Posted on May 8th, 2021


Revised 9.5.21

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International supported the Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Human Rights Watch said that UNHCR, at its upcoming session, should act on the recommendations of the UN High commissioner for Human rights, and adopt a new resolution to enhance scrutiny of Sri Lanka’s deteriorating human rights situation and pursue accountability for past and recent violations.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has withdrawn its support for the 2015 consensus resolution seeking justice and reconciliation, and shown general disregard for upholding basic human rights.  UNHRC should act to protect those most at risk and advance accountability for grave international crimes,” Human Rights Watch said.

The UN High commissioner’s report highlights Sri Lanka’s shocking record of complete impunity for appalling crimes, and very disturbing developments under the Rajapaksa administration,” said John Fisher, Director, HRW Geneva. The UNHRC has given Sri Lanka every opportunity to address these issues over many years, and now greater international involvement is needed to help protect vulnerable groups and hold those responsible for grave international crimes to account,” he concluded.

Amnesty International said: The international community must not turn a blind eye to the deteriorating human rights situation in Sri Lanka, which is being abetted by the government’s regressive moves on justice and accountability. The OCHCHR warns that there are ‘clear early warning signs of a deteriorating human rights situation and a significantly heightened risk of future violations.

Members of the military leadership that were in command during the last phase of the war, when allegations of human rights and humanitarian law violations are widespread, were rewarded with promotions and positions of power under the new administration, including to civilian positions. This has had a chilling effect on victims demanding justice said Amnesty International.

’Amnesty is calling on the UN Human Rights Council to implement the report’s key recommendations to put in place more stringent oversight on Sri Lanka, including more robust monitoring and reporting on the human rights situation, and the collection and preservation of evidence for future prosecutions. UNHRC must take urgent steps to address the worsening human rights situation in Sri Lanka.

The Human Rights Council must take steps to end the cycle of impunity by holding the Sri Lankan government fully to account, and launching a new internationally agreed justice process,” said David Griffiths Director of the Office of the Secretary General at Amnesty International..Amnesty International’s findings reveal a pattern of targeting those who have played an active role in investigating, documenting, litigating, or reporting on human rights violations and abuses, and advocating on behalf of the victims, including at least six incidents where lawyers were targeted.

The UN report lays bare Sri Lanka’s abject record on delivering justice and accountability and the decaying effect this has had on human rights in the country. The seriousness of these findings highlights the urgent need for the UN Human Rights Council to step up its efforts in Sri Lanka.”

For more than a decade, domestic processes have manifestly failed thousands of victims and their families. Given the Government’s decision to walk away from resolution 30/1 and regression on the limited progress that had been made, the Human Rights Council must send a clear message that accountability will be pursued with or without the cooperation of the Government said Griffiths.

China took the opposite view. China extended strong support to Sri Lanka at the Interactive Dialogue. China’s Permanent Representative in Geneva Ambassador Chen Xu said it is the consistent stand of China to oppose politicization and double standards on human rights, as well as using human rights as an excuse in interfering in other countries’ internal affairs. We are concerned about the clear lack of impartiality shown in the OHCHR’s report to this session on Sri Lanka and express our regret over the failure of the OHCHR to use the authoritative information provided by the Sri Lankan Government. The so-called preventive intervention” and the proposed targeted sanctions contained in the OHCHR’s report are clear interference in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka and exceed the mandate of the OHCHR.

The Government of Sri Lanka also strongly rejected the Report.   Sri Lanka pointed out that the Office of the High Commissioner was bound by United Nations Resolution 60/251  

  • . United Nations Resolution 60/251    said that the work of UN Human Rights Council shall be guided by the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity, constructive international dialogue and cooperation.  (clause  4)
  • The preamble to United Nations Resolution 60/251     said the UN recognizes the importance of ensuring universality, objectivity and non-selectivity and the elimination of double standards and politicization.
  • The preamble also said that the promotion and protection of human rights should be based on the principles of cooperation and genuine dialogue and aimed at strengthening the capacity of Member States to comply with their human rights obligations.

