A coalition of 22 organisations have called on member states at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to pass a “strong resolution" that affirms an international commitment to protect human rights in Sri Lanka with the prioritisation of victims and their families.
In their statement, the organisations drew attention to the United Nations High Commissioner's damning report which detailed the lack of accountability for grave human rights abuses in Sri Lanka. The statement emphasised the importance of passing a strong resolution to monitor and rein in the deteriorating situation of human rights in Sri Lanka.
The organisations highlighted Sri Lanka's failure to adhere to it's commitments to accountability efforts and stated that "it is essential that a new resolution detail immediate, concrete, and independent international efforts, including enhancing monitoring by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), creating an independent international mechanism to collect and preserve evidence of past and ongoing violations and abuses, and prioritizing support to civil society initiatives.”
The statement further noted that under the current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the scope for human rights has worsened considerably. The Sri Lankan government has "promoted credibly accused war criminals, increased militarisation of civilian institutions, reversed Constitutional safeguards, increasingly employed and promoted majoritarian and exclusionary rhetoric, increased surveillance and obstruction of civil society and exacerbated human rights concerns," the statement added.
Earlier this month, an assessment by experts from ten Special Procedures, called for renewed scrutiny and accountability in Sri Lanka. The organisations shared their concerns that "continued reliance on the Government of Sri Lanka to improve human rights and accountability will prove futile and dangerous. As both history and recent events in Sri Lanka have shown, if left unchecked, the Government will be emboldened to continue its abuses and further entrench impunity,” the coalition wrote.
The statement emphatically noted that given Sri Lanka's "failed domestic efforts to advance justice", other alternative avenues to ensure accountability and justice should be pursued. The organisations echoed the UN High Commissioner's calls for member states to refer Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court, to pursue investigation and prosecution of international crimes in national courts using extraterritorial and universal jurisdiction, to impose targeted sanctions, such as asset freezes and travel bans, against those accused of grave human rights violations.
“A strong resolution with concrete action by the Human Rights Council and UN human rights bodies will not only signal to the Government of Sri Lanka that continuing impunity and abuses are not acceptable, but will also affirm for survivors that the United Nations is committed to securing justice for the harms they experienced,” they concluded.
A draft resolution released by the Core Group on Sri Lanka (UK, Canada, Germany, Montenegro, and North Macedonia) called for the “to consolidate, analyse and preserve” evidence that could be used in future war crimes trials. However, the resolution has been subjected to criticism by many Tamil activists for failing to call for an international mechanism to ensure accountability and justice in Sri Lanka.
Yesterday, the Core Group, the EU, Australia, and Switzerland alongside a number of other countries reiterated calls for accountability and expressed concern over the worsening human rights situation in Sri Lanka, during the 46th session of the UNHRC.
Signatories of the statement are:
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM ASIA), Centre for Justice and Accountability (CJA), Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP), International Commission for Jurists (ICJ), International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), Franciscans International, Freedom from Torture, Free Press Unlimited, Human Rights Watch (HRW), People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL), REDRESS, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Sri Lanka Campaign, University Network for Human Rights, World Federalist Movement/Institute for Global policy and World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).
Read the full statement here.