana, South Asia Researcher at Amnesty International, said Sri Lanka’s decision to go back on its commitments to the Human Rights Council requires a robust response by the Council, including steps towards the creation of an accountability mechanism to ensure the victims of the nearly three-decade long conflict get the justice that is owed to them. 

In a statement, the AI said the new Sri Lankan Government has said it will pursue a national effort to achieve sustainable peace through an inclusive, domestically designed and executed reconciliation and accountability process.

Sri Lanka has a long history of failed domestic accountability mechanisms. Their successive failures have bitterly disappointed victims of human rights abuses and violations, many of whom have waited years for an outcome that has failed to materialize. They need an international mechanism that is both trusted and can be effective,” Ruwanpathirana said.

“The limited but significant gains made in recent years are at risk of being rolled back, even as we see space shrinking for civil society in Sri Lanka over recent months,” she said.

The AI said it has documented several cases of harassment, intimidation and attacks on human rights organizations, media outlets and journalists in Sri Lanka in January and February 2020.

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