The Report was subjective and biased” said the government. It was intended to mislead the international community,  said Sri Lanka.

This report shows that the OHCHR wishes to directly intervene in the internal affairs of our country. The Report has broadened its scope, and included issues of governance and matters that are essentially domestic in any self-respecting, sovereign country.

High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet has overreached her jurisdiction and has interfered with the independence and sovereignty of Sri Lanka by releasing this new UN report. She cannot challenge appointments made by the head of state of a sovereign country and interfere with its internal affairs and independence. She must be advised not to overreach her scope of authority in this manner.

The Report wants Sri Lanka to remove from office Security Forces personnel and other public officials alleged to have committed war crimes. The alleged charges were not proven against any of the officers. The removal of such officers without being proven guilty would be a violation of their human rights.

The continued chorus in the Report that credible allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian law amounting to war crimes having been committed during the separatist war, however, remains unsubstantiated with the absence of substantive related evidence, said Sunday Times ,

Here is the full statement made by the government of Sri Lanka to the OHCHR Report:

The OHCHR Report which is presented today, emanates from the Resolution 30/1 and 40/1, from which the Government of Sri Lanka announced its withdrawal of co-sponsorship, at the 43rd Session of this Council last year. Sri Lanka rejects the High Commissioner’s Report which has unjustifiably broadened its scope and mandate further, incorporating many issues of governance and matters that are essentially domestic for any self-respecting, sovereign country. This is in complete violation of Article 2 (7) of the Charter of the UN that states: Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state…”

The trajectory that has emerged with regard to the recommendations and conclusions reflects the preconceived, politicized and prejudicial agenda which certain elements have relentlessly pursued against Sri Lanka. These recommendations are based on ill-founded allegations.

Sri Lanka categorically rejects the conclusions and recommendations in the High Commissioner’s Report. The call for asset freezes, travel bans, references to the ICC and the exercise of universal jurisdiction by individual States, based on evidence that up to date has been denied access to and retained by the High Commissioners Office with some of it unreleased for thirty years, particularly in relation to a country like Sri Lanka which has consistently and constructively engaged with the UN and its mechanisms, points to a distinct and eminent danger which the international community as a whole need to take note of. Such unilateral actions by certain countries are unacceptable and a violation of the principles of natural justice.

In addition to the progress made since last March, Sri Lanka has provided written comments on instances of erroneous information, misconceived and arbitrary assessments in the Report. It is regrettable that the High Commissioner’s Office published its Report, accompanied by an unprecedented propaganda campaign on it and refused to publish our Comments on the report as an addendum. This has deprived Sri Lanka and Members of equal visibility of Sri Lanka’s views on the report.

Sri Lanka refutes the allegations that have been reproduced in the High Commissioner’s report, from the highly contentious Report of the Panel of Experts (PoE) on Accountability and the Report of the High Commissioner’s Office Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL), which have been rejected by Sri Lanka for reasons explained to this Council before. The contents of the Report which have been drawn from the said disputed reports are rife with factual inaccuracies that appear to equate atrocities committed by the LTTE, a terrorist organization proscribed internationally, with legitimate action taken by the Government to safeguard the territorial integrity of the country and the right to life of our people.

The insistence on ever-expanding externally driven prescriptions, notwithstanding our continuous cooperation and engagement with this Council and all UN bodies, can pose numerous challenges and such processes could set a dangerous precedent affecting all Member States of the UN.

We regret the disproportionate attention drawn to Sri Lanka by this Council, driven by political motivations. Sri Lanka calls upon the members of this Council that any resolution which is based on this Report, be rejected by the Council and be brought to a closure.

We remain open to engaging constructively with the UN, including this Council, and the international community in mutually agreed areas, in conformity with the Constitution and in keeping with domestic priorities and policies.” End of statement. (Continued)

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