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Wednesday June 29th, 2022

Sri Lanka sticks to domestic mechanism; says UN probe will polarise country

Foreign Minister Prof G L Peiris

ECONOMYNEXT – Any external initiative by the United Nations to address alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka would not achieve the goals stated by the world body and such a move could create polarisation in the island nation, the country’s foreign minister said on Tuesday (14).

Responding to UN Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet’s Monday statement in which she said that her office has begun work to implement the accountability-related aspects of the March resolution 46/1, foreign minister G.L. Peiris said Sri Lanka rejects such a move.

“We reject the proposal for any external initiatives purportedly established by Resolution 46/1 while domestic processes are vigorously addressing the relevant matters,” the foreign minister said delivering an oral update on the country at the 48th United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session.

“This will polarise our society, as we experienced with Resolution 30/1,” he said referring to a resolution passed in October 2015.

“External initiatives embarked upon without the cooperation of the country concerned cannot achieve their stated goals, and will be subject to politicisation.”

He also said resources expended on the initiative “are unwarranted”, especially when they are urgently needed for humanitarian and other constructive purposes in many parts of the world.

Bachelet received a mandate in March to collect evidence of crimes alleged to have been committed in Sri Lanka’s long civil war which ended in 2009 with the defeat of the separatist Tamil Tigers and an allege upsurge in civilian deaths.

The resolution allows the UN “to collect, consolidate, analyse and preserve information and evidence, and to develop possible strategies for future accountability processes for gross violations of human rights or serious violations of international humanitarian law in Sri Lanka, to advocate for victims and survivors, and to support relevant judicial and other proceedings.”

However, Peiris said President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s administration has been addressing the human rights issues with some initiatives which were established under the previous government after the 2015 resolution.

Those initiatives include the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) finalising the list of missing persons in collaboration with other agencies, the Office for Reparations (OR) processing 3,775 claims this year, the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) continuing its 8-point action plan, and the National Human Rights Commission carrying out its mandate.

Peiris also said under the domestic initiatives, a cabinet subcommittee was appointed to revisit the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and a commission of inquiry established to address issues on accountability and missing persons and to revisit recommendations by previous commissions.

He added that the government is committed to “holding provincial council elections at the earliest”.

“The success of post conflict demining, reconstruction and resettlement programmes has contributed immensely to national reconciliation.”

However, in her address on Monday, Bachelet said Sri Lanka’s domestic move of the OMP needs “to inspire confidence among victims”.

President Rajapaksa’s administration initially said it would not cooperate with the UNHRC, but the ruling nationalist Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) has softened its stance since the European parliament threatened to withdraw a trade concession amid the prospect of a recession and risk of sovereign default.

Bachelet also raised concerns over the arrest and detention of people and developments in judicial proceedings in a number of emblematic human rights cases. (Colombo/Sep14/2021)

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