Sri Lanka committed to working with UNHRC - Minister | Daily News


 

Sri Lanka committed to working with UNHRC - Minister

Withdrawal will deter reconciliation process - Bachelet:

Foreign Relations Minister Dinesh Gunawardena while reaffirming Sri Lanka’s commitment to engaging with the UN Human Rights Commissioner and her office yesterday stressed that continued accusations made against Army Commander Shavendra Silva were unacceptable and a violation of natural justice.

“There are no proven allegations against individuals on war crimes or crimes against humanity in the OHCHR investigation report on Sri Lanka or in any subsequent official document. It is an injustice to deprive any serving or retired officer of the Sri Lankan Security Forces or the police of their due rights,” he said. Minister Gunawardena was making the written update on the implementation of HRC Resolution 30/1 at the 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva yesterday. He was speaking after UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet who opined that the government’s move to withdraw from the UN Resolution 30/1 risks setting back efforts to advance reconciliation accountability and human rights.

“The State must work for all its people and the needs of all communities, particularly the minorities, must be acknowledged and addressed.

I urge the Government to preserve and build upon the gains which have been made over the last few years. In particular, I encourage the Government to ensure the Office on Missing Persons and the Office of Reparations are provided with political and resource support. The families of missing persons from all communities deserve justice and redress,” she said.

Minister Dinesh Gunawardena in his speech said the existing reconciliation mechanism established by an Act of Parliament such as Office on Missing Persons (OMP) and the Office of Reparations (OR) will be continued with appropriate adaptation in line with Government policy framework.

“With regard to the issues on missing persons, steps would be taken, after necessary investigations, to issue death certificates or certificates of absence, while also providing livelihood and other assistance to affected families,” the Minister said.

Excerpts from the speech: Notwithstanding withdrawing from co-sponsorship of this Resolution, we emphasised our commitment to achieving accountability and human rights within the framework of our Constitution, towards sustainable peace and reconciliation - through the appointment of a domestic Commission of Inquiry, by implementing policies rooted in the Government’s commitments to operationalise the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and by continuing to work with the assistance of the UN and its agencies.

To those who have expressed disappointment on Sri Lanka’s decision to withdraw from co-sponsorship of Resolution 40/1, despite the Government’s re-assurance to this Council of our commitment to achieving the goals set on accountability and human rights, towards sustainable peace and reconciliation, it is clear that they are privileging a superficial facade which has failed to deliver for four and half years, over the genuine possibility of reconciliation, underpinned by a people’s mandate.

In keeping with our consistent policy of continued engagement with the Human Rights Council, Sri Lanka wishes to respond to the current Report of the High Commissioner and engage in a constructive discussion with this august assembly today, with the sincere hope that this Council would recognize the realities on the ground.

We do so conscious of the fact that, of the period of 1 year since the adoption of Resolution 40/1, and 4 ½ years since the adoption of the initial Resolution 30/1, our government has been in power for only a little over 100 days out of the said period.

I wish to recall that, during the 40th Session of this Council, almost one year ago, the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) was represented by a delegation headed by my predecessor, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, who, in Sri Lanka’s statement, explained at length the constitutional, legal and socio-political challenges involved in ‘fully implementing’ HRC Resolution 30/1. In this context, we consider that the High Commissioner’s insistence in the current Report on the “full implementation” of the demands made on Sri Lanka in Resolution 30/1 indicates that the OHCHR fails to recognise the rational and legitimate concerns voiced by States that are seeking, in good faith, to address issues.

As highlighted before this Council on several occasions, Sri Lanka has consistently refuted the credibility of the false and unsubstantiated allegations leveled against Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva, the present Commander of Sri Lanka Army and Actg. Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). Sri Lanka considers that the continued arbitrary accusations made against Lt. Gen. Silva in OHCHR Reports and other statements made in this Council and unilateral actions by certain countries, are unacceptable and a violation of the principles of natural justice. We also stress that there are no proven allegations against individuals on war crimes or crimes against humanity in the OISL report or in any subsequent official document. It is an injustice to deprive any serving or retired officer of the Sri Lankan security forces or the police of their due rights.

With regard to alleged “intimidating visits”, “surveillance”, complaints of harassment” and “reprisals” referred to in the High Commissioner’s Report, The Government has already publicly refuted these allegations, and is committed to protecting and promoting freedom of expression and civil society space, and ensure that complaints received on alleged attacks against journalists, human rights defenders and civil society are investigated and prosecuted.

With respect to references in the report to the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution that established Provincial Councils, it must be noted that, soon after the end of the conflict, the citizens in the Northern Province were able to use their franchise at a Provincial Council election after a lapse of 25 years. However, the near two year delay in holding Provincial Council elections in any part of the country, by the previous Government which co-sponsored Resolution 30/1, with the active support of Members of Parliament representing the North and East, has hampered the operationalization of devolution of power as mandated by the constitution of Sri Lanka. The new Government, is committed to holding the Provincial Council elections at the earliest possible opportunity, upon suitable amendments being made to the requirements that are needed to conduct the provincial council elections in terms of the law.

We wish to reiterate to the Council Sri Lanka’s commitment expressed during the High-Level Segment to achieve sustainable peace through an inclusive, domestically designed and executed reconciliation and accountability process.

The existing reconciliation mechanisms established by an Act of Parliament such as the Office on Mission Persons (OMP) and the Office of Reparations (OR) will be continued, with appropriate adaptation in line with Government policy framework. With regard to the issues on missing persons, steps would be taken, after necessary investigations, to issue death certificates or certificates of absence, while also providing livelihood and other assistance to affected families;

A Commission of Inquiry (COI), headed by a Justice of the Supreme Court, will be appointed to review the reports of previous Sri Lankan COIs which investigated alleged violations of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (IHL), to assess the status of implementation of their recommendations, and to propose deliverable measures to implement them keeping in line with the new Government’s policy; National law enforcement systems will continue to investigate and prosecute cases on all allegations of torture and other human rights violations that are currently before the judicial processes.

We hope the Council would appreciate this approach of focusing on deliverable measures of reconciliation that are in line with the interest of Sri Lanka and its people, instead of the practice of taking on a host of undeliverable commitments with the intention of never implementing them.

Within the above parameters, we look forward to continuing our engagement with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Human Rights mechanisms and procedures, and to continue to work in close cooperation with the international community through capacity building and technical assistance in mutually agreed areas, in keeping with domestic priorities and policies.

Excerpts from the submissions made by the UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet: The increasing levels of hate speech, and security and policy measures appear to be discriminately and disproportionately directed against minorities, both Tamil and Muslim,”. The fundamental problem remains that Sri Lanka has still not addressed impunity for past violations, nor undertaken the security sector reforms needed to address their drivers and enablers.

“Systemic barriers that continue to exist within the criminal justice system remain an impediment to real justice. Domestic processes have consistently failed to deliver accountability in the past and I am not convinced the appointment of yet another Commission of Inquiry will advance this agenda.

“As a result, victims remain denied justice and Sri Lankans from all communities have no guarantee that past patterns of human rights violations will not recur. I urge the Council to remain alert to this situation in terms of prevention and to explore all possible avenues for advancing accountability,”


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