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17th HRC Regular Session: Oral Statement on the UN Expert Panel Report on Sri Lanka

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17th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Item 2: Updates by the High Commissioner for Human Rights – General Debate

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

Oral Statement Delivered by Ms. Giyoun Kim

Monday, 30 May 2011

Thank you Mr. President. FORUM-ASIA appreciates the opening statement of the High Commissioner which emphasizes on ending impunity and ensuring accountability and thereby brings the attention of the Council to the report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on accountability issues in Sri Lanka. We strongly echo the call by the Panel to the government of Sri Lanka to immediately commence genuine investigations into alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law committed by both sides to the armed conflict. The Council should remain apprised regularly of the actual progress in this regard, and as the Panel recommended, an independent international mechanism to monitor and assess the domestic accountability process should be established without delay.

Mr. President, we are deeply disappointed that the government of Sri Lanka has responded to the Panel’s report by denying its legitimacy and totally rejecting its findings and recommendations. The hostility towards the report which has pervaded across the state media does not reflect the cooperative approach they claim to be taking with the recent invitation extended to the High Commissioner to visit the country. Their claims must be assessed with concrete outcomes, and in this light we urge that the High Commissioner’s visit will lead to the strengthening of OHCHR field presence in the country. Furthermore, the visit of the High Commissioner should not take place in lieu of those outstanding visit requests made by Special Procedures mandate-holders.

The government of Sri Lanka still asserts that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) is the domestic mechanism to adequately address accountability issues. However, as in the Panel’s findings, the LLRC is “deeply flawed and therefore does not and cannot satisfy the joint commitment of the President of Sri Lanka and the Secretary-General.” The LLRC has been already compromised by its composition and lack of independence and impartiality. At a minimum, the mandate and work of the LLRC should be reviewed to bring it in line with existing international standards including on witness protection for ensuring effective investigation, and measures for victim support must be provided.

Mr. President, the Council must also remain seized of a host of significant obstacles to achieving accountability in the country, such as the persistence of Emergency Regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act, increased militarization in the North and East, severe restrictions on the right to freedom of expression as well as targeting of journalists and human rights defenders for their legitimate work, and those countless unresolved cases of enforced disappearances, torture and extra-judicial executions.[1]

Finally, FORUM-ASIA repeats that the government of Sri Lanka must engage in an open and constructive dialogue with the Council members and observers as well as the High Commissioner to embark on a collaborative framework for achieving full implementation of the recommendations of the Panel in a manner that places justice and redress for the victims of the conflict at the centre of the process. Thank you, Mr. President.

[1]     FORUM-ASIA, Oral Statement, 16th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council (28 February-25 March 2011), Item 4 General Debate, 15 March 2011