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UK failed to assess Sri Lanka's human rights compliance in trade concession legislation

The United Kingdom has admitted to failing to carry out an assessment of Sri Lanka’s compliance of human rights in its trade agreements. 

When UK Shadow Minister for Transport, Sam Tarry, asked the government what assessment the Department had undertaken of the Sri Lanka’s adherence to “human rights criteria as outlined in section 21 of Trade Preference Scheme (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 (S.I., 2020, No. 1438)”, to which Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ranil Jayawardena, replied that “Department has not undertaken such an assessment."

The failure by the UK to assess the island's compliance of human rights comes despite the UK's role as the primary penholder of the United Nations resolution which was passed earlier this year. The resolution expressed serious concern "at the trends emerging over the past year, which represent a clear early warning sign of a deteriorating situation of human rights in Sri Lanka, including the accelerating militarisation of civilian government functions."

US-based advocacy organisation, PEARL, condemned the UK for failing to carry out an assessment and called on the UK government to "ensure that bilateral relations with Sri Lankan do not undermine efforts to secure an international accountability prcoess for mass atrocities."  

Last month, the European Union Parliament passed a resolution on Sri Lanka expressing “serious concern at the rapid deterioration of human rights” on the island. The resolution also called on the EU to suspend the favourable trading preferences granted by the GSP+ agreement "if its assessment finds that the human rights obligations have not been respected" at the next periodic GSP+ review of Sri Lanka in November 2021. 


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