The US asks Sri Lankan Government “to engage with Tamil and Muslim political parties and civil society organisations to advance an inclusive, lasting political solution” t the 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva

BY Pamodi Waravita

The US yesterday (7) spoke about Sri Lanka during the interactive dialogue about the country at the 49th regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), where they called upon the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) to engage with Tamil and Muslim parties for a “lasting political solution”.

“We call on the Government to engage with Tamil and Muslim political parties and civil society organisations to advance an inclusive, lasting political solution,” the representative for the US said in Geneva, Switzerland, yesterday.

The UK noted setbacks in “several emblematic human rights cases” and said that the “recent appointment of an individual named in a key emblematic case as a Provincial Governor is particularly worrying”. Admiral of the Fleet Wasantha Karannagoda, who was named in the “Navy 11” case with regard to the disappearance of 11 youths allegedly at the hands of the Sri Lanka Navy, was recently appointed as the North Western Province Governor.

Furthermore, the UK also raised concerns of land grabbing in the Northern and Eastern (N-E) Provinces. “The UK also notes concerns of surveillance and the harassment of the civil society and the militarisation of civilian government functions,” added the UK representative.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International said that it remains deeply concerned by the “shrinking civic space and therefore, urged the Government to halt reprisals against critics and perceived critics, including those advocating for justice for the April 2019 bombings”. “Families of the disappeared continue to face obstacles and pushback from state agents while they demand their right to truth and justice, including through the State’s pursuit of court orders attempting to restrict their freedom to protest. The State’s alarming discrimination and targeting of the Muslim community continues unabated,” said Amnesty International. The organisation also called for an immediate moratorium on the PTA, echoing the call of the UN High Commissioner (HC) for HR, Michelle Bachelet in her update about Sri Lanka this year.

Representing the International Harm Reduction Association, Ambika Satkunanathan raised concerns about the militarisation of drug control and treatment in the country and its negative reprisals on the treatment, the individual, and public health. “A worrying pattern of deaths in custody of persons arrested for drug-related offences in alleged shootouts with law enforcement or while assisting law enforcement officials have been documented. The lack of investigations into these custodial deaths entrench impunity and the use of violence by state agencies,” said Satkunanathan.

In March 2021, the UNHRC passed Resolution 46/1, which recognises the importance of preserving evidence relating to violations of human rights in Sri Lanka in order to advance accountability, and as such, a call has been made to implement an “evidence preserving” mechanism in the country. It was adopted on 23 March 2021 at the UNHRC with 22 votes in favour of it and 11 votes in opposition while 14 Member States abstained from voting.

In her written update this month, Bachelet has called upon the UNHRC and its Member States to co-operate with the Office of the UNHCHR in its discharge of accountability related work under Resolution 46/1 and to provide it with the adequate human and financial resources in order to enable it to effectively deliver the full mandate given under the Resolution.

Countries such as China criticised Resolution 46/1 yesterday. “The Resolution is not in line with the principles of impartiality, non-politicisation, objectivity, and non-selectivity and nor has it been endorsed by the State in question. We call on the relevant parties to respect Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and political independence and pass human rights development of their own choice in light of their national conditions,” said China.

In a statement made yesterday, the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry said that Sri Lanka received “overwhelming support from countries of the Global South who expressed support for the Government’s significant efforts towards reconciliation and reiterated the importance of objective and constructive co-operation as the fundamental basis for multilateral engagement”.

“Addressing the UNHRC on 4 March at the commencement of the interactive dialogue, Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris, while reiterating Sri Lanka’s commitment to continuing its voluntary international undertakings on human rights and engaging with the UN, including the UNHRC, referred to serious anomalies and weaknesses in the update presented by Bachelet,” the statement noted.

Courtesy:The Morning