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19th HRC Regular Session – Oral Statement on Sri Lanka Item 4: General Debate

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FORUM-ASIA would like to draw the Council’s attention to the emerging trends of land grabbing and development-induced displacement in post-war Sri Lanka. Contrary to Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe’s portrayal during the High-level Segment about the progress in the “removal of military from facilitation of civil administration in the north making land previously used for security purposes available for resettlement/return”, the forcible acquisition of these lands by the Ministry of Defense and Rural Development for the purposes of military camps, Special Economic Zones, tourist resorts or infrastructure development has increased the militarization of the former conflict areas in addition to displacing thousands of vulnerable communities, particularly farmers and fisherfolk, as further elaborated in FORUM-ASIA’s written statement to this Council (A/HRC/19/NGO/64).

Madam President, the systematic intimidation by the government and state media against those Sri Lankan civil society organizations engaging with the UN human rights mechanisms does not amount to genuine and constructive cooperation of the government with this Council.[1] We are also concerned over the threats by Minister Wimal Weerawansa and the Jathika Hela Urumaya Party against a Tamil Catholic Bishop for writing a letter to you Madam President as well as the Council’s member States calling for action on accountability issues in Sri Lanka.[2] Furthermore, FORUM-ASIA urges the government to end its flagrant misrepresentation of facts. Mr. Mohan Peiris, a member of the government delegation to this Council, has yet to clarify to Mr. Prageeth Eknaligoda’s family, the courts and the National Human Rights Commission about his statement made in November 2011 to the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) that the disappeared political cartoonist is alive and living in a foreign country.

Madam President, in response to the reservations put forward by some States on the added value of the Council’s action at the current session concerning the accountability and reconciliation issues in Sri Lanka, FORUM-ASIA highlights the followings: 1) The Council has a responsibility to complement and fill the gaps in the domestic accountability process as it endorsed the joint communiqué between the UN Secretary-General and the President of Sri Lanka three years ago in 2009; 2) The report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) contains a range of useful recommendations which, if implemented, could contribute towards reconciliation and the rule of law in the country, however the report does not adequately address those violations of international humanitarian and human rights law committed by both sides of the conflict during the last stages of the war; 3) The National Action Plan for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (NAPHR) has been formulated without consideration of post-war realities and sensitivities while failing to tackle the key issues of truth-seeking and accountability, and therefore does not provide substantive synergies with the LLRC recommendations; 4) The support of the international community as well as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and Special Procedures through the action by this Council will enhance the space for those embattled Sri Lankan human rights defenders and victims to raise their legitimate concerns on justice and accountability without fear of violence and coercion. Thank you, Madam President.