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‘Deterioration in Sri Lanka’ - UK Human Rights and Democracy Report 2019

The human rights situation in Sri Lanka has seen a “deterioration” said a report from the British government today, including “controversial senior appointments” that “called into question Sri Lanka’s commitment to human rights and reconciliation”.

Britain’s Human Rights and Democracy Report, which was presented to parliament today and examines the human rights situation around the world last year, also noted “there were multiple reports of increased surveillance and intimidation of activists, particularly those working on legal and transitional justice issues”.

“There was a deterioration in the overall human rights situation in Sri Lanka in 2019, with increased intercommunal tensions, violence against minority groups, and intimidation of human rights defenders,” said the report. “While Sri Lanka reaffirmed its commitment to postconflict reconciliation and accountability through its co-sponsorship of UN Human Rights Council Resolution 40/1, delivery on this remained too slow.”

The report highlighted the appointment of Shavendra Silva as the head of the Sri Lankan army last year, stating “the UK and other international partners expressed concern about the appointment given the allegations of serious human rights violations made against the division which Major General Silva had commanded at the end of the civil war”.

“This appointment called into question Sri Lanka’s commitments made to the HRC on justice and accountability,” it added. “In response to the appointment, the UN Department of Peace Operations announced in September that it would suspend future deployments of Sri Lankan peacekeepers, except where suspension would expose UN operations to serious operational risk.”

“As I write, the coronavirus pandemic has magnified and exacerbated some of the world’s greatest challenges, including to human rights and democracy,” said UK Foreign Secretary Dominc Raab, in the report preface. “But one thing is clear: the UK remains committed to being a force for good in the world, with democracy, human rights, and the international rule of law acting as our guiding lights.”

“We will remain leading voices in the multilateral institutions that work to uphold human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. We will stand for election to the Human Rights Council. And we are supporting the UK candidate, Judge Joanna Korner QC for judicial elections to the International Criminal Court.”

“Respect for human rights and democratic freedoms underpin the UK’s foreign policy,” commented Lord Ahmad, who visited Sri Lanka last year. “Events, both at home and abroad, during the last 12 months again demonstrated that human rights matter and we, the UK, must always be a strong advocate for accountability and justice.”

See the full text of the report here.

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