The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative has reminded the Commonwealth that Sri Lanka has a poor rights record when it comes to real accountability, and said the international community must continue to monitor Sri Lanka on its message to mark Human Rights Day which falls today, December 10.
“Previous commissions and investigations have been plagued by government interference and failed to achieve meaningful results and are mostly seen as a government ploy to delay effective criminal investigations. Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) failed to fix responsibility for war crimes and its recommendations remain largely unimplemented,” the CHRI said in its statement.
CHRI said complaints of torture, disappearances and the persecution of human rights defenders and journalists continue, accompanied by the unwarranted excessive military presence and involvement in civilian activities in the north of Sri Lanka.
“There can be no real reconciliation in Sri Lanka without justice,” said CHRI Director Maja Daruwala, “Freedoms like the right to associate, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly must be assured not only on paper but enjoyed on the ground without fear of retribution. As chair of the Commonwealth now, Sri Lanka must show not only that it can abide by the recently adopted Charter of the Commonwealth but champion the human rights agenda both at home and abroad.
A first step will be to demonstrate an end to impunity for past and present actions and ensure that dissent is not met with threat and victimisation.”
Until it can demonstrate these standards, CHRI urges the international community to continue monitoring Sri Lanka’s human rights commitments.
The CHRI has also acknowledged the recent initiatives taken by Sri Lanka, new Chair of the Commonwealth, to address concerns related to its human rights record. Establishing a Presidential Commission to investigate cases of disappearances during the war from the Northern and Eastern Provinces, the on-going nationwide census to assess the loss of life and damages to property due to the nearly three decade long civil war, setting up a National Inquiry on Torture with Commonwealth assistance and the Cabinet’s nod to the Witness and Victim Protection Bill, are all encouraging steps.