As scheduled, discussion of the report of the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, was commenced yesterday at the 46th regular session of the UNHRC (24).
Addressing the council there, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet stated that after the end of the armed conflict which lasted for nearly 12 years, domestic initiatives have repeatedly failed to ensure justice for victims and promote reconciliation.
She emphasized that despite commitments made in 2015, the current Government, like its predecessor, has failed to pursue genuine truth-seeking or accountability processes.
“The impact on thousands of survivors, from all communities, is devastating. Moreover, the systems, structures, policies and personnel that gave rise to such grave violations in the past remain – and have recently been reinforced.
Addressing grievances and redressing past violations are critical prevention tools at the core of the Council’s work. Our report highlights disturbing trends over the past year, which warn of a serious deterioration in key areas,” she added.
The High Commissioner pointed out that the space for civil society and independent media, which had grown significantly, is now rapidly shrinking.
The Commissioner Bachelet further stated that the independence of the judiciary, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the National Police Commission and other key bodies has been deeply eroded by the recently adopted 20th Constitutional Amendment, the growing militarization of key civilian functions is encroaching on democratic governance and that the continued failure to implement comprehensive reforms – or to vet personnel – leaves in place security and military officers who have been implicated in alleged grave crimes and violations.
Showing the council that the minor communities are being excluded by divisive and discriminatory rhetoric including from the highest State officials, the UN High Commissioner said that the policy of forced cremation of COVID-19 victims has caused pain and distress to the minority Muslim and Christian communities.
She further stated that her office stands ready to continue monitoring the human rights situation, including progress towards accountability and reconciliation.
Replying to the allegations made by the UN High Commissioner for Human rights, Michelle Bachelet, Sri Lanka Minister of foreign Affairs said that the report by the High Commissioner can not be accepted and that the aforesaid report has broadened its scope and mandate in an unjust manner and that all these recommendations are on ill founded allegations.
During the Interactive Dialogue on the OHCHR Report, the Minister Gunawardena stated before the council that the report by the OHCHR is in complete violation of Article 2 (7) of the Charter of the UN that states:
“Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state…,”
The complete statement by the Minister is as follows,
Madam High Commissioner,
Ladies and gentlemen,
The OHCHR Report which is presented today, emanates from the Resolution 30/1 and 40/1, from which the Government of Sri Lanka announced its withdrawal of co-sponsorship, at the 43rd Session of this Council last year.
Sri Lanka rejects the High Commissioner’s Report which has unjustifiably broadened its scope and mandate further, incorporating many issues of governance and matters that are essentially domestic for any self-respecting, sovereign country. This is in complete violation of Article 2 (7) of the Charter of the UN that states: “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state…”
The trajectory that has emerged with regard to the recommendations and conclusions reflects the preconceived, politicized and prejudicial agenda which certain elements have relentlessly pursued against Sri Lanka. These recommendations are based on ill-founded allegations.
Sri Lanka categorically rejects the conclusions and recommendations in the High Commissioner’s Report.