Asia: Sri Lanka must step up progress on transitional justice, UN expert finds

The Government of Sri Lanka has not made sufficient progress in fulfilling its commitments on transitional justice and related reform processes, a UN human rights expert has concluded after an official visit to the country.

Geneve, Oct 23, 2017.- Pablo de Greiff, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, said delays in the implementation of commitments undermined trust and raised questions about the Government’s determination to undertake a comprehensive transitional justice programme.

“These delays contribute to the further politicization of discussions on transitional justice,” he said in a statement at the end of his mission.

“Challenges remain and the slow progress, even on pre-conditions for transitional justice, seriously erodes trust in the Government’s capacity to decisively move forward with reforms,” noted the Special Rapporteur, urging the authorities to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act, demilitarise the North and East, resolve remaining land disputes, and cease harassment and surveillance by security and intelligence personnel of human rights defenders and social actors, especially women.

Mr. de Greiff noted the government’s positive progress on areas including constitutional reform, creating an Office of Missing Persons and a consultations task force, opening up space for public debate on transitional justice, the release of some lands, and initial efforts to strengthen the judiciary.

“All of these steps can contribute to a comprehensive transitional justice programme,” the expert said.

But the expert urged the Government to go further, and to create a plan setting out how truth, justice, reparation, and guarantees of non-recurrence would be delivered as a state policy. He said this approach had the potential to contribute to social integration.

“Transitional justice benefits all Sri Lankans,” the Special Rapporteur stressed, urging the Government not to deprive its citizens of the benefits of a comprehensive transitional justice process, including accountability.

“Sri Lanka is at a critical juncture and has a unique opportunity to prevent further cycles of violence by determined action,” Mr. de Greiff said. “This is the Government’s duty, and the right of Sri Lanka’s society.”

During his 14-day mission, the Special Rapporteur met the President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, as well as officials from a number of government ministries and departments, political parties and independent instutions. He also met victims of human rights abuses, as well as ethnic and religious communities and civil society groups.

Mr. de Greiff will present a detailed report on his mission to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2018.



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