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UN: Sri Lanka yet to display willingness to address impunity

The United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kate Gilmore on Wednesday reiterated the High Commissioner's call on states to exercise universal jurisdiction to ensure justice in Sri Lanka, stating that "authorities have yet to demonstrate with the willingness or the capacity to address impunity for gross violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law."

"This strengthens the argument for the establishment of a specialized court to deal with serious crimes, supported by international practitioners. In the absence of such a mechanism, we call on Member States to exercise universal jurisdiction," Ms Gilmore added. 

"It is with much regret that we must report slow progress in establishing transitional justice mechanisms. In the absence of concrete results or publicly available drafts of legislation, it seems doubtful that the transitional justice agenda committed to by the Government under this Council's resolution 30/1 could be fully implemented before our next report in March 2019.

We also regret that the commissioners of the Office of Missing Persons were only recently appointed, 20 months after the adoption of the legislation.

Further there has been insufficient progress in returning land occupied by the military. Trust will not be rebuilt if land grabbing continues, nor without independent mechanisms established to determine fair compensations for land reserved for security reasons."

Highlighting recent attacks against Muslims by Sinhala mobs in Kandy, the deputy High Commissioner told the Council at its 37th session in Geneva: 

"We are also seriously concerned about multiple incidents of inter-communal violence, attacks and hate speech against minorities observed last year - a worry further exacerbated by recent developments that have occurred since the drafting of the report, including violence against Muslims in Kandy district that led to the proclamation of state of emergency for 12 days. Allegations of continuing use of torture and continued reports of harassment or surveillance of human rights defenders are more than worrying.

In light of the gravity of the above matters and given the import role that this Council has played to date, the High Commissioner strongly advises that this Council continue to focus its attention on the human rights of the people of Sri Lanka and in particular on the processes in place for accountability and reconciliation."