The UN Core Group on Sri Lanka yesterday called on Sri Lanka to ensure that the country’s democratic space remains open and accountable, and called for detentions and arrests to follow due process and be compliant with international norms and universal rights.
UK International Ambassador for Human Rights Rita French delivered this statement on behalf of Canada, Germany, North Macedonia, Montenegro and the UK, who make up the Core Group on Sri Lanka.
She cited the example case of lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah, who has now been detained for almost three months without charge or presentation before the court, and called for an end to impunity for the violations and abuses of the past.
She also reiterates the Group’s profound disappointment at the Government’s decision to no longer support the UN resolution which the previous Government had cosponsored.
“In February, the Government of Sri Lanka indicated that it no longer supported resolution 30/1, which Sri Lanka had cosponsored in a landmark partnership with the international community to address the harmful legacies of war and build sustainable peace in the country. We remain firmly committed to advancing the resolution’s goals of accountability, reconciliation, and inclusive peace in Sri Lanka,” she said.
She added that while the Government of Sri Lanka has stated its own commitment to advancing these principles through domestic processes, we stress that any accountability mechanism must have the confidence of those affected.
French also said while Sri Lanka has been battling COVID-19 since March, and has kept case numbers significantly lower than the regional average, as stated by the High Commissioner, extraordinary measures to tackle the pandemic should not be used to roll back human rights.
“We share the concerns of Sri Lankan human rights organisations over the targeting and marginalisation of minority groups, the pardoning of Sergeant Sunil Ratnayake and promotion of others accused of serious violations during the conflict, and the militarisation of a wide range of civilian functions and public initiatives,” she added.
UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said she was dismayed by the reports of Muslims being targeted by stigma and hate speech, associating them with COVID-19 in India and Sri Lanka.
“I am dismayed by reports indicating that in many countries, members of minority communities and migrants face increasing stigmatisation, including in some cases, by officials. In Sri Lanka and India, members of the Muslim minority are being targeted by stigma and hate speech, associating them with COVID-19,” Bachelet, who was speaking at the 44th session of the Human Rights Council, said on Tuesday.
The statement also noted the stigmatisation and hate crimes against minorities and people infected with coronavirus in countries like Pakistan, Bulgaria, Haiti and Iraq.