ECONOMYNEXT – Permitting Sri Lankans in the North and East to commemorate their kith and kin killed in the country’s 26-year war in private was among the proposals by a presidential commission appointed look into alleged human rights violations.
“Terrorists are not allowed to be commemorated but the commission has recommended to grant the right to commemorate the death of a relative [that] occurred during the war, in private,” the President’s Media Division (PMD) said after the commission handed over its second interim report to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Friday (18).
The 107-page report included appraisal of the previous commissions’ findings and a way forward. It was handed over to the president by Supreme Court Judge A H M D Nawaz, the head of the commission.
On January 21 last year, President Rajapaksa appointed a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to investigate, inquire into and report or take necessary actions on findings of preceding commissions or committees appointed to investigate human rights violations, serious violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and other such offences.
The first report of the commission was submitted to the President on July 21, 2021, ahead of the last year’s United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session. The second report has been handed over just days before the 49th UNHRC session scheduled for next week.
The latest report has also recommended the immediate investigation of the findings of the Paranagama Commission appointed in 2015 and to file a court case or provide compensation accordingly.
The Paranagama Commission investigated the complaints regarding missing persons, alleged abductions and disappearances in the North and East of Sri Lanka during the period June 10, 1990 to May 19, 2009 in order to identify persons responsible and initiate legal proceedings against them.
By June 2015, the Paranagama Commission had received more than 21,000 complaints.
The Paranagama Commission’s mandate was expanded to address the facts and circumstances surrounding civilian loss of life and the question of responsibility for violations of international law during the conflict that ended in May 2009.
Commission Chairman Nawaz said that the final report can be submitted to the President by next June.
Sri Lanka is likely to face fresh scrutiny on the current government’s probe into the 2019 Easter Sunday attack and alleged suppression of religious freedom in Sri Lanka at the upcoming UNHRC session in addition to alleged war crimes, diplomats told EconomyNext.
The 107-page second interim report has taken testimonies from 75 residents in the former northern war zone of Jaffna and Kilinochchi districts into account .
Human rights activists say debt-ridden Sri Lanka has been gearing up to appease the UNHRC and the European Union. The activists that spoke to EconomyNext are concerned about the timing of the latest presidential commission report.
The government recently expressed its willingness to amend the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), as the island is at risk of losing the annual GSP Plus trade concession worth over 500 million USD from the European Union. The concessions were a valuable asset that has helped uplift the country’s fisheries and garments industries.
Complicating the country’s delicate standing in the international sphere, Colombo Archbishop Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith recently said that the Sri Lankan Catholic church will be working closely with the Vatican to provide justice to the victims of the Easter Sunday bombings, claiming that the government has failed in its investigations.
With the 49th UNHRC session scheduled to commence next week. Sri Lanka is seeking allies and ways to appease the international community, as the country’s allegedly spotty human rights record is set to be put under the microscope once again. (Colombo/Feb22/2022)