Human Rights Watch urged Sri Lanka not to back-track on the commitments made by the government at the UN Human Rights Council regarding accountability and justice.
Calling for the consensus UNHRC resolution to be adopted "promptly and transparently", HRW in is 2017 World Report released on Thursday said "the president and other senior officials have downplayed the government’s commitment to international involvement in key transitional justice mechanisms, and need to make justice a top priority."
In a statement, HRW noted:
"The government disregarded inclusive decision-making by announcing the framework for the office on missing and disappeared just as a state-appointed task force began public consultations on the four transitional justice mechanisms set out in the Geneva resolution. A proposed delay in setting up a special war crimes court by “sequencing” transitional justice mechanisms deepened concerns about the process being independent.
The government charged or released several people detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and disclosed numbers of those still in custody. However, the government not only failed to repeal the draconian law in 2016, but security forces made new arrests under the PTA throughout the year. Two draft anti-terrorism bills, designed to replace the PTA, both fell far short of Sri Lanka’s obligations under international law.
In addition, the government failed to initiate reforms to the criminal justice system, including accountability for police abuse, particularly against ethnic and religious minorities and LGBT people. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Committee Against Torture both found that torture in police custody remains a widespread practice in Sri Lanka."
HRW's Asia director, Brad Adams, said, “Sri Lanka won domestic and international support by promising accountability for war crimes and addressing other human rights concerns."
“For victims who have sought justice all these years, the promise of an international presence is key to achieving accountability, and there should be no walking that pledge back.”
“Having boldly signed on to important human rights reforms, Sri Lanka needs to act decisively to fulfill them.”