The Rights Now Collective for Democracy has challenged the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) to be transparent about real reasons as to why the previously announced National Inquiry on Torture has been postponed.
Executive Director of Rights Now, Attorney-at-Law Sudarshana Gunawardana in a letter to the Chairman of the HRCSL, said that in light of the HRCSL Chair’s assertion that the term of Commissioners ending in February 2014 was one of the reasons to postpone the Inquiry, Rights Now questioned whether the dates of the end of term was not known when the initial announcement about the Inquiry was made, and discussions were held with the Commonwealth Secretariat to obtain technical assistance for the same.
“Rights Now also questioned why an Inquiry done by permanent staff of the HRCSL should be completed before the end of term of the present Commissioners, citing a media report quoting one of the Commissioners telling in November 2013 that the Inquiry would take 18 months,” the letter said.
Responding to the HRCSL’s response that “certain civil society organizations” had advised the HRCSL that this was not the time to hold such an Inquiry on Torture when the HRCSL is taking steps towards reconciliation, Rights Now questioned how a National Inquiry on Torture can negatively affect reconciliation. In its letter, Rights Now asserted that protection of human rights of all citizens of Sri Lanka is an essential component of an effective and meaningful reconciliation process and that any independent and transparent mechanism which holds perpetrators of human rights violations to account would only serve to further the cause of national reconciliation.
Rights Now also raises the question of why other civil society organizations have not been consulted before the decision to postpone the Inquiry in its letter to the HRCSL Chairman.