The United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, in a new report on Sri Lanka, has pointed to setbacks to accountability for past alleged human rights violations and the recognition of victims’ rights, despite the government’s recent steps aimed at reforms.
The latest report on Sri Lanka comes ahead of the 49th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council which begins today in Geneva.
While there will be no resolution on Sri Lanka during this session, an interactive dialogue on the progress made by Sri Lanka in promoting reconciliation, accountability, and human rights is expected to be held during the week.
As part of her observations in the report, Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet has said the transitional justice mechanisms have struggled to achieve the confidence of victims, while pointing to the continuing difficult situation of families of disappeared persons, the lack of progress and “even steps backward” in several emblematic human rights cases before Sri Lankan courts, and the culture of impunity.
The report also highlighted “continuing trends towards militarisation and ethno-religious nationalism that undermine democratic institutions, increase the anxiety of minorities, and impede reconciliation.”
Further, the report also drew attention to the “multi-dimensional human rights impact on public health and economic and social rights” since the pandemic; the pending full investigation of the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings and the need for making the findings of a Presidential Commission public.
The UN Human Rights Commissioner meanwhile urged the government to undertake “more fundamental reforms” to the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
UN High Commissioner Bachelet’s observations follow her strongly-worded report in January 2021, that noted that Sri Lanka was “on an alarming path towards recurrence of grave human rights violations”.
Subsequently, in its 46th session last March, the Council adopted a resolution on Sri Lanka, expressing “serious concern” at the “deteriorating situation” of human rights in Sri Lanka.
Following up in September 2021, High Commissioner Bachelet called for the Council’s “close attention” on Sri Lanka.