UN: Impunity Remains Widespread in Sri Lanka

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet is urging the Sri Lankan government to reform its judicial system and put an end to impunity, which encourages human rights violations to proliferate throughout the country.  A report is under examination at the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Bachelet says she is pleased to see that Sri Lanka has taken certain steps to amend some provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act.  She says that has resulted in the release of some people who have been detained under the act but says proposed reforms do not go far enough.

She says much more is needed to reform the country’s legal and security systems to put an end to impunity and prevent any recurrence of past violations.  

The high commissioner was referring to the period after Sri Lanka’s civil war ended in the 1980s. Some 60,000 to 100,000 people from all ethnic and religious communities disappeared. The fate of thousands of those who have gone missing remains unknown to this day.

Regrettably, she says, few have been held accountable for the crimes. She says victims and their families continue to be denied truth and justice.

“I remain concerned by the continued suffering and anguish of victims and families of the disappeared, who call for truth and justice, and seek to commemorate their loved ones.  I urge the government to acknowledge their rights, urgently determine the fate or whereabouts of victims, bring perpetrators to justice, and provide reparations,” she said.

Bachelet says she is deeply concerned by continued reports of surveillance, harassment and intimidation of civil society organizations, human rights defenders and journalists by police and intelligence services.

“Repeated incidents of deaths in custody and in alleged armed encounters with police are alarming.  We also continue to receive allegations of ill-treatment and torture by police and military.  This highlights the importance of fundamental security-sector reforms,” she said.

Bachelet warns Sri Lanka will not achieve genuine reconciliation and sustainable peace as long as impunity prevails.

Sri Lanka’s foreign minister, Lakshman Peiris, says there are serious anomalies and weaknesses in the report presented to the council by the high commissioner.

“The fundamental deficiency is its intolerably intrusive character, impinging as it does on core functions and responsibilities of organs of the Sri Lankan state overwhelmingly mandated by the people of our country at three successive elections,” Peiris said. 

He says he deeply regrets the numerous unsubstantiated allegations that have found their way into the report.

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