A team of senior European Union (EU) officials praised Sri Lanka for making progress in advancing human rights but warned that there was a “lack of concrete progress in key areas” which was needed for continued preferential market access under the GSP Plus.
Noting that Sri Lanka is a signatory to 27 international conventions, the EU team stated that "progressive implementation of the conventions is the condition for continued preferential access to the European Union market - the world's largest and Sri Lanka's biggest export market – under the GSP Plus".
Ambassador Tung-Lai Margue said that whilst there had been “excellent cooperation” by the Sri Lankan government, alongside “real advances in human rights”, there was still much to do on the island.
“Torture has to stop,” said the ambassador.
The EU statement comes at the conclusion of a fact-finding mission in which officials travelled to Jaffna and Kilinochchi to meet the Chief Minister of the Northern Province and “hear the views from civil society, including a number of human rights activists”.
“It is of paramount importance that the Government delivers on its commitments, including replacing the Prevention of Terrorism Act with counter-terrorism legislation consistent with international standards and allowing people in custody to have access to a lawyer from the point of arrest.”
“Clarifying the fate of those who disappeared at the end of the war and speeding up the return of land will help to restore confidence, particularly in the North and East, in the policy of national reconciliation."
Concerns regarding discrimination against women and LGBT rights were also raised, according to the press release.
The fact-finding mission comes as part of an assessment on Sri Lanka, which continues to receive GSP Plus trade concessions. The full assessment is due to be published in January 2018, when it will be considered by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers.
See the full press release here.