Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris this week handed over to UN Head in Sri Lanka Haana Singer-Hamdy the first copy of a 13-page response to obviate criticism over non-implementation of key elements in the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Resolution passed early this year.
The 13-page note prepared on the eve of the forthcoming UNHRC sessions points out that some of the main undertakings are either being implemented or nearing completion. Copies have also been delivered to Colombo-based diplomatic community via courier and to those based in Geneva.
Among such areas are the Office of the Missing Persons (OMP), the Office of Reparation (OR), developing a comprehensive transitional justice strategy, accountability and repealing of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). “Notwithstanding the pandemic, Sri Lanka is determined and has made substantial progress on human rights issues through domestic processes and mechanisms,” the note says.
The 48th Human Rights Council sessions begin on September 13 with an oral update by Human Rights High Commissioner Michele Bachelet on three countries including Sri Lanka. She is due to reinforce issues in Sri Lanka relating to human rights, rule of law, freedom and democracy.
“Sri Lanka rejects the establishment of an external evidence gathering mechanism when domestic remedies have not been exhausted and processes are ongoing,” the note emphasises. “The international community is well aware that without the consent and cooperation of the country concerned, such external accountability mechanisms and actions are subject to politicisation and therefore cannot achieve their stated human rights objectives.”
“Furthermore, at a time when scarce financial resources are desperately needed for constructive humanitarian processes, including the COVID-19 pandemic, financial resources spent on yet another politically motivated initiative in Geneva cannot be justified,” it states. “Sri Lanka does not believe that the situation in the country warrants such international attention when compared with many other situations around the world.
On the recurring matter of accountability, the note maintains that Sri Lanka remains “ready and willing” to implement the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry to Investigate and Inquire into the Findings and Recommendations of the Preceding Commissions and Committees (appointed to investigate serious human rights violations of international humanitarian law and other such serious offences). Its interim report was presented to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in July.
The Commission also held several hearings on the PTA, the note adds, with its report stating the law must be reformed in line with such provisions in other countries. A Cabinet subcommittee and an officials committee have been appointed to proceed in this regard. “The Government will ensure a non-partisan approach in this endeavour,” it states.
The OMP will finish verifying the figures of the missing as soon as possible and that the database has already been shared with the OR, local law enforcement and the Department of Immigration and Emigration. The OR has continued to pay compensation to processed claims and, among other things, is formulating a national policy on reparations.
Reference made, too, to the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation and its work, Sri Lanka’s progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, pardons to ex-LTTE prisoners, resettlement of internally displaced persons, release of private lands held by the military, engagement with civil society and observation of international human rights and other treaty obligations as well as cooperation with UN Special Procedures Mandate Holders.