On Thursday at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) 43rd session, several countries reacted to Sri Lanka’s withdrawal of co-sponsorship from council resolutions on promoting accountability, reconciliation and human rights on the island.
Most countries expressed disappointment and concern at Sri Lanka’s decision.
“Those who were directly affected by the conflict, including the families of the disappeared, require closure and answers in order to build sustainable peace,” the Canadian mission said.
A statement by the core group on Sri Lanka: Canada, Germany, North Macedonia, Montenegro and the UK, was delivered by the UK mission:
In 2015, Sri Lanka co-sponsored resolution 30/1, which provided a framework to address the legacy of conflict and build the foundations for sustainable and inclusive peace. Sri Lanka committed to delivering progress on accountability, reconciliation and human rights with the support of the Council and reaffirmed those commitments through two further resolutions. As the High Commissioner’s report highlights, these resolutions have their origins in Sri Lanka’s domestic processes.
These resolutions are hugely significant for Sri Lanka and for this Council. They marked the end of a period of confrontation with voted resolutions and an international investigation. They heralded the start of a partnership and a sense of common purpose between Sri Lanka and the Council.
From 2015, important steps have been taken, as recognized in successive Council reports. We join the High Commissioner in welcoming the significant progress in institution building including through the establishment of the Office of Reparations and the Office on Missing Persons. Fulfillment of the mandates of these offices would bring hope to those left behind following tens of thousands of cases of enforced disappearances over many years.
Following the resolution, human rights defenders, academics and journalists have had more freedom and experienced less intimidation. However, we share the High Commissioner’s concern at the growing number of reports of harassment and surveillance of human rights defenders and victims of human rights violations. The protection of civil society, independent media and human rights institutions from intimidation remains critical to fulfill Sri Lanka’s commitment to a free and open democratic society, both in the build up to, and beyond the upcoming Parliamentary elections.
We are deeply disappointed and concerned that the government has changed its approach to the resolution. We remain profoundly committed to resolution 30/1 and its principles of reconciliation, accountability, intercommunal harmony, and justice for victims of conflict.
We urge the government of Sri Lanka to advance all of these principles and to ensure a prosperous and inclusive Sri Lanka for which the rule of law and ending impunity are a fundamental basis.
We encourage the government of Sri Lanka to continue cooperation and dialogue with the Council, the OHCHR, and UN human rights mechanisms, to facilitate progress towards a lasting peace where the rights of all of Sri Lanka’s people can flourish.
The EU acknowledges that important progress has been made in advancing respect for human rights in Sri Lanka since 2015. The EU calls on the government of Sri Lanka to maintain a sustainable and durable reconciliation process, including by ensuring the continued work of the Office for Missing Persons and the Office for Reparations, by replacing the Prevention of Terrorism Act, and through confidence-building measures.We are concerned that the government of Sri Lanka no longer supports the framework of Resolution 30/1 to address the legacy of the past conflict and to foster accountability, reconciliation and human rights with the support of the Council.
In view of the upcoming parliamentary elections, the EU recommends that the government of Sri Lanka puts in place an action plan to affirm its commitment to reconciliation, the rule of law (also with a view to ending impunity for war crimes), the protection of civil society, independent media and human rights. The EU encourages the government of Sri Lanka to remain engaged with the UN and international partners, and the EU will continue to support Sri Lanka’s efforts to further strengthen the dialogue on governance, rule of law, devolution and human rights.
Regarding the death penalty, the EU encourages Sri Lanka to maintain the moratorium, with a view towards complete abolition.
We call on Sri Lanka's interim government to respect Resolution 30/1, which provides for reconciliation, accountability, and the establishment of the offices of Reparations and on Missing Persons.
We are concerned by the Sri Lankan government’s change of approach to Resolution 30/1. We remain committed to supporting long-term reconciliation and accountability and urge the government to deliver progress and renew its commitment to the resolution.
Canada applauds the Office’s technical assistance to member states to strengthen the rule of law, end impunity and ensure accountability, goals at the heart of Agenda 2030.
They are also building blocks for sustainable and inclusive peace.
In this regard, you have highlighted steps taken by Sri Lanka to establish and strengthen some independent institutions on transitional justice, but also warned of risks if justice, accountability, and redress to victims are not provided. We share your concerns.
We are disappointed by Sri Lanka’s decision to change its approach to resolution 30/1. It is important that we all work together to advance reconciliation and accountability. Those who were directly affected by the conflict, including the families of the disappeared, require closure and answers in order to build sustainable peace.
Canada will continue to support Sri Lanka in these efforts.