ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister G L Peiris has briefed New Delhi-based diplomatic missions on the island nation’s actions to address alleged past human rights violations, days ahead of the 49th United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session where Colombo’s human rights record is expected to be scrutinised.
Sri Lanka is expected to face a tough challenge at the session starting on February 28 for its alleged past human rights violations, suppression of minority rights, and failure to deliver justice to the 2019 Easter Sunday attack victims, diplomats say.
Peiris addressed the diplomatic corps based in New Delhi virtually on February 18, briefing 83 envoys on progress related to human rights and post-war reconciliation as part of the continued engagement ahead of the upcoming UNHRC session, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“Foreign Minister Peiris said the Government of Sri Lanka has undertaken substantial steps with a view to accountability, restorative justice and meaningful reconciliation,” the Foreign Ministry said.
The Ministry said such actions were due to the work of domestic institutions namely the Office for Reparations (OR), Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR), Office of Missing Persons (OMP), the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) and the Sustainable Development Council (SDC).
The Sri Lanka Podujana Peremuna (SLPP) government, which was previously against such domestic institutions earlier, is now seen promoting them in the face of an economic and debt crisis.
The European Union has indicated that it may withdraw Sri Lanka’s access to the Generalised Schemes of Preferences (GSP) Plus trade concession if the island nation fails to repeal its Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) which the bloc says has been used against ethnic minorities and political rivals.
The government tabled its amendments to the PTA early this week, but fell short of meeting the full expectation of the international community, which had been insisting on repealing the current law.
“The minister was particularly pleased to inform that after 43 years, the Prevention of Terrorism Act is being amended with the objective of bringing it in line with international norms and best practices,” the Foreign Ministry said.
“The minister explained that the PTA is being amended after lengthy deliberations over several months and underlined that the proposed amendments are an initial step towards the promulgation of a more comprehensive anti terror legislation.”
The minister also said that substantive amendments to the PTA include the sections on detention orders, restriction orders, expressly recognizing judicial review of orders, and the expeditious disposal of cases of those charged to avoid long term detention.
The amendment also includes repealing sections impinging on freedom of expression and introduction of provisions on access by magistrates and judicial medical officers, prevention of maltreatment and torture during the detention period, right to communicate with the family, grant of bail to long term detainees and day to day hearing of cases, the foreign minister told the Delhi-based envoys.
“Foreign Minister Peiris also referred to the accountability process which is being addressed through the Commission of Inquiry (COI),” it said.
Many Western diplomats have told EconomyNext that the government is implementing measures recommended by the UN and international rights group to manage the current economic crisis. (Colombo/Feb23/2022)