UN Core Group ‘deeply concerned’ about human rights developments in Sri Lanka

The United Nations Core Group on Sri Lanka has expressed its deep concerns over the current human rights developments in Sri Lanka and the country’s counter-terrorism legistation.

UK Ambassador to the United Nations and World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Simon Manley told the Human Rights Council on Tuesday (Sep. 14) that the Core Group recognizes the challenges Sri Lanka is experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The statement was made on behalf of Canada, Germany, North Macedonia, Malawi, Montenegro and the UK.

The Core Group thanked the High Commissioner for her update on Sri Lanka and call for OHCHR to be granted the resources needed to implement resolution 46/1.

“We recognise the challenges Sri Lanka is facing due to the COVID 19 pandemic and express our condolences to the people of Sri Lanka for the many lives that have been lost.”

The Core Group continued to stress the importance of a comprehensive reconciliation and accountability process. “We note Sri Lanka’s declared intent to promote reconciliation and to ensure the continuity of the work of the Office of Missing Persons and the Office for Reparations,” Manley added, calling on the Sri Lankan government to ensure the political independence of these institutions.

“We are disappointed that even the limited progress made on accountability on key emblematic cases has regressed. Recent developments on the case involving the disappearance of 11 youths in 2008-2009 is of particular concern.”

Further, the Core Group expressed deep concern about current human rights developments in Sri Lanka, in particular increased limitations being put on civic space including reports of surveillance and intimidation of civil society groups, intimidation of journalists and reprisals against those protesting peacefully. “We stress the importance of providing a safe and enabling environment for civil society actors.”

It went on to reiterate its request made at the 47th session for independent and impartial investigations into deaths in police custody.

With regard to the island nation’s counter-terrorism legislation, the Core Group said: “The Government of Sri Lanka’s outreach to the international community and statements of intent regarding reforming the Prevention of Terrorism Act is welcome, though our longstanding concerns about this legislation still remain. We urge the Government of Sri Lanka to bring its counter-terrorism legislation in line with its international human rights obligations. We call on the government of Sri Lanka to reconsider their intention to introduce a rehabilitation process under the Prevention of Terrorism Act that lacks judicial oversight. In this context we remain concerned about the ongoing detention of human rights lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah and the poet and teacher Ahnaf Jazeem under the PTA.”

The Core Group called on Sri Lanka to cooperate fully with the High Commissioner and remain ready to support the Government on the implementation of resolution 46/1. – ada derana

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