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Disappointed by Sri Lanka's lack of progress on UNHRC resolution says EU Chargé d'affaires

We want to see Sri Lanka fulfill the UNHRC co-sponsored resolution the European Union's Chargé d'affaires told Ceylon Today in an interview published Sunday, adding "we are disappointed that we haven't seen more progress". 

"Sri Lanka made a commitment through the UN resolution which indeed Sri Lanka sponsored both back in 2015 and again this year that there would be a judicial mechanism that involves, the exact language was, 'foreign and Commonwealth personnel'. That is what we have in book and that is what we as the international community can see as the process. Our position is that we want to see the resolution fulfilled," Paul Godfrey said. 

Stating that it must be victim centred, Mr Godfrey urged "a fair judicial process that addresses the most serious crimes that are alleged to have happened during the conflict and afterwards."

"We as the international community are waiting for the government to bring forth a proposal and I think we are disappointed that we haven't seen more progress in this area already."

"I was hopeful when the Office of the Missing Persons Bill was passed in August last year that we would have taken further steps by now, both to see that the Office is operationalized along with other steps such as the Truth Commission and the Office on Reparations being set up, but yet, these still seem to be on the 'drawing board'. We hope the government will soon make clear their plans and once we receive the plans then we can look at it in detail."

Asked about the government's progress to date and whether it would be able to fulfill the resolution by March 2018, Mr Godrey expressed some doubt, urging Sri Lanka to begin the process swiftly. 

"Sri Lanka has been given time till March 2019 to fulfil its commitments. I think it would be reasonable to want to see by March 2018 that the basic building blocks are put in place for the process to be successful by the deadline on March 2019. There is still quite a lot of work to do before that process can be judged to be on track. At this point, you cannot have 100% confidence that Sri Lanka will be able to deliver its commitment by March 2019.  It needs to really put in place the building blocks now."

"The UN will make an assessment on the resolution and the review will start normally in January next year. That assessment would be delivered in Geneva where Sri Lanka will have the opportunity to respond to it. If necessary, the Council can submit another resolution based on what they have from the report. As I said, more progress needs to be seen in transitional justice but I think more straightforward areas such as land returns, the Constitution, implementation of various international conventions and human rights standards are areas that are actually the way forward and not so difficult to implement. But, it has to actually be delivered now. The resettlement of IDPs and refugees are a critical area that has not been settled completely. Detainees under the PTA, some of whom have been held for more than 12 years without trial, is unacceptable in any jurisdiction. Also, operationalizing the OMP has been delayed. These are urgent areas that need to be looked into.

On the inclusion of international judges, Mr Godfrey said, "our stance is not about the passports of the people involved in the process, but the process itself."

Highlighting Sri Lanka's application for GSP+, Mr Godfrey said, "with the application for GSP Plus, which I was involved with, there were specific undertakings on the progressive implementation of the international conventions to which Sri Lanka has signed up."

"You have both a history of where Sri Lanka has signed up to these conventions over a long period of time, and the commitment by this government to progressively implement those conventions. So the international community is going to take a view on whether or not that process is happening. We are offering a concession that is 2.6bn Euros worth exports from Sri Lanka a year. It is not that Sri Lanka is not benefiting from this process and it's quite a significant benefit from the EU."

Mr Godfrey said the GSP+ was reviewed every two years, with the first review due to be published in January 2018, followed by another in January 2020. 

"In terms of GSP Plus, we are now initiating a formal monitoring process and a team from Brussels will be here from 5 to 13 September, and will begin the process of monitoring the implementation of the 27 international conventions which make up for the GSP plus. So our assessment would be made purely in terms of the implementation of those 27 conventions. The counter-terrorism legislation and areas such as torture, rights of children are part of that."

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