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16th HRC: General Debate — Human Rights Situations in Sri Lanka

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16th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council

On the Human Rights Situations in Sri Lanka (Item 4: Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention – General Debate)

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Thank you Mr. President. FORUM-ASIA urges the seized attention of the Council to the situation in Sri Lanka, in which the human rights violations remain chronic in nature and persist with impunity. We also express our deep regret that despite providing its own updates to this Council in the regular sessions, the government of Sri Lanka has hardly cooperated with the Council’s work. As reflected in the report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (A/HRC/16/48), the Sri Lankan government has yet to provide clarification on 5,653 outstanding cases. While we note that the government delegation informed the Council yesterday of its invitation to the High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit Sri Lanka, we believe that the excuses for the delays in positively responding to the visit requests by five Special Procedures[1] are far-fetched since the timely country visits would assess the situation and provide most necessary inputs for the human rights protection in this post-war period.

Mr. President, we repeat our grave concerns over the systematic erosion of democratic structures and institutions in Sri Lanka. The 18th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution removed safeguards against the concentration of power in the Executive Presidency.[2] Against this backdrop, an extremely hostile environment for human rights defenders and journalists has been created, and attacks on media institutions and civil society organisations are ongoing.  The fact that the NGO Secretariat is placed under the Ministry of Defense is indicative of the government’s deplorable perception of the work of human rights and civil society organizations. Meanwhile, the resettlement of those displaced by the conflict is proceeding without a clear commitment to reconciliation and without adequate consultation with the affected communities. Increased militarization in the North and East create an environment of intense insecurity for resettled communities, especially for women headed families who are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse.

With regards to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), it is our serious concern that there is an absence of the Witness Protection Act or any other mechanism to ensure security and protection for those who give testimonies. This has led to numerous reports of threats and intimidation against witnesses and human rights defenders testifying and observing the proceedings. Mr. President, we time and again reiterate the previous call by the High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish “independent international accountability mechanism that would enjoy public confidence, both in Sri Lanka and elsewhere.” [3] The Council should abide by its collective responsibility to thoroughly consider and act upon the findings and recommendations from the report of the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts to be issued in the coming weeks. Thank you, Mr. President.



[1]     Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Independent Expert on Minority Issues (2007, 2009), Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009), Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders (2008), Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression (2009)

[2]     FORUM-ASIA, Oral Statement, 15th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council (13 September – 1 October 2010), Item 4 General Debate, 20 September 2010

[3]     UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navanethem Pillay, Oral Statement, 14th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council (31 May – 18 June 2010), Item 2 Update by the High Commissioner, 31 May 2010
More information on 16th UN Human Rights Council

Note: Oral Statement Delivered by Ms. Pooja Patel on behalf of FORUM-ASIA