26 February, 2024


UNHRC Special Rapporteur Sounds Off Warning Bells, Questions Government’s Commitment

United Nations special rapporteur Pablo de Greiff has sounded off warning bells about the high degree of polarization, while also questioning the government’s willingness to abide by the commitments undertaken at an international platform.

 Pablo de Greiff

Pablo de Greiff

In a special statement at the conclusion of his second advisory visit to Sri Lanka from January 26 to February 1, Greiff said that even though a task force has been established in order to carry out the national consultations on transitional justice, the background in which the task force has been established is ‘far from ideal.’

“The task force is starting its deliberations, however, against a background that is far from ideal; statements by the President of Sri Lanka, the Prime Minister, as well as several ministers, seemed to call into question the willingness to abide by commitments undertaken by Sri Lanka,” he noted in his statement which listed out his observations during his visit to Sri Lanka.

Greiff also emphasized that comments by high level Government officials about the fate of the disappeared also created consternation amongst family members of victims. According to him, the paucity of information made public by the Government about the task force, its mandate, and the role of national consultations within an overall strategy for the adoption and the implementation of a transitional justice policy, creates uncertainty about the determination of the Government and about whether its different members are of one mind concerning this important issue.

“A second feature of the background against which these discussions are taking place is a high degree of political polarization,” he warned.

Pablo de Greiff, was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as the first Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence in 2012.

“The international community –this mandate included—had insisted on the importance of carrying out national consultations, in the conviction that redressing massive human rights violations is best done with the participation of those whose rights were violated in the first place,” he said.

Greiff noted that consulting victims is crucial for several reasons, as it constitutes in itself a mode of recognition and respect; people, whose rights were violated, often in the most brutal ways, will be listened to respectfully and their views taken seriously as to the most effective ways of redressing those violations. “Consulting victims is also a means of trying to guarantee a close fit between the programmes to be established and the needs and expectations of their beneficiaries; it is a way of eliciting information about topics and issues that may not be apparent; symbolically, it is another way of reaffirming the inclusive nature of society, the reintegration of victims into the community of citizens, and a way to signal to others the currency of the notion of equal rights,” he said.

Greiff said that it was therefore gratifying to see that a task force has been established in order to design and implement a national consultation on issues having to do with truth, justice, reparation, and guarantees of non-recurrence, which are matters of legal obligation, and which were the object of commitments voluntarily undertaken by Sri Lanka when it co-sponsored a resolution on this topic at the Human Rights Council in Geneva in September.
He also said that it was gratifying that the government has decided to establish a task force made up entirely of representatives of civil society with a long trajectory in the defense of human rights. “Everyone’s credibility is at stake here. For the sake of the integrity of the exercise, but fundamentally, for the sake of the effectiveness of victims’ redress, and as a consequence, for what it would say about the robustness and the seriousness of the idea of equal rights for all, of a shared sense of citizenship in Sri Lanka, this exercise must be made to work,” he said.

Greiff emphasized that Sri Lanka needs to avail itself of every possible means of demonstrating to all its citizens that the equality of rights is a meaningful notion in the country. “Those who approach questions of truth, justice, reparations, and guarantees of non-recurrence as if they were the subject of a zero sum game, a matter of interest to one community alone, do a great disservice to the country. This includes some politicians, members of the media, and even some religious leaders, who speak as if the measures will either target or benefit one group alone,” he added.

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  • 4

    “………………..consulting victims is crucial……………….”
    Pablo de Grieff is probably unaware of the 115 massacres of tamils between 1951 and 2001 who were butchered by police and the armed forces without any provocation, recorded in detail by the North East Secretariat Of Human Rights (NESOHR) available on the internet.
    Most relatives of these victims are lost in space and time.

    Some victims of the war which terminated in 2009, and relatives of dead victims, are alive to testify, and many found it difficult to do so the Truth Commission, due to discouragement, misdirection and threats – of which, he may probably be unaware.
    Is he aware of the opposition to inclusion of Commonwealth judges, lawyers and prosecuters as agreed to by Sri Lanka in the resolution which it agreed to, and which was passed by the UNHRC?

  • 3

    I suspect there were rather a few more than 115 massacres in that period.

    However, more to the point Sri Lanka is going to have to have investigations, where commissioners don’t sleep whilst victims are giving their, often quite tragic, evidence. Disgraceful and only in Sri Lanka.

    Grade mark for Sri Lanka’s commissions – Fail. Now lets try again shall we.

    • 0

      Please visit website. Then you will know.

    • 0

      Hi Alex! “I suspect there were rather a few more than 115 massacres in that period” No you surprise me this 115 alone on the eve of 5th June 1956 in the Sugar cane farm in Ampari. 1958 Communal riots added over 400 unlawful killings. 1977 saw probably over 1000.1983 equal number during the week old riots, where the Army also went berserk. Welikada prison massacre two days were 58 inmates they were all Tamil political prisoners. 256 in the ‘Kumudini’ Boat was Massacred by Srilanka Navy In the see south of India. I can go on listing the atrocities made in the name of Sinhala-Buddhism. Cunningly Governing Power grabbed by DS senanayke from British begging and promising then Tamil politicians no harm will come upon the Tamils. let us rule Ceylon. This was his crocodile tears to get Independence. I blame Sir Pon Ramanathan for the fate of Tamils since Independence. If he had Not gone to UK to plead on behalf of his Fellow Sinhala Politicians in 1915. DS senanayke would have been killed by British as they were under court- marshalled and was in prison, waiting for their fate. Sir Pon Ramanathan Changed their fate and also the Tamil peoples fate. sad but it is true. My personal feeling is that Tamils are their own enemy. However the truth is not an evil. Facts cannot and should not be twisted. We need to face it. I recon over 100,000 died before May 2009. UN figures are disputed but truth will come out one day, If Srilankan can face the Truth.

  • 0

    I wish the UN had the same vigor with other countries as well. Especially the west. They can massacre people, but no investigations. I am confused why they are after sri lanka who eradicated terrorism.

    • 0

      It seems the Sri Lankans eradicated a lot of civilians too .. thats the problem. Still confused?

    • 0


      SL did receive the kudos for eradicating terrorism. Most countries, including the UN turned a blind eye to the events of the last days of the war. You should read the UN Petrie Report to get a grip of this. While the eradication of terrorism was greeted with envy, the mass civilian deaths and the conduct of the war itself by both adversaries that had disregard to human lives is the issue now. The govt and the army has been playing hide-and-seek in hopping from one bush to another. In one breath the regime denies and insists on zero civilian casualties whereas evidence and witnesses accounts show otherwise. The present initiative is to carry out a credible and independent investigation to ascertain what really happened. What do you think of that?

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