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Civil society groups call on UN to appoint Special Rapporteur on Sri Lanka

Civil society groups working on issues in the North-East have written to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, expressing concern over the Sri Lankan government’s pledges to implement a UN resolution and called for the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on the issue.

Noting that the Sri Lankan government had pledged to implement a UN resolution that “supported the establishment of a special court with international participation,” the organisations said that it has since “been proactively and deliberately abandoned by the Sri Lankan State”.

The letter from the organisations stated that mechanisms such as the Office of Missing Persons “fell short of many expectations that the families of the enforced disappearances, particularly the Tamil families, had and it did not satisfy their needs and aspirations” and “failed to win the confidence of the victims in establishing this mechanism”.

Other mechanisms such as the appointment of a Special Prosecutor and the establishment of a Special Judicial mechanism, “to the extent that we are aware, are not even being discussed” the groups added.

“At this juncture, we believe that Sri Lanka is not on the right track and even going backwards,” declared the organisations.

“We have no confidence that the mechanisms established will be able to adequately deliver truth or reparations in a way that will help reconciliation,” the letter said. “Neither do we have any reasons to believe that the promised Truth and Reconciliation Mechanism and Special Judicial mechanism with foreign participation will be established anywhere in the near future.”

“For decades now those who champion accountability, justice and the search for a political solution have been rejected by the Sinhala Buddhist nationalist vote base. In fact, the accommodation of the political aspirations of the numerically smaller communities and accountability for crimes committed have been interpreted by forces powerful within the Sinhala Buddhist community as threats against their very political existence and the existence of the Sri Lanka as a united country.”

The organisations went on to call on member states and the UN to “revisit the recommendations in the OISL report and take suitable corrective action in the interest of peace and justice in Sri Lanka”.

Expectations laid out in the letter include recommending to the UN Secretary General to place the matter “before an appropriate forum of the UN for suitable alternative action”.

A new resolution that “calls for the fulfilment of all the obligations committed to… condemning the ones not fulfilled and also calling to remedy the lapses and structural deformities” of existing mechanisms was also called for.

See the full text of the letter and signatories here.