2017 saw limited progress in the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, a UK government report has said, citing particular concerns around inter-communal tensions and the slow delivery of key human rights and reconciliation commitments, including delays in replacing the Prevention of Terrorism Act and operationalising the Office of Missing Persons.
In its report on Human Rights and Democracy in 2017, the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office refers to ongoing allegations of torture by Sri Lankan security forces and said, “work continued on a draft Counter Terrorism Act, intended to replace the much-criticised Prevention of Terrorism Act, but the government failed to advance the new legislation through parliament.”
“Civil society and journalists continued to report concerns about surveillance and harassment in the north and east of the country, albeit at a lower level than in previous years,” the report said.
The report also said that military involvement in civilian life in the north had “reduced” and mentioned that 550 acres of private land had been released by the military.
The report also referred to the OHCHR’s report which “described progress towards establishing transitional justice mechanisms as “worryingly slow” and noted reluctance by the government to address difficult issues,” and to Special Rapporteur Pablo de Greiff whose “report concluded that the Government of Sri Lanka was making slower progress than hoped on transitional justice issues, and questioned its commitment to a comprehensive transitional justice programme.”
On UK assistance to Sri Lanka the report said that “the UK is providing £6.6 million from the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (2016 to 2019) for projects in Sri Lanka, including support for police reform, demining, inter-faith dialogue and mediation, and support for the UN’s Peacebuilding Priority Plan”.
“In 2018, the UK will continue to encourage progress on human rights issues, including modern slavery, gender inequality including girls’ education, and reform of discriminatory laws. The UK will also continue to press for the release of private land occupied by the military or the payment of suitable compensation to landowners,” the report concluded on Sri Lanka.
In a press release the FCO said Sri Lanka remains a priority country and is one of 30 ‘Human Rights Priority Countries’ (HRPCs); countries where the UK has serious human rights concerns and hopes to engage positively to develop human rights performance.