Rights Commissioner, Prince Zeid surprised to see the way SL government treating the CSOs. 

Oct 3rd, 2014 | By | Category: samabima english, TOP NEWS

The oral update on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.  (Part 02)

9. The High Commissioner is deeply grateful to these distinguished experts for agreeing to play this important role on a pro-bono basis. They will not lead the investigation, but will provide expert advice and guidance to the investigation team, and accompany the process to provide an independent verification of the investigation. The experts held their first meeting with the investigation team in Geneva on 6-7 September to review the methodology and progress in the investigation. The investigation team has also been meeting with a coordinating group of Special Procedures mandate holders.

10. At this juncture, the High Commissioner would like to respond directly to two concerns that have been raised by the Government of Sri Lanka, some civil society groups and media concerning the mandate of the OHCHR investigation. The first argument made is that there is a contradiction between operative paragraph 2 of resolution 25/1 which requests Sri Lanka to conduct and credible and independent investigation, and operative paragraph 10 of the resolution which requests OHCHR to conduct an international investigation. There is absolutely no contradiction in this regard. As successive Human Rights Council resolutions have noted, Sri Lanka has international legal obligations to investigate violations and provide victims with remedy. However, in resolution 25/1, the Human Rights Council took note of the absence of a credible national process with tangible results and requested OHCHR to conduct its own investigation. The fact that there is an international investigation does not relieve Sri Lanka of its obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law to conduct investigations, nor does the existence of domestic initiatives (which only partially cover the period and allegations concerned) prevent an international investigation moving forward. The question is how Sri Lanka will take further the results of the international investigation in its own domestic process, or whether further steps will be required.

11. The second concern raised is the decision of OHCHR to investigate violations up until November 2011, the time the LLRC presented its final report. This is important because the LLRC, to its credit, took an expansive view of its mandate and examined a number of violations that had their origins before the February 2002 or continued after the end of the armed conflict in May 2009. These include for instance the detention of suspects which occurred at the end of the war but continued for an extended period afterwards, or enforced disappearances which remain ongoing violations to this day. The former High Commissioner correctly interpreted that the Human Rights Council’s intention was not to draw an arbitrary line in May 2009 but to ensure the comprehensive scope of the LLRC report was fully addressed,

12. The High Commissioner very much regrets the Government of Sri Lanka’s rejection of resolution 25/1 and position of non-cooperation with the investigation, and he encourages the Government to keep its channels open. The High Commissioner notes that the Government has invited him to visit Sri Lanka and he will be meeting with the Minister of External Affairs in New York later this month.

13. This is a unique and historic opportunity to establish an accurate record of patterns of human rights violations and related crimes alleged to have been committed by both sides during the latter period of the conflict that will meet the expectations of Sri Lanka’s people, particularly the victims of both sides of the conflict, and a broad cross-section of the international community. This includes serious crimes committed by the LTTE and Tamil armed groups over many years, including the recruitment of children as soldiers and attacks on civilians. Withholding cooperation from the investigation means that valuable information held by the Government cannot be taken into account. It will also represent a missed opportunity to engage in a deeper truth-seeking process that will ultimately contribute to Sri Lanka’s long term interests in lasting peace and reconciliation.

Engagement with human rights mechanisms
14. The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants conducted an official country visit from 18-26 May 2014. In his report to the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur welcomed the efforts undertaken by the Sri Lankan authorities to regulate labour migration and protect the rights of its citizens migrating abroad, but noted the need to fully implement a human rights approach. He also looked into the situation of migrants in Sri Lanka and noted the need to implement regulations, monitor the detention of migrants in Sri Lanka, and to revise constitutional provisions which discriminate against migrants.

15. There remain nine outstanding requests to visit Sri Lanka by other special procedures: on minority issues; freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; freedom of opinion and expression; extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; enforced or involuntary disappearances; human rights defenders; independence of judges and lawyers; discrimination against women in law and practice; and truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.

16. The High Commissioner reiterate his predecessor’s calls to invite the special procedures on enforced or involuntary disappearances and minority issues as a matter of priority, considering the centrality of these issues to the accountability and reconciliation agenda. The Government has again indicated that it will consider a visit by the WGEID once the Commission of Inquiry on missing persons, discussed below, concludes its work.

 

17. Sri Lanka’s fifth periodic report under the ICCPR will be examined by the Human Rights Committee in October 2014.

Threats to civil society actors

18. The High Commissioner has been shocked at the ongoing campaign of threats, harassment, intimidation and reprisals by both state and non-state actors since March against civil society groups, human rights defenders and victims’ organisations, including those who might support or engage with the international inquiry. On 7 April 2014, the Minister of Mass Media and Information informed the press that the Government would take legal action against those who testify before the OHCHR investigation if the evidence submitted by them was in violation of the county’s Constitution. Various calls were made by representatives of political parties and other groups for the arrest of members of parliament and civil society members who had participated in the Human Rights Council session in March.

19. This has been followed by a steady stream of incitement and hate speech in print, electronic and social media against civil society activists who have publicly advocated for accountability, reconciliation and human rights. On 10 August 2014, for instance, an article in the Sinhalese language newspaper Divaina attacked prominent human rights activists, declaring “Clearly what should be done is to shoot them and throw them to the forest for the foxes to eat. But we won’t say that should done, because we do not have the tribal mentality of those who betray the country.”

20. On 4 August, a private meeting of civil society actors, the diplomatic community and families of the disappeared in Colombo was disrupted by protestors including Buddhist monks, reportedly representing families of missing armed service personnel. Families of the disappeared as well as civil society actors were verbally abused, threatened and called traitors. Police were present but were ineffective in removing the mob. The Ministry of External Affairs subsequently issued a press release urging the diplomatic community to be more conscious of local sensitivities when attending events of an “emotive” nature.

21. In another recent case, two prominent human rights lawyers reported being threatened on 13 September by unidentified men at a law office for appearing in “unnecessary cases”. In August, the two had been intimidated with another colleague by a group of men inside Maradana police station allegedly in front of a senior officer while making representations on behalf of their clients.

22. On 21 March 2014, the Government also announced the proscription of 16 Tamil organisations and 424 individuals pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1373. These included not only the LTTE, but many mainstream Tamil diaspora organisations which have been actively engaged with the Human Rights Council and international human rights mechanisms. While the High Commissioner fully respects the responsibility of the Government to safeguard against any resurgence of terrorism in the country, such measures must meet the requirements of necessity and proportionality, and this step will have far-reaching and negative impacts on freedom of expression and association and efforts for reconciliation in the country.

23. This is part of a broader trend of increased restrictions on NGO activities since the former High Commissioner’s last report. On 1 July, a circular was issued by the NGO Secretariat, which is located under the Ministry of Defence, indicating that press conferences, workshops, trainings for journalists and dissemination of press releases were unauthorized activities and should not be undertaken by NGOs. After speaking out against this circular, the President of the Bar Association reported receiving repeated threats to his security. A number of workshops organized by NGOs for Tamil-speaking journalists were disrupted and finally stopped from taking place in June and July.

Click her to read Part 01

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This huge banner was displayed during a protest organized by some yes-men of the regime. Their protest was against the awareness campaign organized on 29th of September by a ‘group of people who were interested’ to demand releasing Jeyakumari, which according to the fact being detained for 200 days consecutively without any case being filed. Image courtesy – Vikalpa website.

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