Sri Lanka, LTTE should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity, officials sanctioned: UN rights chief

ECONOMYNEXT – The United Nations Commissioner of Human Rights has called for Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers to be investigated and prosecuted for ‘crimes against humanity’ and targeted sanctions placed against officials.

Members could refer Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court or pursue their own investigations, Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet has said in a report.

A previous report found “credible evidence that both Sri Lankan security forces and LTTE were responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity,” she said.

Sri Lanka has so far failed to provide domestic justice, she said.

“Member states have a number of options to advance criminal accountability and provide measures of redress for victims,” the report said.

“In addition to taking steps towards the referral of the situation in Sri Lanka to the International
Criminal Court, Member States can actively pursue investigation and prosecution of international crimes committed by all parties in Sri Lanka before their own national courts, including under accepted principles of extraterritorial or universal jurisdiction.”

She asked the UN Human Rights Council to explore “possible targeted sanctions such as asset freezes and travel bans against credibly alleged perpetrators of grave human rights violations and abuses.”

The report said key agencies had been brought under the Defence Ministry and former military personnel were being appointed to many agencies.

Sri Lanka had denied the charges.

“Unsubstantiated accusations against government officers are wrong,” retired Admiral Jayanath Colombage, a Foreign Ministry state secretary was quoted as saying to Reuters, a news agency.

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“If they have something they have to follow an internationally accepted procedure.”

The report has made a series of recommendations to Sri Lanka and the UN Human Rights Council and member states.

Recommendations

To Sri Lanka

60. The High Commissioner recommends that the Government of Sri Lanka:

(a) Actively promote an inclusive, pluralistic vision for Sri Lanka, based on non-discrimination and protection of human rights for all, and in line with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda;

(b) Ensure constitutional and legislative reforms address recommendations made by United Nations human rights mechanisms and the resolutions of the Human Rights Council;

(c) Publicly issue unequivocal instructions to all branches of the military, intelligence and police forces that torture, sexual violence and other human rights violations are prohibited and will be systematically investigated and punished;

(d) Order all security agencies to immediately end all forms of surveillance and harassment of and reprisals against human rights defenders, social actors and victims of human rights violations;

(e) Promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigate and prosecute all allegations of gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law, including torture and ill-treatment, and give the highest priority to ensuring accountability in long-standing emblematic cases;

(f) Remove from office security personnel and other public officials credibly implicated in human rights violations, in compliance with human rights standards; implement other reforms of the security sector to strengthen and ensure accountability and civilian oversight;

(g) Ensure structural safeguards for the Human Rights Commission to function independently and receive adequate resources;

(h)Ensure an environment in which the Office on Missing Persons and Office for Reparations can operate effectively and independently; provide both Offices with sufficient resources and technical means to effectively fulfil their mandate; and proceed with interim relief measures for affected vulnerable families with a gender focus, notwithstanding their right to effective and comprehensive reparations and rights to truth and justice;

(i) Establish a moratorium on the use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act for new arrests until it is replaced by legislation that adheres to international best practices;

(j) Establish standard procedures for the granting of pardons or other forms of clemency by the President, including subjecting it to judicial review, and excluding grave human rights and international humanitarian law violations;

(k) Honour its standing invitation to Special Procedures by scheduling renewed country visits by relevant thematic mandate holders; continue engagement with treaty bodies; and seek continued technical assistance from OHCHR in implementing the recommendations of UN human rights mechanisms.

To UNHCR and Member States

61. The High Commissioner recommends that the Human Rights Council and Member States to:

(a) Request OHCHR to enhance its monitoring of the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, including progress towards accountability and reconciliation, and report regularly to the Human Rights Council;

(b) Support a dedicated capacity to collect and preserve evidence and other related information for future accountability processes, to advocate for victims and survivors, and to support relevant judicial proceedings in Member States with competent jurisdiction;

(c) Cooperate with victims and their representatives to investigate and prosecute international crimes committed by all parties in Sri Lanka through judicial proceedings in domestic jurisdictions, including under accepted principles of extraterritorial or universal jurisdiction;

(d) Explore possible targeted sanctions such as asset freezes and travel bans against credibly alleged perpetrators of grave human rights violations and abuses;

(e) Apply stringent vetting procedures to Sri Lankan police and military personnel identified for military exchanges and training programmes;

(f) Prioritize support to civil society initiatives and efforts for reparation and victims’ assistance and prioritise victims and their families for assistance in their bilateral humanitarian, development and scholarship programs;

(g) Review asylum measures with respect to Sri Lankan nationals to protect those facing reprisals and avoid any refoulement in cases that present real risk of torture or other serious human rights violations.

62. The High Commissioner recommends that United Nations entities:

(a) Ensure that the Secretary-General’s Call to Action on human rights guides all United Nations policy and programmatic engagement in Sri Lanka;

(b) Ensure that all development programmes are founded on principles of inclusion,non-discrimination, and support for effective, accountable and inclusive institutions, in line with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda;

(c) Incorporate strict human rights due diligence in engagement with the security forces and all bodies under the purview of the Ministry of Defence or the Ministry Public Security;

(e) Whilst fully understanding force generation challenges in the context of UN peacekeeping, keep under review Sri Lanka’s contributions to UN peacekeeping operations and screening systems for Sri Lanka personnel.

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