- Commissioner Bachelet gives update to Council assessing progress made in implementing UN resolutions
- Update comes day after SL announced intention to withdraw from co-sponsorship
- Says move risks setting back efforts to advance reconciliation, accountability, human rights
- Urges Govt. to build on gains built over past years
- Says troubled by recent trend towards moving civilian functions under Ministry of Defence or retired military officers
- Not convinced appointment of yet another Commission of Inquiry will advance accountability
- Urges Council to remain alert to situation in terms of prevention, and to explore all possible avenues for advancing accountability
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet yesterday expressed regret over Sri Lankan Government announcing a very different approach to the commitments previously
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet attends a session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, February 27, 2020 – REUTERS
made in UNHRC resolutions, and warned that this “risks setting back efforts to advance reconciliation, accountability and human rights.”
In her oral updates to the 43rd session of the UNHRC, Bachelet said 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.
The UNHR Commissioner’s address to the Council, assessing the progress made in implementing Human Rights Council Resolution 30/1, came a day after Minister of Foreign Relations Dinesh Gunawardena told the UNHRC that the Government has decided to withdraw from co-sponsorship of the Resolution on Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka.
Bachelet said that Sri Lanka’s independent institutions, strengthened under the 19th Constitutional
Amendment, are a key pillar in its democratic structure, and the space for civil society and independent media should be protected.
The Commissioner said she is troubled by the recent trend towards moving civilian functions under the Ministry of Defence or retired military officers, and renewed reports of surveillance and harassment of human rights defenders, journalists, and victims.
“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,” she said.
The Commissioner also added that 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,” she added.