“Sri Lanka’s process of implementing human rights reforms has been delayed due to the ‘a lack of common vision among the country’s highest leadership,'” UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said today.
Addressing the 40th UNHRC session in Geneva Bachelet said: “A contributing factor to a lack of delays appears to be a lack of common vision among the country’s highest leaderhip, deadlock on important issues is an additon and an avoidable problem with damaging impact on victims currently from all ethnic and religious groups and society as a whole.
“I appreciate the complexity of transitional processes the events leading to the declaration of state of emergency in March last year and the constitutional crisis in October created a political impairment not conducive to reform measures. Today my office encourages the government to implement the detail and comprehensive strategy for the transitional process with a fixed time line.
“Legislation and the establishment of an indepent and truth reconciliation commission could be an important next step. As a former minister of defence who has worked in the context of a transition I can highligh the importance of security force sectoral reform as part of the transitional justice process. Ths process should include a vetting process to remove officers with questionable HR records. The recent appointment to a senior position in the SL army of Major General Shavindra Silva implicated in alleged serious violations of national humanitarian rights law is a worrying development. There has been minimal progress on accountability.
“My report details the steps taken over a lengthy period to adddress several emblamatic cases and the lack of prgress in setting up special juidicial mechanism to deal with the worst crimes committed in the 2009 conflct. Complete impunity could risk fuelling communal or inter-ethnic violence and stability. Resoving these cases and bring the paper trails of past crimes to justice is necessary to restore the confidence of victims from all communities.
“Replacement of the prevention of terrorism act has been on the governments agenda for four years and I encourage the completion of this process with measures to strengthen the draft laws to safeguard and oversight elements and to tighten the defintion of the terrorist act which is currently too broad.
“I know with concern that individuals continue to be held under the PTA. I’m also troubled about continuing allegation of torture another human rights violation by security forces including sexual violence. Effective transparent investigation by the government as well as measures to end such practices including the full implemetation of the 2006 recommendation of the committee against torture would be positive.
“Another step in the right direction would be an end to the surveillance of human rights defenders reprisals against them as well as against victims. Im deeply concerned by the calls to reinstate the application of the death penalty after more than 40 years of moratorium. My office highlights the critical role of Sri Lanka’s independent commissions particularly the National Human Rights Commission- respect for their independence and implementation of the commisions recommendations are needed to entrench the rule of law in Sri Lanka. Appropriate cooperation with the HR commision is also essential for the participation of Sri Lankan personnel and the UN peace keeping operation.
“This council continues to have an essential role in accompanying the people and the government of Sri Lanka in their journey towards realising the dignity and human rights of all members of society irrespective of their sex, ethnic origin, or beliefs. In closing, I emphasise that in co-sponsoring resolution 30/1 and 34/1 the government recognise the need to address the past in order to build a future securely grounded in accountability, respect for human rights and the rule of law. For victims of society this need continues.
“There is an opportunity now to leave behind a past of violence and human rights violations through bold determination and leadership at all levels of government.”